Another Adventure - (Or There & Back Again)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Travel  |  House: Booksie Classic

In an effort to perhaps encourage other club members to give European travelling a go and also to share my experiences, I have tried here, to document my all too brief trip to the Dutch CX Foundations Club Rally. This event is held at virtually the same time each year, at the same location near the village of SintJans Klooster (SJK) in Northern Holland.

Another Adventure - (Or There & Back Again) by Lin.

 

In an effort to perhaps encourage other club members to give European travelling a go and also to share my experiences, I have tried here, to document my all too brief trip to the Dutch CX Foundations Club Rally. This event is held at virtually the same time each year, at the same location near the village of SintJans Klooster (SJK) in Northern Holland.

 

Having been rather ill during 2013, I didn’t manage to get to SKJ then; so I decided soon after, that come hell or high water, I was going in 2014! My first trip to SJK was back in 2004 and this was to be my forth visit in 10 years, but it was also going to be the first since I had my leg amputated.

 

Unfortunately, Hetty my ever reliable SilverWing and companion on numerous past adventures remains off the road whilst being given a thorough overhaul and refurbishment, so I took the FJR instead – the first time I’ve ever attended a Euro rally without a CX!!!! Unfortunately for me, I had to wait a considerable amount of time before I was able to confirm if I could actually make the trip and consequently paid a lot more on the ferry for just a bike and rider than Mark, Trev or Pete G did?. (Take note, in future book early!!).

 

In past years I have always opted to travel on the Channel Tunnel, having a huge dislike of ferries – a traumatic hangover from a trip to Europe as a small child. However, discussions noted on the club forum suggested that most, if not all of those members intending to go to SJK were probably going to go via Harwich or Hull – sailing to the Dutch ports rather than Calais, as we had done in other years past.

 

A quick scooby at the ‘laterooms.com’ website led me to the Hotel Continental which it appeared was situated only about ¾ of a mile from the Harwich ferry terminal. They had a room available at the seeming reasonable price of £43 for the night – I discovered later, on arrival, if I wanted breakfast in the morning it was an extra tenner!! (I didn’t).

 

I left Exeter on the Wednesday mid-morning, in bright sunshine but with the promise of showers along my intended route, ‘ho hum, be optimistic’ I thought,’ don’t bother with the waterproofs’!

 

The trip along the M5/M4/M25 was uneventful, even bordering on boring at times. The big Yam seemed to revel in blatting along and it was all to easy to find myself way, way, past the right side of the speed limit! I pulled in at Reading Services for my first fill up and was very surprised just how little fuel I actually had to put in – I topped the tank up and beetled off, enjoying the ride and praying that my leg wouldn’t fall off again.

 

I’m not a fan of the M25 and it was a small relief to hit the A120/A12, but only for a short time, soon after I got stuck behind a group of 5 trucks all playing ‘catch me if you can’, incessantly overtaking each other and blocking everyone else at the same time ? Rather than become the ‘jam’ in their sandwich I pulled over for a leak break and a mars bar, giving them plenty of time to get well ahead of me; hey, I had all day, so what did it matter????

 

By midafternoon I had arrived in Harwich and with the aid of my SatNag ‘Amanda’ had found the hotel. First impressions count, and I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed………..

 

Perhaps it was the (drunk) guy sat outside, who almost fell off his perch gawking at the bike as I parked up, or was it the sound of hammering eminating from the building, either way I began to wonder. As it turns out the place just about deserved the two AA stars on the sign hanging off the wall (although I couldn’t get over the sneaking suspicion that it was nicked from somewhere more appropriate lol). I wondered in and managed to identify the ‘booking in office’, mainly by the fact it was a hole in the wall, with hand written sign above say ‘Reception’. After a brief period a member of staff turned up , who, after a concerted bout of swearing at a PC screen hidden around a corner was finally able to locate my booking – had she asked, I would’ve been able to provide her with a print out of the relevant information, but she didn’t.

 

Being shy a (lower) leg, on my booking reservation via ‘late rooms.com’ I’d requested a room with ‘disabled access’ – in ‘crip speak’ this means a loo and shower with folding access support bars and, hopefully, wider doorways to allow for a wheelchair etc. To the hotel Continental in Harwich this means a room on the ground floor, accessed by a single upwards step (with no ramp for a wheelchair), the onsuite facilites match those in the rest of the hotel…………. Getting to the door, to get into the room meant first clambering down a cramp corridor behind the service desk, negotiating various obstacles along the way; I elected to have room on the first floor! What the hell if the neoprene liner in my prosthetic leg ‘farted’ every time I went up or down the stairs, they should’ve been glad I didn’t have baked beans for breakfast!

