English United States

Virginia and Tennessee

After short visits in Bristol and Knoxville, I’m heading towards Nashville the coming week. Because my tourist visa expires on the first of June, I have to make choices in the States that I want to visit. I’ll probably hire a car in Nashville and head to the North-West from there. If I have enough time, I would love to see Utah and Arizona.

After a long night and a big breakfast, I was physically and mentally fully ready for the Blueridge Parkway. Bill cycled with me for the first couple of miles. After he returned home, I had to do another 30 minutes of climbing, which finally brought me to the beginning of the parkway. I was prepared for a very tough road with steep climbs. Obviously, I took a picture before I started. And that was the moment when I started to climb. And that went much better than I anticipated and hoped for. The climbs were long, but not very steep, exactly the kind of exercise that I like: endurance. I had the feeling that I could go on forever, and the view was fantastic. Every now and then, I came across a viewpoint which was just to beautiful to pass. I took a lot of pictures.

During one of the climbs, I saw a black bear crossing the road. It stood still for a moment, looked me in the eyed, and ran across the road. I would’ve liked to tell a rough story about me fighting the bear, followed by a night in the carcass of a horse, but I’ll leave that up to Mr. DiCaprio. This bear just crossed the road. At 2 PM in the afternoon, I was already at the exit of the campground. I didn’t want to stop. I knew that the weather was gonna be worse tomorrow, so I decided to continue. It eventually became my longest distance so far, which is not very logical when you consider that I cycled through the mountains. Just before 6 PM, I arrived at the first campground of my trip (where they didn’t send me away…). After a hot shower, I immediately fell asleep in my comfortable sleeping bag. When I woke up the next day, my tent was covered in snow. It was much worse than they had predicted. It was about 2 inches of snow, much worse than they predicted. The parway was closed….

The parkway was closed and I didn’t feel comfortable cycling around the gate. I decided to bypass the parkway and take a detour instead. I didn’t regret that decision because while I was cycling in the valley, I couldn’t even see the top of the mountains. That basically meant that I would’ve climbed for hours to end up in the clouds. I anticipated to cycle the parkway for three days, but this turned out to be just one. dayI was one day ahead of my estimated time of arrival in Roanoke, but warmshower hosts Will and Lyndsey were still able to receive me. It was no problem all. Not long after I met them, we went to a local restaurant for their weekly trivia evening. They’ve done it for years with the same group. I thought that they were gonna play it with a small group of people, but the entire restaurant was playing. They were pretty dedicated. They were whispering the answers to each other, or they even wrote it on a piece of paper. You could tell that they had done it more often. Except for the music category, I barely knew any answers. ‘We’ eventually became 2nd, and the group was almost disappointed because they didn’t win.

Will (left of me), Lyndsey (in front of me) and friends

The next day, I left much later than I actually wanted. Lyndsey and Will were already working. They gave me their spare key and I could leave whenever I wanted. Yesterday, I didn’t even know them. Today, they trust me with the key of their house. I like it. At the end of a sunny cycling day, I spotted a very nice church on top of a hill. I didn’t feel like cycling much more, especially because I was cycling on a pretty busy and unpleasant road. The view was very nice and it was so quiet compared to the road. Suddenly, a lot of cars arrived at the church. Apparently, they had their weekly committee meeting. I talked to an older women and after a while, I asked if it was ok if I pitched up my tent on their field for the night. It was not a problem and this was the beatuiful view that I had:

The next day was the first day that I didn’t really enjoy. I was cycling towards Knoxville and I was kind of stuck to one boring road which was near a very busy interstate road. The strong headwind didn’t make it much better. A lot of people advised me not to randomly pitch up my tent at someone’s property, since that is not very appreciated. I asked to several people if it was ok to pitch up my tent in their gigantic yards. A lot refused. They seemed to be afraid of me, or at least very careful. A women even locked her door while she refilled my bottle with some water. Eventually, I luckily found a young guy who said that it was no problem at all. I even had the luxury to use the wifi connection inside my tent, which allowed me to have a look at the potential next destination. I sent a message via warmshowers. Ben and Anne, living in Bristol, replied within an hour, saying that they were happy to host me tomorrow. I was really glad to know that I had a goal for the next day. That made the even stronger headwind bearable. Downtown Bristol was really enjoyable, it’s kind of old-fashioned and it was busier than normal, as they organize a NASCAR race this week.

Het ‘platte’ land

After meeting Ben and Anne, Ben enthusiastically told me about the history of the city. Apparently, Bristol has been really important in the development of country music. Everybody knows Nashville and its musical heritage, but the actual birthplace of country music is right here, in Bristol. They even have a museum about it, which Ben and Anne support. They received a lot of tickets for their support, and they gave one to me. Ben took me to the museum the next day, which was deserted, probably because of the summer weather. Later in the afternoon, we did a nice hike in a forest near their house. There is an owl in the garden of Anne and Ben, and Ben feeds the owl with some mice every now and then. I managed to capture a nice shot of the owl ‘catching’ the mouse.

Virginia on the left, Tennessee on the right
Anne en Ben
Ben vs. Uil

The next day, I left for my last 120 miles towards Knoxville. The weather was fantastic, so I broke the record of my longest distance so far (90 miles), because I knew tomorrow was gonna be rainy. That worked out perfectly, I was in Knoxville before the rain began to pour. Knoxville is, similar to Bristol, pretty old-fashioned and furthermore so much smaller than I expected.

English United States

The last part of the East Coast

The real winter seems to be finally over, I can almost state that spring has sprung. After paying a visit in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., I’m going to leave the East Coast and head towards the South-West. I have the first climb challenge ahead of me: The Blueridge Parkway. It will probably be peanuts compared to what awaits me in South-America, but a mountain is a mountain.

The airbnb location in Philadelphia was fine, I could easily walk to the city center. I had no idea what Philadelphia had to offer, I actually only knew it by name. I was really surprised whne I found it about the important role the city played in the US history and that it even was the capital for a decade. In the afternoon, I went to an exhibition called ‘money in motion’. It was about the history of the money in the USA and about The Banking System, pretty interesting! The tours through the Independence hall were already sold out for the day, so I had to come back for that tomorrow. I did visit the famous liberty bell, of which they don’t even know whether it actually rang when the independence was declared….

