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All-weather Saturday Cycling: Groningen-Eastermar

Saturday started out a bit on the rainy side, and there was some doubt whether we should actually go. But go we did, Sidsel and me, because we are tough! We both needed a ride, anyway; otherwise we'd have sort of sunk into lethargy, either because of the caffeine withdrawal or simply because it looked like being that sort of a day.
We set out for Eastermar, Fryslân, on 11.30. As you may recall, we had tried to go to Eastermar before, to visit Sidsel's aunt and uncle who have recently moved there. That time, we didn't find it, and in any case Sidsel's relatives weren't home as we found out halfway through, but this time we were better prepared, and found both the lost town of Eastermar and the relatives.

The first leg of the journey, we didn't see too much that we hadn't seen before on our two Frysian trips. We made a notherly detour over Zuidhorn, to avoid the long stretch along the Hoendiep that we'd seen a little too often, but after that we took the familiar route though Grootegast, Doezum and Kornhorn. It was some 4 kilometers past Kornhorn that we figured out what exactly went wrong the first time: we missed the same left turn that we did then and ended up disoriented, thinking that the Marum roundabout was the Surhuisterveen roundabout. So we had to retrace our steps, and from there on finding Surhuisterveen and Eastermar was actually pretty easy.

Except for two things. One of them was the volatile weather. We had rain at the start of our journey, sunshine by the time we reached Grootegast, ominous clouds a little later and a strong head wind throughout. The other was my dangerously loose bicycle chain, which I hadn't got around to fixing. It started falling off in Zuidhorn and would go on falling off every ten kilometers or so. Loose chains are not the sort of problem you can easily fix while on the move (or, in my case, at all), so:

How to deal with a chain that keeps falling off?
1) Avoid putting too much pressure on it; stay in the saddle and keep a steady pace.
2) Get serious about using your gearing system: low gear for when you're accelerating from a standstill, high gear for when you're riding at a steady clip.
3) When it falls off, don't grumble; just put it back on. Greasy fingers are inevitable.
4) Realise that this is the first time since starting on these trips that you're riding with long pants, and also that you've recently removed the chain's protective sheathing, and that greasy pants are now also inevitable.
5) When you arrive at your destination, get your travelling companion's uncle to fix it for you (works only if your travelling companion is a half-Danish, half-Frysian blonde and her uncle is a natural-born fixer).

Sidsel's relative's house in Eastermar is pretty impressive; an old farmhouse with a secondary building some 30 meters away from the main structure. The farmhouse is much smaller than the ones we saw in the north of Groningen. It's also much lower: the top of the windows on the ground floor is at eye height, and the roof at that point is right above them. Sidsel remarked that she'd seen even lower houses in Denmark: old farmsteads that you couldn't stand up straight in. Sidsel's uncle has been renovating it extensively, replacing the floors and adding extra rooms. He's doing much of the work himself although he's had professionals in to build a wall out of concrete blocks and put in new window-sills. When we arrived, he was watching over his concrete mixer which he'd check on periodically during our visit. Previously, the building was in use as a barn with living spaces on the sides, and when Sidsel's uncle bought it, the barn area still had the dirt floor and a gutter running through the middle. Now, it's got concrete; a thick layer of it.
The second building, let's call it the cottage, is large enough to house a couple, and that was where the two were indeed shacking up while working on the main house. It's had some interesting people living there including an American historian who wrote a book about Eastermar.
There was a third 'structure' on the premises: an old trailer that they're building a porch around. That will be the work shack. The houses overlook a lake - the Bergumermeer - that people like to sail on and fields of pasture.
While we were there, the couple traded life updates with Sidsel while keeping us fed with sugary bread and tea. They also provided us with provisions for the trip back, and, like I said, the uncle fixed my bike for me. Yay for them!

When we left for home, we rode into a big nasty cold wet shower. Bleah. While seeking shelter under a tree, we looked at the map ("let's keek on the map") to see if we could take an alternative route home so we wouldn't get bored. We decided to start off going over Surhuisterveen again and then take a southerly route over Marum and Leek. Sidsel pushed for some bold decisions that finally got us into parts of the area that we hadn't seen before. The last 20 kilometers, between Leek and Lettelbert, were particularly pretty! As evening fell, we rode through a wonderfully quiet, canal-lined culture preserve in which field birds could brood in peace, organic and rare breed cattle grazed and the view was almost as wide as that near Lauwersoog (A bit prior to that, we saw cattle grazing that I think were Scottish Highlanders although Sidsel referred to them as 'buffaloes'). Best part of the journey, and it was a bit of a pity that we were going through it so fast. But we had the wind in our backs and the anticipation of drinks at home.
Back home, we invited Jeroen and his friend Harm to join us for drinks at a pub, to make good use of our post-exercise alcohol window. That's the life!


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 22, 2004 10:06 AM.

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