 

‘Where’s the carpark ‘I asked??

‘We don’t have one’ came the reply, ‘but you can park your bike on the patio to the left of the main entrance if you like’….. Better than nowt I thought, ‘CCTV I presume’??

Again ‘No, but everyone just assumes we have it, so it should be okay’.

I pulled a few tables and chairs out of the way and brought the bike up the curb and parked up – ‘it’s not a Harley then’ asked a non-descript female sitting next to a large empty glass and a buzzing mobile phone. I supposed she’d eye’d my patches and cut and made the usual(wrong) assumptions… I bit back the obvious reply..

 

I unloaded the gear I needed for the night and elected to leave the hard luggage in place rather than hump it all upstairs for no real good reason. Besides, without the keys, trying to get that stuff off or open would be far more hassel than it was worth; unless you really were desperate for a clean pair of my kecks……… I trapsed back inside, noting the open bar and followed my instincts to the first floor - hard to miss really, all I had to do was ascend the staircase, who’s steepness was only surpassed by those owned by Pauline & Wouter in Holland!! (more on this later).

 

By sheer intuition I found my room (No 1) and managed to figure out the digital key pad to gain access – no keys here – all very high tech!! I was greeted by a single bed fitted with clean, fresh, new looking linen, a frosted window with a clear circular panel much like a port hole that overlooked ; well all I could see was a brick wall (part of next door presumably), but then again I wasn’t expecting the Hanging Gardens Of Babylon either ! A quick glance around id’d a TV, a small desk and another door which I assumed was a cupboard – not so, this turned out to be a very compact ‘on suite’! Not as small as the euphamistically named ‘on suite’ Sal and I had the privelige to use during our stay in Ireland a few year previously, in which I was able to not only sit on the loo, but also clean my teeth in the sink and wash my feet in the shower – all at the same time! Compact and bieju it wasn’t! The one here at the Continental was a little larger but not by much. If that’s the on suite then the doorless, six inch deep ‘construct’ by the bed must be the wardrobe then??? It looked like it was the remains of a flat pack kit after a group of 8 year olds had finished building a space ship out of it… I hung my jacket on the hook, which promptly fell out of the wall! Cursing, I picked it up, replaced the hook and put my jacket carefully on the miniture desk out of the way.

 

Next, I decided to have shower, get fresh and then locate food and drink, but not before I had a. filled the bike up and b. found the entrance to the passenger ferry terminal! Paranoia? Maybe, but the seven ‘P’s have never let me down yet (that’s Prior Preparation & Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance in Army parlance). So, a brief ride around located both and a branch of Boots where I acquired some all important ‘motion sickness tablets’ – I told you I was crap on ferries!!!!

 

Back at the hotel , and having figured out how I could get into the shower –( its neither safe nor easy to ‘hop’ over the perimeter of a raised shower basin, esp when its wet!!) So, make like an ‘Umpa Lumpa’ then ? I lobbed on some clean gear and went off to find a cold pint I could lavish some attention on. Early evening came and went, along with a few more cold beers and aparently, an organic home made beef burger with a portion of home made chips – whatever; about 2100 I called the boss to wish her good night and faded out watching the tv in my room.

 

I awoke with a start, it was barely light, ‘shit, shit, shit’ I groaned and grabbed my phone – 0355hrs – ‘Bollocks, way to early yet….’ I dozed off, only to be woken all to quickly by my phone alarm 0630, time to get vertical I thought. I don’t normally sleep well the first night in a strange bed, but felt reasonably good after a nights kip in this one – I put it down to being dog tired after the long ride and maybe one to many beers the night before. Was that why I had a sour feeling in my stomach also, or was I just aprehensive about going on an extended ferry journey??? I stowed my gear and with a last glance around the room made my way down stairs to book out – all the while my leg liner ‘farted’ in a loud and persistant manner………

 

I hung around in reception briefly, then decided to put the tailpack back on the bike and come in again. On my return, the place was still deserted, but the obvious sounds of a slop jockey plying their trade eminated from the kitchen area behind the bar……..

