We travel again, but… in the Netherlands – October 2020
At the beginning of October 2020 we pick up our motorhome at the Frankia dealer. Early in the morning we drive to Nederweert where we arrive around 11 am. After a cup of coffee, the mechanic shows us how our new purchase works.
Finally, after 10 years, Dick has gotten his long desired hydraulic supports. You immediately see that these levelers do their job well. We can get rid of all the boards and other ramps. In the future Dick will be able to level our Frankia with one push of a button. After admiring our new mattresses (the old one had already a hollow), we drive to Utrecht where the motorhome will get an annual safety inspection.
After a day the Fiat garage give us a call. Reflective lights along the side of the motorhome, which really should burn, don’t do that and so there cannot be an inspection approval. So again, on Monday October 5th, we drive with our motorhome to Nederweert. Let’s hope that the dealer can quickly find the defect. Fortunately, the weather is bad, lots of rain, so we don’t feel really sorry that we cannot leave yet for our autumn holiday.
Our intention was to roam through France and get a breath of fresh air in Normandy and Brittany and until two weeks ago I managed to make a route between the red (Corona) French areas. Last week, that route was limited to Northern France and Luxembourg. But unfortunately this week, due to the large increase in Corona infections, both France and Belgium are completely red and therefore only accessible for strictly necessary travels, a holiday trip is no longer possible. In fact, traveling around in our own country would not be possible, because the Netherlands is also colored red due to the high numbers of Corona infections, but because travel is not yet prohibited in the Netherlands, we decide to travel around in our own “Frankia bubble”. The dealer replaces a new circuit board in the fuse box, causing the side reflectors to light up again, the Fiat garage takes care of our inspection certificate and the weather forecast finally shows no more incessant rainfall.
That means that on Thursday October 15th we prepare the motorhome in front of our house and drive to Zeeland (the south-west part of the Netherlands) early afternoon. When arriving in Hansweert, all available parking spots are occupied. But even if there was a place, we could not park here. These places are built for smaller RV’s and our 26 feet Frankia is really too long. So we drive back to Brabant and find a parking near the center of the small town of Hoogerheide.
It is not far to walk to a mini library, a book stall in the center, where we exchange some books for free. Due to the high level of Corona infections in our country, yesterday our government announced additional restrictive measures, as a result of which all restaurants and coffeehouses are closed. It gives the town of Hoogerheide, where many of these establishments are located, a deserted look.
It is cold outside and even a down jacket under my regular jacket does not provide enough warmth so, after done some shopping to cook tonight, we walk back to the motorhome, warm ourselves with a delicious cup of hot chocolate and enjoy our new books.
The dealer also took care of our propane-cooker, which is noticeable when we start cooking because flames appear immediately. How wonderful this is.
Friday October 16th the temperature does not rise above 54 degrees Fahrenheit, but besides clouds, every now and then a ray of sun appears and there is practically no wind, so a good day to go out.
Because the supermarket is within walking distance, we start the day with fresh croissants, giving a good start for our cycling tour.
It is fun cycling on the border area between Belgium and the Netherlands and we cycle through forests, moors and dune areas. When we are back at the motorhome 5 hours later, it is busy on the parking. Tonight 7 motorhomes are parked here.
We leave Hoogerheide on Saturday October 17th.
A year ago we were able to pick up our Frankia and since then we have driven 7242 miles. Not really much. It’s caused mostly by the many travel restrictions and border closures due to Corona.
There is enough space on the esplanade of Bergen op Zoom, only 8 miles from Hoogerheide and after we have figured out where the dump place is located, we park in a spot with a view over the lake.
It’s still early in the morning so we take our bikes because there are many caches with a high degree of difficulty hidden in this area.
All caches are located high in the trees and because the trees in question are next to a path where residents walk their dogs, Dick takes a lot of interest when he angles for the geocaches in the trees.
In the afternoon, after a few drops of rain, the gray sky gives way to blue, finally we enjoy the lovely sun.
We love it because now we cycle along the Oosterschelde (an arm of the sea in the South-Western part of our country) and we enjoy the salty air.
