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Wednesday / Thursday June 30-July 01: Houston-Amsterdam-Reims

This trip was built around the Santana Tandem Bicycle Rhine Cruise from Strasburg to Amsterdam. We used Continental Airlines frequent flyer miles to purchase Business First roundtrip tickets to Amsterdam, but as is often the case you may have to take flights on days other than when you really wanted to travel. In our case the only seats available departed 4 days before the tour and 4 days after…so no problem, we Reims Notre Dame Cathedraljust extended our trip by 8 days. We looked for a good biking area somewhere between Amsterdam and Paris for our 4-day pre-tour; we selected the Champagne Region in the Marne Valley in the city of Reims. The flight over the Atlantic was on time and the excellent service in the front cabin helped to ease the stress of a 9-hour flight. We arrived at Schipol on Thursday morning with 2 hours to make our Thyls train connection to Paris. I checked the trip computer on my Garmin GPS and discovered that this train was traveling over 190 mile per hour…actual recorded top speed was 194. American trains have a long way to go to catch up with this technology. We made brief stops in Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Brussels before arriving at the Gare du Nord in Paris. From there we had one hour to walk to the Gare de L’Est to catch the connection to Epernay and Reims. The walk was only about 6 blocks, but dragging two suitcase filled with a tandem bicycle over uneven sidewalks was a workout. I was drenched and thirsty when we arrived at the station…my first priority was to down a cold beer and cool down a bit before we boarded the next train to Epernay. We were on this train for an hour then we changed to our final train to Reims. This last train was very modern and comfortable with plenty of roomsidewalk cafes on the Rue du General Estienne for the bike cases and for us to relax. We found a taxi waiting in Reims and gladly paid the 10 Euros for the ride to the Holiday Inn Express. After checking in, we went out in search of some maps, a pub and dinner. We found the office of tourism next to the Reims Cathedral and collected the information we wanted to plan our visit and bike routes. Next we walked to Rue du General Estienne, which is the Reims equivalent of the Champs Elysee…no trouble finding an outside table and a cold (ok…cool) beer. After a couple of pints, we walked to a restaurant for dinner…Becky selected a tomato terrine and combination plate of meat and fruits and vegetables; I selected grilled fish. We also had a couple of carafes of the house white wine…a fitting end to a very long day. We were both feeling the wine and the jet lag and were eager to turn out the lights on this first day of the trip.

Friday 02 July: Reims

The sun is up about 5:00am here, but that didn’t interrupt our nine hour recovery sleep. The breakfast in the interior of the Reims Cathedralthe Holiday Inn is quite adequate…typical European with fruit, cheese, croissants, cereals and yogurt. After breakfast, we took the bike cases into the courtyard and assembled our tandem. Next we walked to the office of tourism and rented audio tours for the Reims Cathedral and the Tau Palace. These were both excellent tours although much of the palace was closed for renovation. By now it was lunchtime so we stopped in a local market for some Camembert, bread, apples and 2 cans of beer. While we enjoyed the snack in our room, I plotted a route on the Garmin, which would take us through the vineyards to Chalons on the Marne. We finally started our ride about 3:00 in the afternoon…there is a bike path along the Marne canal, which lead us out of Reims and into the vineyards of Champagne. There are hills but they were not very steep. The country is beautiful and the weather was great…maybe a little warmer than ideal, but low humidity and plenty of sunshine. We stopped after 12.5 miles in Louvois at a champagne cave for a break and to refill water bottles. In retrospect we should have purchased a bottle, but I was concerned that the bottle might explode from the bumps on the bicycle. We decided to return to Reims and discover more of the region the next day. The “D” roads through the riding through the champagne vineyardsvineyard are adequate, the surfaces were smooth, but there wasn’t much of a shoulder. The traffic wasn’t heavy, but there were cars and trucks on the road. All were polite and gave as much room as possible as they passed. We were back to the hotel around 5:15 with 25 mile on the trip odometer…a good start to our discovery of Champagne. About 7:00, we left in search of a restaurant…they are abundant on the rue Vesle and one only has to read the menus to make a choice for the night. We chose a place called the Apostrophe with shaded outside tables. Becky enjoyed a glass of champagne, while I selected a pint of beer. For dinner, Becky chose a tagiatelle and I had a Thai shrimp dish over rice…we split a big green salad and a carafe of red wine. We were there over 2 hours and enjoyed people watching almost as much as the meal. At 9:30 we returned to the hotel for the day.

Total miles for the day: 25

Saturday July 03, Reims-Suippes

Becky had discovered a brochure in the hotel lobby for a museum in Suippes, which has an interactive dirt towpath not too good for road bikeexhibition of World War I in the Marne area. We decided this would make a good ride and provide a nice break between morning and afternoon rides. I plotted the route on my map software and uploaded it to the Garmin. After breakfast we began about 8:30 following the bike path along the Marne canal; we were really enjoying this flat smooth ride along the canal when our paved trail ended and we were on a hard packed dirt track. It would have been OK for a mountain bike, but it wasn’t ideal for our road bike. At the first opportunity we left the trail and started searching for another route. We discovered a good cinder road on the opposite side of the canal and continued on as planned. We arrived in the village of Sillery where we discovered a large French WWI cemetery…we stopped long enough to walk the grounds and take a few pictures. Soon after Sillery the trail ended again and we were forced to find an alternate. This was not a problem with the GPS on board; we discovered the D8, which paralleled the canal and intersected with the D19, which we had programmed to take us to Suippes. The roads were smooth with very little traffic and unlike the day before very flat. We passed some more WWIThe French WW1 Cemetary at Sillery French cemeteries and arrived in Suippes a little before noon. It was interesting that none of the locals we asked had a clue where the museum was located even though it was next to the city hall in the center of the town. We eventually found the entrance and spent the next two hours enjoying an interactive exhibition of the war. The computer technology, trench recreations and displays were creative and informative. We left with a new curiosity about the struggle that ravaged the Champagne region of France. Before we left to return to Reims, we found a small corner grocer to get some snacks. We discovered that a wind had started while we were in the museum and the skies had become a little overcast. We determined that we would not try to retrace our tracks along the Marne canal; we thought the D8 would be a better choice and fortunately that was the case. We arrived back at the hotel a little after 3:00 have just ridden 61 mile in the Marne valley. We had plenty of time to shower and change, enjoy a bottle of wine and take a little nap before we began our search for a venue for the evening meal. We discovered the Café du Palais across the street from the Grand Theatre. This was a little upscale, but still very casual. We ordered a salad Legere and a platter of Reims ham with potatoes au gratin. The portions were quite large and the plates were lovely. We enjoyed two carafes of the white wine while we dined over the next 2 and ½ hours. Finally, we started to feel the effect of riding 61 miles and decided to return to the hotel for the evening.

