Day 4 – From Appingedam to Harlingen

May 4, 2019Appingedam539.0 Harlingen 682.0143.0

It was terrific to have a hotel night. I slept well and had a chance to dry out all my clothing. With the new outfit I purchased the day before, I was able to cope with the cold while riding.

At 0600 I was at the entrance of the hotel and ready to ride. At that very moment, a hail storm started with winds blowing so hard that any loose items on the ramp were blown away. I decided to wait a few moments for it to pass. Within 15 minutes it was all over and proved to be a pleasant start for the day.

The Eemshotel in Delfzijl was about 5 km from the course route. This was an fascinating place to stay. It is on the ocean side of the dyke on stilts. My room was on the lower level and I could hear the waves breaking on the shore. It was very soothing and like a lullaby, it put me to sleep very quickly. I planned to listen to the Mooseheads game which started at 1:00 AM but there was no chance of me staying awake in this soothing environment.

After the storm, the air was fresh and clear so it was a nice start to the day riding back to the route. I always need about 20 km for my body to drop into the comfort zone where my heart rate and breathing are in the groove. At around marker 550, I passed my first field filled with Tulips. There would be more to come but I must have been between plantings. I passed several fields with the remnants of tulips which hadn’t been harvested. I have seen pictures of fields filled with tulips as far as the eye could see but during my trip I saw some huge fields but not on that scale.

From Google Maps

Just before marker 555, it started to hail. I needed to get my rain jacket out and on to cope with this new challenge. The winds were blasting and it was a struggle to ride. I needed to get out of the onslaught so I pulled up to this windmill for relief from the wind. I also waited here for the hail storm to pass. It did after 10 minutes but the winds were still pretty high. The winds were coming from the northwest and I was about to be travelling west so it was not quite a headwind but pretty close. I knew I was heading into a challenging ride for a while. All headwinds impact my average speed. It is on par with riding uphill for hours.

The temperature was about 8°C so a little warmer than usual although the high winds made it feel like 4°C. With my new riding kit, I was comfortable. After a few kilometers I came across a lookout, parked Kermit and ascended the steps to take a look around. Well packed and performing wonderfully, both Kermit and I were ready for the task in front of us; a number of hours riding westerly into a headwind. These are not the conditions one picks but no rider has any control over the conditions. At least I was dry, dressed for the temperatures, well rested, and fueled nicely for the ride today.

The day turned to mostly overcast with lots of wind. The ride was along the inside of the dikes so out of the worst of the wind. At one point I took a break and climbed a path to the top of the dike. The wind on the North Sea was howling. The picture doesn’t come close to providing a sense. My guess it was running about 30 – 40 km/hour. It would have been a remarkable day for sailing in a big enough boat. My little Shark 24 at home would have been slammed in this much wind.

Once you’ve seen one cute baby lamb, you’ve seen them all but the sheep graze continuously along the hills of the dikes. I understand it an excellent
symbiotic relationship; the sheep need to graze and the grass on the dykes needs to be mowed. That certainly makes sense. For the next 100 km, most of the route ran along the inside of the dykes. Although only my speculation, I’m sure I passed 5,000+ sheep and baby lambs during this section of the race. Clearly the sheep are used to cyclists on the paths running through their grazing grounds. The rarely paid attention as I rode by. There was only one incident where a lamb jumped onto the cycling lane from behind a pile of bricks. It was as startled as I was and I braked hard enough to avoid a collision.

Around the 650 km mark, the course started a gradual turn south. Finally a tail wind which translates to an increase in my speed. In about 30 km I arrived in Harlingen to a hero’s welcome from Wietse and his Dad Wouter. My plan was to spend the night in Harlingen. It felt terrific to finish the day at a pretty good clip in comfortable temperatures. I was really in the ride grove. Life is good.

I knew that Simon and Kevin were in Harlingen and half expected to see them. I didn’t but learned later they enjoyed their stay. The center of Harlingen looked like a movie set. I look forward to exploring it further on a future visit.

Good news … the weather and temperature appear to be improving. Here’s hoping!