Friday, May 9, 2014

Getting our fill of what we miss most while on the road: Family and Friends from Home, The Netherlands Edition

Keukenhof Tulip Gardens

Harvest in Australia passed in a blur of long days, purple stained hands and clothing and the consumption/creation of some really excellent wine. One particular day did stand out amongst the others: Hans and Carol, our Fairy God Parents from Toronto, surprised us at the winery. They had taken a cruise around the Pacific, which dropped them off in Sydney, so they decided to pay us a surprise visit at the conclusion of their travels around Australia. It was wonderful to spend time with them and yet again, they made a big impact on our motorbike travels: we had been planning to travel South through Mexico and Central America during May-July, realizing it would be extremely hot and likely very rainy, but thought this should be our plan, nonetheless. All it took was Hans, with his lingering German accent to say “It’s too HOT” and Carol saying “Why don’t you go to Alaska?” for us to think: Huh, why DON’T we go to Alaska?

It sounds ridiculous. (About as ridiculous as riding through Mexico in the rainy/hot season.) And that was pretty much it. Decision made. Alaska, it is!

With the harvest season winding down, we packed up our belongings, stored my trusty red Camry and headed to Sydney to spend a couple of nights with our friends there,
Family time on the beach in Holland
celebrating the end of harvest. Initially we had planned to return directly to the USA and resume our ride. However, Roel’s grandmother had passed away in March and so some family time was needed. 

Our time in Holland was brief but filled with activity, and visits to Roel’s friends and family. It was sad and surreal to visit his Grandmother’s home, where usually, one would find her sitting at her kitchen table, a deck of cards (or two) at hand and ready for a game. Instead, the home that has housed 5 generations of Roel’s family, was empty in more ways than one. Roel’s parents are retired but are the busiest retirees I know, between copious amounts of volunteer work, the local tennis club and a garden that provides them with food year-round. 

But they made sure to make days available to take us to the Rijks Museum and to the stunning Keukenhof Tulip Gardens (never have I been so blown away by a planned garden). 

They also brought us to Belgium, where we took a lovely walk to an Abbey where the kindly monks brew delicious beer. Which we sampled. A lot of.

The World War II Netherlands American Cemetery

Together, we visited the World War II Netherlands American Cemetery, where gravestones of fallen American heroes from WWII spread across the land. It was a sobering sight, especially with the current situation in Russia. 

Camping in the Biesbosch

We got to cuddle Roel’s
Easter in the forrest
(adorable) first nephew and shared an evening with Roel's lovely cousin, Mariette. One weekend was spent canoeing through forested river ways for Roel’s younger brother’s birthday, which happened to fall on Easter, so the boys hid Easter Eggs for me on tree branches, etc. We threw the ball for the family dog, Saico, until our arms were sore. Roel spent a lot of time working with his Dad to create a new chain guard for his bike and some new farkles for mine. And while they were out in the shop, I was in the kitchen trying to soak up some more of 
Roel’s Mom’s kitchen magic: this woman makes soups to die for!  

Farkle-making 101

The King’s Day celebration also took place while we were there; entire cities shut down to vehicular traffic and people literally take to the streets to party, with world class DJs in every square and park and beer flowing endlessly from taps at every corner and in between. We all partook in the festivities on Kings Night, and Roel took advantage of the opportunity to work for his old employer on Kings Day, serving beer to the masses who crowded the main square in Eindhoven to celebrate the Dutch King. 

Before we left, Roel needed to organize a new lock for his left Hepco and Becker pannier which had given out just before we left California in December. After hearing Roel’s story, MDI, a great motorcycle shop in Holland, decided they
wanted to support a fellow Dutchman’s ride around the world and gave him brand new Hepco and Becker Gobi Panniers, rather than letting him buy a new lock for his old ones. Roel was really pleasantly surprised by MDI’s generosity, but given that his current H&B boxes have been through 11 years of riding “Roel Style,” they were due for retirement, and so he was really grateful for this gesture. SO, instead of packing up a suitcase to return to the States, Roel packed up two new Hepco and Becker panniers, courtesy of MDI Motorcycle Equipment. 

A little tasting dinner for Roel's family and friends
Time seemed to evaporate, and before we knew it, we were on our way to Schiphol Airport. Although we were depressed to be leaving Holland, we were grateful to have had the time there that we did: time spent with family and true friends refreshes and reinvigorates the soul like nothing else can. And the European delicacies aren't so bad, either ;)

BUT, of course, we had the bikes to look forward to, awaiting our return at Irv Seaver Motorcycles, in Orange, California!!! 

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