Late in the afternoon, just before dusk and after cycling for 18 miles, we are back at the motorhome.
Unfortunately only a short time we admire the sun setting over the water before the cloud-cover closes completely.
Because there is a good Turkish eatery on the boulevard, we take out our dinner, a good choice because it tastes good.
Sunday October 18th we don’t get up until half past eight. We are long sleepers when we travel around in our motorhome. Unfortunately the clouds are still covering the sky and it is gray outside but there is no wind so, despite the fact that it is only 52 degrees Fahrenheit, it does not feel really cold.
After a breakfast with stale bread (there is no bakery open in the Netherlands on Sunday morning) we drive to the dump place further down the esplanade where we get rid of our gray- and black water. There is also a water tap with the indication “no drinking water”, but as we already used some water, we decide to fill up with clean water anyway. Actually, we only take showers and wash up with this water, the little water we ingest when brushing our teeth is good for our bacteria resistance. At half past ten we drive on and after 72 miles we are already at our destination, a parking near the center of the town of Helmond.
This parking is fairly sloping and for the first time we see how our levelers lift the motorhome high above street level. How fantastic this works, Dick radiates when he straightens the motorhome with the push of a button. Even I have to admit that it is very easy and I am actually glad that the mess with boards and other aids to level is over. Despite the fact that our front wheels hang freely in the air, the motorhome stays firm and levelled. However, getting in and out is a bit more difficult because our steps are not designed for a motorhome hanging so high above the ground.
As it is still early afternoon, we take our e-bikes and explore the area, which has a high forest content. We are not the only ones who enjoy nature because everywhere it is busy with hikers. However, the forests here are very extensive so soon we leave the crowds behind and cross almost exclusively on narrow mountain bike paths. At these moments I am very happy with our cross country tires on our e-bikes.
Of course, as always, our route is determined by geocaches so we can easily find our way through this vast forest.
We regularly have to worry about opening complicated cache enclosures and enjoy the colored forest.
Just before dusk we are back at the motorhome after 4 ½ hours of biking around.
We have a simple dinner with a vegan schnitzel, rösti (Swiss hash browns) and cucumber, but after our portion of fresh air that tastes fine.
Here it’s quiet outside and we will stay alone in this parking tonight.
We also stay in Helmond on Monday to cycle around. It is autumn and this is clearly noticeable in the dense forests.
Everywhere we see beautiful toadstools (those real red ones) and many trees are also covered in splendor of colors.
It is Monday, October 19th and significantly quieter, although we still regularly encounter other two-legged living creatures while cycling along the narrow, sometimes sandy, paths. In the afternoon we are even rewarded with a little sun and it is even more pleasant to cycle around. Yet after 6 ½ hours we have had enough and cycle back to the motorhome after also surveying the neighbourhood, because we want to find a bakery and eatery. The first to get fresh bread tomorrow morning and the latter to take out food tonight. After all that outside air, we won’t cook ourselves.
Tuesday, after a breakfast with fresh bread from the nearby bakery, we drive to the city of Sittard. There is still no wind, but the sky is completely gray and every now and then it rains. There is sufficient parking space in Sittard. I do not recognize this parking but when we stayed here 10 years ago the pool next door burned down. Fortunately, the rain stops soon after our arrival so in the afternoon we take the bike to cycle through the Limburg hills.
It is beautiful, forests alternate with pastures and arable land and the border with Germany is not far away because regularly we see on side roads signs with German texts.
However, the soil is clearly different here than in Brabant (the southern part of our country) because on some steep descents the narrow paths are quite slippery and sometimes we have to be very careful not to fall down.
Slopes also mean high plains and therefore wind, so when we return to the motorhome end of the afternoon, we feel roseate.
All motorhomes in the parking lot left, there were 7 motorhomes. Probably that is caused by the movements in this enormous parking lot. Cars drive back and forth, indicate with flashes of light where they are waiting and after a brief contact moment, cars leave again. Clearly people are dealing drugs on this parking lot. However, they do not disturb us and we sleep like marmots.
