Bike Trip Wrap-Up

We are Dresden now with Laura and family.  This post will include the wrap up of our final days on the bike trip.  First, highly recommend the opportunity to be the only Americans anywhere.  There were 3 Canadian couples on board, so we weren’t the only ones from the West, but we were the only Americans none-the-less.  There was a constant mixing of languages to find words that would translate.  There was a Spanish woman who spoke very limited Spanish which gave Noah and me the opportunity to use the little Spanish we could come up with.

The kids brought the parents together.  The kids ended up wanting to eat dinner together, ride together, and play Mindcraft, a computer game world.  I am thinking that the kids will continue to link up once we return home.  Shiah and Noah stayed in touch with their friends staying at our house while we were gone.  They were actually playing Mindcraft together.

One of the Italian couples practices Buddhism so that provided a lot for conversation.  I realize that I practice no one thing with single-minded devotion.  We’ve been trying to figure out the whole Jewish thing with the kids since they were born.  And, the Israel thing is particularly complicated.  Is Israel a spiritual metaphor?  Is it a physical reality that embodies a spiritual metaphor?  Is it a place that all Jews should link too?  Is it a place where all Jews are welcome in case of a god forbid…  And, how do we deal with facts-on-the-ground to use Ariel Sharon’s language, but not just for the Settlements, but for the country?  No answers.

But, we did come up with a good idea for Noah to visit Israel.  Megan, one of the Israelis on board, teaches Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defense form developed by the Israeli military.  They offer training sessions and camp options throughout the year.  Noah thought it was a good idea.  So, we’ll look into it

I digressed, back to the trip, we rode from Alkmaar to Purmerend.  When we rode into Purmerend, we saw kids diving into the canal from a bridge, and we knew that we’d be swimming within the hour.  There were very few moments on the barge/bike trip when I was aware of not sweating.  Each afternoon, we peeled our bike clothes off as if peeling an orange.  As we had no washing facilities on board, we were doing a lot of hand washing and/or riding in yesterday’s sweat.  We did some of both.  Steve put on a bandana Keith Richard’s style, and not for the look.

Before jumping into the canal, we hesitated a moment, thinking of the pollution, but dove in anyway with many of the others on board.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw and heard something, it was the Captain, “The ship is sinking!”  And, he dove in fully dressed in his black shorts, white captain’s shirt, and hat…  He caught us all off guard.

The last day of cycling was from Purmerend to Amsterdam.  Shiah and I stayed on board instead of riding because of the heat.  When reached Amsterdam early in the day and walked into the town.  Goodbyes were sweet the next day.  It was a really good, made better by the people we were traveling with.

In today’s pictures, please note Steve on the top bunk in our cabin.

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Haarlem to Alkmaar

Yesterday was Leiden to Haarlem, today we rode from Haarlem to Alkmaar.  Suffice it to say that riding is beautiful and very gratifying…  A hill here is 5 meters.  I’m not sure what that translates to exactly in feet, but my unofficial equivalent is no big deal.  Most days we are riding 25+ miles rolling through lush green countryside alongside canals, passing houses that can only be described as almost to cute to be real.

Since moving outside of Amsterdam (we are still very close to it), we are finding less and less modern architecture.  Although one building we passed today, looked like a long house from one side and from the back had a grass roof that went down to the ground.  Not sure what it is.

We had two self-propelled ferry crossings today.  Basically you crank yourself across a canal.  Noah was at one crank…. probably, needless to mention.  As a side note, we are really surprised by how many older people bike as a form of recreation and transportation. An older couple was at one of our ferry crossings, and we cranked them across.  They were just riding in the middle of nowhere.

Steve and I are either in the front, or in the back.  The middle is  fairly unruly place to be.  We’ve decided that the kids are good enough riders that they don’t have to be right next to us.  At dinners, Steve has described the boys as two parrots caught in the same cage…  Bird seed flying…

The last part of the ride today was in the rain.  But, because it was warm, I didn’t bother to put on my rain jacket.  There’s a picture of Shiah that shows how wet it was.  We’ll be here in Alkmaar for two nights.