‘Er, can I book out’ I called ,‘be right with you’ came the reply and with that a staff member appeared.

‘Got everything’ she asked??? I nodded affermative and she held her hand out, I passed over my room code card.

‘Then you’ve just booked out’ she said, with a smile. I fled before anything else had a chance to happen.

 

On the bike and away, I retraced my route from the previous night and soon found myself joining a que of vehicles lining up to be processed onto the ferry staging area. I peered through the metal fence trying to see if I could recognise anybody else in the longish que of motorcycels and push bikes that had formed up in lane number one. Suddenly a dwarf or was it a hobbit, in a daygo suit accostied me and told me I should filter down the line of cars to booth number one, instead of waiting in the que, ‘cheers pal’…

 

As I pulled up at booth number one, a hand appeard and a voice said ‘passport ‘, careful to open it up to the correct page I handed my passport over and waited. The disembodied hand reappeared and the same voice said ‘ there’s your ticket, don’t loose it’! I stuffed the lot back in to my jacket and rode through the (raised) barrier, following the lines on the floor. As I came to a halt behind a BMW bike and trailer combo, it was with a bit of relief that I spotted Trev H leaning on the tank of his 650 with that trademark cheesy grin of his, I hopped off the bike and popped my lid ,‘aw right Skip’ said Trev?

‘Fine’ I replied, sounding a lot more confident than I felt now I was this close to getting on board the ferry.

 

After a brief wait, during which Trev informed me that Anne wouldn’t be joining us due to a knackered alternator on her Divvy, we were called forward by the ferry loading team. Things have progressed since I was last on a ferry with a bike (2004 Fast Cat), they now provide ratchet straps to secure your bike down rather than the scraps of rope and string they did before. I bunged my waterproof trousers across the seat to protect it and then tensioned the strap – I had a brief word with ‘Chester the Security Bear’( who rides pillion with me; at the insistance of Sally ?) to make sure nobody touched the bike and them Trev and I along with the rest of the car deck passengers crambed ourselves into a lift, heading for deck 9.

 

We found our way to the ‘salon’ and tried to locate a seat to sit on, unfortunately it seemed half of Asia had opted to travel with us and were now slumped or lying on every available horizontal space including the floor. Trev and I exchanged an unspoken comment as we squeezed onto a couch between two largish groups. At that moment a screen burst in life in front of me, with an advert for cabins. It only took me a few seconds to decide that having a cabin was going to be a whole lot better than being crammed in here, so I shot off to the sevice desk and paid up, on my return Trev handed me half the cost, it seemed he agreed with me too!

 

We found our cabin in fairly short order, dumped what little kit we had and went towards the stern – Trev wanted a smoke. We were both surprised to see that by now we were well past Felisxstowe and heading out to sea. I noticed some stickers stuck on the wall above Trev’s head, one in particular caught my eye – the irony was not lost on either of us.

 

To be honest, and much to my relief the rest of the journey passed very uneventfully. We returned to the cabin, had a chat and caught up on the details of our lives since we’d seen each other earlier on in the year at the National Rally. After a while Trev went out to the Duty Free shop and I dozed off in the cool, dark cabin. Somewhile later Trev returned and I hopped to the door to let him in, he apologised for waking me and had assumed just like me that the doors wouldn’t lock if somebody else was in the bunk – something to remember next time… We both dozed again and jumped when the internal comms system burst into life telling us the local time and we were just about to land!! Again in no real rush we collected our things and made our way down to the car deck. It seemed we had taken so long to get down there all the other vehicles on the deck had off loaded and the ramp to the upper deck had been lowered. This meant we had to pass through the internal central wall of the ship and exit on the other side – no real problem except that somelarge vehicle of unknow description had laid a trail a foot wide, of diesel, water and oil all along the metal deck . There was absolutely no way to avoid it, we both had to ride through it to get off the boat, I endevoured to cross it a right angles, much to the apparent annoyance of one of the crew, fortunately neither Trev nor I encountered any difficulties because of this, but it could’ve been a site worse if it had been raining when we arrived in port, with all that muck on the floors and ramps!

 

We existed the ferry and joined another line of vehicles, all being checked at border control, by ONE guy!! He flitted from car to van, truck to camper and then back to the line of bikes; ‘Welkom in Holland’ he called, waving me past.

