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I was on a bicycle ride and stopped at a gas station for a bottle of water. I was standing by my bicycle enjoying the spring day, sipping on my water when a middle aged woman I did not know spoke to me. She explained that at first she thought I was her son, same build, height, color and length of hair and he enjoys riding his bicycle as well.  Then she said, “But you can’t be, my son Gabe, he is in prison, I can’t get over the resemblance”.  I started thinking about how often people approach me and I wondered if you have statements, questions or conversations thrust upon you from people you do not know? These are encounters directed to you, not through work or from family or friends but from people who are strangers that you share some space or time at any given moment. I decided that I would make a list of statements, questions and conversations directed to me by complete strangers for the next year and I would then share them with you.

A year has past, questions and conversations have come my way but nothing interesting to share. Gone are the days when people approached me thinking I was Robin Williams. No one, that I have noticed, has been so shaken thinking I was a ghost. For me fame has been a fleeting condition and I do miss those encounters. I also have not been greeted and questioned with the familiar, “Hello Mr. Letterman, what are you doing here in Target?” Have you seen pictures of him lately? I don’t think he even gets asked that question. Occasionally I still hear the question when I am in a restaurant with my wife and the waiter or waitress approaches us from my rear, “What can I get you ladies to drink?” I believe that question is all but gone as well because I am told that my hair is thinning on the top back part of my head. I haven’t really checked it out but I have caught glimpses when I look up at the camera overhead at a convenience store. I’ve got to stay out of those places and also well lit restaurants. “Forget about it”, I tell myself, I can’t look forward if I am looking in my rearview mirror. Think positive, wear a hat and I might develop a new fan base.

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Growing up I loved baseball. I knew the stats of my team the Cleveland Indians and I studied the standings and paid extra special attention to my favorite player, Rocky Colavito. img_0238Television coverage was so different at that time. I could only see him play on the Saturday Game of the Week when the powers to be chose to televise Cleveland. Rocky was a power hitter and he was an outfielder who had a cannon for an arm. When Rocky was in the on deck circle he would go through many stretching moves and when he came to the plate, he would stand in the batters box and menacingly point the barrel of the bat directly at the pitcher, hold it in that position and then bring the bat slowly back in preparation for the pitcher to deliver the ball. Home Run!! I just loved it! My dad played baseball when he was a kid and as a dad he enjoyed watching the games with me.  I would cheer on my Cleveland Indians and he would cheer for whoever was the other team, especially if it was the Yankees. We had so much fun going back and forth at each other with jokes, put downs and lots of laughter. He knew how to get my goat, just say anything unflattering about Rocky. After all these years recounting those days still gives me lots of smiles and a feeling of lightheartedness.

When I wasn’t watching baseball I talked about the game with my friends in school. Unlike my neighbor Billy and my cousin Bobby, both whom cheered for the Yankees, my friends in school were not so committed to any particular team which resulted in more enjoyable discussions about baseball. When the World Series was being played, despite the absence of my team I was still a fan. I remember as a freshman in high school watching the World Series while in study hall. The teacher set up a TV in the room so that we could watch the game. A carefree atmosphere in an otherwise, what seemed to me, rigid environment.

My grandfather loved watching baseball. His favorite, I’m not sure, it might have been the Cardinals but he also rooted for the Cubs and the Pirates. I remember seeing a picture of him that was taken with Roberto Clemente. When our family would go to town and visit my grandparents, grandpa would be watching the game. My dad and I would watch the game with him. He never said much but his smiles, grunts, laughter and sighs pretty much said it all. He was having a good time.

When there wasn’t a game to watch and when I was talked out about baseball, my dad and I after chores and our evening meal would play catch. Some evenings I would be the pitcher and dad as the catcher, would call balls and strikes. Sometime I would shag fly balls hit by my dad. None of this was technical in nature, instead just a great time to laugh and joke around until the sun was gone and the fireflies filled the sky. Whether I was with family or friends, at home or in school or just daydreaming, baseball for me was synonymous with fun, laughter and excitement. A close and warm feeling.

Both our sons played organized baseball when they were young. We had a baseball diamond in our yard. We would play an abbreviated form of baseball and occassionally neighbors would join us in a game. Our sons had Cub T-shirts and hats and like me when I was a kid, they collected baseball cards. As a family we visited the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago and the Royals in Kansas City several times. We also in a subdued manner, cheered for the Angels to beat the Red Sox in Fenway Park. My brother in law’s cousin was the trainer for the Angels and he got us great seats, fourth row or so right behind home plate. I sort of stepped into it that night in Fenway. We were enjoying the game when what I believed to be a mother and her daughter approached me stating that we were sitting in their seats. I showed the mother our tickets and the corresponding number on our seats but she insisted that we were in error. We did not move and she then angrily called for the usher, demanding that we be moved. At that point I responded to the usher that this (expletive) was not correct regarding our seating. After checking all of the tickets and the corresponding numbers on our seats the usher showed her and daughter to their seats which were next to ours. I then heard the usher refer to the mother as Mrs. Carew. After Rocky retired my favorite player was Rod Carew. You guessed it, it was his wife and daughter. I called my baseball hero’s wife a (expletive), I can’t say it!

As teen years progressed for our sons they had a life with many other interests that superseded stat masters compassion for the game. In retrospect I think our sons tired of the rowdy, rough and tumble life of being a fan. When they lost interest, I lost interest. In an update, in more recent years my oldest son again enjoys baseball. We have discussions about the game that was once my passion, however the closeness to the game that I once had as a child and as a young parent have not returned.

This year, Cubs Win! Cubs Win! I am surrounded by Cub fans including many friends and family members enjoying this years Chicago Cub’s baseball success. I am happy for them, I truly am. But——–I am concerned. What is going to happen if the Cubs keep winning? It has been a tradition of “Next Year”, “It’s the Cubs”. If the Cubs are World Series champions, are the fans going to be prepared for 2017 and beyond? If they win it all will life as a Cub fan for present generations ever be the same? Will the fans be able to go back to years of disappointment and frustration once they have experienced success?

I must warn my friends and loved ones, be careful what you wish, hope and cheer for! You have been able to depend on the Cubs. There is something comforting and predictable about waiting until next year.


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Special Boots

I have a pair of hiking boots that are special to me. Special because I have used them to transform my daily routines into experiences that give me a sense of anticipation and also a feeling of calmness. My hiking boots allow me to be in environments that excludes human development. I am in the physical world where the features of the earth: water, desert, prairie, rocks, cliffs, mountains and forests are wrapped around me. When I am in the physical world I am standing in or on the platform the earth provides for us to survive, void of human development or creation.IMG_0050

My boots have provided the comfort and support that I have needed while hiking. Worn out, I am now retiring old left and right. While looking at these boots I am reminded of where they have helped me travel. They were first used in Moab, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks located in Utah. I was astonished at what I saw and experienced on my first encounters in the physical world outside of Iowa. These environments are filled with beautiful rock formations and desert flowers that I had never before seen. One thing about me, I seem to never have enough of anything. So from there my boots have given me the foot support needed to hike numerous times in Yosemite National Park, Pinnacles National Park, Sequoia National Park, Redwood National Park, Lassen National Park, Death Valley National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, Devils Postpile National Monument and Big Basin Redwoods State Park.DSC01104 All of these in California. Beautiful, wonderful experiences. I can close my eyes and smell the redwoods and hear the ocean. I have heard the reverberating sound of a tree falling in a forest. DSC01084I have worn my boots to hike in Glacier National Park in Montana and Olympic National Park in Washington. The Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Montezuma Castle   and Well National Monuments and the Tonto National Forest. All of these in Arizona. Thinking about these features of the earth, I begin to feel the grit and sweat clinging to my body from the hikes I have taken. I really love that feeling! I must admit, if I was in a July cornfield I would have different thoughts and ideas. My boots have been used to hike in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Asheville, North Carolina, northern Minnesota and in Door County, Wisconsin. I have worn them in Scotland, hiking in the center, north and west of this rainy, cold, rugged and beautiful country. Many times in the lush green English countryside of the Cotswold and Lake District areas.  And the last hike, the north of Wales in the mountains of Snowdonia and then in the south, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park with the winds of Cardigan Bay.