The Liberty bell

The next day was my only full day to spend in Philly, and I’ve spent it well. In half an hour, I was in the city again and immediately got myself a ticket for a tour through the Independence hall, although I had to wait for over an hour. In the meantime, I’ve seen the first bank of America, as well as the famous Carpenter hall. The tour through Independence hall was really impressive, it’s a strange idea that a group of bright people decided here to unite as colonists among each other (although in separate states/counties), apart from the United Kingdom. After this tour, I went to the Benjamin Franklin museum, the huge city hall and (inevitably) went to the Rocky Steps.

Independence Hall

I saw that Philly’s NBA team, the 76ers, played against the New-York Knicks tonight. Last minute, I decided to buy a ticket and I eventually printed it in a huge public library. I’m personally not a big fan of basketball, but I really enjoyed the experience of going to an NBA game. To me, it felt really American. The anthem beforehand, every second was used for commercial purposes and a lot of entertainment. Every inch around the stadium was filled with placed where you could buy food, but there were still lots of people that were carrying cola, candyflosses or popcorn to bring it directly to your seat. I could not believe my eyes!

The Wells Fargo Center, the stadium of the 76ers

The next morning, I started with the first of three cycling days which brought me to Washington D.C. I noticed that the suburbs of Philadelphia were in stark contrast with the historic city center, it did not look very pretty. After the end of the first day, I found a very nice place along the side of a road. The road was very quiet, with horses and carriages as the only exception. I later heard that those people were Amish, I didn’t even know about them. Relatively many Amish live here (in Pennsylvania) and they live like they used to live centuries ago. No smartphones, no computer, no tv, no cars, nothing of these technological advances.

Views on the quiet road

The next day, I deliberately chose to skip Baltimore, because a lot of people have told be that it is not a very nice city. My route towards Washington kind of went through a part of the city, and I quickly realized that I made the right decision. I stopped for only 2 minutes to buy an energy drink, when a guy approached me and asked me if I wanted to buy cocaine. I thanked him for his kind offer and quickly moved on. My perfectly mapped out route went via route 29, which would bring me right in the heart of D.C. I proudly made a picture of the sign right before the entrance of the route when I noticed that bikes were prohibited…. Shit! That meant a big detour. The original 50 miles turned into 70 miles, but I made it before it was dark. I met Robert, Claire and baby Elise. I was about to sleep here for two nights and another night at an Airbnb adres.

Claire, Elise and Robert

During Easter, I walked towards the city center. The National Mall was busier than I expected. I had a good timing to visit the city, because it was in the middle of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a festival celebrate the friendship between the US and Japan. It’s also a good indicator that it’s becoming Spring! Similar to New-York, I was really surprised about the size of everything. I decided to buy a ticket to be able to use a city bike for three days, because I hadn’t cycled enough already. In the evening, I cycled to all the memorial monuments, because they’re open 24 hours per day. Very impressive monuments.

Everybody wants to take their picture with the blossom trees.

The George Washington monument with the Capitol in the background

The next day, I transported my stuff to the next address, a fine Airbnb adres which was like a hostel with bunker beds. If I would’ve gone to the city early in the morning, I would’ve had a good chance to spot Donald Trump during the annual white house easter egg roll, but I wasn’t that keen on seeing him. I skipped. Instead, I went to multiple museums, the Capitol, a gallery and a botanical garden. With my aviation background, I obviously went to the National Air and Space museum. The original aircraft that was used by the Wright brothers for the first flight is located right here. Only a century ago. Look where aviation is right now! That’s unimaginable, right? In the evening, I went to a Michigan bar to watch the March Madness finals in which Michigan took part. Unfortunately, Michigan didn’t have a chance to win, the bar was awfully quiet during the second half of the game.

The first aircraft (that flew)

And this is where my cycling plan ends. I knew that I was going to visit Boston, New-York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., but that’s where my plan ends. Southern Argentina is still the dot on the horizon, but the road towards this horizon is pretty open from now on. In the morning, I decided about my plan for the coming week. I decided to cycle towards the begin of the Blueridge Parkway. It’s a beautiful and challenging cycling route. If I ever want to make it over the Andes mountains, I must get some climbing experience. It took me three extremely beautiful days to get to the beginning of the Blueridge Parkway.

With -6 degrees Celsius and some snow, one last shot of winter awaits me, but I am sure that I can survive that. Maybe I will wait an extra day before starting the route, because cycling on steep and snowy roads doesn’t seem like a clever idea to me.

English United States

Visiting the city that never sleeps

After two hours of train travelling, from Poughkeepsie to New-York, I arrived at Grand Central Station. The heart of the city. It was special to meet Stacey over there, a friend from the Netherlands who was in New-York for a couple of days to work at a UN conference. Stacey stayed at a fancy hotel which was in/beside the train station. I could park my bike in her hotelroom in the afternoon as I could not yet go to the apartment where I was staying. Just like in Boston, I wanted to walk through the city center in the afternoon. It turned out to be impossible, as New-York is just way too big to walk through in one afternoon. What a huge city! The endless avenues with skyscrapers were really impressive. At the end of the afternoon, I walked through Central park towards Times Square. It felt surreal to be there. After Stacey finished her work, we met at Times Square and drank something at a fancy place. Afterwards, that unfortunately turned out to be the only moment when Stacey and I met. She had to work the entire days in the days that followed, and we didn’t get to meet each other in the evenings. Around midnight, I cycled from Grand Central towards my accommodation in the middle of China Town in downtown Manhattan. I met Eric over here, Eric’s from Michigan, studied in New-Hampshire and lives and works for a couple of years in New York as a business consultant.

View over the Hudson river during the train journey to NYC
Meeting Stacey at Grand Central
Some leftovers of the snow storm in Central Park
Times Square

I spent the first full day in New-York as a real tourist. Early in the morning, I got my hop-on-hop-off ticket for one of those red sightseeing busses. I’ve been on multiple busses for a long time, and I think I got an information overload, as I fell asleep during the last bus tour that I wanted to do. Furthermore, I’ve been to Wallstreet and to a couple of national museums.