 

We pulled over to one side and Trev asked ‘whats you Satnav like’?? ( I was tempted to say ‘it’s a black rectangular box, but didn’t) I shrugged, ‘Dunno, I’ve never used it in Europe before, so I don’t really know how accurate it is’. Trev grunted and set off again. I followed at a safe distance, remembering to ride on the correct side of the road and thinking how great it was to be back in Holland again! Right up until the point we rode into a whole heap of road works that is…….. Just like home.

 

The GPS indicated that Wouter & Pauline (our hosts for the night) lived some 50 miles away in Haarlem. Despite one or two diversions, both Trev’s and my unit lead us straight to their door, which was a break from the norm! The last time I used a GPS in Europe we spent nearly and hour trying to locate our final destination – mind you that was a rather a long time ago………….

 

As we pulled up, Wouter appeared, much the same as I had seen him some years before, the same long blond hair, blond beard and big grin, if I hadn’t known he was Dutch it would be easy to guess he was from one of the Nordic countries! Pauline eagerly waved to us from her sitting room window, indicating the kettle was going on – what a star!!

‘The bikes are okay parked on the pavement ‘ Wouter informed us, ‘just unload your gear and bring it in, mind the stairs and watch your head’!

 

We climbed the stairs (steeper than the North Face of Everest) and found ourselves in Paulines very cosy and welcoming sitting room. Cups of tea, soon followed by Bittburger beer, we sat having a good chat.

 

We decided that there was no point in leaving for SJK anytime early in the morning as the rally site wasn’t officially open until 1530hrs. Pauline suggested that Wouter should take Trev and I on a tour of Amsterdam, ‘better you take the car’ she said ‘one of you will only end up getting lost otherwise’, I smirked, ever practical is our Pauline!!

 

Wouter set to and cooked us a cracking evening meal, whilst cooking he brought me up to speed with recent events in their life, his change of job, family life and their desire to move out of Haarlem, out of the city all together and find a nice quiet place all of their own – pretty much what most of us want out of life really! Having been extremely well fed and sunk a few beers we all decided to call it quits around about 11 that evening. Trev and I shared the spare room; I hope my snoring didn’t keep him awake to much…………..

 

I must have slept reasonably well as I awoke at about 0830ish (could’ve been 0900, but who’s counting) and got myself squared away. I decended (absailed) down the stairs to find breakfast just about to be served and preparations for our expedition. A short time later, all three of us crambed into Wouters car and away we went. Immediately I spotted a ‘proper’ Dutch Windmill and tried unsucessfully 3 times to get a photo! Eventually I got it, along with white van man and a lamp post – David Bailey hasn’t got anything on me!!

 

We drove on and Wouter gave us a running commentary – pointing out ‘the most hated people on Dutch roads today……….’ A bunch of guys, dressed in Daygo who spent their time stood in the middle of traffic light controlled junctions directing traffic???? I guess somebody spent a little to long in the ‘coffee shop’ pondering the effectiveness of that one ?.

 

We arrived in the centre of Amsterdam and while I was tempted to start whistling the theme to Vandervalk – the thought of a punch to the back of my head from Trev made me resist the temptation. We ‘umm’d’ and ‘ahh’d’ at various architectorally interesting buildings, gawked at the Dutch Royal palace and laughed at the look on the face of the lady tram drive who all but for the grace of God squished a BMW and its driver! ‘Happens all the time’ sighed Wouter, trying to weave us a way through the throngs of pedestrians and cyclists.

 

‘Wots that then’ I asked, pointing to what looked like a whole load of floating greenhouses?

‘That’s the international flower market’ replied Wouter, ‘all the flowers come in by barges on the canals’. Makes sense I thought, cos the traffic on the roads was crap!

 

On and on we drove, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the old city and the centre. We saw the Heiniken Brewery but didn’t stop, we saw electric boats for hire, huge pieces of abstract art in open air , the clock on top of the palace striking the quarter hours, buildings that looked like they had been there for hundreds of years and still in great shape. Subterrainian art galleries and the diamond dealers quarter, where millions of pounds in precious stones are bought and sold each day .

‘The Red Light District’ is just down there’ said Wouter as we drove over a junction.