Many times I have laced then up and moved one step at a time. Sometimes puzzled, confused, trying to find a way to my destination. I have stood in them silently, motionless, waiting for bears to get bored with my presence and go another direction. I have stood and watched Condors circling above. IMG_0197I have sat at streams and rivers edges dreaming, and during more ambitious times throwing rocks or building little dams, all while wearing my boots. Along the route my boots have been stuck in the mud up to the top of the laces. They are boots that have jumped streams, walked where dinosaurs once walked and stepped on ancient stepping stones. Boots that have stood on and under bridges made by nature. Boots that have descended one of the seven natural wonders of the world and then climbed out. Boots that have been strapped to snowshoes so that I could walk on 25 feet of snow. Boots that have followed the footsteps of my grand daughter’s first hike in the forest. Boots worn by me and hiked along side those worn by Linda. Wonderful memories walking side by side with family. Talking, laughing, sometime stressing, yet a solitude in ones self. Walking, hiking in step with an appreciation for the overwhelming strength and ever changing beauty of the sound, sights, smell and power of nature. On our last hike in Wales I nearly discarded them, worn out, I needed new boots. But I could not leave them behind. They are old friends that have gotten me from there to here in splendid fashion. So, like my dad’s old baseball glove they will remain with me, memories attached. Two tangible objects to stir memories of wonderful times of discovery and adventure.

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Happy New Year! Before I state my New Year’s resolution for 2015, I wanted to share my progress concerning last year’s goals. You might remember that I had two resolutions for 2014. The first was the desire for more mobility in my arms and legs. I developed a regiment of exercises that would give me more flexibility. Unfortunately I have come to realize what I already knew: that a plan does not automatically make it happen. It’s the follow through and that was the part that was severely lacking in my attempt (notice my singular word) to increase my flexibility. So this is going to be a resolution in progress, I’m not giving up. I am sure I can find yoga on Netflix. I need some discipline.

My second resolution for 2014 was to stop sharing with friends, family and strangers information about the weather. Having success with this resolution was going to be tough because of my environmental predisposition and overall lack of self control to stop talking mostly about cold, snow, rain and oh, an occasional explanation about the wind speed. God, even the resolution sounds boring. Well, shortly after stating this resolution I realized I needed to make an adaptation. I would talk about the weather only if someone else first initiated the subject, after all I wanted to be social, carry on a conversation, be polite. The year began with diner parties with friends, planning family gatherings and verbal contact with others but this was not producing weather conversations. Concerned about needing a weather fix, I began imagining myself hanging out, lurking outside local radio and television stations waiting, hoping by chance I would meet a weatherman. Someone I could legitimately discuss the weather with impunity. After all, this would certainly fall within the confines of my resolution. Fantasy aside, I was beginning to lose my grip on my determination to uphold this resolution and then it happened, the mother of all winters. Everywhere I looked there was disgust on people’s faces, and anger and frustration coming from their voices. People without coaxing, went on and on about the winter weather. Cold, subzero cold, snow, so much snow and bitter conversation after conversation. Records broken everywhere. I swear it went until May! Gleefully I listened and then I responded with my rant. I just had to get it off my chest, it’s not good to keep things bottled up. Right? Mother Nature bailed me out last year. Can I do it on my own this year?

I have decided that one resolution each year is plenty, as two is just way to ambitious for me to attack. My New Year’s resolution for 2015: I will not provide to others, unsolicited information that is not necessary for that person to successfully provide a service or function. In other words I am not going to waste someone’s time. For example, when I am at a restaurant and the waitress or waiter asks, “What would you like to drink?” I have caught myself saying, “I’d like a soft drink. What do you have without caffeine? Caffeine keeps me awake at night” That last part, “Caffeine keeps me awake at night,” who cares? Why should anyone care? Stop it Russ! They don’t want my eating, drinking or sleeping history. They want to serve me efficiently and move on to their next customer. I am forcing them, it must seem, to put up with this nonsensical information so that they can receive a reasonable tip. That’s not my motive and I am not in need of having someone just to talk to. It’s just a habit and it fuels the speculation that I’m just an old guy losing it. “It” being the ability to conduct oneself in a lucid manner. I need to stay on topic, “No ice. Do you have free refills? I feel confident that I will be successful with this resolution. It’s all about self awareness and self control. No outside forces like the weather or yoga to get in my way.


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If you would like information regarding our preparation for this cycling journey go to my post titled; In Preparation For Our Cycling Tour of the Netherlands.                                                                                                                IMG_1104                                                                                                                                                         IMG_1103

At 12:30 pm. on May 11, 2013 Linda and I arrived at Shiphol Airport in Amsterdam the Netherlands. After going through immigration and customs we carried our boxes that contained our bicycles and the bag we had in our possession on the plane through the airport and out the main entrance. As we exited the building, to the left of us was an extension of this same building that had a nice overhang that provided some shelter. It was an out of the way place for us to put our bicycles together. We removed our bicycles and gear that was stored in these boxes. A man came along and he offered to take our boxes when we were done and we gladly accepted. By 2:00 pm. we had our bicycles together and we were ready to begin our ride. Linda tried to call the B&B that we had reserved but the cell phone would not work. The sim card I had purchased at home was not working. Linda watched the bicycles and I went back into the airport and went to an electronics store. There I purchased a one month card with data from a great guy that set it all up for me on my IPhone. The cost was $25.00. I went back outside and Linda called the B&B and visited with Nanny, giving her an approximate time that we would be arriving. We were instructed to call her when we arrived and she would meet us at the B&B. We then walked our bicycles no more than 300 feet to our bike road and began our journey. Easy! It really was! We had a 16 mile ride this first afternoon, going south from the Shiphol Airport to Hillegom. We had mapped out our route prior to arriving so we knew where and how we would get to our B&B. (Each evening we would map out the next days ride, writing down the signpost numbers and the mileage between each post). We took our time getting used to the maps and the signage, all of which was very accurate and easy to follow. Most of the 16 miles was in urban areas, we visited a working windmill and stopped at one point for an ice cream. We arrived, called Nanny, and we had a chance to rest for a few minutes before she arrived. We got our instructions, visited with her for awhile, she showed me where to put the bicycles in the barn and we said our goodbyes. We had the entire house to ourselves. We were tired from the flight and cold from our ride so we showered had some sandwiches that she had prepared for us and had a great nights sleep in a great bed. It began raining in the night and we wondered what May 12 would bring. Rain? This would be the morning that we would visit DeKerkenhof Gardens, filled with tulips.                                                                                                            IMG_1107

May 12: It had rained all night. That morning we had breakfast from the food Nanny had left for us and as we were leaving our B&B the sun was coming out. We had only a 2 mile ride to the DeKerkenhof Tulip Gardens. When we left to see the tulips there were already cyclists out that Sunday morning riding to the gardens. We arrived early so the gardens were not filled with people. Beautiful tulips, many other flowers and unique and elaborate garden sculptures. By the time we left, the gardens were filled with people. Our journey for the day would then take us 34 miles north, again going through Hillgom, cycling towards Shiphol Airport but this time going on the east side. And then through Amsterdam and just north to a small town called Zunderdorp where our next B&B would be waiting for us. After the DeKerkenhof Gardens we cycled through Hillgom. Here we had an accident. Linda was riding in front of me, she stopped and I ran into the back of her. We both fell and she really cut and bruised her legs. We tended to Linda’s injuries and we made the necessary adjustments to the bicycles. It was the only mishap that we would have like this during our entire journey. Once we regained our composure we cycled on and it was a very enjoyable riding experience. At mile marker 60 on our way to Amsterdam there was a fantastic restaurant where we had a very enjoyable lunch. There were numerous twists and turns through Amsterdam and plenty of cyclists but we followed our map and the signposts we had mapped out and successfully cycled through the city to Zunderdorf. The ride was beautiful, interesting and safe with the entire day’s ride on specific bicycle paths or designated lanes for bicycles. Arriving at Zunderdorf we easily found our B&B because of the Google maps we had copied that was specific to the address where we would be staying. A beautiful B&B, a detached cottage for two parties to rest in comfort. We mapped out our ride for the next day and relaxed. It began to rain, and again it rained all night.