Total miles for the day: 61

Sunday, July 04, Reims-Haut Villers

Friends had advised us that no visit to the Champagne Region would be complete without a visit to the Haut Villers Abbaye tomb of Dom Perignontomb of Dom Perignon in Abbaye of Haut Villers. We plotted the route on back roads through the farms and vineyards, which traversed the slopes of the Montange de Reims. Following the route on the Garmin through the streets of Reims was a challenge, but after a couple of false turns we found our route and exited the city into the beautiful farmland. This ride was only 16 miles each way (without the wrong turns) but it crosses the highest point in the area, so the first half of the ride was all uphill and then we coasted down into Haut Villers. Think hills of San Francisco when you imagine Haut Villers. We decided to park the bike and walk the town rather than struggle with the steep hills. We found the Abbaye and the tomb of Dom Perignon. This town was full of tour busses and my guess the bottle prices were a bit inflated because there would be little opportunity for the tourist to look for bargain since the tour operators get a commission on every bottle sold. We had to use our granny gear to pull out of Haut Villers and back over the Montagne de Reims. After we finally reached the top we stopped to adjust the disk brake for the long descent. Because we had had difficulty in the maze of streets on the outbound trip, we decided to stay on the major road back into Reims, especially after we discovered a bicycle lane along side the highway. We shaved off 2 miles on the return and a significant amount of time. The Becky in the vineyards above Haut Villershighway took us into a part of Reims that we had not visited, but we were able to keep the towers of the Cathedral in sight so we had no problem finding the road back to the hotel. The next agenda item was to disassemble the bike and pack it back in the suitcases for the trip on Monday to Paris, this chore requires about an hour. With the bike safely packed in its cases, we showered and changed for a visit to the Musee de la Reddition where the Germans signed the treaty to end the war in Europe on May 7 1945. The museum is about a 15-minute walk from our hotel…we had waited until Sunday to visit it because there was free admission on the 1st Sunday of the month. The museum is small with some well designed displays, also a brief film of the signing of the treaty but the major attraction was the map room left unchanged from the day the Germans signed the treaty. After our visit, we returned to the Place Drouet d’Erlon for some happy hour beers and later a pizza for dinner. The streets and cafes were jammed with crowds…no sign of a recession here. We will miss the café scene from France…there is no equivalent in our area where one can sit outside and enjoy the weather and free show of passing humanity. While we did see a lot of Reims in the 4 days that we were here…we left with plenty of reasons to return another day.

Monday July 05, Reims – Paris

We had a couple of hours in the morning to stroll the streets of Reims before our 10:45 TGV train to Paris. Becky had discovered that The Eiffel Tower from the Seineshe had not packed a pair of pants she wanted for the trip. We thought we could use this time to shop for a replacement, but the shops did not open until 10:00. We took a taxi from the Holiday Inn Express to the Gare Centrale…the first cab was not big enough to hold the bike cases so we requested a station wagon style cab and in a few minutes we were on our way to the station. There is major renovation underway in Reims for a new rail transit system so many of the streets are blocked or torn up. These conditions make for a slow and circuitous route to the train station, but we arrived 15 minutes before our train. The TGV was on time, fast and quiet, but there is little space for luggage and no place for 2 bike cases. We left the cases in the aisle next to our seats and no one seemed to care. The trip was non-stop, only 45 minutes long. At the Gare de L’Est we found a large taxi for the short but harrowing trip to the Hotel Meridien Etoile. We immediately discovered tandem friends in the lobby as we waited to check in. Our room would not be ready for several hours so we went to lunch with Hal and Lucy and then returned to get the keys for room and take the luggage up. Hal had invited me to his room to aid with the building of his bike if required. He had the situation pretty well under control and we soon had his bike ready to ride. Next we left in search of a pair of pants for Becky. There is an 80-store mall across from the hotel where we soon found the pants on sale for 50% off…a bargain but still pricey if you ask me. We had time to walk to the ArcHugh has finished building the tandem d’Triomphe and to explore the area near our hotel. We encountered a new tourist scam while we were viewing the monument…a man wandered in front of us and pretended to bend down and find a man’s wedding ring which he was willing to sell to us for a bargain price. We immediately saw through this ruse and sent him off in search of some more vulnerable tourist. From L’Etoile, we returned to the Congress across the street from the Meridien to find snacks in a gourmet shop for the happy hour. We had brought a bottle of champagne from Reims and had invited Hal and Lucy, and Mike and Hope to our room to enjoy the bubbly with us before we went out for dinner in a local restaurant. The restaurant was just around the corner from the hotel; several other tandem teams had also found the same place so we had a chance to greet old friends as well as enjoy a good meal and bottle of wine. We enjoyed the Parisian style of late dining and lively conversation around the table until the jet lag indicated it was time to return for bed.

Tuesday 06 July, Paris:

Today is the first official day of the Santana (Pre)Tour and it started with a breakfast buffet in the reserved Longchamps room. We Becky in the Rodin Sculpture Gardenenjoyed seeing old friends as much as the breakfast choices. The day had an open schedule to visit Paris on our own until 3:00 in the afternoon. Becky and I decided to visit a couple of sights we had missed on earlier tips to the city. Our itinerary included a walk to the Arc d’Triomphe, a stroll down the Champs Elysee, a walk between the Grand and Petit Palais, across the Seine to Les Invalides to the Rodin Museum. We had to cue in line for about 15 minutes to purchase our tickets for the museum and sculpture gardens. The setting was lovely for the statuary in this garden setting. We did visit the museum as well where there were numerous examples of Rodin’s art as well as a couple of other artists. After an hour visit, we continued on our itinerary in the direction of the Luxembourg Palace. We had programmed the Garmin to take us to there but the route shown was not the most direct so we elected to plot our own course which worked quite well. We did stumble across a sandwich shop where we purchased a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches and a bottle of water for lunch. We walked on a couple of blocks to the Luxembourg gardens where we found a bench that served as our lunch spot. After lunch and watching a couple of chess matches going on at a nearby table, we continued on the palace and the spectacular gardens. We then set the Garmin to direct us to Pont Neuf and a view of the Seine and Notre Dame. At this point we had 6 miles on the GPS and we decided it was time to find a metro station and ride back to the hotelThe Luxembourg Palace and Gardens. We were close to the Pont Neuf station and with the aid of a very nice French lady, we purchased our tickets from the machine and boarded the subway for the trip to Port Maillot and the Meridien Hotel. We arrived back at the hotel a little after 3:00 and already the activities had begun for assembling the bicycles down on the service plaza of the hotel. I grabbed a bottle of beer from the fridge and we joined 70 other tandem teams in the tour commencement ritual of bike building. We had ours together in about an hour and then I began to assist other teams complete their bikes. Denny saw my beer and thought that was a good idea so he walked across the street and returned with 10 liter bottles of Kronnenbourg to share…now the party had started…beer and bike building…no place but Paris. Soon all the bikes were assembled and it was to time to clean up and change for the opening banquet. First we joined Hal and Lucy, Hope and Mike for a champagne toast before we met everyone downstairs. The party began with a Kir cocktail hour…Kir is a mixture of Cream de Cassis and cheap white wine…it was a little sweet for my taste but with the addition of a half glass of Schwepps tonic water, it was ok. The set menu included a lovely mixed green starter salad followed by a main course of veal medallions in red wine sauce with potatoes au gratin on the side. The desert was the piece de resistance…a chocolate creation that would satisfy even the most discriminating chocolate connoisseurs. Bill McCready and I had been comparing notes for the GPS navigation for the next day’s route. Eventually I brought my computer down to the table and built the route with his assistance for the next day. Then I could transfer wirelessly to other people who had brought their Garmins. The hour of repose was quickly approaching and we bade everyone a pleasant evening and then found our way to our room and bed.

