Holiday season 2020 – 2021
Hannah brings a christmas surprise
Mid-December our government take new Corona measures. Again, this pandemic won’t stop. We don’t have to think about getting together with our family at Christmas and so we decide to leave with our motorhome for the coming holidays. That means that my sister Hannah passes by to bring us a “camper Christmas package”. We will be soon in our “Camper bubble” life but with its content we will have a festive time. Although we want to go out again (and love to go abroad) we still cannot cross our national borders because also in neighboring countries Corona infections are increasing and measures have been tightened. That’s why I am making a route within the Netherlands. Dick does not object and we have a guideline where to go.
The motorhome stays at Raema, our Frankia dealer, because of a strange noise in the front hatch, but after a phone call we can pick up the motorhome on December 22nd. Although the front hatch has not yet been repaired, it can be used. Before the shop can repair, the Frankia factory must advise and that will have to wait until next year. Now the most important is that we can use the motorhome and hit the road. At 7 am we drive to Nederweert. Now all non-essential stores are closed looking around the showroom is no longer an option, unfortunately. This means that we are back home before the end of the morning and start to load our motorhome.
Because I listened to Dick (and already brought all the stuff down that need to be loaded), we are done within three hours and leave at two pm for the town of Gemert. We are lucky with the weather because it is dry and the sun shines regularly.
Motorhome parking in Gemert
When we arrive in Gemert, it is uncertain or we can enter the parking. This car park in the center is surrounded by Mediterranean trees with many low-hanging branches. In this season, however, these trees are pruned short so according to Dick we can drive under the stumps that remain behind. To be sure that it is possible without roof damage I climb out of the motorhome and look while Dick is driving very careful inside. And it works. It’s not easy to find a good spot because the square is covered with potholes filled with water, but along the edge is a piece of dry gravel where Dick parks the motorhome.
Opposite is a small Vietnamese eatery with spring rolls, we cannot resist, so moments later we enjoy a delicious freshly baked spring roll. It is now past 4 pm and it is getting dark so we don ‘t go out for a walk and stay inside. A good time to open our camper Christmas package. It is great because the lights, the candle, the beautiful soft Christmas tree and the nice luminous deer give the motorhome a Christmas atmosphere. And in this atmosphere, the toast with French cheese tastes delicious with the French wine. We love it, Hannah and Henk.
In the evening and at night there is a lot of rain, but luckily it is dry the next morning although there are threatening clouds at the horizon. Despite the fact that it is end of December it does not feel cold outside, the thermometer shows 54 degrees Fahrenheit. With this temperature it’s not unpleasant to have a 10-minute early walk to get fresh rolls in the supermarket. After breakfast, we find out that we are allowed to park here for only 24 hours, so after looking for another spot in Gemert (not accessible because of a closed gate) we decide to drive to Malden.
Unfortunately, it does not stay dry and in pouring rain we arrive in the woods around the town of Malden. Unfortunately, we cannot find the parking near the glider airfield and after we got stuck several times on dead-end, unpaved and therefore muddy, paths, we decide to drive to a paid motorhome parking. Only one other motorhome is parked on this farmyard so we have enough space to find a good spot.
Walking on the muddy “roads”
When the rain stops early in the afternoon, we put on our rain suits and walk to the adjacent forest to search for caches.
The paths we walk on are often muddy, but our shoes are waterproof and fortunately the main hiking trails are a sort of dry, so we don’t get too dirty.
It is good that we did not take our bikes, this is more a walking forest. Unfortunately, the approaching twilight puts an end to the nice forest walk and surprising caches and after almost 6,5 miles we return to the motorhome, somewhat tired.
No Christmas Star but a tiny Moon
We kept it dry all afternoon and even saw the sun, although some heavy clouds remained so that we cannot see the bright “Christmas Star” (created by Jupiter kissing the planet Saturn). Too bad because it would be so appropriate at this Christmas time. Now we have to be satisfied with the moon.
