After completing a 180-kilometer circle around Rotterdam, I came up with another plan: to ride the biggest circle that would fit within the Netherlands. To make it even more challenging, I decided to try and do it in one go. It took me 36 hours to ride the 590 km circle, with a bit of cheating on the Afsluitdijk dam!
You might wonder why I'd do such a thing, and honestly I wondered myself too, several times while pedalling through the half-dark in Drenthe. To me it is about getting myself in a situation that causes me to see the world differently – a new perspective, experiencing the world around me intensely, feeling awake and in tune with mind and body, far away from to do lists, unanswered emails and so on.
Getting scared and seeing things that are not really there is part of it too. Once you get through that chapter, the sun will rise again, your mood will shift accordingly, and the knees, well yeah they feel sore, but even that appears to come in waves and is not present all the time.
After I had cycled a lap of 180 kilometers within a radius of 15 kilometers around Rotterdam, I had an idea to investigate what the largest possible circle would be that would fit within the national borders of the Netherlands. And to make that even more challenging, to cycle that circle of 600 kilometers in one go. This ride took some preparation and clear investigation where there might be obstacles. For example ferries that would not operate due to covid-19.I also wanted to drive as efficiently as possible and prepare prepared snacks that I could bring on this trip, such as vegan rice biscuits. Recipe:
1 cup risotto rice
1 cup of water
1 cup of soy growth milk
1/2 cup cane sugar
Filling to your taste:
(Possibly coconut butter)You can also make the cookies savory, I sometimes do that in the winter, with egg and / or bacon. I prefer savory snacks, although I learn over time that sometimes you just need those extra sugars.I left Oudewater around 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon to quickly cross the Lek, the southern part up to and including Nijmegen was a ferry puzzle, but fortunately it worked out very well. Veerponten.nl has helped in this. I really enjoyed the cornfields and the banks along the rivers. The sun went down and everything turned gold, and there were even hills. The landscape literally changed by the hour.After 135 kilometers, Nijmegen approached, recognizable by the industrial areas and the urban area. I really appreciate that, all the greenery with the skyline in the background that stands out against the sky.Slowly the darkness came and I promised myself a break at McDonalds, it would be open until 1am at least and give me that caffeine boost I longed for. It's those little treats that help you divide your goals into steps. And by cycling to that next point on the map. Suddenly you are over 200 kilometers.It is somewhat alienating to cycle through a city in the middle of the night. Most people are asleep and the life you encounter is half drunk. I am not even noticed and I am happy when I cycle between the fields again.Although it does happen a few times that I see some shadows and I get a bit anxious. This could be due to fatigue and the intense drive and resign myself to it, sing songs to distract myself when it happens again. When it starts to rain after 252 kilometers, I hide between the bushes and a corn field under a golden blanket. That keeps my sleeping bag dry for about an hour. I don't really sleep, but I like lying horizontally.The sun has not risen yet, but the sky is already brightening and I am preparing for a new day. Morning light always brings new energy and the rain has given way to a radiant sun.
The raindrops sparkle, the world is fresh and the morning light beautiful. Where I was a bit anxious last night, I now see a sloping Dutch field landscape and I am cheerful. I look at the route and see: 338 kilometers to go. Doel 1 is looking for a coffee with a matching breakfast. On the way I am again surprised by the surroundings, a mirror of water that reflects the sky and surroundings. Quiet and peaceful when I pass by.The coffee is delicious and the baker has too much choice, I just take everything, it will be a long day. I take the time for my coffee, check the schedule for the day, then consider a second coffee, but it is now too busy in the bakery and so I jump back on my bike, towards the 338 kilometers.I look forward to Friesland, although this will take a while. I cycle past wild horses and through forests. And also it starts to rain again and I suddenly consider taking a train. At least: I'm starting to look at the options, the energy is clearly a bit lower.Friesland is great, everyone waves, says hello, or has a friendly chat. The fact that the Netherlands is so diverse is once again proven. I arrive at the ferries later than I had planned and encourage myself to continue cycling despite the headwind, otherwise I might not even catch the bicycle bus over the Afsluitdijk. If I can hardly keep my eyes open for 10 minutes after eating something, I put my bike down in a meadow and then lie down next to it, that's how I do it sometimes, 10 minutes of rest is sometimes all you need to continue to go. The headwind is hard for me and the last kilometers in Friesland I really have to wring out.The bus driver is a welcome discussion partner and asks if I am sure I want to leave Friesland. I explain my plan and to be honest I am also looking forward to a tailwind, which should turn like this and come from the northwest. He is friendly, does not seem overly impressed and I like that. I immediately fall asleep on the bus and when we arrive in Noord-Holland, a supermarket visit is the first thing I do. I need Red Bull, that helped well before, that just takes the edge off. I mix it with some water, otherwise I find it too sweet.Train? No, not a train, I'll be fine, I can do this, I don't necessarily have to cycle very fast. Just steady to the ferry at IJmuiden, I speak to myself. Another step on the map where you are cycling. The stretch through the dunes is good for me, I love this landscape, the paths, the meanders, little wind. The sky is beautiful when the sun slowly sets and I arrive at the ferry just before midnight. From here it doesn't seem very far to Oudewater anymore.
The night is surreal, like a fairytale. The clouds are low, you can call it fog, there are fewer streetlamps and I end up in someone's yard, which makes me feel ghostly. The different colors of light (green, orange, blue tones) make the drive through the polder a bizarre experience. I want so badly to be at home, lie in bed and sleep. Going to camp somewhere now is not an option, I only tell myself a little bit more. It seems like I'm not moving a meter ahead.To keep myself awake and alert I get up on my pedals. At this point in the ride there is little fun anymore, my body protests, I feel anxious, I can no longer judge everything accurately. Between the misty fields I meet young people who cycle home from a party, but always frightened by the unexpected life that comes to me. There is a part where lights are mounted in the way and it seems like I am dreaming. The last 5 kilometers, everything screams, maybe because it's the last 5 kilometers. I am so happy when I arrive at the parking lot. It is over, you no longer have to cycle, change me, comfortable clothes were already ready, drink and eat something, while I prepare to travel to Rotterdam.
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