Wednesday 07 July, Paris Versailles:

The breakfast was again in the Longchamps Room and the buffet was identical to the day before. We were to be finished with Becky and Hugh at the opening banquetbreakfast and ready to ride by 7:30; the ride on the Champs Elysee was optional although almost everyone took the ride. Robert led the corners and sweeps tour but elected to take the ring road outside the Arc d’Triomphe rather than challenge the busiest traffic circle in the world on a bicycle. Once on the boulevard, we continued towards the Place du Concorde. The traffic was slow and heavy but the motorists were very bike tolerant so there we no issues riding this famous street. At the obelisk, we turned back along the Seine on a much quieter street. Somehow we ended up at the Trocadero for a view of the Eiffel Tower and a group photo. Next we continued to the Port Maillot and the start of the route to Versailles. At this point we turned on the Garmin and started to follow my preprogrammed route. The streets were busy and the route was hilly as we rode away from the Seine through the village de Avray to Versailles. It was only about 10 miles to the palace, but as we switched off the road onto a bike path several bikes got a pinch flat when they hit a 2” bump transition to the path. We stopped to help change the tubes and pump them back to riding pressure. We arrived at the meeting point before the required 10:30 meeting time when our guided tour was supposed to begin. At this point all organization broke down and was replaced by confusion. We waited outside the group entrance in the blazing sun for a half hour never knowing what was the cause of the hold up. Eventually we were allowed to enter to be abused by French guards who had become desensitized by the multitudes of tourists. We were packed into a tight space and then released to explore the public areas with an audio device. Because Becky and I had visited the palace on 2 previous occasions, we elected to go without the riding on the Champs Elysee near the Place du Concordelistening device and simply walk through. The crowds were enormous and crushing making it difficult to enjoy the magnificence of the rooms. We did pause to appreciate the Hall of Mirrors and the Memorial Hall of Battles before we found the exit and a much needed bottle of cold water. We collected our tandem and led a small group of riders to the designated restaurant for lunch, which was on a lake at the far end of the palace gardens. They served a fixed menu of green salad and a roasted chicken breast. We left before the desert was served, but we’ve been told it was another chocolate delight. The return route was the same with the exception of the start leaving the palace. I probably chose the least desirable route over a section of cobblestone paving instead of following the preferred route on the Garmin. We had climbed over 300 feet to arrive at the palace so the return was mostly downhill and quick. There was only one traffic issue which was to navigate around the Port Maillot and finding the correct exit for the Meridien, but we managed without issue and soon found the designated place to load our tandem on the truck for it’s trip to Strasbourg. Next it was time to shower and change, then repack our luggage, which also had to be loaded onto a truck by 5:30 for the trip to the cruise ship. After I dropped the luggage at the loading area, I went to the beer store and purchased 5 liters for the evening activities. Neal and Sally suggested that we get take away from the gourmet shop in the Congress Mall for dinner and picnic in their room. That turned out to be an excellent suggestion…we selected a Mediterranean salad, some marinated tomatoes, a moussaka, some dried ham slices and an olive cheese pastry to go with a bottle of Saint Emillion cab and a baguette. We gathered in their room and spread the feast on the bed and enjoyed one of our better meals of the trip. Neal showed us the videos that he had shot from the ride as we sipped our wine and ate our dinner selections. We knew we had a early start on Thursday so we cleaned off the bed and returned to our room for the night. Total bicycle miles for the day 33.

Thursday 08 July, Paris – Strasbourg - Schoenau

Today’s itinerary involved 4 modes of transportation and scheduling to the nearest minute. We had an early breakfast back in the StrasbourgLongchamps room before boarding busses for the 20-minute ride to the Gare de L’Est. We arrived with plenty of time to spare before the TGV departed for Strasbourg. Our group was divided onto three cars and there was the normal confusion to get 140 people to the correct car and correct seat, but we managed and once on board we were quite comfortable for the 2-hour ride to the Alsace. The train reached a max speed of 195 mph but for several sections of the ride, it proceeded much slower due either track conditions or going through a town. We arrived in Strasbourg on time and found our bikes waiting for us outside the station leaning up against the wall of the train station. Bill lead us in two groups to the cathedral square and said we would have an hour and a half of free time to find lunch and walk the old town known as Le Petit France. Sally and Neal joined us for a walk around the town while we searched for a beer and a sandwich. We did find a nice bakery, which had tomato and mozzarella cheese sandwiches. After relaxing in a park and enjoying the sandwich we found a restaurant for a nice cool beer in the shade…the beer was red…a little sweet and spicy for my taste, but it would have been an excellent seasonal brew for Christmas. We met back at the Cathedral Square at the appointed hour where Bill handed out the route sheets for the 30-mile ride to the cruise ship. It was only a little confusing navigating through the narrow cobblestone streets, but we eventually reconnoitered at the beginning of the Rhine Canal bike path and started to ride. The path along the canal is in pretty good shape…some minor bumps here and there, but plenty wide and virtually no traffic as we passed out of the city. It did switch sides about 5 kilometers outside of Strasbourg…here the lead bikes missed the The bicycle path along the Rhine Canalswitch and continue ahead on the road…we saw that the canal path had changed as we crossed the bridge and lead everyone behind us down to the path for the next 19 kilometers to the intersection of D203. I think our earlier experience on our 2005 barge cruise helped us find this path. Anyway Wolfgang and Caroline caught up to us on the path and took the lead over the small country “D” roads for 20 kilometers to reach the ship docked at Schoenau. About 6 bikes formed a 20 MPH paceline behind Wolfgang…our route took us through quaint villages and farmland. The day was beautiful under a brilliant and hot blue sky. We arrived at the dock a few minutes past 4 and discovered the crew finishing loading the last few suitcases. We carried our bike up the gangway and onto the sundeck and then had some time to rehydrate in the Panorama Lounge until the registration desk opened when we could collect the key to our room. Our ship is the Amadeus Diamond…the newest of the fleet. It was built in Holland and launched last year (2009). Some of the crew from our 2008 cruise on the Amadeus Symphony has been transferred to this ship so we have seen several familiar faces on the crew. The ships' cabin is compact, but efficient and we have plenty of space to store all of our gear. After a nice shower and washing our bike clothes, we went to the lounge for the captain’s “Welcome on Board” party (and safety briefing) for some snacks and a glass of champagne. Dinner was served one deck below; the evening meal is always a served meal (as opposed to a buffet) with a selection of appetizers, soups, choice of three entrees and dessert. Wine is included with the meal and there is a choice of red or white usually from the region where the ship has been that day. The service and food are both excellent as we have come to expect on the Amadeus Cruise ships. After dinner there is live music in the lounge or a nice comfortable bed in your cabin. This night we chose the bed. Total miles for the day: 31