As soon as we are inside, we call our favorite restaurant Enzovoort in Varsseveld to inquire whether it is still possible to order a Christmas dinner. They are already fully booked, but for us “the camper people” they make an exception and if we are satisfied with spare ribs (my favorite dish) we can still order a Christmas dinner. And it is even possible to obtain a starter (carpaccio) and a dessert. We feel honored and very welcome at his restaurant.
In the evening, for the first time, we use our gas oven to prepare a quiche. Actually, I should have read the instructions for this oven first (because it is indicated threateningly on the oven) but as Dick notice, when afterwards I say that there are traces of flame in the oven “women never do that”.
After a lot of rain in the night and still some drizzle on December 24th, it gets dry end of the morning and again we put on our rain suits to search for more caches in the forest. This time we have to walk a little further into the forest. We now know that it is better to stay on the main paths because the bridle paths are very muddy, but every now and then there is no escaping in walking them and so we regularly dip around in mud pools.
Walking in the woods in Malden
Again, we find special caches that have been given a lot of attention and enjoy our walk. The temperature is significantly lower than yesterday and we are happy that in addition to our caps, we also put on our down jacket under the rain suits.
The walk is longer than we thought and the last part back to the motorhome is less smooth, but we walked 9 miles.
I assure you that the green kale stew with smoked sausage tastes delicious and we sleep like marmots at 10 pm.
On Christmas morning we don’t wake up until half past eight. We stay on a farm and there are no shops around, so we have breakfast with Christmas stollen.
When we finish our Christmas breakfast, we disconnect the electricity (Dick), dump our gray-and black water (Tita), fill up with clean water (Dick) and pay for this beautiful motorhome parking (Tita).
The sun is shining and the weather is good. Because we cannot take the bridge near Nijmegen with our motorhome (we are too heavy, over 7000 pound) we take a shortcut to Varsseveld that takes us through sunlit Germany.
Walking around in Varsseveld
Staying overnight in Germany is not allowed during this phase in the Corona pandemic and it would not be possible because the entrance to the motorhome parking’s is closed with large concrete blocks.
But driving through Germany is allowed and we are not the only Dutch people who take this shortcut because we regularly see cars with Dutch license plates.
At the end of the morning, we arrive in the town of Varsseveld where the sun is shining abundantly. What a weather for Christmas day.
While Dick logs our geocaches from the past few days on the laptop, I walk to town to do some shopping and also search for two caches located in the Hiddink-forest.
At 3 pm it is time to pick up our starter and dessert at “Enzovoort”. We are warmly welcomed in this restaurant, as always. After a chat we walk back to the motorhome.
We are not allowed to pick up our Christmas dinner tonight. It will be delivered in the motorhome. Such a luxury!
Insulation blanket on the front window
We spend the rest of the afternoon indoors, in the sun because it shines exuberant. We think it is allowed to relax for a while now we walked so much in recent days. Despite the many sunshine during the day, the temperature cools down at night, so when dusk sets in, we grab our insulation blanket and apply it to the outside of the front and side windows. With a few minor adjustments, Dick made our old insulation blanket a good fit and now, after some days, we manage to quickly attach it over the windows of the Motorhome. For the time being we will not buy another one. It is incredibly how much warmth is kept inside because of this outside insulation.
Our Christmas Diner arrives
At 7.30 pm a car stops next to us; our Christmas dinner is delivered. We already had our starter, carpaccio with baguette and herb butter. Needless to say, we enjoy this Christmas dinner. On Boxing Day, we get up at 9 am and again have breakfast with Christmas stollen and yogurt. Then we take our bikes to cycle and of course to search for geocaches. Because we already found all nearby caches we have to cycle further and further away (now to the edge of the town of Doetinchem). Not easy with the current temperatures, only 35 degrees Fahrenheit and with an icy cold wind.
A few hours we enjoy the sun but then all the sunrays disappear behind a thick cloud cover. It means that when we return early afternoon, after cycling 20 miles, we are completely numb. Time to have hot chocolate milk with whipped cream, we feel rosy.