This picture made me realise that my journey just started

9/11 Memorial

After a strange Chinese breakfast with Eric, I took the last remaining bustour which went towards Brooklyn. While I was waiting for the bus to leave, I met Emi, an Indonesian women. She spent a couple of days in New-York before continuing her journey towards the Niagara Falls and California. We started talking and eventually spend the next days together. After the bus tour, we had a nice lunch and went to the 9/11 memorial site. Very impressive. Emi is pretty addicted to social media and she wanted to take selfies of basically everything. I didn’t want to take a selfie of the memorial because I think it’s not appropriate. She didn’t seem to hear me and continued her selfie-session. At the end of the afternoon, we got to the top of the One World Trade Center. We took the perfect day and time, because we could see NYC between while it was still daylight and while it was pitch dark. The helicopter perspective gives you a clear idea of how big New York is.

View over Manhattan
View towards the sunset, over New Jersey

After this impressive view, Emi, Eric and I went to a local restaurant with a lot of supporters for the Michigan basketball team. It’s currently March Madness, a well-known basketball tournament with teams composed from universities.

Emi and I met the following morning to go to the statue of liberty, we got our tickets yesterday. As Emi bought them earlier on the day, she also had the right to go to the the pedestal, including a small museum. Luckily, I was able to bluff myself to the pedestal. Every day, only a couple of hundreds of people are allowed to actually climb the statue, that’s something you have to book months in advance. It’s already sold out until August! After we had seen Lady Liberty, we took the ferry to Ellis Island, the location where millions of immigrants used to arrive. In a register, I checked whether I had distant relatives that sought their happiness in the US. Unfortunatly, no hits…. After we arrived in Manhattan, I said goodbye to Emi. I wanted to plan a couple of days in advance. I was leaving the next day, and I still had no clue where I was going. The last evening, Eric, two friends and I went out for dinner. I’m starting to get better at eating with chopsticks. It’s pretty ironic that I’m learning this in New-York.

Emi during one of her selfie sessions

The next morning, I thanked Eric for the great time in New-York. It’s too bad that I didn’t take a picture of him. I told him that, besides the touristic attractions, I really have the feeling that I know what it’s like to live in New-York, or at least in China Town. He had to go to work at 7, I left his apartment not much later. My plan was to take the ferry to Belford. The information signs at the terminal didn’t make any sense, so I eventually boarded the wrong ferry. I was afraid that I had missed the last morning-ferry to Belford, but I was still able to make it. And another blessing in disguise, I met the kind NY Waterway’s employees Kevin and Illario on the wrong ferry. Kevin took some pictures of my entire gear with the New-York skyscrapers in the background. Great memories!

I unfortunately lost one of my gloves on the ferry, but let’s assume that I won’t need them anymore! I had a big tailwind, so I could’ve reached Philadelphia in one day, but I had booked my Airbnb location for the next day. I decided to pitch up my tent in the Rancocas State Park, the last opportunity before it gets too busy. I’ll stay here for the coming two nights before I’ll make a big detour towards Washington D.C.!


We have got another nor’easter coming

I’m sorry for the delay! i’ve had a couple of long, pretty cold, days behind me with no possiblity to update my blog. in the meantime, I’m past Boston already and almost in New-York already. Hereby I present you my story of the last week. Some pictures take ages to load, by the way. Hope it’s a temporary issue.

In the morning, Douglas gave me a sightseeing tour through Portland and he showed me the most beautiful parts of the city. Portland is the biggest city of Maine and the biggest city that I’ve been to so far. It is the first city that’s actually alive despite the winter season, in my opinion. In a bicycle shop, I bought new tubes, because I had another flat tire (again, just before arriving at my destination). After fixing my tube, it was time to say goodbye.

After 70 kilometers, I had another flat tire…. Extremely frustrating. I didn’t feel like fixing it on the side of the road, so I decided to go inside the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (what a mouthful). Over here, I fixed my fourth flat tire. After I just finished, a women arrived in the park for a quick hike, Janssen. It’s a common last name in the Netherlands, but she wasn’t Dutch. She gave me two frozen vegetarian burgers to prepare tonight. Nice! When I went to the public toilet of the park, I noticed how big and clean it was. I decided to sleep over there. It saves me a lot of time: pitching up and breaking down the tent. I felt like a criminal, as the park closes when it’s dark. Luckily, the park was so deserted that nobody spotted me. To reach the toilet, you had to walk through a thick layer of snow, so it wasn’t very surprising to stay unnoticed. Two vega-burgers and some energy bars completed my nutritious dinner.

Technical issues, with a beautiful public toilet in the background 🙂

With a refreshed mind, I started the next day full of energy (and with a new tube). I began my journey towards Salisbury, where I was about to sleep one night at Matthew’s place. After only one hour, I had flat tire number 5. This doesn’t make any sense. I decided to replace both the tube and the tire itself, should’ve done that 3 tubes earlier. The weather and view were astonishing, so that was a good compromise for my technical issues. I was looking for a shop to buy some postcards of Maine when I realized that I wasn’t in Maine anymore. Within 30 kilometers, I cycled via New Hampshire towards Masschusetts.

On the last possible moment, I took a picture of the flag of Maine and the US
Although it was only for a short distance, the boulevard of New Hampshire was beautiful

At the end of the afternoon, I met Matthew in Salisbury. He lives in a small but very cosy apartment near the beach. He introduced me to his girlfriend Monica and her son Ian, they both live in another apartment one floor below Matt. Matt took me out for dinner, together with Monica and Ian. The restaurant was very nice. When we returned at his apartment, a snowstorm started that was even heavier than the one I had a couple of days before. ‘We got another nor’easter coming’, is what they told me. During the night and day, it snowed and stormed heavily. About 1,5 foot of snow came down. Impossible to cycle in. I could stay as long as I wanted, said Matt. Because of the weather, we had a lazy day. A kind of Sunday or a kind of day when you’re sick. School had called Ian, he didn’t need to go to school. Despite the lazy day, we enjoyed ourselves with some games and a short walk on the beach. At the beach, you could see how high the pile of snow was:

Ian and I in the huge pile of snow

Matt, Monica, Ian and I could get along with each other very well and there was still a lot of snow the next day. 1+1 = 2. I stayed another day. I arranged accommodation in Boston today and we went out with the dogs again. I don’t know how Matt and Monica did it, but within the 3 days I know them, they really made me feel at home. I was really sad when I had to leave again, but it was time to move on.