Because it is still raining on Wednesday, October 21st, we decide to leave Sittard. Yesterday the cycle paths were already slippery and that will not improve with the rain, pouring down for hours. We set course to the North. With a detour via Nuenen.
In the geocache shop, located here, we buy a number of strong magnets. You regularly need magnets to angle a geocache.
Unfortunately, the store is only open for pick-up orders and Corona is not really the time to rummage so Dick goes alone inside and quickly we are on our way again and at half past two we arrive in Westervoort. We park in the last free spot.
Once again, the new levelers lift our front wheels into the air and the grin on Dick’s face never disappears. We have some time to explore the area before dark and cycle an 8 miles round trip. At one point the paths in the woods are so muddy that it’s enough and we set course back to our Frankia.
Under the watchful eye of the residents of the other motorhomes, we ride a few laps through the water puddles to get the dirty mud off our tires. When the bicycles are acceptable (a sort of clean) Dick stores them in the garage. Now I am occupied with the soles of our shoes, not an unnecessary action given the mud lumps. There is a Chinese restaurant nearby and since we haven’t eaten Chinese in centuries, we take out dinner there in the evening. Not a bad choice because it tastes good and we have food for two days.
On Thursday, October 22nd, many clouds have disappeared and now and then the sun shines. On our way to Varsseveld we stop at the outdoor shop Obelink.
Finally, we can buy filters that absorb the odors from our toilet and after some other shopping we continue our trip. We arrive early afternoon in Varsseveld so I have the opportunity to visit the hairdresser.
Since no one is in the hair salon, I can get a haircut right away. However, with a mask on, because the number of Corona infections is also increasing in the eastern part of our country.
Fortunately Dick is a master in sewing masks so it is no problem to keep my mask on. The elastic can be slid all the way into my neck and still covers my face. Dick looks disapproving when I am back home, and for good reason because although short, my haircut isn’t really nice done. Despite the fact that Dick does not like short hair, he still wants to walk around with me in town. But it could also be caused by the fact he needs glue and some other stuff.
Friday October 23rd it is foggy outside but windless and at least 59 degrees Fahrenheit, so not cold at all. We therefore take our e-bikes to explore the surroundings of Varsseveld.
Our trip takes us through forests and along sandy paths and sometimes Dick’s navigation takes us over bumpy fields to find back a forest path. The area is beautiful, but to be honest, I think the forests in the south of the Netherlands with their beautiful red mushrooms are more beautiful.
Eventually we arrive in Aalten where the “National Onderduik museum” is located. It’s dedicated to the people who needed to hide from the occupier during WW-II. We did not know it existed. Unfortunately it is closed, we would love it to look around.
After 6 hours and 26 miles of cycling we are back at the motorhome. The sun is shining and the weather is lovely.
We walk to restaurant “Enzovoort” to check the takeout times.
These are different than before, so we order our desired meals in advance.
In the evening we pick up our meal.
The owners are clearly disappointed that their restaurant had to close again. During the weekend they cook for take-out and again we are not disappointed. The quality of the food remains as good as ever.
Saturday October 24th, after breakfast, we drive to Aalten. Yesterday, near a geocache site, we discovered a dump site where, before continuing our trip, we want to dump our gray- and black water. Since there is also a water tap, we fill up with water before driving north.
The shortest way takes us through a part of Germany. Great, because now we can buy the tasty German bread and also yoghurt and Pfalz wine.
Refuelling with gasoline would also be beneficial, German diesel is 12 cents (about 54 cents a gallon) lower priced per liter, but we are filled up more than three-quarters.
There is no check at the border of our countries, so apparently it is allowed to cross the border for daily shopping. Staying overnight in Germany is not allowed, due to the high number of Corona infections in the Netherlands. Only when you have a recent negative Corona test it’s allowed. And neither of us want to pay 125 euros per person for such a test.
When we arrive in the town of Emmen it is busy with parked motorhomes, but nevertheless we can find a spot. The sun regularly shines through the clouds so we take our bikes. The surroundings of Emmen are surprisingly beautiful.