May 13: Today’s cycling tour would total 31 miles from Zunderdorf to Monnickendam by way of Durgerdam, Holysloot, Broek-in-Waterland and Markem. We had a great breakfast at our B&B and departed at 8:30. The rains had stopped and our host insisted that we would have a good day of cycling. We cycled to Durgerdam, a quiet little village on the sea that is long and only one street deep. From there we were off to Holysloot and then to Broek-in-Waterland. At mile marker #78 in Holysloot was the ferry dock but no ferry. There a sign read, “Ferry in operation only in July and August”. We retraced part of our earlier journey through beautifulIMG_1131 farm fields and took an alternate route. Head winds with 25 mph gusts pressed against us the remaining miles to Broek-in-Waterland but we were there well before lunch. Broek-in-Waterland was a beautiful village with old wooden houses once owned by sea captains. A good look through the village, a quiet and great lunch and we departed for Markem with winds now to our backs. Markem, an island now connected by a dike allowed us to cycle to this touristy village. We walked our bicycle through the village of many well kept and interesting homes. I had been noticing a growling sound coming from my rear wheel and with each mile I was becoming more concerned. We had 6 miles of head winds to our destination, Monnickendam, for the evening. We arrived and found our B&B but it just was not going to work for us as we would have to leave our bicycles on the street. IMG_1121Concerns over whether they would be there in the morning prompted us to look for an alternative place to stay. I found a bicycle shop but because it was Monday like most other stores it was closed. We went to an information center and they were very helpful in finding us a place to stay. The Mirror Pavilion Hotel. It was a modern small hotel with a large party and banquet room. Our hosts were waiting for us when we arrived. They were very kind and we later found out that they had opened up their hotel just for us as since it was Monday they normally do no business. We had the entire hotel to ourselves and we were the only living soles in this hotel all night as the owners left as well. The room was very comfortable and the decor was mostly decorated in pink. There was a large chandelier over our bed that with a push of a button could be raised or lowered. The bathroom was huge and I am sure 30 people could easily stand comfortably with no fears of becoming clostipohbic.

May 14: Today’s cycling tour would total 10 miles from Monnickendam to Edam by way of Volendam. When morning arrived the owners of the hotel were there, husband and wife, serving us a great breakfast. We had a nice visit and cycled back to the town center to the bicycle shop. The shop owner had just opened, he checked out my front wheel and he confirmed that the bearings were gone. He said he could have it fixed by noon so we left my bicycle in his capable hands and we went for a walk, revisited the ladies at the information center to thank them for the fine hotel that they had found for us and we had our daily hot chocolate with cream. We returned at noon and the bicycle was repaired. I asked the bicycle repair man if the bike would make it? He replied, “yes”. I asked him if I would make it? With a lot of skepticism he replied, “I do not know”. Thanking him for a job well done, we were then off for a short ride to Volendam which was a very interesting old town filled with tourists and then to Edam and to our B&B. The ride like all to date was beautiful and the roads we took were so easy to follow and well kept. We watched our signposts and followed our maps and like each day before, the tour was easy. Edam wasIMG_1147 wonderful, full of great shops and great food. We returned to our room accompanied by rain showers that would extend through the evening. Today, like each previous day was cold and rain always threatened to dampen our day but we were prepared as our homework was paying off with warm clothes and rain gear.

May 15: Today’s cycling tour would total 26 miles from Edam to Alkmaar. Rain before we left for our day’s journey but no rain throughout the day. We followed our maps and signposts . The accuracy of our maps and the signposts continue to amaze us. Some of the roads that we take are built only for bicycles while other roads for vehicles have clearly marked lanes for bicycles. To this point in our tour we have had no feelings of being uneasy with vehicle traffic around us. Alkmaar was great. We had been there years before on our 4th wedding anniversary and it was wonderful to revisit. We had a great B&B, a small cottage in the owners back yard and all the wine we cared to drink. Clothes to wash out and dry and a restful afternoon and an evening of sightseeing.

May 16: Today’s journey would be a 38 mile ride from Alkmaar to our B&B outside of Den Oever. A beautiful ride through farmland and tree lined bicycle roads. We followed canals and rode on top of dikes to the town of Hippolytushoef. There we had lunch and dinner combined, purchased some groceries at a nearby store and cycled to our B&B which was located in the country. The owner of the B&B spoke no English but we communicated with ease, settled in to our room, relaxed and ate from the food we purchased earlier at the grocery store. Like the evenings before, we studied our maps and laid out a course for our next day including all the signpost numbers we would need to get to our destination.

May 17:  We cycled 26 miles today from our B&B to Harlingen. The ride included a much anticipated 18 mile ride on a dike with the sea on both sides of us. The dike also included a highway that was separated far enough from our bicycle road that we could not hear and often not see vehicles. The ride on the dike was awesome and there were only 4 cyclists that we met on this part of the journey. Fortunately the wind was on our left side, it was cloudy but no rain. Once we were over the dike we cycled 5 miles on a seaside slope that was an interesting experience. The slope included numerous gates that divided parcels of theIMG_1151 area to different farmers to graze their sheep. We arrived at our B&B early and although our room was not ready the owner was very kind and allowed us to store our bicycles for the afternoon. We walked through the town, had great food and visited several art galleries. Our room was the top story of a beautiful 260 year old home. Going up the steep stairs to our room, Linda tripped and twisted her ankle. This was important for us to note because with all of our planning we had not given it a thought that one of us could get hurt bad enough that we could not continue our travels.

May 18: Today’s journey would take us 45 miles from Harlingen to Heerenveen by way of Akkrum and other small villages. Linda’s ankle was feeling much better this morning. She was confident that she would be fine and her spirits were good. We left in a light mist that continued for the first 3 or so miles before it ended and would not return for the remainder of the day. Beautiful countryside with water, trees, villages and local events. We stopped at Akkrum for a relaxing lunch and as we were leaving our waitress asked us what we were doing? She knew we were from another country and dressed for cycling. We told her of our adventure and her response was, “And that is fun?” We laughed and said that we were having a wonderful time. She seemed most surprised that we were from the United States and cycling in her country. Two years earlier we had a similar experience while we were hiking in England. A man asked us where we were from and after sharing our information he stated that he doesn’t see people from the United States hiking in England. Like our visit with the waitress we explained what we were doing and how much we enjoyed our adventure. Both seemed very pleased that we were taking the time to enjoy their country by bicycle seat or by the soles of our shoes. After lunch and back on the road we had our second encounter with a canal that had no bridge or ferry for us to use to cross. This canal was several hundred feet wide and on the other side was a farm. As we were trying to decide our next move I noticed to my right a post with a buzzer attached. Nothing to lose, I pushed it and to our surprise, immediately, a farmer came out of the house, started up a motor attached to a pontoon like boat and came across to get us. For two Euros he transported us to the other side of the canal. He told us that he operates his ferry from April through October. Once across and with a thank you, we were on our way, cycling through his farm yard (this is something that could not be done in Iowa) to the trail that was on top of a dike which took us through numerous farmyards until we were again off through fields and into the next village. Reading our signposts along the way we were on the correct path. From this point we arrived in less than 3 hours at our B&B and was greeted with a warm welcome and another wonderful place to rest in preparation for our next day.                                                                                        IMG_1183