The food is… well… I’ll say memorable only for how odd it is.  All dinners start off with great salads, and it’s down hill after that.  We learned that one of the cooks is self-trained.  Not a big surprise.  We’ve been tempted to help out.

Last night, we went out to dinner after dinner after Shiah and I pushed our food on our plates for an hour.  The meal was over-cooked hamburgers, a huge pile of mashed potatoes with cheese melted on top, and over-cooked broccoli… But, while the food is interesting,  the cycling is so good.

A lot of barges are under contract with a tour company.  The barge we are on is run by the owners.  The Hat tour company provides all of the bikes and routes.  I’m wondering if we would have a different food experience on a different Hat barge.  Hmmmm….

But, I will say it’s been great to be on a barge… It’s really nice not to have to pack up and move everyday.  The cabins are small but workable.  You need very little clothing, so we stowed our luggage with most everything in the bags under the bed.

Tomorrow will likely be a day off for us in Alkmaar.  We may take a ride on our own to the beach.  Okay, we’ll be in touch again soon.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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Days 4 & 5


Last night was our last night in Amsterdam.  It was also the first night that Shiah slept through the night, so it was also the first night that I slept through the night.  I was up late writing and ducked into the room expecting to see him up on his electronics, but blessedly he was sleeping. 

Yesterday we headed out for breakfast and had the best pancakes!  Thin Dutch pancakes with lemon and sugar.  I was expecting the Dutch babies that we are used to, but alas they were more like what we think of as Swedish pancakes.  

Next we went to the Eye Film Museum and saw a show on Fellini.  There, we finally met up with Lynn, Adam, Raina, and Raffy whom we had been trying to connect with for a few days.  The exhibit was big and bold with lots of music and cuts of Fellini films, some of his drawings, still pictures, and interesting essays on his creative process.  Didn’t get to spend too much time in the exhibit, but it definitely was impactful.  Now, I’m trying to decide which Fellini film to share with the boys– La Dolce Vita?  Probably not… Any suggestions?  

Scorsese, Warhol, Cappola, Woody Allen are all film artists influenced by Fellini.  In the world of parenting, there’s so much to do, that it takes travel to bring in the things that you never quite get around to showing them at home.  

In the evening we went to Vondelpark, the Central Park of Amsterdam, with the Resnick Zak’s with the intention of renting roller skates, but we were not able to find any place nearby to rent them despite Rick Steve’s recommendation.  Then, we tried to rent bikes for a ride through the park but that too proved impossible.  Rick don’t inhale.  So, we ended up walking through the park and sitting in a beer garden listening to entertainment.  Then, walking home stopping for Thai food at 10:30.  

This morning got up and had a last walk in the pouring-down rain.  Had coffee at the corner spot.  Walked through the design section again.  You’ll see the pictures below of a bench made of books, two chairs made up of salvaged fabric, and gorgeous fabric woven in Morocco for a store here.  

It’s damn cool.  Never quite enough time in Amsterdam.

We got up this morning and headed to the boat for midday departure.  By three or so, we were on bikes for our first day of riding through the countryside.  Day one we rode through Amstel-Kudelstaart/Uithoorn… go ahead and look it up on a map if you want to know more.  We were not too far outside of Amsterdam.  Basically it was very flat countryside by the water, through the woods, past really pretty small towns with a quick stop for something to drink.  Shiah and Noah per/usual road up towards the front.  Steve and I were a little behind them.  There are a number of other kids on board, and Shiah has already found a group of Italian kids to play cards with.  There are people on the barge from Israel, Italy, Spain, Canada, Holland, and probably a few other places.  An Israeli woman translated the Hebrew that I posted on FB a few days ago that we found in the Red Light District.  It said, eff”ing on a bed.  Nice.  I’ll have to take that down.  I just couldn’t figure it out…  There’s a reason not to post on FB until you know what you are posting.  

