March – May 2020 at home and taking a break in the Netherlands
Together with Marjo and Wim we participate on March 7th in a CITO cleaning campaign (Cache In, Trash Out) in the Biesbosch, ending with a good BBQ (still possible at that time).
At that moment I think it’s still possible to hit the road with our motorhome.
I am the only one thinking about leaving, Dick lives more in the new reality. Within a week my plan also changes.
Not only because the borders of our neighboring countries are closed, but also the increasingly urgent advice not to travel.
The news reporting about the many Corona deaths make us more cautious and our physical freedom, even with a motorhome, is further restricted.
Almost all flights are canceled, museums and restaurants are closed, trains and buses run without passengers, squares and streets are deserted, many shops are closed and elderly homes are closed.
We have to stay at home as much as possible and only do the necessary shopping. Fortunately, in the Netherlands it is still permitted to go outside, provided we keep enough distance from each other (6 feet) and get a breath of fresh air by walking around. We have entered an “intellectual lockdown”. On the contrary to our surrounding countries, they have a complete lockdown. People in those countries can only visit the supermarket and pharmacy and may not even be outside, forced by patrolling army vehicles.
Our plan was to attend a Sea bridge meeting in Germany, end of March, to book a ship-crossing to the USA for October 2020. But this meeting is canceled, like all meetings in Europe and at the same time America is announcing that the borders are closed. Europeans have no longer access to the USA.
The street scene is changing very fast; supermarkets are becoming battlefields where people with loaded carts make their way to the cash registers. Accompanied by pushing and pulling, toilet paper, kitchen paper and cleaning products disappear into packed shopping carts. Gradually there is only one topic on the TV: “the Corona virus”.
A new reality imposes on us. We stay at home, Dick makes a new roof in the garden so that the BBQ can stay outside, we clean our house, read a lot and sit behind the computer. We contact our friends in Europe and America and are relieved to learn that they are doing well. Fortunately, we still can go outside in our country and we regularly get a breath of fresh air. Neither of us likes it to just walk or cycle, so at Geocaching.com Dick is looking for quiet places in our vicinity with geocaches. Despite the often icy cold temperature outside, we have wonderful outings.
We take our small rubber boat and look for caches under bridges, put on diving suits to crawl under culverts and walk along the shore of the “Brielse lake” on bumpy grass paths because otherwise we will not find the hidden geocaches. Everywhere are thick bushes of brambles, so we are lucky with our long trousers and jackets. We are alone; no one is to be seen around us.
We appreciate the silence and the beautiful blossoms on the trees. The sun on our face gives us a deep feeling of gratitude and happiness.
We enjoy moments we normally don’t think about. We explore our surroundings by e-bike and early May we even meet with my sister Hannah and her husband Henk in the city of Bodegraven. For them it means cycling for 48 miles, for us only 38 miles. But we succeed and on a warm summer day we find each other at a cheese farm where we chat while enjoying fresh milk, sitting on a bench, of course 6 feet apart. Without Covid 19 we would never have e-biked so much and we both think that time flies in this Corona lockdown.
Mid-May is our country low in the curve of new corona infections and the restrictive measures are relaxed so the intellectual lockdown is less strict. Instead of “stay at home”, is the motto “don’t travel unnecessarily”.
Ascension Day is approaching and we decide, for the first time since we visited Cor and Esmee in France at the end of February 2020, to hit the road with our motorhome. This has to be done in the Netherlands because the borders with Germany, Belgium and France are still closed.
So I look for motorhome parking spots in the east and north of the Netherlands. More parkings than we need because if it appears that a parking is closed or full, we have places in reserve.
We also ensure that we have face masks with us. Thanks to Anne and Werner from Germany, we know how to buy the beautiful face masks that match the motorhome, just in case we need them. Tuesday May 19th we arrive so early in the morning at the storage that our motorhome has yet to be driven outside.
That goes not without a struggle because the battery has drained after this long period of inactivity. Fortunately, after connecting the charger, the engine starts immediately and we can leave the storage.
At home I first clean the motorhome.
Not an unnecessary luxury, because not only the dirt from our trip to Northern France is still on, but also cobwebs can be seen everywhere.
But at the end of the afternoon, the motorhome is shining and everything we think we need for the coming days is loaded inside.
We finally leave on Wednesday May 20th . Although the sky is still steel blue, more clouds appear and when we arrive in the town of Varsseveld there is no sun to be seen. Fortunately it is not really cold. There is no one on the parking lot behind the sports hall, in the middle of the village, so we park our motorhome and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring this pleasant village on foot. How wonderful it is to be back on the road with the motorhome.
The next day we take our e-bike to explore the area. To find a logical route, we first print a map with the geocaches and then we go. The sky is getting bluer and the sun is burning. Fortunately, arable lands alternate with forests, where it is a bit cooler. Everywhere it’s remarkably dry. Ditches contain practically no water or dried up and some cycling paths turned into dusty sandy plains.