May 19:  We cycled 36 miles today from our B&B in Heerenveen to Geithoorn where we spent our day and then a short ride to our B&B in Nijeveen. No sun on this day’s ride but it was beautiful none the less. We arrived in Geithoorn late morning. When we arrived the village was pretty quiet as we walked our bicycles on the very narrow pathways through the town with its canals. No cars in the central part of this village. It is a tranquil setting in which to visit and live until the visitors arrive. By the end of our visit the village was so crowded with people that when we walked it was people directly in front and back of us through the entire village. On the outer boundaries of the village automobiles are allowed and it was also very busy with people enjoying the Sunday afternoon. Great restaurants and shops. We enjoyed our lunch as we sat in a cafe along a wide and busy canal. Interesting that like today, when we first visited Europe years ago, there was a plate on a table outside a public restroom for the visitor to place a coin after using the facility. There was no one attending the plate and its contents. In the late afternoon we cycled just 4 miles to our B&B in a much smaller and quieter village outside of Geithoorn. There we met our host and we had a very nice conversation and we enjoyed our stay in their home.IMG_1187

May 20:  A short ride today of 23 miles to Kampen. On our way to Kampen we cycled through a small town named Belt Schutsloot. The entire ride was beautiful but this town was the highlight of days travels. I counted more than 20 small bridges that we went over in this town. There were many more on the side paths as well. This town was like Geithoorn without the tourists. Canals and bridges went to each home and vehicles were on the perimeter of the town. This town was in the heart of a national water land area. The entire ride was beautiful with canals, bridges, ferries and tree lined bicycle paths. We arrived early in Kampen and our host at the B&B was very gracious by allowing us to move in, shower and enjoy the rest of the afternoon in comfort. Our B&B in the center of town was once an old barn and our room and garden area was once the stable. Very old timbers throughout and all designed and refurbished to make an extremely comfortable room for us to rest. Today in Kampen there was a religious holiday celebration. Most stores were closed but there were plenty of outstanding restaurants and a flee market that extended the length of a very long street next to a canal.

May 21:  Another short ride of 22 miles from Kampen to Hierden today. Light mist and rain throughout the ride. We stopped in a beautiful town established in the 14th century named Elburg half way through our journey. We shopped, looked around, went to the bakery and later had lunch before finishing our days journey. We were wet when we arrived at the B&B and spent hours drying our clothes for the next day. Like many of the places that we stayed, this was a small cottage all to ourselves. The hosts were parents to two olympic athletes. One son took silver medals in speed skating in two olympics and the other son was an olympic cyclist. The host told us that they have two other sons that prefer to sit in pubs. They were very modest regarding their son’s accomplishments. The next morning, a  feast of salmon, roast beef, cheeses, fruits, cereals and fresh baked bread.

May 22:  We cycled 36 miles today from Hierden to Woudenberg. After breakfast and with dry clothes, we said our goodbyes and were off with wind to our backs. There were apologies from our hosts for 40F temperatures in the third week of May but it was of no consequence for us because we were having the time of IMG_1200our life. No rain in sight and such a beautiful ride ahead of us for the day. The first 15 miles were through a National Forrest with narrow but very user friendly trails for us to follow. Like all the bicycle roads that we traveled this was also well marked with many intersections of other trails along the way. 12 miles from our destination and I heard the familiar sound of grinding now in my front wheel. Why didn’t I have the bicycle mechanic replace the front wheel bearings when he replaced the rear wheel bearings? We rode to Scherpenzeel which was five miles from our destination and found a bicycle mechanic who could help me out. He had some hesitation because he did not know if he had the proper parts but told us to come back in an hour. We returned after some lunch and he had the wheel repaired. We had a nice visit and we were off for the last of our ride for the day. Bearing repair is only an inconvenience and is really an opportunity to meet and have meaningful conversation with others. What fun is it if you don’t have the unexpected? We were greeted at our B&B when we arrived, settled in and had a nice tour of the town. We had another great meal and then like all evenings mapped out our next day’s travel, a short ride to Culemborg. Tomorrow would put us over the half way mark in our total days of travel. As for miles, I didn’t believe we are half way.

May 23:  We cycled 22 miles today from Woudenberg to Culemborg. Our cycling tour today is day 13 of our 25 day adventure. A day threatened with rain became a reality 8 miles into our journey but not before a ride through a beautiful forest. After several miles of road that was lined with huge trees the rain came. We found shelter under a roof overhang and waited out the wet weather. Once the rain ceased we began our journey again only to find ourselves again IMG_1234in a steady rain. Next to a large mansion, we stood under huge trees that we used as our umbrellas. This worked for awhile but as the leaves became full of water it poured on us. We had our rain suits on but the water and the 42F degrees started to reduce our body temperature. After more than a half hour we set out for the nearest town. Cold and with rain still hitting us in the face we reached a town with a grocery store where we took refuge. Wet, muddy and cold we spent a good part of an hour inside, warming up and drying off. I might add that the grocery store staff were very kind and we got the impression that we were not the first travelers to wait out a rain storm. We bought a few things to eat and drink and once warm we waited outside under the roof overhang for the rain to end. The rained ended and the clouds broke and sun began to peek through slits in the clouds. We cycled and got warmer with the help of the sun. The remaining part of the ride was beautiful and relaxing. We used several ferries including a large vessel to cross water much wider than a canal to reach IMG_1204Culemborg. We were in Culemborg and dry, and then once again it began to rain. We were in a residential area and no real place to find shelter so we cycled until we found our B&B. The host was very kind and gave us plenty of towels to dry off. We showered and got the chill off, did some wash and walked to an area where there was a fast food restaurant named Vork Food. We don’t know how good the food really tasted but on that day and time it was wonderful. After full stomachs we did a little sightseeing and had a great nights sleep. We wondered if tomorrow would be drier?                            IMG_1150

May 24:  We cycled 19 miles today from Culemborg to Rijswijk. Canals, a ferry ride, bike roads on top of dikes and tree lined roads were the order of the day. We had a mild head wind for most of the ride but we were dry and we felt the heat of the sun on our faces. We arrived very early at our small cottage, unpacked our gear and had a very nice visit with the host. We walked approximately one mile to the town of Woudrichen, checked out the stores, the town windmill and had a nice meal and returned to our cottage to relax.

May 25:  Our cycling tour today would cover 32 miles from Rijswijk to Ulvenhout. After a wonderful full breakfast provided by our hosts we said our goodbyes and departed on our journey at 9:00am. It was a beautiful sunny morning and our day was filled with beautiful scenery that included tree lined roads, canals, a 4 plus mile gravel path and a sand path through a forest. A warning we received and we extend to you is that when cycling in the Netherlands do not go on a road that is marked with a bicycle encased in a circle that has a red boarder. We started to ride on a road marked with this sign and was soon politely told by a person walking that this road was not for bicycles. Lesson learned, we paid much closer attention to roads that we would travel for the remainder of our tour. We arrived at our B&B located a mile outside of Ulvenhout. It was set up as a conference center, a modern brick building with a thatched roof. Our room inside the building reminded us of a dorm room with two single beds a desk and a bathroom. Although it was nearing the end of May the nights were cool and our walls were heated and they warmed the room. Once settled we walked in to town visited some shops and walked through a cemetery. An interesting observation was that on the tombstone of a married woman is also her maiden name. We had a wonderful dinner and we discussed our accommodation. Both of us were a little disappointed, probably because this B&B was the most expensive that we would stay in for our entire holiday, it was bleak and bare and the host was somewhat sarcastic in his conversation with us. Never the less we had warm comfortable beds in which to relax and rest before our next day’s journey.