 

 

 

 

 

We got back to the flat and after a brew decided to load up our gear and get on the road. Despite the fact that the rally site was only supposed to be 60 miles from the flat it was probably going to take us the best part of two hours or more to get there. While Holland has many fine roads , even some motorways, it also has a lot of traffic for its relatively small size! A lot of it transiting the country to get to the UK, this can and frequently does lead to traffic jams of horrific sized and length . On a previous trip, thankfully being lead by Wouter a group of club members took what ended up being a country wide diversion as both main roads North were blocked due to accidents!! Armed with this sort of prior knowledge, we planned accordingly. All three of us trooped outside and wished Pauline goodbye, we thanked her for having us and looked up at the greying skys….Was it going to rain? Again I opted to be optimistic and left them rolled up.

 

I’d already preprogrammed the campsite address into my GPS, but we trailled after Wouter who first of all took us to a fuel station and then led us off onto the main ‘Route National’. The country side slid by, the wind picked up and blew us about a bit but on the whole we made pretty good time, only having to filter on occasion. Along with the miles, the time slid by and soon enough we arrived at the campsite, and having had our photo taken, we were directed to park our bikes in the paddock. Thoughtfully, the Dutch club had provided strips of wood to stop the stand from sinking in and toppling the bike into another.

 

Where’s ‘snorer’s corner’ I asked, refering to an old joke. By the time we arrived, the site had a fair few occupants and I elected to pitch my ‘Teepee’ on a gently sloping piece of ground on the far side of the site, well away from the bar and ablution block. I dumped my tent on the ground, unzipped it and rolled it out. Around the perimeter I went with a peg bag and shortly up it went on a single pole. Meanwhile Trev (and Mark) struggled to put up his tent.. I went over and made a couple of observations, mainly about where each of the poles should go and that if all else fails they should read the instructions. It was then that Mark (Travelling Man) pointed out that the instructions were all in Chinese and pictures to boot – pardon???? I scratched my head and left them to it, my camp bed needed putting together! A camp bed I hear you cry with derision??? Yep, I’m afraid so, years of sleeping on the ground, then on roll mats and eventually air matresses has led me to this point, a nice low, but very comfortable canvas bed, low enough so the heat doesn’t drop out of the bottom in the night and high enough off the ground that if the tent floods you backside stays dry lol. I also have the teepee for another reason – simple – you can’t put a prosthetic leg on while lying down – period! You need to stand up and my tent is 2m tall in the middle, just enough to allow me to jiggle up and down getting it set right without having to stand outside in the rain!

 

Having assembled base camp, I again went to investigate Trev’s efforts with his new tent – low and behold it was up and even looked right, turned out it was brand new and needed a bit of assembly work. Trev seemed happy enough I left him to it and went to book in and find a beer maybe.

 

50 € please (fifty euros), I blinked, that’s a bit of price increase from last time…..This got me two breakfasts and a BBQ. A further 10€ got me a pre-paid drinks card, which some how lasted me all evening despite my best efforts othewise. Wouter had disappeared shortly after arriving and putting his tent up, only to re-appear in the guise of head BBQ dude, enthusiastically burning road kill burgers and chips – blooming good they were too, esp at 6€ a pop ? Trev and I both managed to persuade Michael to let us have another portion of chips and mayo, which weren’t specifically on the menu – English guile at its best lol.

 

Friday evening was pretty much like most Friday evenings at a bike rally, lots of beer, renewing old acquaintances, making new friends and having a really great time.

 

I guess I must be getting old, I wasn’t the last to leave the bar! Having decided my bed was calling me at about 0230hrs. Wouter it turned out was still going strong with some of the German guys at 0300+. Surfacing the next day, early for me at about nine(ish) I staggered over to the loos and then went in search of that’ nectare of life’: ‘Caffine’.

 

‘Breakfast is still on’ Wouter informed me, he sounded as rough as he looked… something about the proverbial ‘eyes like piss holes in the snow sprang to mind’ but I let it pass.

We sat down to a continental style breakfast with all the trimmings; I just can’t get my head around cold meat and mustard first thing in the morning, wishing for a large bowl of milk and cereal.. I settled for a glass of orange and some bread and jam. While we ate, apart from discussing the thunder storm the previous night (which I had slept through) we discussed where we were going to go? Wouter didn’t want to go to the ‘Old Timers Rally’ just down the road again, so we decided to just follow our noses and see where the road led us.

 

What a great move it turned out to be! We rode out of the site and turned right, right again, then left , left again, very soon we were riding along narrow lanes that reminded me so much of my home in rural Devon. The countryside and views were stunning, little or no traffic (Northern Holland is major agricultural area) except for the odd tractor and cyclist.

