My Velocity Squared

December 28, 2010

Amsterdam

Filed under: Uncategorized — smarmbeast @ 10:58 pm

Let me paint it for you:


I’m on a dutch utility bike. It’s pouring down snow to the point of 6 inches in the last few hours. I have a Van Gogh lithograph triangle hung by a scarf around my neck like a blue toberlone bar.

The handle broke a mile ago.

Proceeding to on my misplaced faith on the laws of physics, I continue to ride the bike at this point. It’s museum hopping and street food day, since it’s getting impossible to go to far. I stopped riding the bike an hour ago after dropping off the poster, since I noticed even the hardest core dutch riders had given it up. So it’s back to the chipenkaart and the trams.

But let me digress.

Speeding through the french countryside on the Eurostar is an experience to have. I still find it wonderous after a week that trains can be both fast and ontime. Unless you accidentlly take the intercity or the stoptrien, which are still very punctual, just very slow.

I transfer out at Brussels the tune of crude tagging and red light district flitting through the windows. With the amount of grafiti in Brussels, you’d think they just discovered spray paint. The fields are at this point green still, ringed occasionally with rime.

I check my luggage at the hotel, and go to get some food, and rent a bike.You have to have a bike here, everyone rides one. They seperate bike lines nearly everywhere, and they are simply indespensible. Unless it snows. And happens to ice over. Then we still ride for a while. Just for the sport of it, and adrenaline thrill of maybe winding up underneath the wheels of a tram.

I retire early and get up to go to Weesp/Muiden and Naarden in the morning.

Weesp.

Nothing really here. Church maybe?

Muiden



Home of the Muidenslot, a castle. Nicely preserved, moat and all that. Long winding stairs where you can look out the ramparts. Good little town as well, the main row of shops I called “Expat’s Row” due to most of the people I met their having accents. A Boston, North Carolina, and New York eccent to be precise. Castle was nice, went back Saturday when it was open.

Naarden: Delayed til Saturday.

Went back after a day in the countryside, and found a nice coffee shop. Good experience. Too bad it’s going to go away for foriegners because a bunch of louts like to get liquored up, high and then look for trouble. I mean there are simply much better things to do. Like Amsterdam golf.

Amsterdam golf it’s a pretty simple game:

– First look up on google how many tram stops it takes to get from a cofeeshop to your hotel.

– Then take the tram to said  coffee shop.

– Proceed to defile your mind for a couple of hours.

– Then, try to find your hotel.

– At every tram stop you get off on before you hotel, drop a pin on google maps.

– See how close these numbers are.

My current record is 8 tram stops on what should have been a hop on and hop off. It’s important to take every move with conviction. It’s very important not to let people know that you are very, very bent right now. So bent you are actively thinking of how to re-incarnate their rabbit skin purse because… fuck, lets face it, we can’t remember right now, but the thought is the important thing right?

Which leads us on to our next point:

You know that point when you realize you are two high? When the burnt sienna blankets look like fucking blaze orange sherbert? And you make a point of telling yourself, out loud, so you make sure you fucking get it:

“I am way toooooo fucking high for this shit”

This realization came at the entrance to the vondel park, when I realized I was riding my bike on a dirt path over ice. My brain does that nice little tree dance where I can see all of the likely failure modes of this surface, and realizes none of them are good. I make a terse mental note…. “I’m way too fucking high for this shit.” I don’t fall, but I do walk my bike up the steps to the left to get back on a pathed bike path.

Knock on wood, I haven’t fallen on bikes. I tend not to fall. I have been riding on ice for two days, and no falls. Too many years riding two wheel transports for so long and so far have done something usefull I guess. That, or I’m going to get run over my a tram tomorrow after slipping.

Thursday:

Tram stops needed: 0. Tram stops taken: 8. Weesp, Muiden, rained, poured, frozen. Dampkring.

Friday:

We start out day out with a trip to Albert Cryp Market, which is really just a close off section of Albert Cruyp Straat full of markets. Buy another hat after losing the first one god knows where.

I stop for frites with mayo at one of the vendor stalls, which is magnificent. Later, Haring with a pickle, and some diced onions on top of it, also very good. I would be partial to slightly less onions next time, but very good.

I love these kind of open air markets. They are just amazing. I wish ours weren’t so fair weather, and we had a better street market tradition in our country.