May 26:  Today we would cycle east for 25 miles from Ulvenhout to a farm outside of Wouwse Plantage. Up to this day we have had our breakfast in private IMG_1173in our cottage or in a common area of a home where the host would visit before, during or after our breakfast. Today was an exception because when we arrived at our table in the conference room we were greeted by five Dutch guests. Fortunately they spoke English and we had a great time asking them questions and sharing our adventure and answering questions that they had for us.  We were reminded this morning that the material things (this B&B) is of little importance compared to the interaction and relationships with those we meet. After a great breakfast to start our day we packed our bags and said our goodbyes. We went out to our bicycles and the host followed us, asking questions about our gear and our plans for today. After having an extended discussion we said our goodbyes again to him. As we were loading our bags and checking our tires we noticed one of the Dutch guests standing behind us. He started asking questions and said that he should be riding a bicycle more often. He was quite intrigued with our adventure. After great conversation we said our goodbyes and began walking our bicycles through the grass parallel to the building where we had stayed. I looked over at the building and in the windows stood all of the guests and the host smiling and waving goodbye to us. That was a send off that has stayed with us to this day. IMG_1198The weather today did not include a lot of sun but there was also no rain. There was however headwinds that slowed our pace. The landscape surprisingly seems to always change. Today there were roads lined with trees and fields of onions, asparagus, corn and fruit trees. Lots of nice paths today through woods and fields that led to our B&B on a farm. We learned from our host that all of the canals are owned by the government and they keep a close watch on the farmers to make sure they are not destroying them. Another wonderful B&B to relax, rest and visit with our host.

May 27:  Today we would continue to travel east for 31 miles from our B&B outside of Wouwse Plantage to Vlake. The day was sunny and warmer with a wonderful headwind. We stopped at an observation point pictured on the right and watched a tug boat tow a large freighter from Antwerp out to sea. We cycled further and stopped in the country side and sat on a bench that was on the top of a tree lined canal. Everyday is so relaxing. Today is Monday and on this day most storesIMG_1230 and restaurants are closed in smaller towns. Grocery stores are however open, and we got plenty of fruit, cheeses, meat, bread, drinks and chocolate to get us through until tomorrow’s breakfast. We sat in a park, took some pictures and watched a couple come out of a building along with a dozen others who were wishing them well. The couple got in to an old Thunderbird and as they grove off on the back window it said, “Just Married”. Nice. We cycled the rest of the way to our B&B which was a small motel and relaxed and as always planned our next day.

May28: Another eastern journey for 35 miles that went from Vlake to Vlissingen. As always a beautiful ride with occasional stops in wonderful small towns. The weather today was bright and sunny with calm winds. Vlissingen is a large town with a great ride into the heart of the city where our B&B was waiting for us. We had wonderful visit with our host and then walked to the town center and checked out the shops and chose a restaurant for our evening meal. There was a large town square that was bordered by a sea wall on one side. Our B&B was great and we had a relaxing evening as we planned for our next day’s travel to Brugge, Belgium.

May 29: We cycled 26 miles today from Vlissengen to Brugge. We began the day with breakfast and an enjoyable visit with our host and then cycled to the ferry for a half hour ride to Breskens. From there we rode to Sluis for an early lunch. We tried to wait out the rain that had come just as we arrived but there seemed to be no letup. So after an enjoyable meal and with 9 miles to Brugge we decided to go for it. We got very wet but this did not deter us from enjoying the ride. The bike road follows a canal pictured below, that was built by Napoleon Bonaparte. The ride is absolutely beautiful with huge trees bordering bothIMG_1254 sides of the wide canal. There are ferries that you man yourself to go from one side of the canal to the other if you so please. The rain stopped when we arrived in Damme and we had only 4 miles to our B&B. It was in Damme that I had my next problem with my bicycle. The left pedal unexplainably broke off. I was left to cycle with one foot the remainder of our destination. This was not an easy task. Our B&B was one block from a bicycle shop where I purchased new pedals for my bicycle. We checked in to our room, dried off, and explored the city. We had been to Brugge in 1974 so it was especially enjoyable to revisit sights as well as memories of our time spent in this beautiful city.                                                                                                                                                               IMG_1272

IMG_1269May 30:  Our ride today would be to retrace our 26 mile ride from Brugge back to Breskens and then a ferry ride to Vlissengen and to the same B&B that we stayed in two nights earlier. No rain today so it was a great day to take pictures and take more time to appreciate the tree lined canals and towns along our way. This canal from Brugge to Sluis is awesome.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         IMG_1279

May 31:  We cycled 28 miles today from Vlissengen to Haamstede Burgh by way of Veere. We cycled north today through the urban areas of Vlissengen and then Middelburg into the countryside to Veere 10 miles away. Veere is a very old small town with a huge 14th century church. We spent some time walking through town and visiting shops before continuing our journey. From Veere we cycled up the coast and across a 3 mile dike that protects the land from the North Sea. We then crossed the Oosterschelde, the name for a 5 1/2 mile long construction of 3 separate dam systems separated by land. This system is huge and very impressive. From there we cycled through a beautiful and very large park of sand dunes filled with beautiful trees and grasses.This park pictured on the right bordered Haamstede Burgh where our B&B was located. We met our hosts who were very kind and friendly, got settled in and then went into the center of town for a visit and a good meal. Today’s ride was another very interesting and surprising adventure.

June 1: We cycled 30 miles today from Haamstede Burgh to a B&B near Brielle. Before leaving this morning we had a great visit with the host who shared with us his experiences when much younger of working on ships around Africa and on Lake Michigan. After saying our goodbyes we began cycling north with 30 mph headwinds and higher gusts that would last the duration of the day. Today’s ride included a 6 mile dam and then a shorter dam all in the open on the North Sea. Our B&B was in the country, a great place to shower and relax. We planned and calculated what would be a short ride for the next day.

June 2:  We cycled today from our B&B near Brielle to Delft. Today, we had some wrong turns, a detour and for the first time junctions that were not on our map. In addition, for some reason we had a difficult time finding a large ferry in the town of Rozenburg. This resulted in our short ride ending to be a 24 mile journey. Two people, each wanting to go a different way to find a ferry or a junction when lost, always leads to interesting discussions. Still speaking to each other we eventually found our way and we also located the ferry. We then continued on our journey through more beautiful countryside. We used another ferry outside of Delft IMG_1274in which we would crank a wheel to move to the other side of the narrow canal. The ride would take us alone so many miles of canals and then finally a right turn into the city of Delft. We parked our bicycles in a secured area, fenced in with a guard to watch them. There were several hundred bicycles in this lot. We had a great afternoon of walking through the city and enjoying a great meal. At the end of the day we got our bicycles out of the lot and rode 2 more miles to our B&B located in a very small village named Oude Leede. There we met our host and he showed us our room and his bicycles. He was a man in his forties, a very open and friendly person. He told us that his wife had died several years ago of cancer and after getting over his anger of her dying he is now in the process of redoing the house with a more contemporary appearance. He said that it took years for him to move or remove anything his wife had purchased. His final instructions as we said good night to him was that he would be gone in the morning when we woke and that when we departed to lock the door and put the key in his hiding place.

June 3:  A 21 mile journey today from Oude Leede to Zoeterwoude Dorp south of Leiden. Outside of Zoetermeer another detour today but this one without directions. We studied our maps and decided to cycle into town and then look for junctions that would get us back on course for our planned journey. Coming into town from the west and going to the east side of this large town was relatively easy and our plan worked surprisingly well. We found the junction and we were on our way. A beautiful ride of canals in the countryside as well as the small towns. Our B&B was located in a very small village so we stopped in Voorschoton, a much larger town only several miles from our destination. It being Monday, like Sunday most shops are closed. We did find a small restaurant that was very good, went to a grocery store for some food to eat later on and then cycled to our B&B. We met our host who was wonderful, we got cleaned up and walked through the village. With one day remaining on our cycling tour we began reflecting on our cycling adventure. With some sadness we accepted that tomorrow our journey would be complete.