Matt, Ian, dogs Pepper and Vader, and I
Monica and Ian

The route from Salisbury to Boston was not very comfortable, because I had to stop in front of 10000 traffic lights. The 75 kilometers consisted of connected towns. Salisbury, the place I stayed the last couple of days, is considered to be Northern Boston. As if the place I live(d) in the Netherlands, Schagen, is considered to be Northern Amsterdam. Unimaginable! The coming nights, I slept in Cambridge, west of downtown Boston. At my first address, I met Grace. She took me to Harvard University, because I really wanted to visit it. It was deserted because if the spring break. It’s cool to have been there, but it was (in my opnion) not very special. It was a collection of beautiful brick buildings, but nothing more than that. Mainly the output of the university is impressive.

Grace and I

The next day, I met Scott, another address of the warmshower community. I really like the concept of warmshowers, because it is more about sharing rather than your individual possessions. I took Scott out for dinner and we talked about his bicycle tour through the US. Interesting to hear how he experiences some things. In the afternoon, I went to the MIT museum, the Boston tea party boats and just walked the entire day through the city center.

De skyline of Boston

On Saturday, on St. Patricks’ day, I went to the city center early. Throughout the city, people were wearing green clothes because of this holiday. Michel from the Netherlands recommended me to walk the Freedom trail, so that’s what I’ve done. I had booked a guided tour. A guide told us enthusiastically about the history of the city with a lot of information about the American revolution. Very interesting. After the tour, I met Scott again in the city. We were about to go to the USS constitution, but eventually went to the Buner Hill Monument, where we walked all 300 steps to the top to get a nice view over the city.

The skyline, while being part of the skyline

Candy en Scott, with Scott’s bike trip through the US in the background

The coming days, it’s gonna be pretty cold with yet another nor’easter coming. I hope to arrive in New York on the 22nd of March. I’ll probably cheat the last part, as it’s much more convenient to do this by train. Forgive me!


Let us make America great again

Gary and Helen both had appointments on Sunday, so we said goodbye early in the morning. Not much later, I left their house, fully equipped, and went twoards the US border. About 2 minutes cycling… Like 150 feet before the border crossing, I realised that I forgot my helmet. Luckily, I was still able to return. When I got my helmet and returned to the US border for the second time, I parked my bicycle at the CBP office and went inside. A sullen customs officer greeted me and I gave him al my documents. As expected, he asked me a lot of question. I showed him my maps of the American Cycling Association, my vaccionation passport and told him that a lot of people could verify my story. I could see that his co-workers were kind of convinced a.nd made gestures to the man to let me in. He didn’t seem impressed. He asked me how I could support myself financially. I told him about my savings, but couldn’t proof it because there was not wi-fi in the building, and I didn’t bring any printed evidence. Obviously, they’re paranoid for potential hacks. Furthermore, the guy thought that my route was very unclear. It actually is unclear, because I don’t know yet where I’m going to cycle and where I will stay. They sent me back to Canada. I had to bring more evidence about my financial position and think of a more concrete route. Especially the financial thing was very important. Less than an hour later, I returned with some printed evidence. A young women greetedme this time. She looked much more relaxed than the other guy. I showed her my printed evidence of my savings and that was sufficient. They barely checked my baggage. Finally in the US! This has taken me almost half a day, so I couldn’t cycle a lot. I didn’t really care, at least I made it to the states. Obviously, the first thing you do when you enter the United States is going to a McDonald’s to get a hamburger, so that’s what I did. When I started cycling, I immediately noticed that Maine is much more open than New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. There are still a lot of trees, but it looks more spacious. At the end of the afternoon, I pitched up my tent in the middle of a random forest, part of the moosehorn national wildlife refuge.

I had the honor to see this sign three times!
Random Forest

The next day, I was planning to cycle only a short distance to Machias, but the wind was very beneficial so I just had to continue. Eventually, I cycled like of 90 kilometers without a lot of effort, with a couple of nice views of the blueberry fields. I ended up in Cherryfield, at an organic blueberry farm. I met Mark and Lisa here. Because of the winter, it wasn’t really crowded this time of the year. They told me that in the summer, up to 15 people would live in their house. Enthusiastically, they told me about their blueberries. Because there is a surplus of blueberries, a lot of small-scale farms go bankrupt. Only the large-scale companies survive. Mark and Lisa, however, are really successful with their organic blueberries. However, Mark told me he knows that market will be flooded as well. That’s the way that farmers are, he told me. Before the farming life, Mark used to be an academic. He used to develop scientific research projects for which he successfully granted subsidies. He even almost got his doctor’s degree in evolutionary biology, but then realized that this wasn’t the kind of job that suited him. He took a gap year and decided to become a blueberry farmer, together with Lisa, without any knowledge. Lisa showed my where I was going to sleep tonight and I could join them for dinner: wraps! After dinner, they told me about their obsession to live a healthy life. They’re both vegan, go to bed at 8 and go out of bed at 5 for an hour of yoga. Furthermore, they exercise every single day. They’re extremely dedicated! Interesting people. They predominantly have this lifestyle becuase it makes them feel good, but the fact that they don’t have access to good health care insurance was also one of the reasons. That’s very good and sad at the same time…

Mark en Lisa

While Lisa and Mark where already awake for three hours, I eventually wokeup at 8. They had already completed their yoga and they were preparing to run. I had to have breakfast alone, as they had this new experiment where they would only eat between 11 and 5. Don’t ask me why, but it must have something to do with living healthy. We said goodbye to each other and off I went. It’s still pretty strange that I meet all these interesting people for only one day, before I move on and probably never see then again. After 15 minutes of cycling, I got a flat tire. I didn’t matter to me that much, it was sunny and dry. Half an hour later, I was cycling again. I wanted to cycle to Belfast in two days, since it was going to snow pretty badly later this week. I cycled across a lot of Dunking Donut’s and decided to buy a donut at the store. I really had the intention to buy just one donut, but I ended up buying a box of them. Just too tempting… At the end of the afternoon, I asked to pitch up my tent in someone’s backyard. They proposed to sleep in their garage, so that’s what I’ve done. I noticed that there are more differences in Canada and the US than just the view. The garage, bigger than most houses in the Netherlands, were stacked with bulllets. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of bullets. Everywhere were you looked, bullets, it was insane!

