The idea, which was never part of the plan spawned out of a convo with some lovely German friends we met aboard our cruise in Halong Bay in Vietnam (yup, the same cruise in which the inspiration for the Malaysia trip was hatched). It seemed like a reasonable solution to not being loaded enough to afford $50 hostels and $10 beers so we opted to go with a rig that offered all the comforts of home with an engine and a steering wheel.
Off topic….Dutch radio is the coolest. Its kinda like they found my mp3 player from college and decided that it rocked so much that a radio station should be made to showcase it…really, its that good. But more from the Dutchies later.
For now lets catch us up on the latest happenings from across the pond. After our few days of Euroshock in Frankfurt we began what will be our 7 week adventure via RV through Europe.
Before we could hop in our new home on wheels however we needed to get to it which required a 2 and a half hour jaunt up to Dusseldorf in our Ford Fiesta. The trip was seamless thanks to our Magellan “Neverlost” GPS which I repeatedly claimed my love and thanks throughout the trip.
We arrived at McRent in Dusseldorf ahead of schedule at around 10:40am and got the run-through on the RV and how to work it. The RV is a Fiat powered Globebus T1 which comfortable sleeps two and includes a kitchen and bathroom with shower. Of course, being a dude, I naturally knew exactly how everything worked without explanation. The only thing I did not know what how to drive it. This is a fairly emotional topic for me. You see, from the moment I harnessed the idea of a motor vehicle I have had what I might call an obscene obsession with them. I love cars, and I think people that drive them fast and well are the embodiment of angels sent here as a preview of what awaits if you are a good person. Ok, I digress….the truth…I cannot drive anything with a manual transmission. Its true, every car I’ve owned has been an automatic. Now, if you decide that you cannot continue to read knowing this, I understand.
Those of you who are obviously drunk may continue with me.
Ok, so our RV was in fact a manual and for Nicole who has experience in this transmission, this was perfectly fine. I however, found myself in a position where I was stuck in a place more miserable than a rock and hard place. Our Ford Fiesta needed to be returned about 30 minutes away at Hertz which meant that one of us would have to drive it. The problem, it to featured the deadly manual gearbox. I figured, “shoooo”, I’ve played enough video games, I can do this! First, some practice just to get my feelers. My mission, drive the car approximately 25 feet to the RV to transfer the luggage before heading out. Ok, 25 feet, cake.
Can we get real for a moment? I’ve been drinking…..yes, I have. Cheap red wine with pasta. Not to forget but to help me get through this blog really. I don’t want to relive all this right now. Can we just say that after bucking and stalling about 35 times Nicole had to move the car the 25 feet across the parking lot and that thanks to my supreme skills I managed to lose her in the RV for about 25 minutes on the road before we ever even made it to the grocery store to stock up on travel food before ever returning the car.
Imagine being held at gunpoint at an ATM by that dude from the Green Mile (you know, the crazy large black guy….except, maybe not him cuz he’s kinda cool, but someone his size)….and that’s how I felt every second I was driving to the airport. Let’s just put it like this….German highways are referred to as autobahns which means you can drive the piss out of whatever you have and nobody’s going to stop you. It also means, if you can’t drive….get the f*ck out of the way! I was that guy in your way (crying)…end of story.
Now….naturally Nicole (thank god) took the reigns to begin our trek to give me some time to recuperate after this pride sucking experience. Before hitting the road we hit up Reals supermarket to stock up on food resources. We went a little crazy but the idea of cooking our owns meals after eating out every night for the past 2 months had us highly motivated. It was also kinda nice to just stroll through a supermarket again and chuck whatever looked good into the cart because we knew we had a place to keep it other than a backpack.
Our initial drive took us over the German border into the picturesque city of Arnhem (or Arnheim) in the Netherlands. The day was absolutely perfect and after a scenic drive past some fantastic farmland and small towns we arrived at the campground.
We got ourselves organized and cooked up some bratwurst for dinner as an ode to our German experience to kick off the trip. Our next day found us up quite early and after a good breakfast we headed northwest to the beautiful city of Alkmaar. On our route we drove past about a million wind power turbines and some classic Dutch architecture which included some very cool windmills that were unreal looking against the vibrant fields of green that lined the roads almost the entire drive.
At one point we stumbled upon a watersports park that was pretty unexpected. We saw kids being pulled around a lake on an automated zip line as they wake boarded and water-skied in 50 degree weather!
We arrived in Alkmaar at around 2 and after finding a spot to part the rig we toured through the city for about 2 hours taking in the quiet streets and distinctively unique Dutch architecture in each building. We did happen upon what must have been a mini-red light district with full-on lingerie clad women behind glass windows and a street of only men (and now Nicole) to bring on the business. We were fairly taken by this discovery since the town was fairly dead being it was a Sunday which in Dutch must really be a day of rest because almost everything was closed and we had the place to ourselves. After convincing Nicole that the experience was not worth the money, we peaced out and headed to our next destination.
One thing we did notice though about Alkmaar and a few other places we’ve driven through in the Netherlands is the love of biking people have here. Maybe it’s the air, maybe it’s the “go green” thing but whatever the reason, the Dutch bike it up! Families, senior citizens and kids all over seem to be takin two wheels to the streets. The bikes are quiet obviously not the stuff of rookies either. Most people we saw had massive saddlebags on board that could house as much as any midsize car. It was really pretty fantastic to see. Maybe it’s why the colors here are so awesome and why the air is so damn clean. Whatever it is, we both had a feeling that the Dutch are on to something.
More on the way….from Amsterdam!
Thanks for reading and lets keep the driving thing between us ok?