June 4:  Our last day of cycling would be 32 miles from our B&B to Haarlem. Prior to our departure we had a great visit with our host who shared with us her dresses and drawings she was using in a children’s book she was writing. After saying our goodbyes we were on our way to our final destination. Ferry boats in the countryside and in towns were a mainstay of our travels until we got to the sand dunes heading north along the North Sea. With a strong wind in our faces and an uphill climb we pedaled our way to the outskirts of Haarlem and then the final 5 miles to our B&B. With my bottom bracket now having a distinct grinding sound, fortunately for the bicycle we were finished. Once we were settled in to our B&B we removed our saddles and equipment and IMG_1327 donated our bicycles to a bike shop. They were not worth the cost of returning them to our home. Our equipment was placed in a fold out bag that we had carried throughout our journey. With this bag and our frame bags we were able to pack our belongings for our return flight home. Today’s ride like those before was beautiful and fulfilling. While pedaling those last miles we realized we had done it, we completed our journey. A journey we would never forget, a journey that left us with the desire to plan our next cycling tour.



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I don’t recall ever having made a New Year’s resolution but I am feeling a sense of desperation. Well, maybe desperation is a bit of a strong characterization to express my perceived need to change my physical capabilities and also a topic of conversation when visiting with family, friends and even strangers. I am sensing this desperation because of a feeling that I am closing in on myself and because of the “Here we go again”, just smile and nod type of response that I get from others.

My first resolution is that I need to stretch. For years I have intended to stretch before and after cycling but for some reason I just forget.  Perhaps a reason I forget to stretch before I ride is that I am so looking forward to cycling. Or perhaps it is that I am so fixated on deciding what music I am going to listen to that I forget to stretch. So, I need to follow through on making stretching part of cycling and part of my daily routine. I need to stretch because as years go by I am finding that my mobility is decreasing. My arms and legs seem to be closing in, not being able to reach around my back, touch my toes or bend my legs like I once could. I seem to becoming more physically drawn in as time progresses. So in the next two days, before the beginning of 2014, I am going to put together a plan, a regiment of stretching exercises to regain some of the mobility I have lost.

My second resolution is to stop talking to family, friends and strangers about the weather. I have become fixated over the weather today, tomorrow and yesterday. What the weather was a year ago, two, three or more. I have interest in the extended forecast. Precipitation to date, compared to “normal.” Did you know that the last time we had no snow for Christmas was in 2006? Now there is a stimulating question and who, other than me, cares? What do I hope to accomplish by following through with this resolution? I want to be the cool guy because of the sticker I wear on my sleeve and from my interest in music, literature, travel, cycling and more. Not because I know the date of coldest day of the year. I also want to be a hot guy; interesting, topical, imaginative. Not because I can tell others how hot it will get today.

There are obstacles for me to overcome. Today there are lures that attract the weakest of weather fanatics. “Weather Underground,” that sounds so intriguing. “AccuWeather,” that sounds so accurate. “Intellicast,” that sounds so intelligent. Then there was the learned behavior, the environment of growing up on our farm. “Quiet now, the weather is on,” was a familiar warning that the forecast was about to be predicted on Dad’s favorite radio station, WMT. Dad believed he needed to know the weather forecast so that he could plan his day for planting or harvesting. Dad’s warning must have stymied many conversations because the forecasters weather predictions took precedence over anything that was being said by any of us sitting at the dinner table.  I believed I learned from Dad’s warning how important weather was in day to day life. That must be why I have felt the urge, duty, and the compulsion to share. It’s important. I have thought that if Dad was now alive he would love having access to all the weather information from a cell phone, web sites and the Weather Channel on satellite. Prior to this technology the best weather predictor Dad had was a Galileo thermometer and a barometer. I remember my grandparents had a weather house; a miniature plastic chalet that hung on the wall in the living room. The weather house displayed a girl when the weather would be sunny and a boy when rain was imminent. That girl sunny, boy rainy weather predictor could have deep psychological implications that I will not get in to at this time. Looking back I recognize that I come from a long line of weather freaks and giving any of these as gifts to my dad or grandparents was tantamount to giving an addict a hit, an alcoholic a drink or a chain smoker a carton of cigarettes. I’m not going “analysis” on any of this, I take full responsibility for my obsession to research and share weather information with others.

For 2014 my resolution; I will stop collecting, sharing and asking questions concerning the minutia of weather. I no longer want to be known as the guy who can reminisce about the hottest day of the summer, the coldest day of the winter or anything in between. Weather forecasts will be used only on a need to know basis for safety, in planning travel, attending events and for proper clothing attire.

Sadly while writing this blog I stopped, checked the weather for the temperature and the possibility of snow. I can tell you that at this time it in -7F and there is a 10% chance of snow later today. I still have hours before 2014, one last hit on the Weather Underground web site so that I might share with others, weather information, if the opportunity arises, after all I have a New Year’s Eve party to attend. What’s the weather like where you are? Forget it, I don’t want to know.

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My wife Linda, and I are in our 60’s.  We live in the Midwest and cycle indoors when the weather is cold and outside once the weather begins to warm up.  Linda cycles approximately 2000 miles each year and I cycle more than 3500 miles each year.  On New Years Eve 2011, Linda and I met a young couple who live in Amsterdam.  We discussed our mutual interest in cycling and they suggested that we come to the Netherlands and do the cycle and barge tour.  We had been to the Netherlands on two prior occasions and traveled mostly by train to and from Amsterdam.  We thought cycling in the Netherlands would give us a wonderful opportunity to meet people and see the countryside first hand from our saddle.  We already had plans for cycling on bicycle trails in South Dakota and Idaho in the summer of 2012 and that fall when we returned, I shared our experiences on these trails with our bicycle shop owner.  We also discussed Linda’s and my thoughts of cycling next in the Netherlands and he told me of a couple that lived only a few miles from us who had just returned from a cycling tour north of Amsterdam.  In the next few weeks I met the couple and we had a nice visit about their two week cycling tour.  From my visit with them, Linda and I decided that we were definitely going, we would take our own bicycles and we were going for more than two weeks.  In January 2013 we began investigating the barge and cycling tours.  After reading different websites and looking at Google Maps we decided that for us, the barge and cycle tours were not the format that we wanted to use for our tour.

IMG_1477We read the website, Nederland Fiets Land.  From this we gathered information for our cycling tour including our map selections.  The first map selection was Basiskaart which are in Dutch but we could download the manual printed in English.  These maps have very clear markings for the LF routes, which you can learn more about from the above website.  They are a set of 22 pages of maps printed on both sides and they come in a plastic carrying case.  We ordered this set of maps on line and we could use our credit card or Paypal to pay the 20 Euros for the maps.  We do not speak or read Dutch but these maps are fantastic and we would not go on the tour without them.  The second set of maps shown below, are from Omnimap located in North Carolina.  We chose the Netherlands Cycling Maps with a 1:100,000 scale.  These maps are in English and the cost is $14.99 each plus shipping.  We ordered the seven cycling maps that we would need for our tour.  Order well in advance of your tour.  The company sent the maps that they had in stock and the rest were on back order.  Omnimaps did a great job of communicating with us and it took no more than several weeks to get all of the maps that we ordered.  These maps are much larger in size and have a very accurate listing of kilometers between each intersection.  We would highly recommend the purchase of both sets of maps.  As a matter of fact, for us it was the only way to go.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   IMG_1468

Once we had our maps in hand we were ready to start plotting out our tour but first we had some questions to answer.  When was the best time for us to go?  Weather?  Where do we want to cycle?  Bicycles?  How many days are we going to cycle?  Where are we going to stay?  After much discussion we chose the first part of May to begin our tour.  We checked the weather and May and June seemed the driest for our tour and we also wanted to see the tulip fields in bloom.  We studied our maps, made some general decisions on where we wanted to go and decided that we would cycle for 24 continuous days and our plan was to average 40 to 50 kilometers on each ride.  We also decided that we wanted the familiarity of riding our own bicycles.  The cost of shipping was $150.00 each way per bicycle on Delta Airlines.  We purchased a nonstop flight to assure that if the bicycles got on the plane with us they would also arrive in Amsterdam with us.  We did not want to arrive in Amsterdam, prepared to cycle and no bicycles.  Since neither of the bicycles were worth the $150.00 to ship home we decided that we would leave our bicycles in Amsterdam once our cycling tour had ended.  Linda would ride a Trek 7200 Multi Trac that was very serviceable and I have a collection of bikes one of which was a Batavus Monte Carlo road bike that I decided to get in working order for our bicycle tour.