The next morning, I heard that a heavy snow storm was starting at the end of the afternoon, so I had the entire day to cycle a very snort distance to Belfast. On the way to Belfast, a guy shouted to me that I should come to have a coffee. He offered me a sandwich and coffee at his gas station. He was impressed about my cycling plans and gave me some advice about potential bicycle routes. 15 minutes later, I left again. I wasn’t surprised about the fact that the maritime museum, that I wanted to visit, was closed. Maine is a vacation state and people have told me that there are a lot of people here that have two houses. One in maine and one in Florida. During the summer, they’re in Maine. In the winter, they’re in Florida. So Maine looks pretty deserted to me with all their closed shops. Luckily, the nature doesn’t have a keyhole.

Before it started to snow, I was already at my Airbnb address. I met Austin and Will, both creative and eccentric people, to name it that way. The smell of weed has become part of the house, you would smell it even when nobody was smoking. In the afternoon, I walked through Belfast. In my opinion, it looked pretty grey and dead, like most places in Maine that have their hibernation. After the snow storm, I decided to make the same walk. What a difference:

In the next two days, I cycled to Portland via Wiscasset. The route mainly consisted of the boring route 1 with a lot of traffic. I’m pretty much done with that. I met Douglasd Darby in Portland, a real cyclist. Ray, a friend of Douglas, joined and we drank a beer together. I was nearly drunk by the couple of Heineken’s. I costed me a lot of effore, but I eventually updated y blog. The next week, I’ll go towards Boston, where I’ll maybe stay for a couple of nights, depending on the weather and the things to see.


Langzaam maar zeker richting Amerika

Langzaam maar zeker richting Amerika


Nadat ik Charles en Carol bedankte voor hun gastvrijheid en vrijgevigheid, verliet ik Amherst met een tas vol chocola, pinda’s, energierepen en koek (ik mocht niet dunner worden dan ik nu al was). Niet normaal! Ik had een airbnb geregeld in Salisbury. Onderweg kocht ik nog wat van die gevriesdroogde maaltijden waarvoor je alleen wat water hoeft te koken. Na een kilometer of 75 begonnen mijn beide knieën ineens veel pijn te doen, niet veel later moest ik tot twee keer toe noodgedwongen stoppen. Heel slecht teken. 110 kilometer bleek toch iets te enthousiast. De accommodatie was dan weer wel te gek, een soort boomhut. De nieuwe bewoners van de boerderij, Kathryn en Paul, vertelde me dat het eigenlijk een super-de-luxe jagershut was, inclusief verwarming en toilet…. Het enige wat miste was wifi, maar dat had ook wel weer z’n charme.

Wellicht een van de redenen voor mijn kniepijn…
De luxe jagers- en/of boomhut
De nieuwe eignenaren van de boerderij, Kathryn en Paul

Ik voelde er weinig voor om hier te blijven om mijn knieën rust te geven, ik wilde zo snel mogelijk richting Saint John gaan fietsen. De 120 kilometer besloot ik te verspreiden over twee dagen. Met een verlaagd zadel besloot ik het toch maar gewoon te proberen, zonder gebruik te maken van mijn klikpedalen. Met een frustrerende slakkengang heb ik uiteindelijk 60 km afgelegd. Daar vond ik een te gekke wildkampeer plek, vlak bij Apoqui. ’s Nachts hoorde ik, in mijn beleving niet heel ver weg, de coyote’s janken. Best een duister geluid.

Een prachtige plaats om wild te kamperen, vlak bij Apohaqui
The bright side of the moon

Vervolgens fietste ik, wederom in de schildpadden-stand, richting Saint-John. Ik had een airbnb gereserveerd en belandde in een woning van een Chinese jongedame. Ze is in Beijing afgestudeerd als websitebouwer en tot nu toe tevergeefs op zoek naar werk in Saint-John. Ik denk dat de airbnb voor haar een noodzakelijke kleine bron van inkomen is, alhoewel ze aangaf het vooral te doen om nieuwe mensen te leren kennen. Na de gebruikelijke rondleiding in huis is ze haar kamer ingedoken en heb ik haar niet meer gezien…. Misschien wilde ze me gewoon niet leren kennen, dat kan natuurlijk ook.

Ik speel al enige tijd met het idee in mijn hoofd om een mondharmonica te kopen. Het lijkt me vet om daar een expert in te worden terwijl ik onderweg ben. Google Maps liet me de dichtstbijzijnde muziekwinkel zien. Op aanraden van de verkoper kocht ik een van de simpelste modellen. Alles wat ik nodig had als beginneling!

Mijn nieuwe aanwinst! Geen idee waarom ik hier een selfie van heb gemaakt…

Toen ik wilde gaan starten met fietsen begon het flink te sneeuwen, niet heel relaxed aangezien ik langs de snelweg moest fietsen. Het weer maakte me vrij weinig uit, want ik had flinke meewind en op die manier kon ik toch iets van 80 kilometer afleggen zonder veel inspanning. Ik kampeerde weer in ’t wild op een behoorlijk ijzige ondergrond. Met veel pijn en moeite sloeg ik met een baksteen, die op me lag te wachten, de haringen in de grond.

Ik wil hier snelweg
Windje mee!
Prachtige velden waar ze blauwe bessen verbouwen
Kamperen als Bear Grylls

Vanwege de meevaller van gisteren hoefde ik nog maar een 50 kilometer richting Saint Stephen, de grensplaats vóór de VS, waar ik een rustdag zal houden. Mijn knieën gaan de goede kant op. Ondanks dat het slechts 50 kilometer was, voelde het alsof er geen einde aan kwam. Alsof je je mentaal op de afstand instelt. Een paar honderd meter voor het adres waar ik zal verblijven kreeg ik een lekke band, een betere timing kun je je haast niet voorstellen. Ik kon het lek op m’n gemak dichten in de garage en heb gelijk wat andere kleine dingetjes gefixt. Hier heb ik Helen en Gary ontmoet. Helen is thuiszorgmedewerker en Gary is een ZZP’er als timmerman. Ondanks dat het weekend is zijn ze beiden aan het werk. Op mijn rustdag heb ik het hier bekende chocolademuseum bezocht en heb ik Gary geholpen een raampje in de badkamer van hun tweede huis te zetten. Weer wat bijgeleerd! Gary heeft 90% gedaan, maar toch voelde het als een hele prestatie! Gary en Helen hebben me ’s avonds uitgenodigd voor een etentje en op aanraden van Helen heb ik lobster gegeten. Dat moest ik gewoon gegeten hebben voor ik Canada verlaat. Als alles goed gaat passeer ik morgen de grens met de VS en ga ik een nieuw hoofdstuk in!

