Blue Planet Ride 2014 - The Great Lakes Circle Tour

Blue Planet 2014 solo bike ride will take 100 days, over a distance of more than 7,000 miles, bringing my total to 36,000 miles for safe drinking water! This carbon neutral pedal powered adventure ride will start in Tucson, Arizona and travels north via El Paso, Texas to Chicago at which point it will circumnavigate all five Great Lakes around the United States and Canada. For daily updates click the BluePlanetRide link.

View great lakes circle 2014 in a larger map
Over the last five summers I have completed self supported solo adventure bike rides around the USA and Europe totaling more than 30,000 miles, to raise awareness and funds for sustainable water projects. You can find more information about my charity rides on my blogs and Facebook fan page Blue Planet Ride.
Blue Planet Network is an NGO with its mission to unlock the global capacity and creativity of individuals, philanthropies, businesses and expert water organizations to solve the global safe drinking water crisis. 

This year I am funding Blue Planet Network member Water for the Americas and their project in Los Gonzales, Guatemala benefiting 239 people. See the project details on Blue Planet Network here
I hope you will support this important charity ride and give if you can. Together we can solve this humanitarian crisis in our lifetime. Feel free to forward this message and fundraising link to your workplace, friends and family.

Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts. It makes the miles a lot less bumpy knowing that you care and feel the need to be part of the solution and help solve the water crisis. Sincerely, Rudy Van Prooyen

Blue Planet Ride 2013

To read all about Blue Planet Ride 2013 across North America click the Jazz, Rock and Country Tour link and for Europe the Euro Baltic Sea Circle Tour link or go to my Facebook page Blue Planet Ride and "like" the page to follow my daily updates.

Blue Planet Ride 2013 took on two separate self-supported solo bike rides. Part one began on May 5th and traveled 3,000 miles in America, from the Great Lakes in Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisianna and back. Part two started in The Netherlands on July 5th and covered over 4,000 miles. It pedal powered through sixteen European countries, making a big circle around the Baltic Sea.

For more details on the completed routes see the USA route map and European route map Water is life. Pass it on! 

Water all around us

Every year for the past five years, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you can find me in the saddle biking the hinterlands of the American or European continent. My initial bike ride four years ago was only 2,500 miles in length, but since then has gradually stretched out to over three times that distance per summer. Besides my physical passion for adventure cycling, this carbon neutral self-propelled annual touring event has a greater purpose, which perhaps is even more important to me than the recreational activity itself.

I ride for water, along oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, symbolically representing over a billion people on this earth that lack access to safe drinking water. It is my passion for humanity that takes me on the road to create awareness and raise funds to reduce this human crisis and in the process help a local community somewhere in the world with a water system, a community well, or a pipe-line from a distant water source, subsequently giving them life, hope, pride and a sustainable future.

At first, on my maiden cross-country tour, not knowing much more about adventure cycling than having to spin my legs in a circular motion for weeks on end, I envisioned bicycle touring not to be too strenuous other than perhaps battling some jet streams and an occasional rainstorm. After all it will be summer time, when the living is easy! Being from The Netherlands I can handle that, because that’s what I was used to during all of my teen years, commuting through fog, rain and wind, back and forth to school and work. However with the exception of rain and wind bicycle touring in America wasn’t anything like biking in the low lands. The longer my trips became and the more regions I covered, the more extreme the weather I encountered.

Needless to say over the years I have weathered the storms and experienced the extremities of our North American climate. On the open road in Kansas, ahead of a tornado that partially destroyed the town of Joplin, I was towing an overweight trailer under a pea green colored sky, pedaling as hard as I could to hopefully make it into town before giant size hail would unleash its wicked fury. Sixty miles per hour cross winds hampered my efforts somewhat but never diminished my zest for life, as I constantly looked for a ditch to jump in or a small space to hide under along the rail road tracks.

Following Route 66 from beginning to end I thought for sure that crossing the Mojave Desert would be one of my biggest challenges this year because of the heat, the potential dehydration problems and the longer distances without shelter or services. But later in Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia, where I biked long days through this drought torn region during a heat wave with record breaking temperatures in excess of 117 degrees, this outdoor bicycle adventure without any air-conditioning became almost unbearable, exhaustive and almost life threatening.