Whilst the weather wasn’t sunny, neither was it cold and as we rode down the side of a canal we passed a long line of camper vans, each with a fella sitting by the side of it intent on fishing, and an equally bored looking wife lol. We came to a ‘T’ junction at which Wouter had signaled to turn right, when we got there it turned out to be a footpath.

‘Oop’s he mouthed at me and we continued in the oposite direction, shorly we met a road that looked somewhat familiar and it was then that I realised we were riding behind the line of camper vans I seen not 20 minutes earlier from the other side of the canal! More than one head swivelled and gave us a puzzled look as well.

 

We came to a dead end, and to the café ‘Ottersskooi’, a gem of a place hidden well away from anywhere. Initally we thought the place was deserted, but then realised everyone was sitting at the rear in the gardens.

 

‘This whole area is called the Venic e of Holland’ Wouter told me, because it has so many waterways and canals. It certainly was picturesque. We ordered soft drinks and sat waiting, enjoying the ambonce. The waiter returned with PEPSI???? Jeezus, haven’t had this stuff in years and it still tasted the same; still too full of gas, I refrained from beltching.

 

We were sat only a few meters from the waters edge and a little while later a boat appeared with five people on board. It was obvious they wanted to land but didn’t appear to know how to do it! The boat spun around twice, the cox telling (obviously) his wife in a rather strained voice what he wanted her to do, the rest of the passengers looked rather alarmed. Finally, having nearly fallen in, she picked up the mooring.

I grinned at Wouter, ‘I thought all Dutchmen were sailors’ I joked!

‘Apparently not’ he replied - the skipper gave us a sour look, seemed to stare for a moment, change his mind about something and made no further comment.

 

We left the café having decided the lunch time menu was aboveour cash flow limits and made our way to a small town not far from SJK. The’ Albertros Takeaway’ looked far more our type of place and we parked up and sat down in short order. The waitress took our order, her eyes seemed to linger on my cut off………… The food turned out to be hearty, simple and well cooked.

 

Having finished off we went for a wonder around and I suddenly remembered something.

‘Wouter, are those salt and pepper pots with the grinders on top for sale here’??

‘What’ he said looking a bit perplexed??

I explained what I wanted and why and the next minute we were walking into a ‘Co-Op’ store.

 

Once inside I picked up a basket and proceeded to make like a shopper, ‘some fresh orange just might be useful tomorrow morning’ I commented and stuck a carton in the basket. We walked further on and I began to notice a rather odd thing, everywhere we went people seemed to move away from us or rather me. Some giving me rather, well not exactly ‘hostile’ looks but not friendly either. I was a little freaked by this and asked Wouter what the problem was?

In a low voice he explained that there had been a lot of trouble recently between various bike gangs in Holland, and in some of the Southern cities the wearing of cuts and colours had been banned altogether…..

The light dawned on me, I straightend up, smiled at a lady looking at me and in a stage type whisper said ‘its okay, I’m one of the good guys’. As I stepped away from her, the liner in my leg farted really loudly…. I daren’t look back!

 

We made it out of the CoOp alive and headed back to the bikes, the temperature had cooled somewhat and we decided to head back to the campsite, a good move as it turned out!

 

Our arrival back found us joining a large group of folks in the marquee, the ‘Klepee Dexter’ racing was about to begin!!!

 

The WHAT?? Roughly translated it means ‘rocker box cover’racing, and the European guys & gals take it really very seriously! Mark (Travelling Man) was the current champion, having defeated all comers for the last two years with his ‘Red Rocket Racer’! This year the Germans were looking for revenge and their entries were numerous.

 

The idea is simple, two racers on an angled elevated course, released at the same time, the first one past the finish line ¾ of the way down the track is the winner. Each race is run twice with the ‘vehicles’ swapping lanes to ensure fairness. The rules are reasonably simple regarding the racers, covering things like weight and size etc.

 

As in years past, there were a series of elimination heats, with the winners going on to face tougher and tougher competion. The Red Rocket performed over and over again, beating all comers – much to the Germans chargin I suspect. Eventually Mark was declared the winner, but one of the guys who had been eliminated from the contest early on asked to race ‘for honor’. Mark agreed good naturedly and they lined up. Down went the barrier and lo, ‘der panzer’ won……….. In keeping with the rules another round was set up, this time the ‘Red Rocket Racer’ came out on top. They called it a draw and both promised to be back next year.

