South Limburg Bike Ride to the Cauburg

Most of The Netherlands is billiard table flat. When I lived in Rotterdam the only place to find a hill was to ride to this old tunnel that went under the Oude Maas, or find a bridge. There is one place in The Netherlands that has hills though, South Limburg. That just happens to be where I live now so I’m a little excited to say the least. 

There’s one hill that is particularly famous,  the Cauberg. It’s not a very daunting hill, there are other harder climbs in the area, but it’s inclusion in a gajillion bike races makes it world renowned to road bikers. It’s ridden every year in the Amstel Gold. It’s been ridden in the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana, Dutch national championships and a couple times in the World Championship, including last year (which was super cool). 

So why has it taken me so long to go ride it, you ask? It’s only 10 km from my front door for chrissakes! Well I only just moved here and I’ve been real real busy travelling for work? Stop making excuses and get your ass on the bike slacker! 

Today I went out for about 60 km and included the Cauberg in that ride. I figured I’d better get some hill climbing in before heading to Alpe ‘d Huez for the Tour de France. That’s a real hill.

I’ve realized that with only a slight detour I could ride the hills of Valkenburg on my bike ride home from work if I’m feeling frisky, so that’s cool. After riding the Cauberg I came back towards Maastricht into Belgium to get a bit of Flanders in, couldn’t resist. 

I don’t normally carry a camera on my bike rides but I keep riding past all this great scenery so I figured I’d bring it along this time. 

Before getting to the Cauberg I detoured through some pretty good hilly stuff near Valkenburg. After a screaming fast descent I randomly picked a road and ended up basically climbing back up the same hill I’d just descended but through the woods. This picture from the top doesn’t look steep, but it was pretty good.

This is the top of the Cauberg. So I rode down.

The Cauberg starts in town among all the cafes, etc. It’s a good place to  watch a race since there’s a lot of beer and frikandel. 

So, I rode the hill, it was cool. Like I said before, it’s not particularly steep or long, but I wasn’t racing. Afterwards I headed back west.

You wouldn’t know it but The Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe (except Malta…please). You wouldn’t know it by these pictures! There is a lot of rural land but the towns are spaced pretty closely, so you have a lot of options when planning a route.

I ended up going down a few km of this dirt road. It was a blast! 

Chateau Neercanne. It’s a nice hotel & Michelin rated restaurant now but it hasn’t always been.

My legs are allergic to all the nature, doh! Maybe it’s the sun, those suckers are glowing white.

Just over the border in Belgium this canal runs around the western edge of Maastricht.

One last climb before heading home. 

So that was a great bike ride, now time for a frosty malted recovery beverage. Think I’ll go back out tomorrow.

Gary

Year In Review, Take 2: June 2012 - June 2013

As they say, time flies when time’s flying. We’ve just wrapped up our second year in Europe, I don’t know where it went (the year, that is, not Europe). It was a very busy annum, I spent 133 days travelling for work (but who’s counting?) and of course we made a bunch of trips for fun. All told, I spent roughly half the year on the road. 

At the beginning of May we moved from Rotterdam to Maastricht and I’m absolutely in love with living here! I almost want to take time off work just to be home. I’m sure the next year is going to be great, but enough of that. Below are a bunch of pictures from these last twelve months.

image

My partner in crime, Le’Bacon, and I spent a really cool weekend in and around Houffalize, Belgium, a little town in the Ardennes. We went to ride our bikes in the LaChouffe Classic. It was around 110 km up and down hills all day. It was super fun and sponsored by one of the best beers in the world, LaChouffe! They also have a catchy song, click

image

I had a really cool work trip to Rota, Spain with my favorite half South African, Morgan. We ended up with a bit of down time, so we hopped a ferry for Cadiz. What a cool city! It’s muy bien. Click here for the post.

image

I took this pic from the pier in Pemba, Mozambique after work while waiting for a ride back to the hotel.

image

Heading into Rosendal, Norway. I’d just like to point out that Norway is freakin’ b-e-a-utiful. I spent a couple of nights here for work and would gladly go back with very little provocation. 

image

The best trip of the year was back to the US to visit with my wonderful family. I miss you guys! This is my niece, the outrageous Nora.