Friday 09 July, Kehl – Pittersdorf – Speyer

The ship moved a few miles downstream during the night to Kehl. Breakfast was served at 7:00 in the morning although they set out Riding with the wolfpackcoffee in the lounge an hour earlier. Breakfast is always a buffet with a beautiful selection of both hot and cold items. I tried to find the most calorie dense, high carb items because I knew we would be riding with the Wolfpack all day. Here’s a little explanation of the Wolfpack: Wolfgang Haas is the European Santana distributor and he is a world-class rider. He always leads a tour on these Santana tours composed of the faster and stronger riders. His routes are usually more picturesque and interesting, but certainly more robust that the normal bike tour route…we’re talking Tour d’France level of touring here! Our pack of 11 bikes plus Wolfgang and his sister Caroline who was his stoker, left the ship at 8:00 for a 40-mile tour through country lanes, bike paths and beautiful German villages. We formed a paceline that traveled at 20 to 22 mph the entire trip. We did make a couple of stops for mechanical issues. About 10:00, Wolfgang realized that we were well ahead of schedule so we stopped at a coffee shop for about an hour while the ship caught up to us. While we were there, Wolfgang changed a broken spoke on a sweet 16 wheel and tensioned and trued the wheel is less than 15 minutes…this was truly amazing to me. We continued on to Plittersdorf where we watched the ship dock for lunch. We had completed 41 miles and were ready to take a break and enjoy the lunch buffet. Fortified with a high calorie lunch and rehydrated, we prepared for the afternoon ride. This time Wolfgang had an idea for a scenic ride into Speyer, but his GPS gave him a false route and we ended up in Karlsruhe and had to find a route to take us through this industrial town. We lost a lot of time with all the traffic and signals and we were happy to be back on the road after losing 45 minutes traversing the city. Back on the country Riding through small German townsroads our paceline reformed and we resumed our 22 MPH pace. The route basically followed the Rhine but a little inland through several small towns. We had several breaks due to flat tires and other mechanical issues. I had my first flat but Wolfgang made a quick 5 minute tube change and we were quickly back on the road. The total afternoon route was almost 50 miles and by 6:00 we were getting a little weary. Thankfully we quickly found the ship and immediately carried the bike to the sun deck. The pads on my disk break had worn away and I was scraping metal to metal every time I had to stop. I found John Hargraves in the panorama lounge and he immediately went upstairs and changed the worn out pads for a new set. With the bike ready to return to the road, we went to our room to shower and clean up for dinner. We had time to enjoy a cold beer before dinner, but we had neither time nor energy to attend the Pretzel festival that was underway in the town. Dinner was served later to accommodate the late arriving riders and to allow those who wanted to attend the festival. Dinner offered a choice of fish or pork…Becky selected the fish and I took the pork…we both chose the red wine to accompany our meals. The dessert was key lime pie. We had just completed a very full day and were eager to get some much needed rest. Total miles for the day: 91 miles.

Saturday 10 July: Bingen – Oberwesel – Koblenz

The Diamond sailed most of the evening and arrived in Bingen about 6:00 in the morning. Bill’s route talk was short and to the Looking at the Rhine above Rudesheimpoint…All he said was here’s the map, the ship will be in Oberwesel for lunch…enjoy your ride. We had decided to ride again with Wolfgang because of the scenic routes he chooses. We left the ship about 8:30 on a route though Rudesheim and straight up a 16% grade to the huge bronze memorial commemorating the victory over Bavaria. For me this was a brutal 2-mile climb which required about 200 yards of walking to get over the steepest pitch and allow me catch my breath. We had a few minutes to visit the memorial and take pictures of the Rhine Valley below. I can assure you that the descent was much more enjoyable than climb up and with the new brake pads we had the confidence that we would have a safe and controlled coast down the hill. Our paceline regrouped at the bottom and continued North along the Rhine until it was time to turn inland and climb again up to the Loreley Rock. This was a longer climb, but not nearly as steep. We managed to accomplish the climb without stopping but really heaved a sigh when we finally reached the top. From the top we descended a couple of kilometers to the top of the famous Loreley rock on the Rhine which is immortalized in legend and song of shipwrecked sailors who were lured onto the rock by the mysterious rock. After a brief visit on top we continued down the hill to Goarhausen where we crossed back across the river by ferry and then rode about 5 kilometers to Oberwesel where the Diamond was waiting for us for lunch We arrived about 25 minutes after lunch had begun; we decided that we had had enough riding for the day and elected to enjoy a long lunch and then see what cruising on the most scenic stretch of the Middle Rhine had to offer. We joined other teams in the Panorama Lounge while the Cruise Director the Rhine from the Loreleyprovided a running commentary on the towns and castles that we were seeing as we cruised towards Koblenz. The scenery was truly right out of a picture book with vineyards covering the hills and castles clinging to the cliffs. The cruise to Koblenz was about 3 hours; these few hours provided time to relax and recover from the two hill climbs earlier in the day. After we docked, we wandered into the city in search of an ATM machine and a bar for a cold beer…both were easy to find. We enjoyed sitting at an outside café with a cold Bitburger and watching the activities going on in the town square. We bought some bottle beers for the room and then returned to the ship for dinner. The start for dinner had been delayed until 8:00 to give those who wanted a chance to wander through the old city. Koblenz was 80% destroyed during WWII but has since been complete rebuilt to the original plan. The Diamond cast off at 8:00PM upstream on the Mosel in the direction of Trier as we sat down for the evening meal. Selections offered either fish or lamb…both were excellent…but I was looking for calories to replace those burned earlier in the day and to fortify for the next day’s ride. I was still hungry after salad, soup, entrée and dessert so I had another plate of cheese and fruit before I was satisfied. Most of the guest gathered on the sundeck in the evening twilight to watch the spectacular scenery sliding by on the banks of the Mosel. Total Miles for the day: 26