 

Following straight on from the racing saw us giving our names in for the (excused the phonetics here) ‘ringen spearung’ competiton – WTF???

‘Is that ring lancing’ asked PeteG?

I’ve got to admit I laughed too, but sincerely hoped it wasn’t, his ability to translate Dutch appeared no better than mine!

It turned out to be the hilariously silly game of trying to collect small size plastic rings on the end of a long pole while riding pillion – the rider was not allowed to put his feet down to stablise the bike while in the ‘zone’. My initial thoughts were this was a crazy idea given how damp the grass really was, but shortly after numerous riders and pillions lined up including a pair of guys on an 1800 Goldwing! I paired up with Mark and while we didn’t win, neither did we come last! It was all good fun and favoured those riders who regularly carried a pillion – neither Mark or I do these days lol.

 

The light began to fade and the BBQ was well on the way, I acquired a beer and joined Trev, Pete and Mark at a table. Soon we were queing for our tea, round and round we went , eventually the cooking team were walking around the tables asking folks to come and get some more to eat – I couldn’t, for once I was full, slightly too full by the feel of it.

A short while later, Kumpt the chairman of the CX foundation rose and came to the front. In a short but relevant speech (which he translated into both English and German), he thanked us all for our attendance and support. Some prizes then got dolled out, one to Mark for his glorious racing win and another, much to his surprise, to Trev for ‘the most unoriginal CX at the event’

 

 

Sense prevailed for once on Saturday night and I went off to bed at a reasonable hour, knowing I had a bit of trek to the Hook the following afternoon – its only about 60miles from Haalem but it would be the first time I been there on my own for something like 20 years and I can’t deny I wasn’t a tad apprehensive, all I can say is thank goodness for GPS technology ?.

 

Wouter & I had agreed during the evening that again there was no real rush to leave on Sunday morning and by the time I dug myself out of my pit at bout 0845hrs a lot of folks had packed up, were in the last throws of packing up or had already left! I did the usual and then went in search of breakfast…..More coffee, bread and Jam (the carton of orange I had bought later surfaced while I was knocking down my tent - Wouter drank it!)

 

The weather had held off in the main, but the tent was still very damp and I decided to leave it a while longer whilst I sorted out the remaining gear inside – not much really as I tend to still adhere to the rule of ‘get it out, use it, put it away again’ that was ruthlessly drummed into me in the Army. I shook off the remaining water and began to disassemble the tent. I hate folding wet tents! I managed to get it in the bag first time and carried it, along with the rest of my gear over to the edge of the road where I had left the bike. Loading took only a short time and I was ready to go again, with that sad little feeling that it was all over (again) for another year, and in all likelyhood it wasn’t gauranteed that I would be able to make it back in 2015……

 

Wouter and I helped to finish tidying up the site, it wasn’t much really as most of it had been done earlier on, but its polite to offer anyway.

 

Around midday we made our farwells, wished each our friends ‘Farhen Gutt’ (good ride) and then Wouter and I were on our way back to Haarlem – Trev was staying on another night with Kumpt and Lieke. Why is it that the journey back to base always seems shorter than the one to a rally??? Mind you, as Wouter pointed out, it was Sunday and we had a whole heap less traffic to deal with, we didn’t even have to filter once!

 

We arrive back at Wouter & Paulines flat a little after 1330hrs and gratefully accepted a cup of tea – the weather was distinctly cooler now, boardering on chilly. Pauline lit the fire which added a lot of cheer, if not warmth to the room ? It must have gotten warm, because the next thing I knew I was dozing in an armchair, Pauline had gone of for an afternoon siesta and Wouter was reading the local newspaper. All to soon I realised that I needed to get on my way, and this was the single part of the journey that I wasn’t especially looking forward to making.

All the unfounded, irrational fears began to filter back into my mind, what would I do if I broke down on the motorway, what would happen if I lost my leg somehow??? I reminded myself that I’d been in far shitter situations than any of that before and had always survived! This occasion would be no different, there was no pointing worrying about stuff, just get on an do the job in hand and let the problems sort themselves out along the way!