image

This is Algeciras, Spain. It’s just around the corner from Gibraltar. I made two work trips here this year. 

image

Gibraltar has quite the history, and monkeys.

image

One of the best vacations ever. The Mrs. and I spent seven days riding bikes around the Loire Valley in France. I have no idea why I didn’t do a proper posting of that trip, I guess I just quit after posting pics on Facebook. I should really do one, it was amazing. The food and wine out in the French country-side is amazing. I’m pretty sure I came close to eating all the foi gras they had. 

image

I went to the World Championship bike race in Valkenburg with a couple of cool cats. At the time I was living in Rotterdam but now that we’ve moved to Maastricht, Valkenburg is just down the road.

image

This is the beach in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. I spent three days here for work, pretty arduous.

image

London was calling…

image

Gdansk, Poland. The German name for the town is Danzig. How cool is that?

image

We went to Cologne, Germany for the Christmas Markets. Pretty cool, literally and figuratively.

image

Rotterdam hosts one of the last ‘Six Days’ bike races. Pretty fast and furious (not in a bad acting, fast car kind of way). My favorite daughter was in town so we went down with a friend and caught a night of the action.

image

Reigan and I had a great father / daughter trip. We froze our toes off in Dusseldorf for a couple of days. Luckily there was a lot of schweine to keep us warm, oh and alt bier too. One of the highlights was the ferris wheel ride because we had great views and a heater. On the way home we swung through and toured the Marksburg Castle, really cool.

Somewhere in Finland in January. Where? Doesn’t matter, it all looked like this outside of the city! I went to Turku and Vaasa. I liked it, especially the reindeer, it’s lekker smaak! I went back to Turku in June and it was quite a bit warmer, in fact the northern part, Lapland, was the warmest place in Europe at the time. Weird. 

Reigan came to visit for the Holidays and then stayed on ‘til going to Paris to study for a semester. During her stay her friend from school, who was studying in Holland, came to visit for the weekend. We went down to Belgium, Ghent to be specific. We all had a great time and ate some nose candy

One of the few places in West Africa that I really don’t mind going to is Ghana. It’s pretty ok! Normally we don’t have a lot of time to kill but on this particular trip Jody and I had a few hours before our flight so we grabbed a driver and headed to a remote beach. It was very nice. 

Paris in February. Dropping the offspring off for her dream semester abroad. We spent a few days there hanging out and eating duck parts. 

Namibia is nice. I was in Walvis Bay. There are a lot of birds. 

This was the view from my hotel room in Dubai. That needle looking building is the tallest building in the world. I go to Dubai a lot. It’s a bit like Disney World, nice and shiny from the outside but lacking in substance. Meh.

One of the halls in Versailles. We spent a week in Paris in April, visiting Reigan and doing Parisian things. We missed you HAM & Cris. 

Another great day on the bike. Went to Belgium for the weekend with JJ & Steph for my second Tour of Flanders. Full write up here

Hamburg, Gemany. This time I didn’t let the opportunity pass to have a hamburger in Hamburg. The burger didn’t taste very good but it was poetically perfect. 

The ship we were waiting for in Hamburg was late so Mostly and I headed to Lubeck to look around. It’s a pretty town that is apparently famous for producing marzipan. Definitely a nice day trip from Hamburg.

I think that was about it. Well, not really. Misha and I did a number of small day or weekend trips, like to Koblenz, Amsterdam, etc.. I also made some more work trips, like Ivory Coast, Bahrain, Angola, Nigeria, etc., but I can’t possible include everything now can I? 

It was a pretty cool year. We’re still enjoying living in The Netherlands and travelling. We’re working on a few things for the coming months, including a four day trip to the French Alpes during the Tour de France. Pretty excited about that, especially the chance to ride up Alpe d’Huez! I’ll surely post something from that trip.

That’s all I’ve got today, thanks for reading and take care.