Sunday 11 July, Zell – Traben –Trarbach – Bernkastle –Kues

The Diamond continued up the Mosel the entire evening and docked in Zell just as we were waking up for breakfast. There had been the bridge at Traben-Trarbachsome rain overnight so the air was a little cooler and fresh this morning. During the morning route talk we learned that Wolfgang’s group would be taking the same route as all the “long” riders. After breakfast we gathered on the street outside the gangway and discovered that only 4 bikes were riding with Wolfgang so we decided we would enjoy the smaller group and started out with him. We would be riding up and over the hills that separated the bends in the river to Senheim. The climb was close to 3 miles with an average slope of 8%…a good workout for sure but not nearly as difficult as the previous morning. The cooler temperature must have helped as well because we reached the summit in less than a half hour where we were greeted with spectacular views of the Mosel valley and the amazing high meadow farmland. Any sign of the rain had cleared away and we were in brilliant sunshine for the remainder of the day. We regrouped at the top before beginning the exciting descent back to the river at Senheim. I believe the descent was steeper than the climb because there were many more switchback turns…I was constantly applying the disk brake to control speed for the tight turns. As we approached the village we could hear music coming from the Sunday services in the local church…a truly thrilling experience. Now we were back on the flat roads and trail along the Mosel for the ride to the lunch stop at Traben-Trarbach. Wolfgang’s group held intact and we picked up a few more riders who had ridden the route in reverse to avoid the hill climb. The vistas were perfect with vineyards running vertically on the hills in some cases to the waters edge. The route was dotted with small wine villages with names like Neef, Bullay, and Krov…some too small to make the map but all had a winery and a church. Wolfgang slowed the pace to less than 20 MPH or otherwise we would reach the lunch location before the Diamond. We enjoyed the slower pace and actually fell back to enjoy the magnificent scenery while crossing the river several times to take advantage of the most scenic sides. We arrived in Traben Trarbach just as the ship was docking, but we still had an hour to stroll through the pedestrian areas of this quaint village while rehydrating after the ride. Our ship was in port for only a couple of hours for everyone to have lunch before it continued upstream to Bernkastle for the afternoon rendezvous. We knew that we would only have about 15 miles to ride in the afternoon and we had 4 hours before the ship would arrive…and because we would be riding through one of the most famous wine regions in the world, I decided to organize a wine ride. I found two other teams (Matt and Libby, Dennis and Louise) that were agreeable to my plan…we would ride five miles, find a winery and share a bottle among the six riders, then ride on another 5 A view of the Mosel Valley above Bernkastlemiles and repeat. The ride worked perfectly according to plan. After about 5 miles along this beautiful section of the Mosel, we stopped into a winery and ordered a bottle of halb trocken Muller-Thurgau and six glasses. Louise liked the wine enough to buy another for the bike trunk to enjoy another time. We continued on a short distance and found the second venue and another wonderful aromatic Mosel wine. Libby took close up photos of each of the wine labels for historical purposes although we know that we could never find these small vineyard wines in America. We continued on towards Bernkastle and the 3 rd stop, which was almost in sight of the ship. Here we ordered a bottle of Kabinett Trocken; this bottle was a full liter and excellent as well. I’m no wine authority, but these light fruity aromatic German wines were perfect for this type of bike tour. The server in this winery had lived most of his life near Salt Lake City and spoke better English than German. Naturally we enjoyed the chance to ask a lot of questions about German wines and the wine making culture. At this last stop, Libby pulled out a description of a castle overlooking Bernkastle that offered the best view of the Mosel Valley and had a beer garden as well. We first thought of riding to the castle, but after seeing the road we decided a taxi would be a better choice. We found the Diamond and locked the bikes and jumped into a waiting taxi for the 10-minute ride to the top. The views were incredible and we congratulated each other for having the good sense to take a taxi instead of ride. Following a quick beer and several photo ops, we found our return taxi to the ship…but we arrived too early, we still had 20 minutes before they pulled in the gangway…still plenty of time for one last beer. This time we ordered a dark beer; it was a delightful change from the other beers we’ve had on the trip. Back on board, we had plenty of time to shower and change for dinner. The dinner selections offered a choice of duck breast or fish and of course there was also the choice of either red or white wine…we all agreed that the wines we had tasted on the ride were better than that poured at the dinner table. Next on the evening’s agenda was a game of OGNIB (bingo spelled backwards) in the lounge before going to the upper deck to watch the vineyards pass by in the evening twilight. Total miles for the day…51.

Monday 12 July Konz – Echternach – Trier

The Diamond had moved further up the Mosel in the night and docked a few kilometers upstream of Trier. We had decided to take the A coffee break in Echternach, Luxembourgeasier rides for this day to give us a little recovery time. After breakfast, we serviced the bike and prepared for the flat bike path ride to Echternach in Luxembourg. We crossed the Mosel and at confluence of the Sauer and the Mosel and followed the bike path along the Sauer. We went through several small villages including Langsur, Metzdorf Wintersdorf and Minden. The path was easy to follow and the surface was generally very good. The landscape did change significantly from that of the Mosel. Instead of seeing vineyards running up and down the hills, we saw mostly farmland and vegetable gardens. The path also went through several campgrounds where Germans seemed to have set up permanent camps for the summer in tightly spaced plots. But they seemed to enjoy the proximity to the river and the activities available in the camps. Echternach was on the opposite bank of the Sauer in Luxembourg. It appeared to be a medieval style city with narrow cobblestone streets and a large central square. There is also a large Basilica and Abbey. We had plenty of time to visit the old town and enjoy a cup of coffee before mounting the bike for the return trip to the ship. The skies began to look threatening and the wind was picking up; we decided to return by the route we had taken outbound because it offered protection and we knew there were several places we could duck into for cover including a 500 meter long tunnel. Only a few drops of rain fell, but the wind was fierce enough to blow a lot of twigs, limbs and leaves onto the path. The The Roman Baths at Trierweather passed almost as quickly as it developed but the wind brought some refreshingly cooler temperatures. We arrived back at the ship about 11:30 having just ridden 42 miles into Luxembourg and back. The alternate return would have taken highway 10 on the Luxembourg side and was a few kilometers shorter, but we were happy to have chosen the German side for the shelter from the wind. Back onboard the Diamond, we had lunch and then boarded the busses that would take us into Trier for a guided tour of the Roman ruins. Becky and I had wanted to visit Trier for years and we were at last going to see it. We were met by Roman Costumed guides who role-played as citizens in the town when Constantine was the Emperor. We first toured the baths and sports complex which were massive and in good condition considering the age; from there we continued to the basilica, restored of course but still possessing much of the original bricks. Here our guide sang some Latin chats to demonstrate the acoustics of the building. Next we walked to the Main Street and the Port Nigra for the last stop of our guided tour. We returned to the bus for the short trip back to the ship. We had only a few minutes to dress for dinner, but plenty of time to enjoy a proper extended European evening meal. The last activity of the day was the pajama party and karaoke singing in the lounge. Becky and I performed the YMCA by the Village People and then went to bed. Total miles for the day…32