The barge is very simple and comfortable.  Each room has two bunks and a head that Steve and Noah will likely have to use with the door open. The lower bed is a double, so we’ll see if we can sleep in it together.  Steve has already called the outside.  Noah has taken the lower bunk in there room.   Dinner was good.  Nice people.  Many languages being spoken in the service of communicating. Most people speak some English.  There’s a woman here from Spain that speaks limited English, so we have been butchering each other’s language for practice.  So here we are below on the barge…



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Night 2/Day 3

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Last night presented its challenges.  Shiah and I could not sleep.  We were up playing cribbage at around 3.  We were up again at 4.  Steve slept peacefully until Shiah’s third visit, and then we were up together for maybe … Continue reading

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Today was another slow day.  Steve and Noah left early for a pancake breakfast.  Shiah and I slept in. We went down the street a little before noon for yogurt and croissants.   I’d call this day browsing for everything and nothing.  We are in an area filled with galleries, the 9 streets.  And, so we walked a bit, had a cup of coffee, walked a bit and had ice cream, walked a bit and looked at different kinds of art– one of a kind jewelry that was too extreme to wear; painted canvasses that were mounted on top of each other with the edges of the preceeding canvas sticking out; claymation-like lamps, desks, and chairs; a wooden bench on a bright yellow wheel that could be moved wheelbarrow style; thick jute rope with lightbulbs for hanging light.   You’ll see a cabinet below that is reminiscent of our dining table.  Noah put on dreads that will show up Courtney’s.  Shiah sprawled out on 3 poufs. Nothing but imagination running wild.

Think about walking down a sidewalk the width of a curb, with steep stairwells to your right, with uneven pavement underfoot,  bicycles whizzing by, and gallery windows at eye level.  Truly a test of balance.  I have no idea why people are not constantly being pulled out of the stairwells and driven away on stretchers.  On the other hand, it may be that all of these obstacles actually train the brain to stay focused.

Noah and Shiah are clearly getting older.  While we used to be able to pull them in and out of museums… not quite so easy anymore.  Now, it’s one for us, one for them.  Tomorrow we’ll go on a pedal-boat down a canal and, then, to the Stediljk modern art museum.  The Riks has just reopened, but may not be able to get them to go in for the Dutch Masters.

Came home and rested for awhile with the idea of going back out.  I heard Shiah talking to someone in the other room.  He was using Face Time to talk to his friend Robert who is staying at our house.  Jasper came in and out of the frame a few times, so Shiah got to say hello to him.  This is truly a different world.

The boys went to bed early, and I went to write in the library.  After a few hours, Steve came to get me and we wandered again.  We walked into the Red Light District not really trying to… First sign that we saw said something like Zion on the Bimah…. Huh????  You can take a look at it below and tell me how far off I am.

Learned that restaurants do not stay open late.  Found a falafel stand.  Ate.  Walked along the canals.  Came home to find Shiah up and in our bed waiting for us.  Now, time for bed.  A few pictures below of the things mentioned above.


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Amsterdam Day 1

Arrived in Amsterdam today.  City of canals, legal sex-work, marijuana, wonderful dutch design, the newly renovated Rijks Museum and Stedelijk Museum, Nemo, Anne Frank, and so fourth.  I love returning to the steamy humid streets of unpronounceable names.ImageImageImage

The flight was fine.  Not particularly grueling or uncomfortable.  Found a great chocolate shop in the Amsterdam airport…. We have worked on staying up, and it’s now 9:38 pm, so after I put this post up, it’ll be bed time.  We are staying in the Ambassade Hotel on Herengracht canal.  Known to be one of the prettiest canals in Amsterdam.

Today we walked around a bit to see what we remembered, and it turns out that we remember a lot of this part of town.  It’s biking country, and bikes are everywhere.  Along with women in skirts riding while smoking and texting.  Not for amateurs.  We also have to remember that the trams makes little noise, so we have to be on the lookout constantly.

We’ll get up tomorrow and decide what’s up.  I think it may be a bike ride through Vondel Park and then maybe the Van Gogh Museum.  Steve spotted a music store on the way in.  We will of course check to see if they have Portugal the Man here.