Gary

Tour of Flanders 2013 - Americans Wage War on Belgian Cobbles (or precisely the other way around)

So (sorry, apparently the dutch habit of starting every statement with ‘so’ has stuck). So, last weekend I subjected my body & bicycle to the torture of riding in the Ronde van Vlaanderen cyclo sportive, grand fondo, thing. This was the second time for me and I would like to go on the record as saying it was the last. Don’t get me wrong, the Ronde (pro race) is an incredible monument to cycle racing and an all together fun way to spend a weekend. However, there are a lot of organized amateur rides in Europe and only a  couple of them require pummeling your nether regions into a bruised mess of swollen saddle soreness. I don’t care what anyone says after the fact, nobody likes riding on cobbles when they’re actually riding on cobbles. ‘Nuff said about that. Here’s the map of the route, including hill index:

I rode with a couple of good friends from Rotterdam, who were attending for their first time and apparently about 15,000 other people including George Hincapie! We rode the 133 km route, which includes all the hills (save one). This is by far the most popular route as it allows a common start and finish location (Oudenaarde) and eliminates the need to catch a 0530 shuttle bus to Brugge. 

JJ & Steph administer last minute chain lube.

The morning got off to a cold start; when we woke up it was about 24 deg fahrenheit. It warmed up progressively throughout the day but was snowing on us the last couple kilometers. 

The 1st hill (Koppenberg) came early in the day and was one of the steepest, including a section with a 22% gradient. Unfortunately the crowds hadn’t broken up yet and we were greeted by a bottle neck requiring everyone to climb the cobbled hill on foot. This is really difficult in plastic cleated sidis, best to work your way over to the muddy shoulder where the traction is a bit better. 

There were a number of photographers along the route snapping shots of you at your best, which is where some of these pictures come from.  Of course they were always on the cobbled sections & hills so all of my pictures show me with what I’ve labelled my ‘cobbles face’. It’s an expression born of cold weather, physical exertion and disbelief at my own stupidity for voluntarily doing this again. 

A good example of ‘cobble face’. Hey, at least I’m not walking! 

All the wonders that await you at the top of the hill, for sale by local entrepreneurs.

After crossing this finish line we took advantage of the free massage (thanks Skoda!) and powered through delicious braadwursts. After a brief game of hide and seek with our escape car we loaded up and headed back to the hotel to drain the hot water tank and bundle up in our warmest wool sweaters before heading into town for further nourishment and beer. 

Of course the next day (easter) was the day of the actual race. The town was a bit less busy than last year, due to the holiday, but the racers didn’t slack off and provided a great day’s entertainment. Fabian Cancellara proved he still has what it takes by taking a masterful win over Peter Sagan. Brilliant.

Although less hyped, Marianne Vos won the women’s race. A well deserved win for perhaps the most dominant cyclist alive.

Spartacus’ team car.

We got into town in time to walk around a bit before the start of the women’s race. 

Ladies on the way to the starting line. 

Marianne Vos’ team car. 

While walking around we saw the kid’s race roll through, very cool.

During the early part of the race we went through the museum dedicated to the race. It was definitely worth the hour or so. On display were all manner of racing relics and assorted old stuff. The film was pretty cool too. 

They even have a bike rigged up on lumpy rollers as a cobble simulator! 

My favorite daughter was home from Paris for the weekend so I was in a hurry to head back to Holland after the race. Instead of trekking out to one of the bergs to watch the rest of the race we watched from the safety of a nice warm pub with a bunch of thirsty locals. Very fun.

So, another successful Belgian biking weekend. Good times. 

Bye for now, 

Gary

The Andalusian Endeavor

I just returned from the motherland, Espana. Or at least the country from which this bloggish bore (or is that boorish blog?) received it’s name. What a great trip!

This was my first run-in with Iberia Air Lines. They’ve stumbled upon a great system to get you where you’re going. Every flight is late. I know that doesn’t sound like a great system, in fact it goes against everything most travelers think of as convenient. The reason it works so well though is that EVERY flight is late. Most airlines are late at least half the time anyway, which means you’re always running around frazzled, trying to catch a short connection, etc. In fact I think Iberia needs to embrace this in a new advertising campaign. Just spit-balling here but maybe something like: Iberia, Don’t worry…..We’re Always Late.

I stayed in El Puerto de Santa Maria which is across Bahia Cadiz from that eponymous bay’s namesake city, Cadiz.