We decided that we wanted to stay in bed and breakfasts each of our nights while on our tour and we wanted to have them booked prior to leaving for the Netherlands.  The plan of booking all of the rooms prior to departure was Linda’s idea, while I wanted a little more adventure by finding a place at the end of each day.  It turned out, Linda’s idea was for us, the best way for us on this tour.  We knew our destination each day, we could relax, take our time and enjoy the scenery, events and the people knowing that we had a place to stay.  To accomplish this bed and breakfast plan we first used Google Maps and entered, for example:  Schiphol Airport to the Keukenhof Gardens, we clicked on the bicycle square and this gave us the directions and kilometers to our destination.  We were only interested in the kilometers so that we could get a general idea as to the distance we would travel each day.  Before our tour began we did not plot out each days route, only our destination for each day’s ride.  When you have the opportunity to study the maps we suggest,  you will quickly become aware that there are many routes that a cyclist can take to get to your destination.  We then looked on the Omni or Basiskaart maps for towns at or near our 40 to 50 kilometer daily ride for bed and breakfasts.  Once a destination was selected we used the websites bedandbreakfast.nl and bedandbreakfast.eu to find a place to stay.  These are two great sites that we used to book our rooms.  There is no cost to book.  Language is not a problem.  You email them to inquire if they have a room.  They email back, yes or no, for the date you request.  We always asked in our inquiry if they had a lockable storage shed for our bicycles.  You accept and they confirm and you are done.  There is no payment prior to your arrival as this system is based upon trust that you will honor your commitment.  You pay with cash when you arrive at the B&B.  Once Linda and I had a B&B confirmed we again used the Google Maps by entering the address of where we would be staying.  We could draw the map in close for street names that led to our B&B from what we believed to be the bicycle road we would be arriving.  We made a copy of the map and attached it to the confirmation information for each B&B.

IMG_1470 2Now to pack what we would need for 24 days of riding and the 2 days we would hang out before our return home.  First the bags to carry our belongings were selected.  We wanted frame bags, bags that fit the entire area of the frame of our bicycles.  We checked websites and Revelate Designs made exactly what we wanted.  We measured our frames and purchased a bag for each of our bicycles from our local bicycle shop.  In addition to these bags we each had a very small bag attached to the saddle of our bicycle.  Over the back tire of Linda’s bicycle was a rack and my bicycle also had a similar rack that I attached a small set of very used panniers for additional storage.  Realizing that we had limited space and recognizing that we had to prepare for inclement weather we began our choice of clothing.  Linda and I both wore on the plane a pair of jeans, long sleeve shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, socks and tennis shoes.  We carried only a medium sized gym bag on the plane with items that we did not want to put in the boxes with the bicycles.  When we were ready to ride the plan would be to roll the gym bag up and stow it away in the panniers so that we could use it on our return home.  In addition to the clothes we wore we also chose to each take rain jackets and pants for our tour.  We each also had two pairs of biking shorts, two GoLite all wool, light weight, long sleeve shirts and we each had a short sleeve shirt.  Socks and various under garmets were also packed away in our bags.  We also carried our maps and a packet that included the B & B reservations and a closeup Google Map of the immediate area for each night.  The frame bags and panniers carried these items plus 20 granola bars, shampoo, grooming items, a curling iron, electrical adapter, tire changing tools, 6 inter tubes, a patching kit, tire pump, tools to put the bikes together after removal from the boxes, a small roll of electrical tape, a first aid kit we put together, a knife, scissors, water bottle, camera, diary, iPad, cell phone.  After much discussion Linda chose to take her helmet and I chose to leave mine at home.  Kryptonite Evolution locks were held secure with velcro strappings on top of our rear racks.  Prior to our departure we purchased a roll of velcro strapping at Home Depot.  We cut strips of it and tightly wrapped each article of clothing.  It made it much easier to pack our clothes in our bags and much easier to grab what we would need at the end of our day when we arrived at our B&B.  We also used gallon sized plastic baggies to group things together that we would need each evening.

IMG_1103We got used boxes at our local bicycle shop to transport our bicycles to the Netherlands.  Prior to our departure I broke each bicycle down and prepared them for transport and then put them back together to make sure there were no problems in the assembly.  We also packed all of the articles we would take in our bags to make sure everything would fit and we rode our bicycles fully loaded prior to our departure.  When I packed the bicycles in the boxes for shipment I left the panniers on the bike as well as the small bag on the back of each saddle and the frame bags.  The frame bags, the small bags under the saddles and a small cardboard box were packed with articles that we did not need to carry on the airplane.  I also put Linda’s helmet in the box and the locks, a bell, light and a bike computer were also left on each bicycle.

We were ready to go.  A blog titled, “Our Cycling Adventure in the Netherlands” will be coming.IMG_1104

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IMG_1404It is not my most urgent desire to write about music.  I don’t really know much about it.  I mean I can read music but I can’t really carry much of a tune.  I don’t understand the inner workings of a song, how the technical parts bring the lyrics and the music together.  Like most of us, I just know what I like, what stirs something in me.  My last letter made reference to music and my plans were to move on to another topic.  But from conversations we have had it seems that I have some explaining to do.  An explanation of why I enjoy some of the music that I listen to.  Some of the lyrics contained in these songs are a puzzle to you because you don’t think it is very positive, it does’t fit my glass half full outlook on life.  But really, for me it is quite the contrary.  The music I listen to exposes me to the expressions of other people’s thoughts and ideas.  I enjoy songs with lyrics that allow me to think, they have a message for me, they allow me to look outside of my daily life and to imagine.  For me it does reflect my glass half full perspective on life.  For some listeners it is the melody that hooks them to a particular song.  For me it is the lyrics first and then the melody puts it all together, the finishing touch.