Tuesday 13 July, Beilstein-Cochem-Alken

Crawling out of bed this morning was a bit of a challenge after the late night of karaoke and dancing, but the approaching Cochemviews outside our window of the vineyards lining the Mosel River were all the inspiration needed to prepare for another day of riding. The riding schedule for the day laid out a beautiful 10-mile spin down to Cochem for a coffee stop. We had visited Cochem in 1980 and had always wanted to return. It is famous for wine, castles and architecture. We had plenty of time to walk the narrow cobblestone streets and see the shops…all were closed so the opportunity to buy wine would have to wait. Amy met the town carillon player who volunteered to play an “American” tune for us on the bells overlooking the center square. As we gathered around the fountain the Star Spangled Banner began to ring out over the entire town. Our lunch stop was only 10 miles farther downstream; we rode with Lucia and Tom and Sally and Neal into Treis-Karden. We were now on a quest to find a wine shop because this would be our last opportunity to buy Mosel wine. Riding through the streets we did not see any shops that were obviously wine stores. On the cornervineyards on the Mosel River of one narrow alley, there was a window cabinet displaying 6 bottles of wine with a price on each and an arrow pointing to an address on the street. We found the house and I rang the doorbell; there was a response on the intercom and I explained that we wanted to buy some wine. The door opened to the garage and we were invited into the wine cellar. Here the owner/winemaker had his wines in storage ready to sell. He had a list of 12 wines ranging from 2004 to 2009 in categories of sweet, half dry and dry…all were Riesling. We had found the mother lode and began to make our selections. The prices were downright cheap, but the real thrill was the cellar experience. As we returned to the ship which was only a block from the cellar, many of our colleagues also wanted to buy some wine and the line began to form up this wine cellar. I think the winemaker had a good day of sales as we saw many people boarding with multiple bottles of wine. Lunch provided a break and a chance to unload the wine bottles. The afternoon ride was to the Berg Eltz which is a castle that has always been in the ownership of the original builders. We had an easy 2 kilometer climb up through the vineyards to the parking lot at Osterhof and from there it was a 25 minute hike to the castle. The castle was in excellent condition; we enjoyed the tour and the architecture, but I think we’re becoming jaded when it comes to visiting castles and palaces…they are beginning to all be alike. We hiked back to the parking lot where our bikes were waiting and stopped for a few minutes to enjoy a cold drink at the Osterhof guesthouse. The 2-kilometer coast back down to the river was exhilarating although we could not let the bike run wide open because of the numerous switchbacks on the descent. We rejoined the bike path along the Mosel for the 11-kilometer buying wine at house #20ride to the boat that was docked at Alken. We arrived with plenty of time to by some nuts and pretzels for the happy hour before carrying our bike up to the sundeck. As soon as we were all back on board, the ship set sail for Emmerich, our last port of call in German. After a quick shower and change, we met Tom and Lucy and Sally and Neal in the clubroom to watch the conclusion of stage 17 of the Tour d’France and to open some of the wine that we had purchased at lunch. The wines were nicely chilled in an ice bucket; they were certainly worth the price, easy to drink and with the typical fruitiness and aromatics of German Mosel wines. This social hour remains one of the more memorable of the trip as we passed through the wonderful Mosel vineyards with great friends, good wine and snacks and stories to fill volumes. The dinner call soon interrupted our party and we returned to the dining room again for another feeding. The wines offered were a white Burgunder or red Spatburgunder…neither were as good as what we had found earlier on the Mosel. During the evening cruise we passed several significant landmarks including the Cologne Cathedral, Dusseldorf and Duisburg. Unfortunately we slept through the entire evening cruise and missed seeing some of the significant sights.

Total miles for the day: 42

Wednesday 14 July Emmerich- Arnhem-Nijmegen

The schedule for the day was jam packed with riding, museums, and history tours. The planned route was disembarking at Emmericha 55-kilometer ride from the dock at Emmerich and into Holland. Bill did not provide a map, only a cue sheet. We assembled outside the ship and started following the cues towards the Kroller Muller Museum in the Hogue Veluwe National Park. We managed to follow the first 10 directions, but could not find the “Y” with the brick store and became totally lost…we were not alone as multiple tandems were making U turns and circling round abouts. We gave up and switched the Garmin to navigation and followed the turn-by-turn directions. Of course the GPS routing was totally different from Bill’s route so we never saw the other bikes. We rode through Arnhem, stopping a few times to ask directions. We eventually entered the National Park and stopped at a gas station to buy a cold drink; we were not far from the museum at this point but because the day was hot and it was already 11:30 we decided to return to Arnhem and the John Frost Bridge where the Diamond was supposed to be docked for lunch. The John Frost Bridge is the featured bridge in the movie “A Bridge Too Far”…it has been A Bridge Too Farrebuilt since WWII, but most of the footings are original. Sally found the bridge on her GPS and lead us back through Arnhem to the dock; we arrived just as our ship was docking. There were several sidewalk cafes along the riverbank; we decided to sit and enjoy a cold drink while the crew completed the docking activities. Lunch on board had been postponed until 1:00 due to the length of the morning ride. We had about 45 miles on the trip odometer at lunchtime, but other riders who eventually found the museum had ridden as much as 20 miles farther. Riding in Holland had been a positive experience; there are bike lanes on almost every road and they are well surfaced with plenty of width for 2-way traffic. There are some roads which do not accommodate bicycles; these are marked with signs indicating no bikes, but I somehow managed to end up on one of theses for a very short distance and was very happy to rediscover the bike trail. Motorists are very tolerant of the cyclists; at least we didRoute of the Market Garden History Ride not encounter any difficulties with cars on this ride. The balance of the riders started to arrive at the ship a few minutes past 1:00, they had found the museum, but didn’t have the time to enjoy the visit knowing that they still had 30 minutes to ride back for lunch. The guided afternoon ride began at 3:00; Bill had secured the services of a local historian who led us over the bridge and into the area that had been the site of one of the most disastrous battles (operation Market Garden) for the Allies during the war. We would stop at either strategic locations or at monuments where he would explain how the battle proceeded and which divisions were involved. The route followed dikes and country lanes with one final stop at a gas station where Bill and Jan treated all the riders to a cold drink. We eventually arrived in Nijmegen crossing over the bridge also involved in Market Garden with the Diamond docked in full view below the bridge. We had been watching a storm building in the area; we were concerned if we would Sunset in Nijmegan after the stormarrive at the ship before the rain started. This day we were lucky as the rain held off until everyone was safety back on board. The farewell captain’s dinner and cocktail party was scheduled for this evening even though this was not our last night on the boat. Champagne was served at 6:30 in the lounge where all the crew dressed in uniforms were introduced. Next on the program, Mike performed a love commitment ceremony for Ryan and Eileen Dawson…basically identical to a wedding with the vows slightly altered with bicycle terminology; not legally binding but with 70 tandem teams witnessing the event they will have difficulty backing out now. The farewell dinner was a little more formal with fancier selections of entrees and desserts. The wines were the same Weisser Burgunder and red Spatburgunder. We did go up to the lounge for the music after dining because it was Matt’s birthday and he wanted to share his bottle of pear schnapps that he had purchased along the Mosel River. Following a brief birthday celebration we decided that the riding earlier in the day had left us exhausted and it was time for bed.