 

I loaded the tailpack back on the bike, hugged Pauline and Wouter, mounted up and sped off along the quiet side road where they lived. Back out on the main drag and my GPS directed me to turn immediately left, so I did, and as a consequence to a wrong turn – do’h

 

Having corrected my mistake I followed the directions given and was soon heading across Holland (within the speed limit) towards the Hook Van Holland.

‘You’ll be fine’ advised Wouter before I left, ‘just follow the signs, when you get close to the Hook they’re all over the place’!!

I loaped along, checking the road signage against the GPS and all the while looking for the brown information boards – at last, I spotted one and relaxed almost entirely, knowing I was doing okay.

 

At some point after that the GPS and I had a disagreement, the road signs said one thing and it indicated another. I trust the Dutch far more than the Americans (who control the GPS satellites), mainly cos I suspect the Dutch know exactly where the Hook is – compared to the average Yank anyway………I found myself traversing through a housing estate, an industrial estate, between long, long rows of green houses and all number of odd things on and off the beaten track as well…

 

After half an hour I recognised the junction I had arrived at and there in front of me was a long cue of vehicles all waiting to get into the ferry terminal. I’ve got to say, I was pretty relieved.

 

After that the process of getting on board and stowed away was pretty much the same as the outward trip. As per normal the bikes were waved on to the ferry first and secured down the center of the vessel. The ticket I had been issued with at passport control was also the electronic door key to my cabin and it didn’t take me long to get sorted out and into the shower.

 

Having cleaned up, I made a momentous decision for me and went in search of something to eat on the ferry – a few years ago this would have been unthinkable on my part, the mere thought of food enough to make me ‘up chuck’, but times change and at nearly 50 I decided it was about time I got over myself (and the sea sickness).

 

Whilst waiting to board, I’d had a chat with a gent called Morris who was returning to the UK from a three week ride around Europe on his Enfield Bullet (complete with trailer). So, having selected a tuna salad (light weight) and carrot cake, plus a couple of cans of beer to wash it all down with, found him tucking into a slice of apple cake in the resturant. We enjoyed each others company for an hour or so, exchanging stories of our recent visits and comparing notes on the bikes – he having only recently acquiring the Bullet and me just as recently selling one! He told me he came from Spalding in Lincs and that the local Bullet Club branch met in a place called Woodhall Spa, if I’d ever heard of such a place??? I had, I grew up there, only leaving when I was about 16 to join the Army………………….. Soon after we parted company, he to find his friends and me back to my cabin.

 

The tv service on board is pretty comprehensive and I elected to watch a James May programme on BBC2. I cracked open a beer, and crawled under the big doovey. I guess I must’ve dozed off! Some time later I awoke to the sound of a distant diesel engine and the slight rocking motion of the ferry – nothing to worry about, pleasant in an odd sort of way!I leaned over and adjusted the climate control (air conditioning), making it a little less cool and switched the TV & light off.

 

A gentle tune roused me out of a comfortable sleep, it grew lounder until a voice annouced that it was 0530 hrs local and that the ferry would be unloading from 0630hrs. I knew we had actually docked already because I spotted a sign the previous evening telling the commercial drivers that they could exit the vessel from 0430 hrs and you can’t drive a truck off a ferry whilst its still at sea!!

 

As per, I didn’t have much in the way of luggage and after getting washed and dressed, took one last sweep around the cabin to ensure nothing was left behind and I was on my way down to the car deck. I arrive to find half the bikes and cars had already gone – they must have been eager I thought. I loaded the bike and after a brief word with ‘Chester’, confirming nobody had touched the bike, mounted up and followed the directions of the crew to unload. I rode down the ramps and after a brief wait for a passport check, was waved through customs.

 

Once again I found myself on the round-a-bout outside the terminal heading this time, for home. A brief glance at the clock told me it was 0645 hrs, the GPS estimated my arrival home as 1145 hrs – somehow I doubted it accurate – I actually made it back to Exeter at 1330 hrs having needed to take a longish break at Memborary services, it was nice to get back and Sally was most taken with the Channel No5 I had purchased as a gift for her, but even more so with the bottle of Apfel Schnapz that I know she loves ?.

 

If you made it this far, then thanks for reading, I hope it will encourage you to think about travelling abroad, and not just to a Club Rally. Wherever I’ve been on a bike in Europe, and in the UK, I’ve always been made welcome and at times shown incredible hospitality by folks whos only knowledge of me is the fact that I ride a bike!

 

Ride Safe. Lin.

 


Submitted: December 18, 2014

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