But the environment is beautiful, we find caches and enjoy. When we return to Varsseveld at half past four, after cycling almost 25 miles and completely covered with the fine sand, the soft ice creams on the square in front of the old church look so tempting that we stop. Despite the fact that Corona has prohibited seating at the eatery, we find a place on one of the many benches in the center where we enjoy an ice cream. The next day we drive to Dalfsen. Here is a nice parking, next to the station, but it is full with motorhomes, so we look for an alternative destination and drive on to Nieuwleusen, here is more than enough place on a large parking lot.
After a good cup of coffee we e-bike to Staphorst. A special place consisting of large farms that are painted green and blue and a tree of life in the window above the door. A number of women still wear traditional costumes during their daily work. Didn’t know that was still happening. Unfortunately, the clouds are increasing and on our way back we have to e-bike against the strong wind, with raindrops slowly soaking us. It is nice that we only have to warm up some kale in the evening because we have not much energy left to cook.
Fortunately the clouds disappear on Saturday and after printing a map with caches (again) and after determining a new route (Dick’s job), we take our bikes.
I quickly recognize the area, we drive into Balkbrug. Years ago, during my studies of law, I was a prentice and came here with the forensic psychiatrist Strobos. Very special to be here again 45 years later. The landscape changes, it becomes less flat and the forest density increases. We search our way from cache to cache over narrow forest paths and through sometimes deep sand channels. It’s good we have thick tyres. For me it’s incredible how Dick find his way. I directly got lost and just follow him on the narrow bumpy paths.
We left the province of Overijssel and are now e-biking in the province of Drenthe. Every now and then we stop to chat with local residents and to buy something at a farm. Everyone in this area has plenty of time, but in these small villages “us knows us” and that also means that distance is not practiced by everyone, so the conversations are not really relaxed, we constantly move and dance around to keep our distance of 6 feet.
Despite the fact that the sky is getting bluer, the wind keeps blowing so when we get back to the motorhome at half past four, after 30 miles of cycling, we actually feel a bit tired and we start to snore well before 10 pm.
After breakfast with delicious fresh eggs from the farm, we leave Nieuwleusen. We stop in the town of Emmen, although we can stay here, it doesn’t feel very pleasant, so we drive on to Appingedam in the province of Groningen. For the first time in my life I reach this far northern part of the Netherlands. On this parking lot is also a free parking spot. Normally there would be 10 places available, but in this Corona time one space must kept free between each motorhome. This is an ideal place for me. We stay at a bus station and even on Sunday it is a go and come of buses.
And it is even possible to dump our grey and black water and get clean water
I feel at home here.
In the afternoon we walk to the old town of Appingedam. It is very quiet; no one to see on the streets, but it looks nice. Unfortunately it’s cold and clouded. I definitely want to take a more extensive walk here when the sun is shining and it’s warmer.
In the evening the clouds disappear and I devote myself to my task of refilling clean water in the tank. I have to walk back and forth 9 times with our watering can to fill up the tank. It remains significantly colder in this northern part of our country because even though the sun breaks regularly, an icy cold wind continues to blow so when we take the e-bike we put on our winter coats.
The landscape amazes me. I expected to bike through bare flat meadows, but we see a varying landscape of beautiful forests, arable lands and every now and then some hills protruding in the landscape where usually a church is built. One of those churches, the old Romanesque church of Marsum, is a feast for the eyes in its simplicity. We walk into the church and are hit by the poem of Pastor Jaap Zijlstra about this church:
Fled on a mound
is the church of Marsum to be found
Longingly looking forward to
the reverse side of the tide.
The wind has taken the field
and assault a storm against the walls.
The clouds blaze out against the trees
who take a guard possession on the ramparts.
The dark look of the ditches
forebodes nothing good.
The reed is stirred up
and the startled grass runs across the meadows.
But today or tomorrow the tower will get
the sun in her sight again
and the battle is settled.
We will remember this beautiful church in this special landscape for a long time. It is more impressive than the view we have from Delftzijl over the waters of the Eems. With this icy cold wind and thick dark clouds, the yellow-brown water does not look attractive. In addition, where we are, the port area of Delftzijl, you cannot even get close to the water due to quicksand.
After every day of self-cooking, our leftovers are finished, so we walk to the eatery “Unique” next to the bus station. We don’t regret it as the food is really good and next time we stay here, we will definitely order another meal here.