Near Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Minot, North Dakota flash floods caused the Mississippi and Souris River to overflow. Here floodwaters spilled or seeped through levees inundating entire neighborhoods and leaving nearby cow pastures with livestock standing knee-deep in murky waters. Many snakes and small rodents fled onto the road and often became road kill, leaving a trail of cadavers giving off a putrid smell and dense clouds of small pesky flies. Roads were blocked off and caused numerous detours sometimes taken me miles away from my destination.

During hurricane season in Florida I had more than my fair share of severe weather storms. Although I paid close attention to the daily weather alerts, I also had a fairly tight schedule to meet and mostly hit the road no matter what. Fair weather cycling was not really an option. With gale force winds, loud thunderclaps and frightening lightening strikes bolting straight down into the ground, I at times would have to dig deep to stay the course and coach myself to the next town as fast as possible before the weather would move in.

On my way to Fort Lauderdale a cloudburst wreaked such havoc on traffic conditions that it made me question my sanity for being out there and potentially putting myself in harms way. Traffic was hectic as dusk darkened the early evening hours, and the rain further limited my visibility. After a while the storm drains could no longer handle the runoff, causing me to ride in ankle deep water, unable to see potential potholes, debris and road markings. I was getting hosed several times by cars passing me at a reasonable clip spraying huge waves of water straight in my face and all over me. When I accidentally hit a curb and was not able to get out of my clip-ons fast enough, I lost control and crashed onto the pavement but managed to survive the incident without a scratch.

In Bacons Castle, Virginia I stopped at a local grocery store to buy lunch. With a chicken sandwich and a bottle of ice tea in hand I walked up to the counter to pay, but to my dismay discovered that my wallet was missing. After checking all my panniers several times over, I finally came to grips with reality that with 2,000 miles to go, I had lost all my cash, credit cards, driver’s license and medical i.d. cards. As I was about to leave, the storeowner came out and handed me the sandwich I had ordered but could no longer afford. She had watched me panic and search as I was looking for my wallet and knew it wasn't a ploy. Two local men had overheard the conversation and Michael, a big bearded man walked over to size up the situation. He asked me what I needed and offered to pay. “It’s hot out there and you need to hydrate,” he said. We went back in the store where he loaded me up with several cool and refreshing drinks. I was very upset with myself for having been so careless with my wallet but at the same time now experienced a care and kindness from several people that was truly heart warming.

On Tuesday September fourth after one hundred and twenty days on the road, I made it back home.  I was wind torn, water logged, sunburned and 25 pounds lighter but content to have made the journey. It had been a long tour via Chicago to Los Angeles on Route 66 and along the Pacific Coast route to the Mexican border. As a crew-member for the Race Across America I traveled back east to Annapolis, Maryland, where I biked south on historic US bicycle route 1 to Key West, Florida and from there followed the Atlantic Coast route via the outer islands in NC to Bar Harbor, Maine.
During the course of the ride, I stayed with Warmshowers and Couchsurfing hosts, checked in at fleabag motels, camped out in the craziest places, and had the good fortune to have several of my friends and family on the route. Homebound from Bar Harbor to Michigan I made several unscheduled stops to connect with friends I hadn't seen for a long time. There were again so many wonderful Blue Planet moments re-enforcing my believe in humanity and America. I am profoundly grateful to have safely been able to tour around the country on a 7,700-mile bike ride and bring attention to a charity I am very passionate about. Through it all I have experienced the goodness of the land, the kindness of its people, seen beautiful scenery, overcame personal and physical challenges and made many new friends. It has been an incredible journey and I am forever grateful to all who have supported me, and by doing so supported my charity ride. The 2012 Blue Planet Ride is done but the work to stop water poverty continues. Water is life. Pass it on!

Two wheels move the soul

“Life is simple! Eat, Sleep, Bike.” Those are the words written on a baseball cap that was given to me some time ago, and for 108 days this year that saying dominated my life. This year’s adventure trek, cycling the scenic byways of rural America proved to be an amazing and at times enduring experience.

