Sunday, October 21, 2007

Klapkut Rally - Den Oever, Netherlands

Before I put up the photos from the Klapkut Rally, I wanted to say a couple of things that I've been meaning to post, but hadn't.

Ice cream. Good old American ice cream sundaes. They have no idea what these are here. There is some substance called Gelato from Italy (which I will try at some point) but IT ISN'T ICE CREAM. They call it schepijs. They also have soft ice cream from a machine. If you know me, you know that I am a gourmet (American) ice cream connoisseur. In the defense of this fine country, they do also have a couple of flavors of Ben and Jerry's ice cream available for purchase in supermarkets and a couple other places. But trying to find an ice cream shop, I eventually gave up. A fruitless search.

I've also learned a few things about the Dutch language. One, I need to actually learn it. And, it's going to be very difficult. They tend to combine words into one long sentence, so even if you know one or two individual words, you won't recognize them stuck onto the back or front of another word. It sounds like they are saying one really long word for a paragraph, and when they have another thought, instead of using a comma or period the pause is usually an "uhhhhh" sound (or breath cause they are pretty much out of air, I think) and then a verbal mishmash of sounds comes tumbling out at a fast rate of speed again.


But, I digress.

So, on to the Klapkut Rally. I'm not translating that, it's something bad, I think. My friend Krul decided without my knowledge to nominate me to be considered as Miss Klapkut 2007. That bastard. Of course, if you win you have to go up on stage and so on. Guess who won? They announced it in Dutch, but luckily my good friends were there to drag me up on stage. Otherwise I would have hid under a rock. Krul - I will have my revenge. Some time, some day when you least expect it... Just wait...

So here we are all arriving at the Rally. We rode in with a group, and it's cold here now!

Krul and me.

Krul, Herrie, Cora and Ghans

They had a lovely warm fire going, and a banjo player. He was really good!

Jeroen, one of the founders of the Motorbike Touring Club Dippy. Yeah, dippy means the same thing here as it does back in the USA.

Jeroen and Krul

Hey, I don't drink beer - so I'm having something better. Back in Belgium, Jan had hooked me up with a really good whisky - Jack Daniels Single Barrel. It's better, stronger, and I'll bet I'll feel better than everyone else when they wake up in the morning! If you look closely at the picture you can actually see my breath. Brr.

The band they had were quite good. Nearly all the music they play here is American, and tonight was no exception. Mostly classic rock cover tunes. But, look at his shoes!

This is a Harley Davidson WWII Liberator. Mint.

A face like that is why we love you.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Belgium, a small country south of the Netherlands and home to Belgium fries, Belgium waffles, and Belgium chocolate. As usual, food is on my mind. The highway down went through a place in Belgium where I finally saw what looks like a "bad" section of town, so to speak. I've been looking for where one might live if one was poor, but until this past weekend have not come across anything that seemed to be a European ghetto. There was grafitti along a small stretch of the highway, (much of it in English) and a factory spewing forth thick red fumes of something undoubtedly noxious. Luik, the Dutch name for the city, even had abandoned buildings. Of course, that's nothing compared to what we have in the US, so I'll have to keep looking. Once over the border, the roads were noticeably worse, but the drivers better. Go figure. I asked about gas prices, and it seems that if we translated correctly it might be somewhere between $6-$8 a gallon.

We stayed at Boele's place (a biker Inn) in the village of Lierneux.

This is the view from the front. Belgium has hills and mountains. It is the prettiest place in Europe I have been so far.

The owner, Jan. He has a small collection of hats, and kindly tried on a few for me. I love hats!

My friend Krull looking cool. He gives me chocolate candy. Yay!

Belgian sunrise

Look closely, that was all green grass - it's now covered in frost.

I wonder where this road goes? Yeah, it's actually a road.

Jeroen with his new Motorbike Touring Club tee-shirt. It's a Dutch joke.

Lots of pine and forests in Belgium. I also saw quite a bit of logging.

Yeah, it's a French place to get frites! Which I did, of course. Why are they not called french fries here? Hmm... Now that I've had German food and Belgium food, I can tell you that it has been my experience that Dutch food is the best - particularly their patat with mayonaise. I have since learned that the Dutch mayonaise is sweeter, and made differently than what we Americans know as mayonaise.

It's warmed up enough, so we can sit outside and enjoy the sun.

Twin Hondas

An American war memorial. This is in the Belgian countryside along the Baraque de Fraiture crossroads. This hotly contested battlefield was the scene of a collision between Americans and German Waffen SS and Volksgrenadier units during the Battle of the Bulge. It was later to be known as “Parker’s Crossroads”, named after Major Arthur C. Parker III, the Commander of the 589th Field Artillery unit assigned to this sector. I also read somewhere that the nearby village where the Americans and Germans fought was completely destroyed save for one building. I'd link you to the photos, but they are too much for me to look at. Very sad.