During the night is the test or our insulation blanket is properly attached, storm Bella is passing and despite the fact that we are parked in the lee of a sports hall, we regularly feel the motorhome shake back and forth. But the insulation blanket holds up well, so Dick did a great job fitting it. After breakfast we drive to Haaksbergen where we want to spend the night on the parking of a restaurant. It is raining a lot and storm Bella has not yet completely died down, so it does not look very attractive here and we drive on to Emmen. On the wet lawn is a lot of space.
On the only dry spot is another RV parked, but with some maneuvering Dick also manages to find a good spot. Our outdoor mat prevents us from stepping into a wet puddle. At the end of the afternoon the rain stops and we decide to walk a bit in the area. The former zoo is now a public park where any time you hope to see an elephant or tiger. But of course, there are no animals here except some sheep and a dinosaur (geocache). After a short walk, only 2,5 miles, we return to the motorhome in the dark. In the evening I pick up a Turkish meal. There is no restaurant where you can eat, only take away and it is shocking to see all the stacked chairs and tables. I hope next year better times will come. Monday December 28th, we don’t wake up until 9 am. Obviously we need a lot of sleep. Fortunately, the storm died and in addition to thick clouds, we regularly see a blue sky with sun. It is not warm, only 37 degrees Fahrenheit, so we wrap ourselves in many layers of clothing.
Many layers under the rain jackets
The outer layer of our rain suit, which we bought at our GPS store Waypoint serves well as a wind stopper and is really comfortable. Next to finding some geocaches we want to look for some little free libraries along the way. Necessary, because these days we read a lot and so it is time to exchange our books for new ones. After also buying some bottles of spring water (we use our tank water only for showering and dishwashing) we arrive at 3pm at the motorhome and cycled 11 miles. The next hours our face glows from the cold. The leftovers taste good and already at 9.30 pm we sleep. Early evening, we discussed our plans for the coming days so after having breakfast on Tuesday December 29th we drive in a straight line north to the town of Appingedam. The landscape changes when approaching town.
The roadside is white and we see layers of snow. Not so much to make a snowman but it really looks like winter. Behind the bus station is the parking for motorhomes and it is busy. Like us, everyone thinks this is a safe place to spend New Year’s Eve. After all, the gates surrounding this bus station close at night. After dumping our grey- and black water (that’s necessary) and of course drinking a coffee, we walk to the center of this nice old town.
Christmas Lights on a bridge in Appingedam
It is within walking distance of the bus station and with our rain suits we are not bothered by the drizzle and rain. Unfortunately, the town center is deserted. It’s true, the soul of a city disappears when shops and restaurants are not allowed to be open. In the evening we pick up a schnitzel-meal from the eatery Unique next to the bus station. Every time we are here, we have their food and are never disappointed with its quality. Contrary to normal, reading our books, we watch TV. We do not have a subscription to our satellite dish, so we can only receive channels that are freely available. Fortunately, in addition to many Arabic channels, there are also some German, English and Austrian channels that broadcast interesting documentaries.
After breakfast the next morning with fresh bread, we take our bicycles and drive through the beautiful Groningen landscape. In contrast to the muddy sandy paths in Drenthe, here the paths through the fields have bitumen, very pleasant in this wet period of the year.
A special bench along the road
We also regularly see benches along the cycle paths and it is unbelievable how many picturesque churches are located here because they are regularly be found on a mound in the flat landscape. Fortunately, after a few fierce hailstorms, the sky clears so we do not return as drowned kittens in the afternoon and we even enjoy some sun rays. At the end of the afternoon, one of our two propane tanks is empty, so Dick find out where we can fill up.
That is not really easy because there are not many filling stations, but after a few phone calls it turns out that we can fill propane in Almelo on Saturday morning. On New Year’s Eve the weather is not looking bad at all, there is little wind and the thermometer is showing 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Time to get our e-bikes out.
Fietsen langs de Eems
Dick printed a new map of the area, our destination is Delftzijl. The bike ride takes us again along the banks of the river Eems and we regularly admire this river and enjoy the view over this wide water that separates our country from Germany.