Total miles for the day: 57.

Thursday 15 July: Amsterdam

The Amadeus Diamond left Nijmegen after we had gone to bed and docked in Amsterdam near the Windmill Heritage Park in AmsterdamCentral Station. The storm that blew through the night before left much cooler temperatures and a very robust wind. A few hardy riders met after breakfast for a 12-mile ride through Amsterdam to the Zaanse Schans Heritage Park. Here were several working windmills demonstrating how the Dutch had harnessed the wind to perform tasks ranging from milling wheat to sawing lumber. We had time to have a cup of coffee before mounting bike for the final 10-mile ride back to the ship. The return trip was 2 miles shorter because we found the correct roads thus avoiding a 2-mile wild goose chase. Riding in Amsterdam is not for the faint of heart…while the city is designed to accommodate millions of bicycles, experience of the customs and etiquette and knowledge of the routes is essential. All the other tandem teams on the trip started to pack up their bikes for the trip home…we still had a few days of riding before it would be time for us to pack the bike. In the afternoon instead of seeing the tourist sights, we scouted out how to transport our bike to the airport. We stopped at Mac Bike which is a bike rental company where we thought we could get directions for riding the bike to the airport…instead we were discouraged, but they showed us a route and wished us good luck. At another bike tour company, wecanals in Amsterdam learned that we could take the bike on the train right into the airport; we decided this would be the preferred method and returned to the Central Station and bought tickets for the bike and us to Schipol. Then we walked up to the platform to learn how to find the bicycle cars and load it on the train car. Once we were confident that we had solved the logistical problems, we returned to the ship to relax and watch the Tour d’France on the big screen TV in the club and of course to begin the process of packing up to leave our floating home. At the final dinner there was a lot of reminiscing about the past week and past trips with promises to meet again on another tandem tour. The pace of the past 8 days of tandem tour had taken it’s toll; we did not stay up to visit in the lounge, but went immediately to our room to finish packing and get some rest.

Total miles for the day: 22

Friday 16 July: Amsterdam

Bill had arranged for three busses to transport riders and their luggage to Schipol Airport…the first at bicycle parking garage in Amsterdam6:30, the next at 8:00 and the last at 9:30. We were scheduled for the 9:30 ride but our assembled tandem was not allowed so I rode the bus with the luggage to the airport and checked in to the Hilton Hotel, then returned by train to the Central Station to meet Becky and the bike there. We rode the escalator to the platform and positioned ourselves to jump on the next train. Loading the bike was easy enough in the special cars designed for carrying bicycles. 20 minutes later we arrived at the airport, walked to the Hilton and then heaved a sigh of relief that we had successfully accomplished moving from the ship to the airport. Now the next challenge was to discover the bike trail out of the airport towards Delft. The Hilton Hotel staff were very helpful, providing all the information we needed. We did take a few minutes to walk over the bike paths to be sure we could navigate out of the airport the following morning. We had some time to visit the 8 th floor Executive Lounge before we were to meet Roy and Margie at 6:30. Roy is a Dutch Fluor colleague whom we have known for over 30 years. They met us at the Hilton and showed us the route we would follow the next morning to ride to Delft. Then we drove to Haarlem for dinner; we have never been to the central square and it is really worth the visit. The pedestrian areas are lined with restaurants, shops and pubs; Roy wanted us to try a locally brewed beer which had in formerdinner with Roy and Margie in Haarlem times used canal water for making beer…today it’s a small batch craft brewery that distributes only in the Haarlem area. We tried the dark which was OK, but has some room for improvement. After a drink, we walked on to an Indonesian Restaurant; with two native experts at the table, we let Roy and Margie make recommendations for dinner. I can’t report exactly what we ordered, but it was good, spicy and abundant…there was no way one person could have consumed all the food they served; if we had some way to store the food we could have taken a doggie bag for the next day, but we didn’t have an ice box on the bicycle. We really enjoyed our visit and dinner with Roy and Margie and we’ll plan to see them the next time we pass through Amsterdam.

Zero miles on the bicycle today…nice break!