El Puerto de Santa Maria is a nice place to stay with plentiful restaurants and nice beaches. It’s also home to the famous Osborne winery. Unfortunately my schedule precluded me from visiting the winery, but it is open for tours. Bull fighting is still very big in this area with El Puerto boasting it’s own arena. Based on the frequency of scheduled events it looks like bull fighting probably negates any need for a local slaughter house. I didn’t attend the spectacle. I also didn’t get many photos of El Puerto, but here’s one leaving on a ferry:

There are frequent pedestrian ferries between El Puerto and Cadiz for the paltry sum of around € 2, pretty sweet. The guy below is commuting to work on the ferry.

Cadiz is an excellent place to spend a couple of lazy days, with great food, wine and a very pleasing climate. All of my time in Cadiz was spent inside the old town. Dating back to medieval times parts of the old city wall are still standing.

Starting from the tourist information booth, and armed with a handy map, you can follow one of four color coded paths through town showing different sights of historical interest.

Like this Simpsons themed bar for example:

Ok, so that’s not really representative of the town. It’s actually a very nice place with numerous little sidewalk cafes and heladorias serving up some mean tapas and gelato. This area is big on sea food and it’s almost impossible to escape the delicious jamon iberico. But then again why would you want to?

Delicious grilled mushrooms and the ubiquitous, heavenly jamon iberico (above).

Mouth watering ceviche and foie gras (below). Just looking at this picture has me smacking my lips, it was so delicious!!! All of the food in these photos was tapas portions, each one going for between € 2 - € 4, what a steal! 

I’ll pass on the special de dia. Eeeeewwwwwwww, blech. I hate potatoes with ham.

Just some beautiful European chapel or another.

Part of the old wall.

The original medieval land gate.

Below is the newer and outermost land gate viewed from the inside.

Western most wall looking north (above). Same spot looking south (below).

North wall looking west.

The city has a few great little parks / squares. Very tranquil with some great landscaping.

Let’s take a quick break for some refreshing sangria.

Aaaah, that’s better now isn’t it. 

Scenic? Yes. The next few photos are some great examples of the narrow winding streets and alleys that we all associate with old, romantic, European cities. 

Street parking.

It’s kind of hard to see but there are fishing poles extending from every balcony in the above picture.

In addition to guys with red capes slaughtering bulls, this area is also known for Flamenco dancing. I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to see any flamenco this time around because it’s really something else to see. Very cool. I did see this statue though:

Oh yeah, they have ruins of an old Roman theatre.

Well that’s a wrap. I was hoping to find some Spanish windmills to tilt, but I’m home now so I guess the Dutch variety will have to do. 

Adios, buenos dias, etc.

Gary

collection of photos and maybe a thought or two (maybe not) after having lived in Holland for about a year

Wow what a year!!! I’ve not been very good about updating this blog. Primarily because I’m lazy but also because I’m very busy and pretty much always can think of something better to do than update a blog that nobody reads. If you’re reading this I can assure you that you are the exception, and thanks. Actually, tumblr keeps emailing me requests to give up the blog, my low volume brings down their average I’m guessing. Either that or someone pretty powerful wants the name ‘Some Other Sancho’. That’s probably it. Anyway, I thought I’d post some photos collected over the course of the last year. I’m also going to try to recollect all of the places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and list them so that I’ll have a written record, all the while listening to NOMEANSNO ‘Wrong’ on my headphones and trying to polish off a bottle of wine the Mrs. brought home from Budapest. I haven’t heard this album in probably 20 years so it has a lot of my attention (as does the wine), if this is even partially coherent then I’ll consider it a job well done. So, here goes:

Rotterdam, The Netherlands; the place I call home for now but wish I saw more often.

Paris, France; a place we love and said we’d surely come back because it’s such an easy four hour drive and suuure we can do that over a long weekend and that we’ve never been back to because there are too few long weekends and too many places to see but that we surely have to go back to at some point because there’s so much we haven’t seen and done! By the way, who are you calling a creap-ole?