When we return to the motorhome end of the afternoon, we fill up with clean water. Due to the fact that the water tap is located inside the bus station, we take our watering can. It takes us more than 10 times to walk back and forth before our water tank is completely filled again, but we had our workout and now we can eat oliebollen. At New Year’s Eve a typical Dutch treat with dough, apple and raisins. After a meal of baguette with cheese, cold meat and salad, we listen to a New Year’s Eve conference on the radio. I never manage to stay awake until midnight so while Dick watches New Year’s Eve programs on the laptop, I go to sleep for a few hours. I wake up at 12 o’clock. Outside are huge bangs and we have a look outside. The temperature is good, it is windless and not really cold.
Fireworks close to the parking
Despite a national firework ban this year, many fireworks are lit. We are on a spot next to the river and have a fantastic view of the most beautiful fireworks we have seen in years. Back in the motorhome, it is now 1 am, we don’t drink a glass of champaign, it is really too late. Our drink for a new and happy 2021 will have to wait until tomorrow.
Friday January 1st 2021, the temperature feels good, there is no wind, it’s not really cold and even the sun appears regularly. After breakfast we leave this nice motorhome parking, lit by the sun. Unfortunately, the clouds increase as we drive further south and in the town of Tubbergen, where we park the motorhome, clouds cover the sun. That doesn’t stop us from taking the bikes and cycling around in the area. The caches we want to look for are not close by and the sky is gray, so when we return to the motorhome at dusk, after cycling almost 17 miles, our hands and feet are numb from the cold and at least an hour we need to warm up. Probably the French Champaign in our chic Frankia glasses contributes to that.
A small bridge to the geocache
Saturday January 2nd our alarm clock rings early morning, after all we have to drive to Almelo to fill up. After refilling our propane tank, we continue our trip to Varsseveld. After all, what could be better than starting the New Year with a good restaurant meal. We park the motorhome, we walk to “Enzovoort”, have a chat with the owner, order food for the evening and then walk on to a lake nearby. We have to, because the past few days we have eaten so much and so good that we will gain weight without extra exercise. It is quite a brisk walk but we enjoy the view over the lake. But it is cold and grey outside so it is nice to warm up again, after this almost 5 miles walk, with a cup of hot chocolate and whipped cream.
Sunday morning, we get up in time and after breakfast we leave. Because we have to dump, we drive to the town of Aalten (here is a dump station) and arrive in Bathmen with empty waste and full water tanks. The car park is located between sports fields and cemetery and it is completely quiet. When Dick tries to level our motorhome, nothing happens. Several times we move the motorhome and Dick tries again, but in vain. The levelers don’t work. Fortunately, the parking is fairly straight so that we can stand reasonably straight.
Because the sun is shining brightly and the sky is getting bluer, we take the bikes and explore the area. It is lovely outside, but unfortunately not for long, because soon the sky completely close and a gray color with icy cold wind remains. But it remains dry so we enjoy our trip that alternately takes us through the fields and then again through the woods. After almost three hours of cycling and 14 miles we are back at the motorhome. Again, our levelers stop working. The advantage is that the motorhome is closer to the ground and therefore we more easily attach our insulation blanket in front of the windows.
Leftover diner in the motorhome
In the evening we eat leftovers and enjoy reading. Those little free libraries have good books. I just can’t put down the book “the Loop” by Nicolas Evans. Again, we set our alarm clock because we want to call Raema early in the morning. That does not work very well because apparently, we are in a place where our mobile reception is poor, but when Dick gets out and walks closer to the cemetery, he can phone. There will be a check or we can pass by tomorrow and with that message we decide to drive to Thorn. After all, that town is not so far from Nederweert. Our navigation also falls out on our way south, so it is good we contacted our motorhome dealer. Now I find out how often I check the navigation device. We have two of them, each at one side of the motorhome. It gives the advantage that I can look for alternative ways and not disturbing Dick when driving.
