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Saturday biking: Groningen - Eastermar Houtigehage

Adrift in darkest Fryslân

This Saturday's bicycling trip took Sidsel and me into Fryslân/Friesland again, with our intended destination being Eastermar/Oostermeer where her aunt and uncle have recently moved. Things became a bit of a shambles as far as reaching that destination was concerned, but I am liking this cycling thing, and what it's doing to me, more and more.

Our trajectory on the first half was Groningen-Hoogkerk-De Poffert-Enumatil-Boerakker-Sebaldeburen-Grootegast-Doezum ... and then things became a bit of a blur. The sensible course would have been to go over Surhuisterveen, following the main road through that and then take the little winding roads to Eastermar, keeping the map in front of us at all time (because the area apparently has few distinctive features) and keeping an eagle's eye out for signage. This didn't happen for two reasons: one was that we both think main roads are boring and noisy, the other was that when we reached Grootegast, Sidsel decided to call her relatives to see if they were home. They weren't; in fact they were at the other end of the country! Not that that mattered much; we were going cycling anyway, and having a destination was just the icing on the cake. But it took some of our motivation to stick to our plan out of us, and before long, we were exploring routes that looked nicer, incorrectly memorizing the places to look out for from our map, and getting lost. We ended up riding through a stretch of forest near Marum (which looking at the map now I realise was called Eamunt & Jilt Dijksheide, and indeed had a few fields of heath contained in it), a swimming lake (Strandheem) before drifting our way to the tiny neighboring villages of Boelenslaan and Houtigehaghe. We stopped over for our mid-journey ice-cream and once we'd eaten that, Sidsel informed me that it was 4 PM.
That took me by surprise. We'd left at a little past 11, and it didn't feel to me like we'd been riding for almost 5 hours. My legs (including my gimmy knee) were still feeling good, I wasn't sunburnt, I'd only needed one bathroom break (at the place where we'd just stopped), I'd have believed her if she'd said it was 2 o'clock. But return we did, taking the comparitively straightforward 30-kilometer route past Drachtstercompagnie (passing Strandheem again on the other side), Marum, Nuis, Niebert, Midwolde, Tolbert, Lettelbert, Oostwold, De Poffert and Hoogkerk. There were some places in there whose names I had never heard of before and found mildly funny.
I won't dwell too much on the sights seen, birds spotted, etc, because they were pretty much the same as the previous time we'd gone through Frislân. I will note, however, that we saw quite a few shirtless young guys trying to impress people with their fast motorbikes/boats/other conveyances, and that both the pub in front of which we stopped in Grootegast and the one where we bought our ice creams in Houtigehaghe was filled with men who just sat there drinking in a huddle (in Houtigehaghe, they were sitting inside, in semi-darkness, on what was a beautiful day), and who had far more attention to spare for Sidsel than she cared to receive from them. Also we saw deer with young fawns on two occasions on our way back. Also we now know how big a ram's bollocks can get.

Super-power me

What I found more interesting than the sights, though, is what these trips are doing for me. Like I wrote above, I had not noticed that we had been on our bikes for so long, and had covered about 50 kilometers-probably more but it's hard to tell what with all the turns and twists (to be fair, and to explain the slow average speed, we'd stopped in quite a few places, mostly to drink water or look at the map). Almost to the end, my knee was nearly free from pain as well. Two weeks ago, it was quite sore for the last 15 kilometers, and I had trouble walking for a few hours after the trip. Last week, it was less sore and I was right as rain soon after. And now it's troubling me even less than that. Clearly the cycling is strengthening the bad knee. That means I may be able to take up running again if I keep this up. And there's something else. Towards the end of our trip, we discussed the movie Supersize Me, a gonzo documentary in which the movie's director and protagonist eats nothing but McDonalds food for a month. The effects, according to the reviews, are quick to arrive. The documentarist finds himself putting on weight, losing energy, and generally declining in health rapidly. After a few weeks, his libido has gone (reviewers never fail to mention this, and it may well be the part that scares viewers away from McDonalds the most) and his doctors are urging him to call the whole thing off for fear of damage to his internal organs. With the cycling, I'm having the opposite effect. I'm getting up earlier, I produce a page a day easily (and when it's not so easy, I stay up longer), feeling more creative and able to concentrate for longer. I'm feeling great, and it gets a little better after every trip. Tomorrow I'm shooting for two pages. Also, in the past years I've been having some work-related health problems. Apart from the RSI that has been plaguing me on and off since the late 1990s, I've had a mild lower back problem for the past year and a half. Getting away from the computer, and chairs, for a day while exercising the rest of my body has always helped me, but this is helping almost as well as running used to do.

This doesn't mean I'll produce more in the near future though. The reason I'm trying so hard to produce a page or more a day is to get two weeks ahead before a last-minute vacation that I've penciled in to start next Saturday. Also, I may step up the excercise regime; weather and workload permitting, we may go to the port town of Lauwersoog on Wednesday, taking the ferry to the island of Schiermonnikoog to cycle some more, and maybe swim, there.

Comments (2)


baby deer is a fawn not a calf. If its older its a yearling.

Right. I'll correct that. Thanks.


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