Dubai, UAE; a place I work frequently and that I could not care less about going back to, although I will. If recreational shopping is your idea of time well spent then you may just love Dubai, or if you’re really rich and like showing off. I can find Tony Roma’s and The Gap in any crappy suburb without having to suffer 120 degree temps. And exactly how many red ferraris does one town need?

Delft, The Netherlands; great town just down the fietspad from Rotterdam.

Brugge, Belgium; what can you say about Brugge, it’s awesome, and not in the metaphorical sense, it’s literally awesome… like totally dude.

Kiel, Germany; visited during the holiday season, their version of the Christmas market focused heavily on the booze, gluwein anyone?

Prague, Czech Republic; one of the most scenic towns anywhere. We went during early November and really had a great time but I hear that during the summer the volume of traffic is staggering. I don’t like being staggered, or large groups of people for that matter.

Cagliari, Sardinia; visited for a couple days for work, super cool island town with original walled city still in tact.

Gouda, The Netherlands; it’s all about the cheese.

Luanda, Angola; uuuuh, yeah, no thanks. This place has snakes big enough to eat cows and bugs that spill acid onto your skin when you swat them. Also the only place I ever needed to sleep under a mosquito net. Although they do have a radio station that isn’t afraid to play Quiet Riot back to back with Shania Twain.

Durban, South Africa; described once to me by a friend as South Africa’s sandy eggo, or maybe he meant San Diego? That would make more sense. Either way they have hundreds of blue-balled monkeys running amok, in sandy eggo they only have monkeys at the zoo. 

A’Chouffe, Belgium; home of one of the world’s best beers (LaChouffe) and a lot of gnomes, great place to destroy yourself on a bicycle in the Ardennes.

Bremerhaven, Germany; a great place to…, ok, well a great place to…, aaaah never mind.

Barcelona, Spain; yes that’s a two pack of brains on the left. It seems a shame to only post this picture when Barcelona is such a beautiful city. But you’ve already seen pictures of Barcelona’s buildings right?

Fez, Morocco; I’m really glad we visited Fez, I hope to never go back.

Athens, Greece; when I see Greece pop up on my work schedule it makes me happy.

Capetown, South Africa; good scenery, good food, good wine, ‘nuff said.

Hamburg, Germany; surprisingly few hamburgers to be had.

Takoradi, Ghana; ok, well this picture was on the road to Takoradi, cut me some slack. Ghana is the one place in west Africa I’ve been that I don’t mind going back to. I hear there are other places that are equally hospitable but I’ve not seen them.

London, England; great city that I haven’t seen enough of. Spent a couple of busy days knocking out some of the standard sights. Definitely need to go back.

Sharm el Sheik, Egypt; resort town in the desert. Like laying on the beach? Going to a casino at night? This is that kind of town, not very big but plenty of sand. I did get to go dorkeling (swimming around a reef sans snorkel, armed with nothing but a pair of swimming goggles) in the Red Sea. That was cool.

Muscat, Oman; did two over-nights here coming and going from Duqm (a ship-yard in a cat box). 

Manama, Bahrain; one of the frequent stops on my calendar. It gets really hot here. The place to buy fake designer products if that’s your thing. It’s not mine.

Oudenaard, Belgium; yay Belgie! That’s what Belgians call Belgium, unless you’re in the French speaking parts and then it’s Belgique. I can’t get enough of Belgium, Belgie or Belgique. Went to Oudenaard to watch the Ronde Van Vlanderen bicycle race and to ride the sportif ride the day before the race. The Tour of Flanders is distinguished by it’s short punchy climbs and brutal sections of cobbled roads, often combined to form an unbelievably punishing endeavor. Great times.

Lagos, Nigeria; sucks.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands; great city that’s only a short train ride away. We don’t get out there as often as we could but we do get out there. It really is an amazing place.

Brussels, Belgium; we went to a Christmas Market here and had a good day. Didn’t see much else, but it’s definitely a scenic city. It’s the biggest city and capital of Belgium, also the administrative center of the European Union.

Slany, Czech Republic; a small suburbish town outside of Prague, I went here for work. Not a whole lot going on in Slany but it’s a nice relaxing place to hang out. The have a pretty good brewery / restaurant.  