Winery Thorn in the background
In Thorn it is dry but cold, we are all alone. After a cup of coffee, we walk into town. It remains fun to roam around in this old town, consisting entirely of white houses. Unfortunately, all shops, restaurants and bars are still closed. Only coffee to go is available, you may drink it standing by a fire pit in front of a hotel. In the window of an (of course) closed shop I see beautiful shoes and bags and also on sale. How I would love to hold it in my hands and try it on. I definitely have to go back to Thorn when the shops open again and then just hope that these shoes and bags are still here. After walking around for a few miles, I am so numb that sitting inside is far more pleasant and the rest of the afternoon and evening we enjoy simple food in our own “camper bubble” (sausages with lettuce, feta and Greek potatoes) and we read.
Raema already called back, tomorrow they have an opportunity to look at our motorhome, when possible at 8 am. That means that the alarm clock will wake us up at 6.15 am. It is very early, but after a refreshing shower and a nice breakfast we are on our way. It’s still dark and not so busy on the road.
Of course, we arrive in time. At half past 7 am we drive onto the site of the camper dealer. Now the showroom is closed (only the workshop is open) you leave your RV in the workshop and go home, but for us that’s difficult now, so we can take a seat in a waiting room where we get a good cup of coffee from Johan, the owner. I haven’t yet finished my coffee when Dick arrives and says that the problem is solved. Only one fuse was broken (Dick now knows which one, because he stayed with the mechanic) and at 8.15 am we drive away. What a service, we were helped so quickly, fortunately nothing serious was going on. Because we leave so early, we arrive already at 10 am in the town of Bergen op Zoom. Here, on the boulevard, we will stay tonight. This is definitely one of my favorite places, although I would love to be here in warmer weather and have an early morning swim. But until now we have only been here in cold seasons.
Cleaning the motorhome
After Dick has sponged the back of the motorhome (that is really no luxury) and has also given our full laundry bag another place, we go out. It is so cold that we do not take our bikes but walk around and with many layers of clothing, including down, the cold can be defied well. It is 35 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels many degrees colder, caused by an icy wind, blowing over the water.
After returning at the motorhome and having a drink, I walk to town again. I have to look for a Chinese restaurant, where we want to pick up food in the evening and again, I want to exchange some reading books at a little free library. In the evening we enjoy a delicious meal and read until we go to bed.
Sunset at the river Spui in Oud Beijerland
Finally, we don’t set our alarm clock and sleep till 8 am on Wednesday.
After enjoying still warm croissants, we dump our black and grey water tanks, refill water and then drive to Oud-Beijerland where we find a nice spot on the river Spui. The grey sky disappears and the sun breaks through, so we take a stroll along the river. It keeps us on the street for several hours. The thermometer is on 43 degrees Fahrenheit but it feels warmer and for the first time in days we do not have to warm up when we return to the motorhome in the afternoon. Just before sunset the sky turns a brilliant red. Unfortunately, darkness sets in quickly so that we cannot really enjoy this view for long.
In the evening I talk to Susan on facetime and she alerts us, something is going on in Washington. We stop talking and turn on CNN to watch the US Capitol in Washington DC being stormed. Like many others, we stay up very late to follow these events. Thursday January 7th the weather turns and it rains so hard that we decide to return home after taking a shower. With this weather we do not go out and as we only have clean clothes for two days, it’s better to be at home.
Cleaning our bikes is necessary
At 11 am we are parked at the back of our home. Before unloading I first buy us some croissants so we can have a brunch. Early morning, I did not like to walk outside in this terrible wetter to get us breakfast. After brunch we take care of emptying and cleaning the inside and outside of the motorhome. Quite a job because the motorhome is filthy and dirty. But after three hours its cleaned and we can drive the motorhome to our storage.
When we return home, a lot of jobs are waiting for us. For me there are loads of laundry to wash and Dick has to give the e-bikes a thorough cleaning. This take place in the living room because it is too cold and wet outside. We also look at all the Christmas mail that arrived and has been sorted by our neighbor Danielle (fantastic Danielle, thanks). All cards are hung in the living room so the rest of January we will enjoy all those good wishes.Holiday