Beste timing ooit voor een lekke band
Het nieuwe raampje!
Gary en Helen, voor Gary’s persoonlijke held Nick Cave

Slowly but steadily approaching the US border


After I thanked Charles and Carol for their hospitality and generosity, left Amherst with a bag full of chocolate, pinda’s, energy bars and cookies (I wasn’t allowed to get any skinnier than I was now). I booked an Airbnb in Salisbury. On the way, I bought some additional freeze-dried meals in Moncton that only require you to add some boiled water. After 75 kilometers, my knees started to hurt. Not much later, I had to stop twice as the pain was too hard to handle. Not so good… 110 Kilometers turned out to be a bit too enthousiastic. The accommodation was really cool. It was some kind of tree-house. The new owners of the farm, Kathryn and Paul, told me that it was actually a super-de-luxe cabin for hunters, including a toilet, electricity and warmth. Wi-Fi was the only thing missing, although that had it’s charm as well.

This might have been one of the reasons of my knee pain…
The hunter cabin/tree-house
The owners of the farm, Kathryn and Paul

I didn’t feel like staying here to give me knees some rest, I wanted to get to Saint John as quickly as possible. I decided to split the 120 kilometers distance in two days. With a lowered saddle, I decided to just try it out. Furthermore, I decided not to use the SPD-click pedals. With a frustrating low pace, I eventually pedaled 60 km. I found a nice place to camp in the wild there, near Apohaqui. At night, I could hear the coyote’s howling, a pretty neat sound.

Wild camping near Apohaqui
The bright side of the moon

The next day, I cycled (again slowly), towards Saint-John where I booked an Airbnb. I ended up in the house of a Chines lady. She graduated in Beijing as a web developer and was looking for work in Saint-John for some months now, but hadn’t succeeded so far. I therefore think that Airbnb is an important (althoug small) source of income for her, although she said she predominantly does it to meet new people from other countries. After the common tour through her house, she went to her room and I haven’t seen her afterwards…. Maybe she just didn’t want to mee me, that’s also a possibility of course :-).

For some time now, I have the idea to buy an harmonica as I thought it is a cool idea to buy one here and become an expert along the way. Google Maps showed me where some music shops were and the seller recommended me to buy one of the simplest ones. All I needed as a beginner, he told me.

Me and my brand new instrument, not sure why I took a selfie

When I started cycling, it started to snow pretty badly. This wasn’t really relaxed, as I had to cycle on the highway with all the snow plowers. Luckily, no dangerous situation occurred. One major advantage: I had a tailwind. Because of the tailwind, I could cycle almost 80 kilometers without much effort. I camped in the wild again on an icy surface. I had to use a brick to get my tent pegs in the ground.

Cycling on the highway with snow
Beatiful scenery along the way
Camping in the snow

Because of the 80 km I could cycle yesterday, I only had to cycle like 50 km the next day towards St. Stephen, the city near the border with the US. My knees are getting better a little bit. Despite the fact that it was only 50 km, it felt like it took forever, as if you mentally prepare for the distance you about to pedal. A couple of hundres of meters before my final destination, I got a flat tire. A better timing is almost not possible. I could easily fix the leak in the garage and fixed some other issues as well. In St. Stephen, I met Helen and Gary. Helen works as a home care taker, and Gary as a carpenter. On my rest day, I visited the well-known chocolate factory of Ganong and helped Gary to put a new small window in the bathroom of their second home, so I learned something new today! Although Gary did 90% of the work, I felt really proud of accomplishing it… Gary and Helen invited me over for dinner and I ate some Canadian lobster, something you gotta try when you are in the maratimes. It was extremely nice! If everything goes well, I will cross the US border tomorrow.

Fixing my flat tire in the garage
The new window!
Gary and Helen, in front of Gary’s hero Nick Cave

Fietsen door Nova Scotia

Zeven fietsdagen en een dikke 500 kilometer verder ben ik aangekomen in Amherst, waar ik een rustdag houd. Ik ben vanaf nu van plan om één keer per week, ergens in ’t weekend, wat nieuws te posten. Twee keer per week lijkt me een beetje teveel van het goeie!

Voordat ik van New Glasgow naar Truro vetrok heb ik even op Google Maps gecheckt hoe ik moest fietsen. Ik kreeg drie opties, ik koos de kortste van een kilometer of 70. Tot nu toe navigeer ik zonder smartphone, omdat het redelijk rechttoe rechtaan was. Ik onthoud de belangrijkste wegen en weet waar ik naar links of rechts moet. Vandaag lag dat net even anders. Ik had 30 kilometer afgelegd toen het asfalt er ineens mee ophield en het bovendien zeer heuvelachtig was. Zal wel een klein stukkie zijn, dacht ik nog. Onverharde wegen hoeven in principe geen probleem te zijn, maar mijn fiets zakte weg in de modderige, net ontdooide, ondergrond. Zelfs heuvelaf kostte heel veel energie, ik was niet vooruit te branden en er kwam verdomme geen einde aan die weg. De delen die niet ontdooid waren, waren bedenkt met een dikke laag ijs die zelfs met spijkerbanden veel te glad waren. Veel harder dan 6 kilometer per uur ging ik niet. Na uren zweten was ik er eindelijk uit. Het uitzicht was wel prachtig, dat dan weer wel. En ik heb geleerd dat ik niet blindelings op Google’s fiets-algoritme kan vertrouwen.

Niet bepaald comfortabele ondergrond
Het uitzicht na uren zweten

De resterende 30 kilometer gingen als een speer. Ik merk dat mijn benen veel sterker zijn geworden sinds dag 1, en helemaal na het onverharde stuk van net. In Truro sliep ik bij Nicole en Darren. Ik ben helaas vergeten een foto te nemen van Nicole en Darren, maar heb wel wat foto’s van de herten die dagelijks in hun achtertuin te zien zijn.