Montserrat, Spain; the Mrs. and I took a day trip to this monastery in the mountains. Pretty cool and an easy train ride from Barcelona. This picture is pretty crappy but I like it anyway.

We’ve made a handful of various side trips to The Hague, Assen, Kinderdijk, etc. that I didn’t post pics for, oh yeah Fujeirah, UAE too. I think that’s about it. I don’t really know what to say, it’s been a whirl wind year. It’s been amazing, exhausting and exhilarating. I often feel like I’m never home, for good reason. I do feel really lucky to have this chance to see so much of the world. Can’t wait to see what the next two years have to offer. Don’t be afraid to come visit, unless you just stumbled upon this blog and I don’t know you, in which case you are not invited. Have a great day. 

-Gary-

Tour of Flanders 2012. Start of the women’s race.

Tour of Flanders 2012. The blur of color that is the pro peloton coming through Oudenaarde Markt, followed by the seemingly never-ending string of team cars.

2012 Tour of Flanders bicycle race. The break-away coming through Oudenaarde Markt.

Sunburn & Ewoks

I was supposed to be in Lagos, Nigeria this week. I was unable to go due to Good Luck Jonathan ending the gasoline subsidies and doubling the cost of gas, driving the inhabitants to riot in the street. Not so nice in Nigeria. Serendipitously I instead landed a trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Much better, especially since I got a surprise upgrade to business class for the all day flight down. Business class how I love thee. The above picture was taken downtown looking up at Table Mountain.

My first day in town was spent working after a late arrival the previous night and only four hours sleep. There wasn’t much time left for fun but there was time for dinner at a brew pub down at the water front and a bit of a walk. The next day though was all mine, until the flight home that is. The morning and early afternoon were spent hiking about the top of Table Mountain. There is some great scenery from the top and many miles of marked trails to explore.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the sun. I’m pretty good about applying sunscreen, but I don’t usually put it on my legs (they’re normally moving too fast to get burned). A tip for visitors to Table Mountain: put it on your legs. There isn’t so much as a sliver of shade up there and did I mention it’s in Africa? As in Africa hot? Suffice it to say that my chicken legs got nice and fried, you’d have thought I slathered them in Crisco. I did not, at least not that day. I’ve often been called “The Count” due to my pasty complexion, aversion to the sun and a little thing that happened in high school that I don’t like to talk about. I’m not really a vampire, but I swear I could actually hear my skin sizzling in the sun. At no time though did I sparkle.

So hiking about the top of the Table, I snapped the below photos:

When the fog cleared you could see the Atlantic Ocean.

There were Ewoks hiding from the sun all over the place.

This guy was trying to teach a flower how to use an I-phone. Dude, flowers don’t have fingers, hahaha. Goober.

You’d think that when I decided to buy the souvenir shop hat to keep the sun off of my face that I’d have thought to rub some SPF on my legs. 

The food chain in action, or lizard vs. worm.

That’s Lion’s Head.

It’s possible to hike up and down but due to time constraints the cable tram was the order of the day. It’s a steep ride and takes only four minutes. On the cab ride up to the base station we were passed by numerous road bikers bombing down the long, twisting roads, I was soo jealous. There are no hills in Holland. 

A hazy picture of Robben Island (Dutch for “Seal Island”), where Nelson Mandela spent decades imprisoned during Apartheid.

Africa rocks.

Picture taken from my hotel room of a meteorological phenomenon called the Table Cloth. It’s really cool to see the fog come rolling over like so many bolts of fabric. 

The evening was wrapped up with a dinner of delicious baby squid, some much appreciated ice cold Hansa draughts and an eleven.5 hour flight.  

Tune in soon to hear about my possible return trips to Germany, Ghana and Nigeria, oooooh enthralling! 

Gary

Brugge Ice Sculpture Festival

Brugge hosts an annual ice sculpture festival. During a recent visit we attended this years event themed for Disneyland Paris. While I am not a huge fan of Disney stuff and junk, it was cool to see all of the ice sculptures. It’s easy to appreciate the work that goes into this kind of display. The photos came out not so good, it’s hard to photograph clear ice. Enjoy.