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Saturday cycling: Groningen-Spijk

I've noticed that this cycling stuff has become contagious (I've got some evidence for this from my mailbox and phone conversations as well). I'l start posting some non-cycling stuff here soon, to prevent it from becoming Reinder's cycling diary, but before then, here's a bit about Saturdays' trip to Spijk, in the north-east of the province.

This was a shorter than usual trip, but it was harder than we anticipated for three reasons:

1. The heat. It was a tropical day, meaning we sweated a lot and were even more loaded up than usual with bottles of water. Sidsel had had the foresight to put a few plastic bottles in the freezer beforehand and take them in an insulation bag, so we had cold water all day. By the way, during all of our trips we were loaded up like mules, carrying at least 3 kg of provisions with us, plus, in my case, camera and sketchbook.
2. The wind. The northeastern area is flat and wide-open. It's like a steppe. It's pretty but going upwind is no fun.
3. Our, uhm, hangovers. We'd been partying the night before and Sidsel had been partying the night before that. So we were even more dehydrated than we would otherwise have been. In the old days, I would have stayed in bed all morning and tried fatuously to work later in the day. Getting some exercise instead was a good idea but it wasn't easy at all.

Why Spijk? Well, we thought we were running out of destinations, and didn't feel like going due east to the German border because that area looks a bit boring on the map. However, at the end of our trip we had a talk with a woman in a bar in Winneweer, who pointed out some interesting destinations near the border, so we may go there some time. Spijk, in any case, was simply a place to aim at.

We started out with some 8 kilometers of straight, boring main road past Ruischerbrug where my parents live, into Garmerwolde. Just to warm up and not have to think too much, you see. At Garmerwolde, we finally moved into the rural lanes, but we stuck quite close to the Damsterdiep, and old shipping canal that goes straight up to Delfzijl, effectively separating the northeastern part of the province from the southeastern. We went through the center of Ten Boer, past Lellens, Loppersum and then north past Zeerijp and Godlinze (where we took a wrong turn, rode several kilometers in the wrong direction, and had to turn back to pause for ice cream and drinks, and get back on course), Losdorp and Spijk.

The sights were very similar to those seen on Wednesday during our Schiermonnikoog: fields of arable land (maize, wheat, brassica and carrots) and pasture grazed by cows, sheep and goats, punctuated by tree-lined fringes, ditches and farmhouses. The further north you go, the larger the farmhouses get. Their size is somewhat deceptive because typically 2/3 of any Saxon farmhouse is taken up by a barn, but the living areas are still considerable. Ironically, I'm sure most of the people living in these castle-like houses (some of which have driveways half a kilometer long) are cash-poor. These farmhouses were built at a time when agricultural yields were much lower and prices were comparatively higher. The gentlemen farmers who lived in them could afford large properties and the personnel to maintain them. The inequality of those times is one reason why the communist party built such a lasting base in much of the agricultural heartland.
Now, the descendents of these farmers run their entire properties themselves and are largely dependent on agricultural subsidies. Many of them consolidate their businesses into larger companies. Some, though, still have some money to spare on cool stuff. Near Loppersum we saw a lawn being mown by a robot! I want one of those, even if it means I have to get a lawn for it to mow!
We saw quite a few farmers at work as well, harvesting the wheat.

At Zeerijp we suddenly saw a familiar landmark from an earlier trek: a bar that had been burned down with only its facade and outer wall still standing. We'd pass that one again on our way back, and at that time, people were working on the building, probably shoring it up to prevent it collapsing. The lady from Winneweer said it was condemned so they probably weren't trying to rebuild it.

At Spijk, we took a quick look at the town's two churches, and then went to a coffeehouse for tea and strawberry pie (recommended). We then made a half-hearted attempt to go to the shore for a refreshing ride over the sea dike, but when we couldn't get there easily we decided to go back. Unusually for us, we rode the same road back that we went to Spijk on for about half of our trip, all the way to Loppersum. The alternative would have been a zig-zag pattern that would take us south-east a little too often and would have amounted to a long detour. However, from Loppersum on, we took the part of the Damsterdiep trajectory that we hadn't taken on the first leg, past Winneweer, Ten Post and Ten Boer and turning right before Thesinge to avoid the long stretch past Ruischerbrug. This put us on another long straight stretch, but one that was more interesting and less noisy.
We were back in Groningen at 18:30, having cycled less than 80 kilometers over 7 hours (with frequent breaks). Not quite satisfactory but considering the circumstances getting anywhere at all was an accomplishment.

Comments (1)


I guess we didn't even reach the 80 km this time. A much more realistic guess would be 60 km, maybe 70. It took us about 7 hours and 5 litres of water. Exhausting!


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