Nicole en ‘haar’ herten in de achtertuin, Truro

Amherst is de volgende metropool die ik aandoe, met maar liefst 10.000 inwoners. Ik ben daar in twee dagen, via Parrsboro, heen gefietst. Ik was wederom echt van plan om in het wild te gaan kamperen, maar de grond was te oneffen. Op de zeldzame vlakke delen stond de ondergrond onder water/ijs of was het te ruig. Er zat dus voor de derde keer niets anders op dan bij iemand aan te kloppen om te vragen of ik in hun tuin mocht staan. Dat was geen probleem. Ik mocht mee naar binnen, kreeg lekkere warme thee en leerde Gary en Emmily kennen. Gary vertelde dat hij als oud NAVO militair in de zwaarst denkbare omstandigheden trainde in Noorwegen. Toch leek hij heel bezorgd en bood aan om binnen te slapen. Het zou vannacht -10 worden en er zijn allemaal Coyote’s in de omgeving, een soort mini-wolven. Ik bedankte vriendelijk voor het aanbod, maar ik heb mijn eten toch maar even binnen gelegd, voor de zekerheid. Ik kreeg kussens en een soort isolatie-materiaal mee. Het is meer glamping dan camping op deze manier 😊. Ondanks de temperatuur lag ik heerlijk warm, klein minpuntje was de naar kerosine stinkende slaapzak….

Emmily en Gary

Het heeft vannacht een klein beetje gesneeuwd, maar in de ochtend begon alles al te dooien. Op tijd heb ik mijn tent weer afgebouwd en vertrok ik richting Amherst, met een ontbijtje bij Tim Horton’s als start.  De omgeving is verschrikkelijk mooi en doet me denken aan de Schotse hooglanden. Ik besef dat ik nog geen enkele dag neerslag heb gehad en de voorspellingen zien er ook gunstig uit. De weergoden zijn ongelofelijk goed voor me geweest. Ondanks de relatief vlakke rit van vandaag merk ik na 7 dagen fietsen dat mijn linkerknie behoorlijk zeer begint te doen. Een rustdag is geen slecht idee. In Nederland had ik al contact opgenomen met Charles, waar ik vannacht kon slapen. Om 3 uur ’s middags arriveerde ik op de plaats van bestemming en ontmoette ik Charles en Carol, een gepensioneerd koppel, zeer vriendelijk en gastvrij!

Hippie huis, onderweg naar Amherst
Carol and Chef Charles

Ik heb van het aanbod gebruik gemaakt om hier een dag rust te nemen, en ga maandag (morgen) weer verder. Komende week zal ik de grens met de Verenigde Staten passeren, ben erg benieuwd hoe dat allemaal verloopt.


Cycling through Nova Scotia

Seven cycling days and more than 500 kilometers further, I have arrived in Amherst where I will take a day off. From now on, I plan to post someting new once a week, around the weekdn or something. Twice a week is just a little bit too much.

Before I cycled from New Glasgow to Truro, I checked the possible routes on Google Maps. Google gave me three options, I chose the shortest one of about 70 kilometer. I haven’t really used my smartphone yet for navigating, because it’s pretty straightforward so far. I remember the most important roads and know where to go to the right or left. Today was a bit different. I had cycled about 30 kilometers when  the paved way suddenly stopped. I thought it would only be for a short piece of road. Off-road is not necessarily a problem, but my bike sank in the muddy underground that was just thawed. Even cycling downhill costed me a lot of energy, I was cycling at an extremely low pace. The parts that weren’t thawed, were covered with a thick layer of ice that was way too slippery, even with my studs on the bike. It took me hours of sweating to finally get out. The only benefit was the nice view that I had. Oh, and I learend something new: do not blindly trust Google bicycle algorithm.

It may not look like it, but this it not very comfortable to cycle on
Beautiful view after hours of sweating

The remaining 30 kilometers went really smooth, I noticed that my legs are getting stronger and stronger. In Truro, I slept at Nicol and Darren’s place, a really friendly couple. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of them. I did take some pictures of deers in their backyard, though.

Nicole and ‘her’ deers in her backyard

Amherst is the next metropole that I will go to, with more than 10.000 people(!!!). I cycled to Amherst in two days, via Parrsboro. Again, I was really planning on camping in the wild, but the ground was too uneven. The few flat spots were covered with water/ice or were just too rough. For the third time, I didn’t have a choice and had to ask someone if I could sleep in their yard. That was no problem at all. They invited me in their house, got a nice warm cup of tea and met Gary and Emmily. Gary told me that, as a former NATO soldier, he had trained in the toughest conditions you can imagine. Yet, he seemed a bit concerned about me wanting to sleep in a tent and offered me to sleep inside. He expected that it would freeze like -10 and told me that there are a bunch of coyote’s in this area, which are like mini foxes. I thanked him for the offer, but put my food in his car, just to be sure. He gave me pillow and extra isolations material for the night, it is more like glamping than camping this way. Despite the temperature, I was lying pretty comfortable, with my sleeping bag that smelled like kerosene as the only minor disadvantage….

Gary and Emmily

It snowed a little bit tonight, but it started melting already in the morning. I took down my tent and went off towards Amherst. I took a quick breakfast at Tim Horton’s. The environment was really beautiful and reminded me of the Scottish highlands. I realized that I haven’t had a single day with bad weather yet, and the forecasts are looking great as well. So far, the weather gods have been really good for me. Despite the relatively flat route, my left knee started to hurt after 7 days of cycling. I thought it would be a good idea to take a day off shortly. In the Netherlands, I had already contacted Charles and I could stay the night at his place. At 3 o clock in the afternoon, I arrived at his house and I met Charles and Carol. An extremely friendly and hospital couple, just like everybody else that I met so far. They offered me to take a day off at their house and that was just too tempting to resist.

Hippy house on my way to Amherst
I made it to Amherst!
Carol and Chef Charles

Monday, I will continue my bicycle journey towards Moncton, Saint John and eventually towards the border with the US. I am really curious about how the border crossing will be.


De eerste kilometers

Allereerst bedankt voor al jullie berichtjes die ik privé krijg en sorry dat ik vaak zo laat reageer. Ik lees alles en het geeft me energie!