My carbon neutral pedal powered journey around the country was a concoction of a dozen scenic road maps posted on an Adventure Cycling’s website. I connected several of these prime cycling routes where they intersected, to create a 7,600-mile grand circle tour. By the end of April the pre-planning phase of my 3rd Blue Planet Ride, a charity bike ride to raise funds for Blue Planet was finalized and ready for a spin into the real world. And so it was that on May 3rd, under a gray and cloudy sky, I traded the comfort of my suburban couch-potato life for a front-row seat on a bike saddle with a greater than 180-degree panoramic view.

In Ohio I followed the Underground Railroad, a bicycle route leading from Oberlin to Sturgis, Kentucky over quiet and scenic country roads. Meadows were overgrown with flowering dandelions and apple orchards were in full bloom, a prelude to a healthy crop-season in the making. In Kentucky ferocious looking canines are certainly not a cyclist’s best friend, as these exasperate ankle chasers come after you with a vengeance. At one point I had to outpace a pair of bulldogs on the loose, causing an instant rush of adrenaline going through my veins, enough to outsprint them, BOB trailer and all.

For each of these 108 days on the road there was a story, a unique experience or a picture perfect moment. America at its finest, as well as an America in distress. There were horrendous cloudbursts and sixty mile per hour crosswinds to battle. Thunderstorms and lightning strikes, flooding and tornados were dealing terrible blows to local communities. Snakes, turtles and rodents dead or alive were abundant on and near the road. Swarms of tiny flies, mosquitos, mud, dust and dirt were all part of the adventure. Oh, if only I had put some fenders on that bike.

My usual twelve-hour cycling day covered a distance anywhere from 60 to 150 miles, depending on the winds, elevation-grade and type of terrain. After the Ozarks I followed Highway 50, the loneliest highway in America, through Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Natural Bridges, high deserts, mesas, canyons, ghost towns, The Pony Express, and local saloons were all part of the landscape. A twenty-seven mile climb in the Sierra Nevada, up and down Carson Pass with stunning vistas and view points of frozen lakes and snow covered mountains, will be one of those Blue Planet moments I won’t soon forget. From Napa to Boonville was a wine-tasting-delight fest, and beyond the vineyards towards the Pacific Coast, 500-year-old redwoods were towering over me. From there it was onwards to the Oregon Coast, the Olympic Peninsula, and a stop in Seattle for a fourth of July holiday party with family and friends.

From the sea-level shores of the Puget Sound, it was an uphill battle across the Cascades with passes, summits, reservoirs, waterfalls, deep wilderness, active volcanoes and rugged granite and basaltic peaks. Highway 20 took me on some of the most scenic stretches of back country near Winthrop and Twisp in the Okanogan Valley, along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho Panhandle, and the Going-to-the-Sun road in Montana’s Glacier National Park. From there it was on to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and my home state Michigan where after a brief visit to picturesque Petoskey and Leelanau, I made it back home for an on time arrival.

A dramatic and beautiful orange sunset painted a happy moment in the sky on the last outdoor night of my journey. I paused and looked at it for a while and felt blessed with all the good fortunes, great sceneries and wonderful people I met along the way. The ride turned out to be everything I anticipated and hoped for and so much more. In HinHam, Montana at Spencer’s Hi-Way Bar and Grill a poster on the wall said it all: “Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul.”

Random thoughts of water

During my Blue Planet Ride 2010 in Europe, my friend David from the Czech Republic, with whom I biked part of the way, came up with a fun project to create awareness about the lack of access to safe drinking water for so many people all around the world. He carried with him a spiral sketchbook for the purpose of having a daily water posting written by a random person we would come in contact with. A store clerk, a gas station attendant, a warmshower hosts or a newly made friend. He approached them with a smile, introduced himself and explained the purpose of our trip. Sometimes a bit hesitant other times spontaneously they would take on the task at hand and put their prosaic and crafty ideas on paper. Depicted above two such special memories and wonderful Blue Planet moments.