I find a couple of Christmas markets. There are food stalls, people sellings all kinds of wonderful things. Ollieball, Bratwurst, Poffertjes. Poffertjes are now my new favorite thing. Especially with Belgian chocolate, and powdered sugar. Made just right on a cast iron grill and eaten standside in the cold. Perfection. I may have to stalk the Poffertjes lady and get some more in an hour. Oh, I cannot emphasize how good these things are.

I come back for seconds after visiting Barney’s Lounge. Nice atmosphere, good stuff, get into a long discussion with a couple of programmers in the rear about functional vs. high concept programming. Incidently I believe helped them cheat on their coursework by showing them how their particular issue would be solved in the real world vs. how they were being taught to solve it.

Tram Stops needed 2. Tram stops taken 3. Barney’s Lounge.

Saturday:

Back to Naarden and Muiden to take in the stuff that wasn’t open, or I that I couldn’t stand being out in the cold for. Muidenslot is decently cool, crazy stair places, and icy catwalk hijinx. Old fishing boats  float in the canal as I walk along side.
Muiden has the best Kibbeling that I have found hands down. In back of the main row of houses, their is a fort type museum, currently under construction. The fish shop there has Kibbeling, Haring, etc, etc. Amazing. Done just perfectly with that seasoned type salt, and your choice of sauce. Perfection.

Note to the wise:

Do not stop in Bussum. Do not stop in Bussum as the people are rude, the train station unstaffed, and it’s a really bad place to realize the train won’t let you check in without 20 urr credit. So we steal the ride after no one was willing to give change to top up at the machines, and our non chip and pin card doesn’t work. Which is something I will have to fix before I come here in the spring… I need a chip and pin card before I have the bike over here for unattended gas stations and kiosks. Just have to find a bank that will let me open remotely and without residency.

Narden:

Good Market, excellent cheese and fish shop. Good sausage shop as well. Nice shops intown without being that touristy. Nice naval fort as well. Did this on Saturday after getting rained out on Thursday.

Tram stops needed 1, Tram stops taken: 1.

Reflections:

London and the surrounds were amazing. There is an indescribable sense of community in England I cannot adequately do justice. This feeling of we are all in it together, a shared committment to most rules, and an obligation to make things flow. At least coming from this side of the pond there is.

My time there was passed in my usual way. One day per city, plus travel. A fast tour. I am never one to stay long. For me, the journey is the thing. The journey is always the thing. I’ve down 500 mile RTE’s (Ride to Eats.)  for the perfect smoked whitefish paste. The experience sublime, only once rough section (Do to construction, Kings Cross and St. Pancras are seperated by an ocean. A bad ocean to cross with luggage.).

Amsterdam was an experience an abrupt cultural shift.

They do things differently here. Bikes, hard bike lanes, a language that is enough like yours that you get what people are saying 5 seconds later, but that’s not quick enough.

Amsterdam is also the longest I have stayed in a city on a trip, ever. Everyone seems to do the destination tourism. I never have. But I decided that life it too short not to try it once. Little side trips during the day, Christmas markets and hash shops at night. I enjoyed it immensely on a certain level. But 5 days is too long for me. I could have been gone after 3 days and had just as good of a time.
Because the journey is the thing.

The open road on different continents.

The smell of the dust in the air, the soil through your finger tips.

Snapping the visor open for a second to get a better taste of the air in this country/state/country/continent is like.

That turn in the Sierras where the view is just … so perfect.

Tuolumne in the deep summer.

The view down Boreas Pass.

Irish Hills, MI.

That flat stretch of 120mph delight south of Billy the Kid’s grave in NM.

The VLA @ 2 a.m. listening into eternity.

Marvelling at the internal checkpoints of Los Alamos, The US’s most classified town.

Finding that 10 miles south of Panamint Springs, there is indeed a mint pan from the pun in our dreams, that should not  exist.

South Dakota’s Buffalo gap during the magic hour.

Finding the last bag of chili’s in Hatch NM at 3:00a.m. after your fellow competitors have bought all the rest.

Riding though the Vondelpark.
The journey is the thing.

We will return to Europe in the summer, under the wings of a nice Honda, and do it properly.

It was fun this time. I’ve had my european christmas time vacation. But at heart, I am a tourer, not a tourist. And when the need strikes, I need to hit the road as long as there is a road. Wrapped in 30 pounds of Kevlar and leather, visor down, head up, running from the clutches of father time. Because without it, I’m just another tourist. With it, I guess people think I’m some kind of adventurer. Maybe they are right. But I just feel better that way.

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