Cycling with Scissors

Cycling with Scissors

I recently entered a short article for the ABC’s community page, ABC Open. They have a theme of the month, with this month’s theme being “Running with Scissors” – a story where you undertook something daring, out of the ordinary…

For some reason my article made the website’s front page today! Here is the story, and a picture or two to prove it – https://open.abc.net.au/explore/157033

“Eight months into my marriage, I realised something’s gotta give. Feeling trapped in a dud job and needing space from an ever-present spouse, I decided to tackle a solo female cycling tour – 1000 kilometres in 14 days. Sure I love cycling, but I’d never done more than 20 kilometres in a single sitting. Until then.

Preparation was short, dictated by the need for a quick getaway. I remember reading a few blogs and forums for touring cyclists, highlighting the need to prepare for rainy weather. “Never mind, it’s September in Europe”, I remember thinking – “not really the wet season” and “it won’t happen to me”. How wrong can one wager?

Landing in Maastricht, the hilly part of Holland, I remember looking for a quiet corner on the airport where I could unpack my partially dismantled bicycle from its airplane box and mante it, as a woman would say. Or try to. Hubby did try and give me some directions and practice. It must have worked, because I was off some time later. In a time before GPS, map roaming and technological advances, it was just me and my printed maps. I glided along rivers, over hills and through passes – Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany – getting lost often, wasting energy.

I hit rain. I decided to wait it out. I lost. That feeling of getting ready to continue a cycling tour – not a day tour or a quick dart – when it’s pouring outside, and you know you’ll be wet in five minutes flat, that feeling is indescribable. Defeat before you even start. You set off, your face gets slapped with wet. Then your saddle bags, then your shoes and finally the backsplash from the wheels. You should have heard the conversations in my head.

One other time saw me crying in frustration when my saddlebag’s string got caught in my spokes, broke off, got tangled so badly that it damaged the wheel. All the while it was past 5pm in a sleepy Belgian village. An unanticipated overnighter.

There were good times too, quite a few. Beer in youth hostels. Freedom as you cycle downhill through forests and riversides. Hobbling over antiquated cobblestones in tiny, ancient villages. Having a dorm room all to yourself. Growing stronger, cycling further each day. Missing my spouse.

We made up, we’re still together 10 years later. And I have a story to tell. I since read somewhere: “The worst day of cycling beats the best day at work”. I agree wholeheartedly now, but back then, I’m not so sure. I would do it again, though. With more preparation.”

 

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My article on the ABC Open’s front page on 24 Oct 2016

 

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Amsterdam with a Curious Mum (part 2) – Keukenhof gardens

Amsterdam with a Curious Mum (part 2) – Keukenhof gardens

Following on from our Red Light District Visit…

Once back to the safety of normal Amsterdam streets, where groups of drunken men aren’t leering and being excessively loud with bravado, Mum and I discovered a whole different peepshow of our own – gawking unashamedly into people’s houses. It’s not our fault, really – the Dutch don’t draw their curtains! What better way to satisfy my interior design cravings than to stare into the most beautifully lit and decorated homes at night.

It’s all so very European: Think clean lines of Ikea meet quirky Dutch design. What’s more, every house exhibits extravagant floral arrangements, because let me tell you, flowers are cheap as chips. The source is a mere 20 kilometres away, acre upon acre of tulip fields and greenhouses.

Which brings me to my highlight of our trip: A daytrip to Keukenhof, a tulip park just outside Amsterdam. This stunningly designed flower park spans 32 hectares and is open for only 2 months of the year during spring. With hard work and meticulous planning, the creators put forth the most impressive displays of floral colour and design, as well as hosting orchid shows, showcasting gardening ideas and presenting other forms of entertainment. Mum and I love all forms of gardens and we make it a point to visit open gardens and botanical institutions wherever we travel. Hence my question to said Dutch friend: “Did you visit Keukenhof every year as a kid, you lucky duck?” To which he answered with a look of utter dismay on his face: “Are you kidding me? What child wants to visit a flower park?” My bubble was thoroughly burst.

Outside Keukenhof, they also offer bicycles for rent. I jumped at the idea, because it has been a dream of mine to cycle through Dutch tulip fields since a very young age. I can’t remember which book put it squarely in my mind, but there you have it, not all children are created equally. That day I soared. On my sturdy Dutch bicycle, along canals, through villages, past tulip fields I cruised. This was hands down one of the best days of my life, because it was even better than I imagined it to be. The clean yet fragrant air, the companionship, because Dutch people cycle in droves and they greet each other wherever they cycle, so you are forever being engaged in your experience. But above all, navigating a 15km round trip with only a crudely drawn A4 map, all on my own.

Be sure to read Part 3…