Utrecht was a much cooler city than Amsterdam. It is only 45 km away and is their largest university city. The tourists are missing and I find the general vibe is just more to my liking. It helps they also have the coolest church and clock tower I have ever seen. It was built, if I recall in the 13th century. The gargoyles were fantastic. The courtyard even had a metal plate covering a passage that was left unlocked! I wanted to explore but the people with me were opposed to it…
Our living accommodations were in the suburb Lunetten. Sam, a host from the previous year, exiled 4 roommates and we spent the night sleeping all across the tiny 3 story university student apartment. He cooked us a lentil soup that was vegetarian, since he himself was, and provided 5 or 6 round loaves of bread. He spent the night at his girlfriend’s place and cane back at 7 am to get breakfast out for us, which he also purchased! He was an amazing guy and did so much for us.
We left for Ede, again a very short 45 or 50 km away. I rode only with Camron who wanted to ride quickly. Everyone else was afraid to ride with me because they thought I would set too fast of a pace. I’m really not interested in going that fast so hopefully I cab convince them. He ended up so focused on going fast that we continually missed turns by many kilometers an kept getting farther and farther off course. The only thing that saved us was that his iPhone, although without service, could stil use the towers to locate us on a preloaded map. Stopping to ask directions we got a cute Dutch girl’s phone number to take us out with her friend that she was visiting in Ede. Finally, after 72 km we wandered onto the army base where we were staying in an unused barracks facility. The accommodations were amazing: we actually had beds.
The amenities expanded to include a ropes course, that we were kicked off of; an entire pre WW1 abandoned section of base; thousands of gallons of unlocked gas in 5 gallon containers; and agility course; and a night with NCOs in their make shift private bar. Good times. Tomorrow Germany. (I wrote this a while ago and just got to post. I am in Goslar now and will update again ASAP)
Orientation was rather haphazardly planned. I took off from Boston with a rough outline of talk topics in time slots with few details of what they would include. Slowly, with much going over of material and talking to Shawn. I formulated a solid set of points to cover.
As the riders arrive the group quickly bonded without too much need for introductions or icebreakers. We started and hour late due to late arrivals and ended half an hour early. All the material seemed well conveyed and was productive. And the discussions that took place were generally great. Tomorrow will be easier I suspect, as it is a lot about bike stuff which I am extremely comfortable with.
Also of note us that I am extremely happy to report my hammock has been, after some problems, raised for the first time ever. It seems to support me well an everything and be super comfortable. I’m so excited! Hopefully it doesn’t fail or park people don’t order me to take it down. It’s going down to the low 40s F and there is scattered rain that hits a couple times an hour for varying durations so this will be a good test of all my gear.
Its 10:45 pm, im getting up early, people are playing stupidly loud music from their car, the sun is only just setting, and I need to wake up early. I also realize I left my light source in my backpack… Oh well, until tomorrow. Well it will be tomorrow by the time I get wireless to post.
So I really dropped the ball on updating this blog while training and racing. However all that was supposed to be the primer for this… The Amsterdam to Istanbul tour! This marks my second day in Amsterdam. I was supposed to spend the night in an apartment in Oud West on Bilderdijkstraat but that fell through and the only hostel I found with a bed was a Christian hostel on a canal in the red light district. It was an experience.
I cannot say enough for the bicycle infrastructure. I rode from Schipole airport into Amsterdam without sharing a road a car used. The majority of the roads in the city have curbs to a raised lane in each direction! And in generally they are extemely well maintained. No wonder I see more people on bikes here than in cars or the tram (their above ground trains powered electrically overhead, like much of the green line, but on time). Where there aren’t dedicated paths or raised roads there are marked lanes, never sharrows, unless you are on a tiny street such as running along a canal. The one annoyance is the moped. They go on the roads and bike paths with a lot less regard for others. Cars and pedestrians treat you like first class citizens for sure, though.
What’s stranger is the lack of nice bikes. I was warned about theft and was really worried when I saw everyone elses bike, surely mine would be a target! However most people do not take any proper care locking bikes up. It’s often done via an integrates locked behind the break — turn the key and a bar closes making it so the spokes cannot move. Its not uncommon to see a bike in a rack unlocked or a chain only around the front wheel because of how the racks are. The only u-lock I’ve seen is my own! I brought two cables to accompany the u-lock and all my personal items are in a late multi-day pack that I throw on my back when I lock up the bike and trailer.