Ready? Set? Go! Een uurtje nadat ik opstond was ik klaar om te gaan. Een kleine drie kilometer verder stopte ik bij de Walmart omdat ik wat kerosine nodig had voor mijn gasbrander. Als je denkt dat de Albert-Heijn XL groot is moet je eens naar de Walmart gaan… Mijn god wat een winkel. Ze verkochten geen kleine verpakkingen met kerosine, dus heb ik dit uiteindelijk bij een tankstation gehaald. Mijn testrit met bagage in Nederland viel me best wel mee, maar ik had er even geen rekening mee gehouden dat Nederland vrij uniek is qua vlakheid. De wegen waren behoorlijk heuvelachtig met enkele steile klimmetjes en dat viel vies tegen. Ik vond het lastig om een goede lichaamstemperatuur te behouden in -7. Heuvelop begon ik binnen enkele minuten te zweten terwijl de afdalingen je lichaam snel afkoelen. Ik heb rustig aangedaan en meerdere onderbrekingen genomen. Omdat het niet extreem koud was, was ik van plan om in een tent te overnachten. Nadat ik Christmas Island en Iona voorbij was gefietst vond ik het na 75 kilometer wel genoeg voor vandaag. Het was onmogelijk om te wildkamperen omdat de grond te oneffen was, dus er zat niks anders op dan te vragen of ik in iemands tuin kon kamperen. Bij het derde huis waar ik aanklopte deed er een vrouw open. Ik mocht wel in haar achtertuin slapen als ik dat wilde. Toen ik met mijn fiets richting haar achtertuin liep vroeg ze of ik wellicht in de garage wilde slapen. Geen slecht idee! Ik zette mijn fiets in de garage die vol stond met troep. Alsof ze wisten dat ik zou komen was het aangenaam warm in de garage omdat de houtkachel aanstond. Ze boden me een lekkere warme soep aan. Wederom heb ik het behoorlijk getroffen met deze slaapplaats! Nadat ik een powernap in de garage heb gedaan heb ik wat water gekookt met m’n pannetje op de houtkachel die heet genoeg was. De gevriesdroogde rijst met kip-kerrie smaakte eigenlijk nergens naar, maar vulde gelukkig wel mijn maag.

Efficiënt omgaan met de warmte 🙂
 Marguerite, Adrian en de ongelooflijk verwende en dominante hond Shadow

De volgende ochtend mocht ik mee-eten met het ontbijt, ik hielp mee om het te maken. Een soort Engels ontbijt met worst en bacon. Normaal moet ik er niet aan denken om dat ’s ochtends te eten, maar ik kon de energie wel gebruiken! Nadat ik ze bedankte voor alles was het tijd om te gaan. Ik vertelde ze dat ik naar Port Hawkesbury ging, ze raadden me aan om de 104 te nemen, een soort snelweg. Ik had het op Google Maps gezien, maar dat zou betekenen dat 75% van mijn dag bestaat uit snelweg. Dat zag ik niet echt zitten. Ik besloot een andere route te nemen waar ik ook weer van afweek. Kortom: een omweg van dik 30 kilometer. Op mijn slome tempo betekende dat een extra overnachting vóór Port Hawkesbury. Dat maakte me eigenlijk niks uit. Het weer was prachtig en de route was zoveel mooier dan langs een snelweg, zie de onderstaande foto’s als bewijs.

Ijsvissers op een zonnige feestdag, Family Day
Uitzicht over Bras d’Or Lake

Het was weer onmogelijk om wild te kamperen. Dit keer sliep ik in iemands voortuin. Ik kon in de garage slapen, maar het leek me slim om wat routine te krijgen in het opzetten van de tent en het gebruik van de gasbrander nu het weer het toestaat. Ik had een hamer nodig om de haringen in de bevroren grond te slaan.

Na een nachtrust van dik 12 uur stond ik toch met wat tegenzin op. Ik lag gewoon te lekker. Het afbouwen van de tent ging me goed af, maar toch mis ik ervaring. Klunzig als ik ben stoot ik mijn kerosine fles tot twee keer toe om met als gevolg dat de buitenkant van m’n tent een klein beetje beschadigd is… Godverd…. Antigonish is mijn volgende bestemming, een slaapplaats had ik al geregeld. De snelweg was de enige manier om er te komen, dus vandaag had ik geen keuze. Onderstaande foto laat zien hoe dat er zo’n beetje uit ziet.

Ik voel me totaal niet onveilig, maar echt relaxed is het ook weer niet. In Antigonish fietste ik rechtstreeks naar de fietswinkel waar ik zijn moet. Ik slaap in het huis van de fietsenboer, Matthieu Fraser. Hij was onder de indruk van mijn fiets en heeft ‘m meteen even nagekeken en enkele spijkertjes aangevuld. Zonder veel ijs en sneeuw slijten ze best snel. Ik overnachtte in zijn huis en ontmoette zijn vrouw, Ray, en dochtertje van 6 maanden, Claire, ontmoet. Wat een droombaby, ik heb een baby nog nooit zo vaak zien lachen!

Jack, Matthieu, Ray en Claire (sorry voor de wazigheid)

Ik begon pas met fietsen om 12 uur ’s middags, ik heb een airbnb geregeld, vlak voor New Glasgow. Het zou avontuurlijk zijn als ik niet zou weten waar ik zou overnachten, maar ik heb van tevoren al veel uitgezocht, omdat ik in het begin geen risico’s wilde nemen in de Canadese winter. Over die Canadese winter gesproken, alle warmterecords worden gebroken. Ik vond het vrij ironisch om met mijn spijkerbanden in 14 graden te fietsen… Maar ik weet zeker dat ze me later van pas zullen komen, want de temperatuur gaat weer zakken. Half 6 kwam ik aan bij Don Klein. Ik bleek de eerste gast van hun airbnb locatie te zijn, hij heeft het pas 10 dagen geleden op internet gezet. Ik slaap in soort groot tuinhuis met alles erop en eraan. Hij vond mijn fietsplannen zo bijzonder dat ik mocht mee eten. De gastvrijheid in Canada is bizar, iedereen is zo vriendelijk en het lijkt wel alsof ik overal kan aankloppen en kan mee-eten.

Knusse airbnb verblijfplaats
(…?), Enzo, Karen en Don en 4 van de 6 honden, met een bar in de woonkamer!

Er werd me van tevoren verteld dat ze hier niet gewend zijn aan fietsers en dat de mensen niet vriendelijk zouden zijn. Nou… Mijn ervaringen zijn nogal anders. Auto’s minderen vaart en gaan met een grote boog om me heen, zelfs op de snelwegen. In het tuinhuisje (met wifi) heb ik eindelijk tijd gevonden om mijn blog bij te werken.