Tues June 23, 4 to 8 pm: Bread fresh from the oven!
Wed June 24, 9 and 9:30 am: Bread delivered to Quesnel – Green Tree Health & Wellness and Bouchie Lake Country Store
Wed June 24, 4 to 8 pm: Pizza Night!
Sat June 27, 8:30 am until we sell out: Quesnel Farmer’s Market
I think the first real live Dutch people I met were my friend Barbara’s parents. I met Barbara in first year university: well, it was Barbara’s first year, she has long since been a PhD in mathematics; me, I had promise, but it ended up being my first AND last year at uni! Barb’s parents were immigrants from The Netherlands, I never knew why – maybe to start a new life in a less-populated country, maybe for work opportunities. What I did know as soon as I met her family was that they were all so damned cool: they were musical, they were good-looking, they were smart, they did cool things (have you SEEN how fast those people go on skates? They make Canadians look like they are standing still!), they ate really good food, they were full of life. Ever since then every Dutch person I have met has been all those things: Cori and Willem that Tim and I met on our cross-Canada cycle trip had sailed from The Netherlands to New Zealand where they now live, Burt in Quesnel has his amazing art work and outlook on life, and on it goes. So what was I to expect when I actually went to the Netherlands? Well, at the first campsite we rocked up to (after cycling as fast as we could to get across the top of Germany) the woman introduced herself by name, shook our hands firmly, looked us in the eye like fellow humans, and generally welcomed us to her property. And guess what? It was cool, it was smart, it was just what we needed – there was beer in the fridge and a pot to put your money in!
And so it went: there was cheese, there was water EVERYWHERE, there were windmills, there were tulips, there were sailboats, and best of all, there were bikes and bikes and more bikes.
I am not sure what the statistics are, but they must be good: it is SO safe to ride a bike in The Netherlands. And, no, it is not only because you are often on designated cycling paths, because you are also often on the same roads as the cars – it is because of attitude. Cyclists are common and cyclists are more vulnerable than motorized boxes of steel, therefore, cyclists are yielded to. What bliss. My most treasured memory is watching parents pick up their children from school: babies were in seats on the handlebars facing the parent, little kids were sat straddling the panniers on the back rack, and the young school-age kids were riding their own bikes with a helping hand from mom on their shoulder when needed. No one was wearing a helmet. This is a culture of cycling: why take the car when it is faster and easier to cycle? Of course, the country is flat. Of course the distances are relatively short. Of course the price of fuel is very high. But these things don’t excuse the rest of us from taking note and implementing change. And why is our fuel so cheap, anyway?
We saw many many groups of school kids on outings: on bicycles. Compare this to Canada where you can’t guarantee that every child has a bicycle, and you certainly can’t guarantee that every child is fit enough to ride one, even on a flat route. And then there would be the red tape. Oh, the red tape.
There is a great system of mapping for cyclists in The Netherlands. Tim and I spent our nine days navigating our route with a cut-out from a very old, very large-scale map of his. We didn’t go wrong once, because we only had to use that map for the big picture – the daily route-finding was accomplished using the on-street maps and route posts available to all cyclists.
Anywhere you find yourself, there are sign-posts for cyclists. I actually didn’t realize all the red-lettered sign posts were for cycle routes until in the country for days: they are just everywhere!
We rode along many canals, along many dykes, across many bridges, locks, and sluices. Our route along the north and west coasts of The Netherlands also took us along the Afsluitdjik, a 32 km dyke built in the late 1920s and early 1930s to create the inland sea, The Ijsselmeer, thus protecting more precious Dutch coastline from erosion, and also to reclaim some land from the sea.
All in all, I found The Netherlands to be pretty OK. Go there. Ride a bike. And ride a bike at home, too, and be a part of the Velorution. One day we may be this switched on.