Our big trip commence.
There I stood in my new cycling outfit. It was a little chilly so I had put on a jacket. But I was not wearing my long trainer trousers. Somewhat of a mistake as it turned out to be a little on the coolish side.
After I took a non scheduled detour to our friends’ house, to find that we were meeting at the train station, SO and I arrived first on said train station. SO went to buy the tickets. Due to the fact that we had to get separate tickets for the bicycles the ticketing machine got confused and we ended up paying full price tickets instead of the 40% discount ones we were supposed to get.
The train trip until Rotterdam was uneventful. Changing train despite the bikes and luggage a breeze; Get out of train wait a few minutes get into next train on same track. How simple can it be? This was starting off the right way. After about an hour and a half we arrived in Middelburg. We unloaded the bikes and after a coffee set off for the first leg (about 59 km). Of course we knew which track we were taking (LF13a) and we knew the signs and to be safe we had 3 GPS systems with us, of which one was loaded with the route as done by somebody else. Nothing was going to get in the way. So of course it took us exactly 5 km to get completely lost.
See, we also had a 2005 map and on the website it told us that they had made some small modifications to the route to allow a better connection to the bicycle knots/crossings network, but we’d still see all the villages and really the changes were minor.
Obviously we disagreed. We were standing at one spot and had to take a punt as to which way to go. All four of us were each on an arm of the crossing, not sure what to do. In the end we went left as it was the most likely way.
The signs from thereon (and through the whole trip) were not always in the same spot. Most of the time they were on the right hand side (where they should be) However sometimes on a pole with other signs, very acceptable and easy to read/find.
Sometimes on a wooden pole somewhat hidden in the grass – slightly inconvenient. Sometimes on the left hand side – oops was that sign?
Sometimes only 13b (which is in the opposite direction) was labelled and we had to cross the road look back to ensure we were going the right way – rather annoying.
The ones on the bike-mushrooms often hidden on the side of the road and written in Arial 9pt – Look I know I am a shorty, but I am not that short!
But the best one (apart from the non existent ones) was the one on the mushroom that was hidden behind traffic warning signs and we could only find by accident.
Anyhow that was part of day one. The discovery of the hidden signposting. Other than that it was not an easy leg. The roads often were not flat. Tarmac; often no more than tar sealed with a layer of gravel over the top. Which for the guys (SO and Male Friend (MF)) was impossible to skate on comfortably. The weather was bleak and really it wasn’t that much fun. It was already during this leg that SO noticed what proved to be a painful mistake. His skates and inner shoes were not really matching and were causing pressure issues on his ankles. This was not that painful if the tarmac was good and flat, but on the sealed gravel and cobblestones it was less than comfortable, not to say painful. The weather was slightly miserable and we were, to be honest, not that impressed with the landscape. We found a good spot for lunch I have to admit that. It was at about 30km So about half way.
I nearly died at 55km, as this was the longest trip I had ever taken, but I persevered. and when we finally reached the hotel after 65 km (sure we started off at 59 but you know slight changes to the route etc) we found the place. It was a former monastery and well it had seen happier days. It was a little dated and no bath, just a shower. It was not bad, just a bit dowdy. The dated icing on the cake though were the salmon coloured sheets.
After arrival we had a drink and then freshened up. Diner was a challenge. Mostly due to the fact that we could not understand the waiter. He mumbled excessively. In the end we got out of him that there was no vegetarian menu, which was a little hard as our friends are vegetarians. Finally he gave in and he got the cook to make them a salad with melted cheese. SO and I ate mussels. Lots of them. In fact we could not finish them!
Dinner was good. Then off to bed for day two.