Saturday 17 July: Amsterdam – Delft

One of the privileges of diamond status in the Hilton Honors program is access to the Executive Lounge, riding to Delftwhere we enjoyed our complimentary breakfast. The weather could have been brighter but we had planned to ride to Delft so the weather be damned, we were ready to ride. We had scouted the bike paths out of Schipol and we had a route in the Garmin for the balance of the trip. I had downloaded a couple of routes from Garmin Connect for the trip from Schipol to Delft…we chose one which followed along the Aalsmeer canal, through Leiden, Den Haag and eventually into Delft. This was my first experience following a route that we got off the internet, but it was a good route and we had no serious problems following the line on the Garmin screen. We did fight a strong headwind most of the trip and near the noon hours the threatening clouds opened up and dumped a driving rain…fortunately we were near an overpass and could wait out the storm in relative comfort. There was a nice hotel near our shelter where we stopped in for a cup of coffee and a bowl of hot soup. The clouds disappeared after this storm and we finished the ride under blue skies but the wind never stopped. As we entered Delft, we discovered a huge flea market lining the streets along the canals which forced us to walk the bike for a couple of blocks before we could alter the route to a block over for the final few blocks to Leeuwenbrug hotel. We checked in around 2:00 in the afternoon, parked the bike in their secure storage room, showered and changed into street clothes. Delft is a charming historical town crisscrossed by canals lined with typical Dutch architecture The cathedral is built with colored stones and bricks of red white and blue and arranged to resemble the Dutch flag…all of the royal Orange family is buried there. The Leeuwenbrug Hotel in DelftAlthough Delft is famous for the blue porcelain, we did not look in any of the shops, we were content to see the uniqueness of the town and people watch from a sidewalk café with a cold beer. We had made plans to meet Pauline and her friend Adrian for dinner; we had met Pauline in 1979 hiking in the Stubai Alps near Innsbruck and have keep in contact with her for over 30 years. She has visited us in Houston and we have met in Holland on several occasions. She is now living in Delft so this was the perfect occasion to reconnect. We started our visit to the local fishmonger for a taste of the fresh caught herring…when in Holland we try to be Dutch. The herring was OK, but I would have enjoyed it more with some lemon and tobasco. They lead us around to the interesting sights and to a square where the locals hang out away from the tourists. Here we enjoyed a beer outside on the square. The conversation was lively as we learned about Pauline and Adrian’s musical interest…they have formed a duet, she plays keyboard and sings; Adrian is the guitarist and also sings and arranges the music. Their main interest is in Latin and Salsa music with an emphasis on Cuban music. They currently have 42 videos on You Tube. They took us to a Greek restaurant for dinner…great food as we dined leisurely for the next two hours. The time passed too quickly and it was soon time to say good night and return to the hotel.

Total miles for the day: 38

Sunday 18 July: Delft – Gouda – Delft

The Leeuwenbrug Hotel is a pleasant small hotel ideally situated on one of the canals in Delft; not only did The village square in Goudathey provide a locked storage room for the bicycle, but also was the only place we had free WiFi on the entire trip. The breakfast buffet favorably compared to any we had seen and the rooms were quite comfortable…air conditioning was not an option but rarely needed in the Netherlands. Our bike route for this day was a round trip to Gouda; this was the first time we did not have a route loaded in the Garmin so we were a little tentative as we set out. Pauline had given some suggestions for the towns we should pass through on the way; our solution was to let the Garmin guide us from town to town. This worked fairly well but not without issues because the GPS tried to direct us on a few roads that did not have bike paths alongside. We stopped several times to ask directions but eventually arrived at the Gouda Central Square just a few minutes past noon. Biking in Holland on a Sunday offers very low vehicle traffic because most of the population is out riding bicycles. We saw families, clubs and groups out on bikes enjoying the sunny skies and pleasant temperatures and those who were not on bicycles A Gouda Cheese Platewere on boats cruising along the canals. The Gouda Square is ringed with shops and restaurants, but because it was Sunday, there were only a few visitors milling around. We leisurely walked through the town, observing the buildings, flowers, canals and architecture and eventually found an inviting sidewalk café with a table in the sunshine. Becky ordered a piece of fresh apple pie with a latte and I chose a Gouda cheese and bread plate. My dish was not on the menu but they were happy to accommodate my request and presented a beautiful plate of cheese, bread and salad. Really how could we visit Gouda without sampling the famous cheese? As we enjoyed our lunch, I reviewed the track on the Garmin of our route from Delft. The route seemed to have a large loop that added several miles so I plotted a returned which avoided the loop and hopefully saved a few miles. Well my short cut was only three miles longer than the morning route with the loop…I’ll have to improve my Reward after 55 miles on the tandem...Becky had one alsoshortcuts in the future. We did eventually join back up with our original morning route and had no problem retracing our tracks back into Delft…arriving at the hotel a few minutes past 4:00. Pauline and Adrian had recommended a museum to visit, but my “short cut” put us a little behind schedule so there was no time for a museum. However after a shower and change, there was plenty of time for some cold beers in the local’s square. We had selected an Italian restaurant in the square; as we were drinking the beer we found some pizzas on the menu that would be perfect for dinner. So we just spent the evening in one locale for beer and dinner in the open-air square. Roving minstrels provided music and the passerbys entertained us with their provocative and innovative European styles of dressing.

Total miles for the day: 55

Monday 19 July: Delft – Schipol

We awoke to another brilliant morning of cloudless skies and pleasant temperatures. Neither of us was Leaving Delft along the canalhungry following the evening of pizza and beer, but we knew we had a bike ride back to the airport and needed some fuel for energy. We selected fruit and yoghurt from the buffet and with the caffeine kick from the dark Dutch coffee, we were ready to mount our tandem for our final ride of the trip. Although we did not leave until after 8:30, we were surprised to see the deserted streets…we assume that life did not begin before 10:00. For the return trip we set the GPS to retrace our track back to the airport. We had no difficulty following the track; I could enjoy the ride a little more because we had experienced the route outbound and were much more comfortable riding back. Our easy schedule allowed a couple of stops for breaks off the bike. A little explanation about our experience of riding in Holland is appropriate here. Our bike is a high performance lightweight road bike with 28mm tires and 16 spoke wheels. This is not the bike that I would recommend for Holland. Much of Holland’s bikeways are paved with brick or one-foot-square pavers. The cracks between the pavers and bricks are sometimes as wide as my tire. Nonetheless the ride is not smooth; riding over the bricks vibrates the bike and makes the ride uncomfortable…therefore the need to stop for a break comes more frequently than we would returning to Schipol Airportnormally need. We enjoyed this bike friendly country and would love to return…but we will change the wheels and tires to better accommodate the riding surfaces. As our route left Leiden, we were again on smoother country lanes and off the rough city bikeways. Most of remainder was along the picturesque Aalsmeer canal; there are windmills and farms on each bank of the canal, but for me the real treat was the parade of beautiful boats plying the canal as the passengers soaked in the rare Dutch sunshine. I could have spent the afternoon in a lawn chair on a deck watching the boats passing by. We left the canal at the N201 intersection, making our way back to the Schipol Hilton Hotel. The first task was to break the bike apart and pack it into the two suitcases; next we showered, changed and visited the 8th Floor Executive Club Lounge for snacks and happy hour. Later we walked to the food courts in the airport where we purchase some Mediterranean take away for dinner. We returned to the lounge with dinner in hand and dined in the club comfort. So ended our tour, reality returned…we had to pack and prepare for the return flight to Houston.

Total mile for the day: 36 Total miles for the trip: 533


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