This is the first trip that I have not brought a lot of books with me.  I brought my Kobo reader, the alternative to the Kindle, that allows me to buy my books from Queen Anne Bookstore. I am finishing up Karen Joy Fowler’s fantastic book, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.  Next up is Where you going Bernadette.  That is it for tonight!

We/ Steve and I look forward to the family captivity of travel as it holds us together in the same space without the constant pick-up/drop-off.  When Steve and Noah were out today, they walked by a few coffee shops with pot blowing out the door.  Steve told him about the drug laws/issues in Amsterdam.  Before dinner, there was a perfect example of a man on heroine in a nod sitting on a bench.  The Red Light district is apparently getting smaller due to gentrification.  I’m not ready to have the conversation about legalizing sex work to make it safer for women.  Or, the other option is to make soliciting sex illegal as Sweden has done.  So, in Sweden you get in trouble for buying sex, not selling it.

This time blessedly we will not have to hit the underground play pit near the former Jewish Ghetto.  Noah is too old, and Shiah likely won’t want to do it alone.  Instead it looks like we will do a pedal boat tour up one of the canals.

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Left ’em high and dry and went snorkeling…

Yesterday, Melodie and I left mom and dad at the Whaler’s Village and headed to the beach to snorkel.  They were going to walk down to Starbucks for their daily walk.  M.M. and I headed down to the Sheraton where we dumped our stuff on the beach.  It was hot out, so the water was a welcome relief.  There was a group of teens diving from rocks above into the water, and we decided that we needed to get away.  We swam around the corner to a less congested part of the water, so we could see more than fins and thighs.

M.M. and I lost each other as can happen when you are swimming with your head down.  We were probably out for an hour when I came back in.  Behind our spot on the beach were two hooded lounge chairs reserved but unoccupied.  My need for shade made it easy to slip into a chair and wait for Melodie.  It’s interesting how many people reserve chairs and leave them empty for hours.  The rules around chair reservations vary by hotel, but it’s a blood sport of sorts.  A flimsy sign on the chairs was not enough of a deterrent.

We met mom and dad at Hula’s on the beach for lunch.  Mom was up to 7,000 steps, and by the end of the day she hit 10,000.  This was not my fault.   My father managed to stay somewhere around 6,000.  And, after lunch, we had our first Haagen Dazs which mitigated some of the steps.

Today, we drove around the island to Paia and had lunch at Mama’s Fish House.  I threatened to drop my father off at Costco for a hotdog and promised to pick him up after we dined.  He liked the idea, but in reality didn’t trust that I would pick him up.

On the way, we stopped off at a beach to watch the surfers and the kite and wind surfers.  The wind was whipping around, and  it started to rain forcing us back into the car.  The weather changed every five minutes or so as we continued from place to place.

Up country is very lush and green due to the rain.  It felt like we were being chased by rainbows.  We found a coffee shop in Paia which was still in the 1970’s.  Bob Dylan singing, long haired young women not born until the 90’s serving up Italian coffee that was not available until the mid-80’s.  Paia would have been a fun place to walk through, but there was no parking anywhere.

Once at Mama’s, we were seated in the dining room that is open to the outside by way of windows that open out and slide up.  It took me almost all of lunch to figure out that the windows were not just very clean and clear, they were not there.  My 3 companions had tropical drinks to celebrate the occasion.  I’m not sure why my father had a Maui Margarita, but he did.  Lunch was exquisite.

Each day we have had beautiful fresh fish– kampachi, ahi, mahi mahi, monchong, yellow fin, etc… But, the biggest highlight has been the tomatoes and papaya.  Tomorrow, Monday, we will hit the farmer’s market and will refill on fruits and veggies.  The elders will have to get back to walking tomorrow.  Now that I know mom can do 10,000, I may have to up her steps.  Dad… well, let’s just get him to 6,000 again.

I finished the day with a walk on the beach back at the Whaler.  I found a hammock that was perfect to watch the sunset.

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