Pictures and stuff will come when I have access to a computer. For now I have two hours at the camp site for tonight, planning for tomorrow’s orientation here, while I wait for the Global AFC president, Shawn to arrive so we can check in. And 6 cute backpacking girls speaking French just walked by so this post is ending.
The collegiate season is less than a week from ending for those of us without an invite to nationals. I haven’t updated this blog like I had hoped. It turns out competitively cycling and writing a thesis take a lot of time!
Dartmouth marks the end of the season with what promises to be a pretty epic set of races. Already I am looking ahead to my first non-collegiate race; I am absolutely addicted.
The first time I encountered the ubiquitous wave was not on a bike, but riding on my friend’s boat. Out on the lakes and rivers, everyone waved at each other as they passed. They would check to see if you had mechanical problems and were both genuinely concerned and willing to help.
Back too bikes. The culture is exactly the same and I imagine it’s not because of the same people bike as those who boat. Rather it’s the universal symbol of respect. Respect for the other rider, respect for their being on a bike, and acknowledgment of a mutual love. Not many people jump onto an expensive bike suited in fashion-defying spandex for any other reason.
Biking in Boston, the wave is lost among the non-spandex junkies. Perhaps there are too many cyclists, perhaps that understanding isn’t there, or, most likely, it’s because people are riding for reasons other than the love. I still wave and hipsters admonish me with smug looks, women think I want to pick them up, and, much more infrequently, I see a big smile cutting through the sub-freezing temperatures and my wave is returned. Love shared.
In the previous post I eluded to the fact I find winter cycling fairly easy. I generally don’t find winter as intolerable as many, but there are some tricks to getting through it too. In the end, a lot of it is mental. If you think you hate the cold, you will.
Specifically on how to survive a Boston, NH, or VT winter all comes down to proper gear choices. Do not wear any heavy layers but do wear many thinner layers. Options are important in case you found out you made the wrong choice. The worst days to ride are on the cold rainy ones; once the snow flies it’s easy, if there is no ice hidden under it. You don’ need as much clothing as you think if you keep pedaling. Just make sure you cover all of your skin with fabrics that are windproof and you’re all set. I don’t need special shoes but just a good pair of heavy wool socks and those thermal booties they sell to slip over your shoes that keep your feet drier than they do warm. I generally do not need a hat nor do I need to cover up the air holes in the helmet. I find that a headband - I have a thin cycling specific one from Descente - is more than sufficient at keeping my ears warm. Gloves are my biggest problem and I have yet to find something that leaves my fingers dexterous and warm. If your fingers get cold, just rapidly swing your arm around a few times to get blood back. If you’re not used to cold winters covering your face maybe a good idea, even your mouth so you’re breathing more humid air, but be forewarned that depending on how you do this, you could readily fog up any glasses you are wearing. Just remember before you go out you should be cold before you get on the bike, otherwise you will sweat, overheat, and if you stop, get colder, faster, because of the sweat.
It’s not about the clock making another turn, it’s about the moment that exists between ticks.
(Happy New Year) — Me
I’ve never been big on making a new year’s resolution simply because I’ve never been too big on the goal-orientated, everything-is-planned-to-a-T lifestyle. Sometimes I think I’ve stumbled into everything, good and bad, something that society would commonly attribute to “luck.” However, I believe it’s not about planning and setting goals but always being available, prepared, and ready for any opportunity as it may come. If you have rigid goals then you could easily let opportunity pass you by as it doesn’t fit nicely into your plans.
2010 is a bit unsettling for me, here. I rode out the end of 2009 with some truly good news: I will be racing for the Tufts University ECCC team and I will be cycling in a nine week tour across Europe, with Global AFC. I also had some road bumps placed in the way of these plans as my abilities to graduate in May with my MS in Mechanical Engineering have been severely hampered. But it all needs to happen. And to me, these sound like plans, like goals, and I hope I can survive it all and not let some other monumental opportunity pass me by.
I’m new to blogging, as is probably obvious right now. My very first post is boring and TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) quality. I’ll find my stride. I fear I have too many interests to make this work. My Twitter is a hodgepodge of Buddhism, cycling, local Boston living, stuff about being vegetarian and food I make, Linux, and so on, guaranteeing that the signal-to-noise ratio is terrible for just about everyone. Here I will keep it on cycling. It may relate to something else, but it will be about my first novice season racing in the ECCC as a graduate student and the European tour.
You can always talk to me on Twitter, I am @GenKreton and I’d like any advice you have to give on this.