A detailed history of the battle is in this soldier's account: Parker's Crossroads Revisited

There are a lot of war memorials here and in the Netherlands I've seen dedicated to Americans who fought in WWII. People talk about The War as if it was just a short bit ago. While when I was in America, the Gulf war seemed so far away, and not something that touched my life in any significant way. Quite a difference from over here... I think Americans would be better served by learning as much history as they can from the people who lived it. It really puts a different perspective on things.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Holland Motorbike Ride

It's late in the year, but we had a perfect day - sunshine and warm for the season - and probably the last one. I finally got to meet my friend Co who came over for a bike ride around Noord Holland. We started out with his friend Henk and Henk's grandson, and were also joined by Jeroen's friend Krul, and I rode with Jeroen. We went on an organized tour with a map (yeah, we had Tom Tom and still got lost) but it was really awesome anyhow. Henk and his grandson soon rode ahead, so there's no pictures of them. There were scores and scores of other bikers on our tour, as well as just out riding around enjoying what I call Indian summer. They don't really know that term here, though.

Krul and Co at the start of our tour in Heerhugowaard. There's a McDonald's in the background. I still haven't been to one in Europe.

Jeroen. His bike is the blue Honda Shadow 1100 (US model)

It's me!

Yeah, I'm sitting on a Harley. It's Co's bike. Cool, huh? No mean jokes here, the rest of us all ride Hondas.

This is the best way to see Holland, I think. Passing by Schermerhorn.

A little village. Well, they are all little to me. For all I know this is a big village. I think this is Hoorn.

Krul riding on the road that goes around Alkmaar - the Alkmaar Ring

Typical Dutch neighborhood. This one's in De Rijp or Graft.

Canals and boats everywhere in Hoorn. I've never been, but it does remind me of what I think Venice would look like.

Most of their bridges seem to be mobile, and they have all different types and ways of moving.

Another Dutch village, this one is definitely either De Rijp or Graft. We rode for the entire day. It's been a long time for me, but I'm finally back to doing something I used to love - riding and traveling.

Lunch time! We stopped in Schardam for frites. Well, that's what I had. No idea why that's in French. That's just how the menu was.

The sun feels so good. I don't know what winter is like any more - I haven't been in one since I was young, and of course never one in Europe. That will be such a cool experience!

Okay, who doesn't know by now that I love sheep? This one was on top of the dyke overlooking where we had lunch. Everywhere there are sheep, cows, horses, ponies, goats, ducks, herons, swans, coots, etc. I saw an emu along the way too...

We stopped for coffee late in the day in Enkhuizen. This town's golden age was back in the 1600s - before my country was even born.


Co in Graft, de Rijp

Co again, this time in Hoorn.

Is that an military Jeep about to overtake Co?

These vehicles are from the Keep them Rolling foundation. They preserve American vehicles from the war (WW II) as a tribute to the liberators.

It's hard to see, but it says USA on the back, and is carrying the American flag...

To me, it looks like a fairytale village from one of the books I used to read as a child. It's Hoorn.

Dutch town square, this is the center of Hoorn.

This used to be the gate of the "city" and that blue sign - it means the street is a dead end. Funny looking to me...

Bye bye! Great ride! Co is the coolest guy - visit his website in Dutch and in English:

I still think I haven't thanked him enough for his kindness to me...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Prinzipalmarkt.

Germany, at least the parts I've been to so far, are completely different than the Netherlands. Almost right across the border there are hills, slopes, valleys. So different than the flat land I've gotten used to for the past two weeks around Amsterdam.

I don't know if I mentioned, but Europeans use a different Visa/Mastercard system than Americans - so my credit cards are all but worthless here. That's made it difficult to pay for things, but I'm managing, and will figure something else out soon.

Münster is a great, cosmopolitan town. They even have a Starbucks! And what they eat, how they eat, is completely different than the Netherlands. Almost no vegetables, lots of meat and potatoes. Delicious for me, but also another thing I noticed was that there are a lot of overweight people in Germany. I've got a healthy American size myself, so I felt fine - but I'm not sure I could eat this way all the time. They also drink endless amounts of beer, something I just don't care for, so I'm happy to visit, but wouldn't want to live here.

St Lambert's church.

Yay! Starbucks! And I didn't have any American coffee. Instead I ate at a much cheaper cafe. Hey, I'm on a tight budget - the exchange rate US dollar to Euro is abysmal. I was shocked to discover that I do actually speak some German (thank you Mom), or at least could understand enough to order food and use the correct toilet. Seriously, what more do you need in life?