The Mrs. and I, along with our dog Ardie, set off on Saturday for a journey across the great cycling paradise of the Netherlands. I had wanted to make the trek for some time, and in keeping with goal of a S24O* each month, this was the last weekend in January to accomplish one. Now, if you’re familiar with the idea of a S24O, you’ll know that the point is to go out and come back the next day; we could manage this by crossing the Netherlands at its most narrow point in the province of Limburg, which conveniently, is also the closest portion to where we live. Since most campsites here are closed this time of year, we booked a dog-friendly room at an inn near our destination, packed an overnight bag, and were on our way.
Having Ardie in tow behind my single-speed bike was a bit of a challenge, but thankfully the Netherlands is a relatively flat country. The most formidable portion of the ride was just outside the city of Echt, where the bike path loops up and over a canal. I thought I might have to dismount and do some walking, but to my surprise, I managed to do alright.
The other side of the bridge was a straight descent, dipping down below the waterline of the canal. This entire portion of Limburg is surrounded by water— the winding Maas river forms the western border and there are lakes on either side.
After Echt, the route is fairly rural, with a few houses and farms. Along the way, we passed the Hasselholt Castle, which was built in the 16th century. We wanted to check it out, but apparently it is the residence of a Baron and not open to visitation, anyway.
When there aren’t segregated bike paths, you’ll often see roads like the one above. There are bicycle lanes on either side of the road, and the cars drive on what is effectively a single lane. When another car is approaching from the opposite direction, they have to cut into the bike lane to safely pass. It’s an odd system, but it keeps traffic speeds down, which is good.
At the end of the road in the town of Ohe en Laak was our inn, the Hotel Lakerhof. We checked in, made reservations for dinner, and then continued on sans canine.
Literally a few meters down the street from the inn is a bike path that leads to the banks of the Maas river, where a bicycle ferry will bring you across to Belgium and back. It’s free if you’re a resident, 1 Euro otherwise. Because there are no bridges for many kilometers in either direction, this is your best bet for crossing into Belgium on a bike.
Unfortunately for us, it is closed during the winter season. We could only look across at future travels in warmer weather.
Instead we rode north, up to the town of Stevensweert, a historic site in the Eighty Years’ War. The weather had at this point cooled considerably, and so we decided to turn back towards the warmth of our evening’s accommodations.
We had an excellent dinner, watched some Dutch television (which is 50% American programming), and called it a night.
The next morning we awoke to rain and snow, but thankfully it cleared up after breakfast, and the sun even came out as we pedaled homewards. We were actually really lucky with the weather, because not long after we got home it started to rain again and continued on for the rest of the day.
So, the Mrs. and I got our first bike overnight for the year, and can say we rode all the way across the Netherlands in the process, even if it was the smallest portion. When the weather warms up and the ferry starts running, we will do it again and explore the Belgian side of the river. Until then, it’s time to plan the next S24O.
- Bicyclist Abroad
* S24O refers to a “sub-24 hour overnight” and while typically is reserved for bike camping, can be applied towards any miniature bike tour accomplished in the same timeframe.