The “Hondsrug”, a 44 miles long ridge created during the last ice age, about 66 feet above sea level starts close to the motorhome parking
We climb the dune of a sand drift and enjoy the view of the colored forests surrounding this dune.
Unfortunately we do not see a Hunebed (a prehistoric megalithic tomb consisting of a capstone supported by two or more upright stones).
Although we can find them in these forests, we don’t have time to look for them, because we are determined (I suppose “we is me, Tita”) to visit the “Land Art” project here.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a movement arose in which artists made radical, artistic interventions in a landscape.
Landscape and Art were inextricably linked through the digging of canals, the ordered dumping of boulders or the creation of soil or twigs deposits. Artists wanted to show that the whole of nature is included in art. In June 1971 the American artist Smithson (maker of the “Spiral Jetty” in the Great Salt Lake, Utah) realized a Land Art in a sand quarry in Emmen and that is our destination. I am very disappointed when the entrance to this “Land Art” is closed and we cannot visit the two art objects: “Broken Circle” and “Spiral Hill”. Their location is closed off by a large solid fence and rows of barbed wire.
Dick says it is not a problem because on the internet he saw the image of both art objects. I, on the contrary, definitely want to see them in real.
When I find a part of the henced grounds where the barbed wire barriers is laying on the ground and see ways to climb over it, I make my way through dense brushwood and trees scattered all over the place, and finally can take a look at Spiral Hill.
It is difficult to get really close from this place, but further on, again a piece of barbed wire is lying flat and directly I find myself on (according to Dick) forbidden territory.
This time, after almost a death torment over another hidden strand of more barbed wire and thus covered with scratches and blood stains, I manage to set foot on the beach and walk towards the artwork.
The Broken Circle is below me and after 49 years, this work of art is still intact and beautiful to see. I enjoy this Land Art for some time and then struggle again through the bushes and over the various barbed wire strands back to the road where Dick has found the geocache hidden here and waits (patiently) for me.
It is now late afternoon and slowly we cycle back to the motorhome where we arrive just before darkness falls.
As soon as our e-bikes are stored, we drink a glass of Pfalz wine, eat toasts with French cheese and later in the evening a schnitzel.
Life is good, we enjoy.
Wintertime starts tonight so we “only” slept for 11 hours when getting up at 8 am on Sunday October 25th.
It has been raining all night and even now we still hear the drops on the roof, but when finishing breakfast the rain stops. It is gray outside and the weather does not look very appealing. We long for the sun.
Again we take our bikes to explore another part of Emmen. When we cycle past the animal park “Wildlands” it is already very busy. Although it’s Corona time and gray weather still many people visit this Zoo.
We find quiet sandy roads just outside of Emmen, the only living creatures here are the Herdwick Sheep from the Lake district.
Finally we are back in the woods where we find a Megalith, a 88.185 lbs heavy stone.
It is not without reason that this is called the “Dik (ste) stien” (thickest stone) of Drenthe. It is not as big as the megalith “Ayers Rock” in Central Australia. The visible circumference is of about 46 feet while its Australian counterpart is many, many miles bigger in circumference
This Dutch megalith is foreign (our soil has no rocks) and was left here by glaciers some 128,000 to 238,000 years ago. Ofcourse I have to “climb” this rock, a tricky business because the stone is very slippery.
Even though we are wearing our rain suits, the falling rain is not so pleasant to stay outside longer and we cycle back to the motorhome. When the rain stops in the afternoon I walk into town, but I find out that I don’t like shopping in Corona time, so I am back soon and the rest of the day I enjoy my exciting book: “the Seventh Scroll” by Wilbur Smith.
In the evening
, it is already dark at 5 pm, I walk back to town to get a delicious Turkish Döner dish that tastes really good.
Monday morning the rain stopped but it is still gray weather and we decide to drive back home. Enough is enough. At the end of the morning we are back home where we empty the motorhome and clean it inside and outside. Now the weather is sunny. Great because you don’t want to unload a motorhome during rainfall. At the end of the afternoon we drive to the storage where we park the motorhome. At home a huge laundry is waiting.