If you google music types, thousands will be identified.  There is a classification that can be used to place every song that has been written into a genre.  So, to explain the genres of music that I most enjoy I will try and make it simple by arbitrarily placing all music in two very general categories.  These two general categories are Bazooka bubble gum and Dentyne chewing gum.  Bazooka bubble gum has a very sweet taste and its intended use as stated in its name, is for blowing gum based bubbles.  I describe the Bazooka bubble gum category of music as having an upbeat sound with sing along choruses and also an innocence in the sound and lyrics.  This music is about feeling good or being happy.  There is nothing wrong with this general category of music.  Songs by the Ronettes, Crystals and the Everly Brothers comes immediately to my mind.  I really enjoy this category of songs.  The Dentyne chewing gum category of music is best described from the gum manufacturers own advertising:  Dentyne provides an aid to oral hygiene.  It prevents tooth decay.  Dentyne keeps teeth white.  Dentyne chewing gum as advertised, in my opinion has a more utilitarian purpose that explains its reason to exist.  I describe the Dentyne chewing gum category of music as being imaginative.  It can be philosophical.  It may be politically or socially orientated.  Experiences are expressed by the song writer and singer.  The Dentyne chewing gum category of music is helpful in understanding and then accepting or rejecting expressed thoughts and ideas of the song.  Empathy?  Perhaps.  These two very general categories that I have shared with you allow me to attempt to explain music that I enjoy.  It also helps me to sort out a very general category of music that I want to listen to at any specific time.  What is my mood?  Something a little light or music with more bite?  I usually prefer the Dentyne chewing gum category of music.  The bite.  You probably enjoy this category of music as well.  Think of the songs that you enjoy listening too.  Do the lyrics more closely align with the Dentyne definition that I have described?   Within the Dentyne category is a genre of music that seems most puzzling at times for my family to understand my connection.  To best describe the genre of music I most enjoy it is much like receiving a piece of Dentyne gum from a stranger, with no wrapper.  I take it.  I put it in my mouth.  I chew it.  I accept Dentyne.  I accept my music.

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King Me!

When I am riding my bicycle alone on bicycle paths, I often listen to music on my Ipod.  I usually get to the trail and then decide which artist I am going to listen to first while riding my bike.  My bike rides often last more than one album and my music choice of the second and sometimes third album usually comes easy, kind of a spinoff of my first selection.  My music selections can motivate me to ride my bicycle faster and farther.  My selections can also bring about feelings of calmness, relaxation, thoughts of just letting the world go its way while I go mine.  Then, other times the music I listen to can lead to troublesome thoughts and ideas that result in a less than relaxing or enjoyable ride.

Several months ago prior to a ride, I was going through my music wondering what to listen to while cycling.  After some deliberation, I chose to listen to some Tom Petty music.  One of the songs I listened to during my bike ride that day was “It’s Good To Be King”.  While cycling and listening I got to thinking about a comment that was made to me.  It was information shared with me, that after hearing, I believe I just stuck it in the back of my brain because I didn’t want to deal with the topic.  Now, while listening to this song I was reminded of the information, a declaration that had thrust me in to a place I had not been before, a place where there was only one way out, a place where I had not planned, bargained or made promises to be there.  It was nearly three years ago that my brother unceremoniously said to me shortly after we had attended a family member’s funeral that I am now the oldest living male on our father’s side of the family.  I don’t remember what my response was towards my brother, I do know that I felt confused, actually kind of nauseous.  I felt one step closer to that inevitable “end”.  I thought, “How could this be?”  There had to be a mistake in his calculations.  While driving home I went through the family lineage, something I don’t recall ever having done before.  Okay, how many females in my father’s family are older than me?  I thought I’d try the avoidance tactic for as long as I could.  After some thought I could count three who represent the female Grimm family lineage who are older than me, they are in their 80’s and 90’s, but me, me the oldest living male?  How could this be true?  I started going through the males, humm, but what about?  Humm, my brother was correct, I am in the dubious position of being on top of the living male Grimm family lineage.  When I got home I shared with Linda what I had learned, having confirmed by running the family tree through my mind, my brother’s declaration made only a few hours earlier.  There was not a lot of discussion, I don’t recall losing any sleep over this revelation and I had forgotten about it, I had moved on.  That is until I was reminded of my position when I heard “It’s Good To Be King” by Tom Petty.

I started thinking about what it means to be the oldest living male in the Grimm family lineage.  I quickly came to the conclusion that first and most importantly, it means I am alive.  After this happy conclusion, I started to wonder if there were other obvious benefits and responsibilities?  I spent days reviewing the lives of the men who held this position prior to me and could find nothing to suggest recognition for the position they held.  There was no wisdom that other family members sought from the eldest male.  There was no mountain to climb to obtain knowledge from the eldest of all others.  There was no outward recognition that such a position even existed!  So, I came to the conclusion that I am not a king.  After all, in addition to the findings described above there is no land or country, no subjects, soldiers, servants or scepters, not even a court jester.  It doesn’t pay very well, actually any monetary amount is nonexistent.  There is none of the trappings of a crown, thrown, no cape, not one scrap of velvet.  Yet inside each of the Grimm males there must be thoughts, ideas and emotions that suggest pity and also relief that it is not them that hold the position that has been placed upon me.  After all, I can’t choose to retire and move to Florida, wear white shoes, pants and belt and escape my position.  I can’t even go on vacation, there is no time away from my position at least while I am alive.  I am “it” for as long as I will remember, so I have decided that I am going to hang onto this position for a very long time and I trust that there are no males in the Grimm family lineage that are dying for the opportunity to be on top of this lineage heap.

We have all been at one time the youngest in our families.  Although, in each of our stories we face and endure the circumstances of our own life’s progression. Unlike each of us having a turn at being the youngest not everyone will have a turn at being the oldest in the family lineage.  But, you know the position is really just a number, a place held by circumstance.  We are really all in this life experience together, young and old, male and female and there are no kings or queens.

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Identity crisis?

The picture at the top of my blog was taken in Death Valley while we were hiking several years ago.  Just to the left of center, if you look closely you will see a person hiking in the sand dunes.  This person is not me.  I often have to say, “No, not me”.  I don’t have to say no, not me to defend myself, it is because strangers and even a few people who know me think I am somebody else.  My secretary in the office where I once worked would sometimes mistake me for my office partner and good friend George.  Robin Williams, David Letterman, these are the men people most often mistake me for in stores, restaurants, airports and on the street.  I have to explain who I am not.  Not who I am.  I have been mistaken for a former wrestler at the University of Northern Iowa and I have been stopped and asked the question, “You look very familiar, weren’t you a teacher I had in high school?”  One person thought I was my son, and she introduced herself as the professor of my father when I was actually the student of hers in 1993.  Confusing?  How would you like to be me explaining that I was the father, not the son.  I was the student!  I have received phone solicitation calls and I have been asked if I am Russ Grimm, the former NFL football player.  Last month I was at the T J Maxx store in Rochester, Minnesota and I began to feel uncomfortable when I noticed that people were gathering around me.  They would come close and then back away only to come close again.  Before I had a chance to figure out what was going on a middle aged man approached me and said, “Good morning Mr. Williams.”  I always explain who I am not but this time instead, I walked away.  This was a mistake because a number in this group began looking for me.  When no one was watching I hid by sitting on the floor, under a rack of women’s long winter coats until they left.  It’s a bitch being famous when you are not.  Two days later Linda and I were in Des Moines.  While Linda did some shopping I went to an assisted living program to visit an old friend, Larry.  When I arrived I was told that Larry had died a few months earlier.  In our discussion, Joan, who was wearing a name tag that read “ambassador”  asked if I would be willing to share some information about Larry and how I knew him.  She gave me a sheet of paper and I sat in the open community area writing, recounting memories of Larry, a man Linda and I had met professionally in 1972.  Over the years he came to our home for dinners and had played with our sons when they were very young.  As I was writing I could not help but notice residents passing by me, many in wheelchairs or using walkers and others with oxygen tanks moving towards the dining hall for their evening meal.  Larry’s death and now this parade of reality of those who did not die at a younger age, presented for me, a very sobering experience.  As I was completing my writing I noticed a couple in their forties come down the stairs, we made some eye contact and they approached and asked, “We just placed our mother in this program, do you enjoy living here?”  I got up on my own, walked to the office with no assistance and gave the sheet of paper to Joan, I didn’t say a word and I left.  It’s a bitch being a resident even when you are not.

Identity crisis?  I know who I am.  My wife, sons, daughter in law, even my two year old grand daughter know who I am.  My relatives and friends, we are all on the same page, united in the fact that I am Russ Grimm.  I’m not worried.  Everyone else is going to have to figure it out on their own and until they do I guess I will have to continue denying who I am not.

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