Wednesday May 27th, after a delicious breakfast with fresh bread, I bought this morning in town; we only have to drive 17 miles. This means that we arrive early in the morning on the outskirts of the city of Groningen, in the Kardinge nature reserve. Because we arrive so early, a number of motorhomes already left, so we can choose where to stay and we park our motorhome in the front. It’s obvious that this nature reserve is located on the outskirts of the city because it is not only busy with motorhomes but also with athletes and when we cycle around in the area we meet many other people who enjoy the outdoors just like us. But there is plenty of room and the weather is beautiful although it is still cool due to the strong cold wind. Around 4 pm we are back at the motorhome.
I have to climb the high hill next to the motorhome. It is steep but the climb is well worth it, because from the observation tower on top you have a beautiful view of the city of Groningen and the surrounding area. You can also clearly see the parking lot filled with motorhomes. The mountain bikers, using this same hill to descend at enormous speeds, will probably not have the time to enjoy this panorama.
Thursday morning, May 28th we leave Groningen early in the morning and drive south over the Hunebed Highway to Tubbergen. Unfortunately we don’t see a hunebed, meaning: a megalithic chambered tomb. In the middle of the small town of Tubbergen is a parking lot next to the local swimming pool, we have a place for the night. After talking to a woman who lives here permanently in her RV, we explore the area by e-bike. It is considerably warmer here, but that could also be caused by the decreasing wind.
We look (of course) for caches. One is hidden under a bridge. Fortunately, the water level here is very low (a fact that the locals certainly will not agree with, they suffer under the water shortage) so that I can suffice with only taking off my long pants and getting the cache reasonably dry. Mid-afternoon we are back at the motorhome and we explore this pleasant town on foot. Unfortunately the local hairdresser is too busy in the coming weeks so I still can’t get rid of my thick and long corona hair. Friday we leave at 9 am. Before we drive to the next place, we first want to visit Obelink in Winterswijk, an outdoorshop. When we arrive there it is already very busy. Especially the parking lot for RV’s is almost completely full and German number plates dominate the RV landscape. Fortunately, Obelink is very spacious so once inside, we are not really bothered by other shoppers. We walk towards what we need and are outside within an hour so around noon we arrive in Varsseveld (again). We find the parking here very pleasant and there are still many geocaches to be found around, so this is a good stopover on our way home. While Dick cleans the e-bikes in the warm sun next to the motorhome (after our trips on sandy forest paths they are covered with sand) I walk into the village. Here, to my delight, the hairdresser does have time, so at the end of the afternoon I have a short haircut. Actually it is a bit too short, but Dick says that I say that after every hairdresser visit.
At 7 pm I walk to restaurant “Enzovoort”, close to our parking, to pick up our ordered food. A couple of days ago and upon arrival this afternoon, we were told by various residents that this restaurant cook well. Not a word too much because not only the owners are very friendly, the food is also very tasty and we enjoy a restaurant meal in our motorhome. We have a few days before we have to be back home so on Saturday we stay another day in Varsseveld. The weather is clearly improving as there is more blue and sun and the temperature is rising.
Again we print a map of the area and as soon as Dick has settled the route, our water bottles are filled and biscuits and currant buns are packed, we leave. This time we cycle through an area so pristine that I regularly express my admiration. I did not know that such quiet and unspoiled places existed in the Netherlands. It is beautiful here. After cycling for 28 miles we return late afternoon.
Before we go back to the motorhome we first enjoy a delicious ice cream, sitting in the sun in the middle of the village. The parking lot is still dead quiet; there is no other motorhome in sight. Because of the delicious food yesterday we order another meal at “Enzovoort” which is again excellent. Locals know which restaurant to recommend.
Sunday morning we leave the eastern part of our country. We are not the only ones on the road because as soon as we enter Highway A12 it seems we are in Germany. Only German cars on the road. It intensifies our desire to open borders with our neighboring countries (which are still closed today). In Woerden we drive to a small parking and find out it’s full. Unfortunately. While turning on the narrow road to continue driving, one of the motorhomes leaves so we can stay overnight. It is a bit of a manoeuver because this small RV parking has a high fence.
Fortunately, Dick can drive well (or is it due to my good directions) and soon we have a good cup of coffee. In the afternoon we take the e-bikes to explore the area.
We stay close to a large recreational lake where it is very busy, especially along and on the water, but the cycle paths are fairly quiet. We don’t cycle that much, only 15 miles, but we can’t resist the temptation of a milkshake.
The terraces may not be open until tomorrow, so all chairs and tables are still blocked with red and white barrier tape, but, sitting on a strip of grass in front of the Mc Donald, the milkshake also tastes good.
The wind and bright sun make us feel sleepy and we go to bed early in the evening.
Monday, June 1st , we stand up at 7 am and after a shower we dress with our last clean clothes. We don’t really have to drive far and arrive home early.
That is convenient because now we can unload and clean everything at our leisure.
Tomorrow we will bring the motorhome to the shop of Iveco Schouten in Utrecht. There a main switch will be mounted to interrupt the battery power when the motorhome is in the storage.