Norre Alsley in Stine Denmark wrote: water is important because it cleanses the body of waste matter, and is a life essential for healthy living. Jessica an icecream vender at Il Gelato in Neuruppin, Germany wrote: Water is a life essential and without it you can't order any ice-cream here! Some were flavored with humor others more serious or with a focus on the environment but the message was clear and everyone knew the most important thing: WATER IS LIFE!

Almost time to make some new tracks

Time is flying and we are now down to ten days before "lift-off". Blue Planet Ride 2011 will kick-off on Tuesday May 3rd to begin a 108 days, 7,834 miles and 18 states, tour of duty. This is more miles than I have ever done in one year! It will cover parts of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast, including the San Juan islands and British Columbia and returns via the Northern route across Glacier National Park back to the Great Lakes region. I will mostly be camping, using the national parks, city parks and the outdoors along the route as daily base camps. Since it is a self-supported solo ride it means that I will be doing my own navigating, communicating and raising awareness for the global water crisis. All essentials including two sets of cycling clothes, rain gear, bicycle tools, and a daily ration of food and safe drinking water, will have to fit in two rear panniers and my BoB trailer. No Sherpas here to help carry the load!

For the last several months I have been busy planning the trip, creating the route and shopping for gear. Together with my friend Nick we completely overhauled the bike and during that process discovered that the rear rim had cracked from all the abuse during last year's ride and needed to be replaced. We also changed to a 12-32T cassette and three new chainrings to get me down to 24 gear inches in anticipation of all the climbs across the Rockies. At the bike store the shop owner, a veteran touring cyclist, explained that my bike was not really designed for long haul trekking and that I should consider purchasing a touring bicycle engineered for that purpose. I thought about it but in the end opted to stick with my eighteen year old Trek. Only time will tell whether that was a wise decision.

The mission of this Blue Planet Ride is to raise awareness and funds for sustainable global water projects and ultimately help end a humanitarian crisis causing two million people, mostly children, to die every year from water born diseases. I start my journey with the hope that many will see the need to save lives and support and follow my ride either electronically or on the road. Like previous years, I am looking forward to making new friends along the way and raise another $10,000 for water projects. Please tell your friends and give if you can. For daily updates click the Facebook or Twitter button on the sidebar of this blog.

Cycling the European continent

In retrospect, politics aside, the year 2010 has earned high marks on my personal Richter scale, with numerous highlights and shattered cycling records, in distance, total vertical elevation and weight loss. Yes, by the end of my Tour-de-Water, more than twice the distance of the Tour-de-France, I had lost eighteen pounds. Where as the year before I got my kicks on Route 66, this year my cycling journey took me across the ocean to discover the less traveled roads of Europe. This self supported, carbon neutral pedal powered cycling tour of duty, mostly solo and partly with my blue planet friend David, turned out to be another amazing, adventurous, and at times challenging journey of a lifetime.

The voyage started out in the rain from the familiarity of my childhood neighborhood near Amsterdam and returned there on a hot summer day some ten weeks later. The route connected the dots of over fifty major municipalities via bicycle lanes, brick and cobble stone city streets, dirt and country roads and main and minor highways. I biked along the shores of the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Adriatic Sea, Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, and the English Channel. Further inland the route followed the river Danube from Austria to Croatia and at times traveled alongside the rivers Elbe, Weser, Vltava, Drava, Lubljanaca, Arne, Garonne, Loire, Seine, Maas and Rijn, on their way north or south to an ocean or a sea.

For accommodations we tried park benches, playgrounds, beaches, camping sites, secluded parking lots and mosquito infested cow pastures. In Hyeres, France we stumbled upon a small yet quiet park with a seemingly welcoming thick grassy lawn, but learned a valuable lesson when the sprinklers went off at two in the morning and chased us soaking wet to dryer grounds and onward to a less hostile environment. By four fifteen in the morning we found a cozy resting place on a scenic outpost overlooking the beach. In Holland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia I arranged “sleepovers” hosted by warm shower friends, an e-network of global cycling enthusiasts, opening their doors to traveling cyclists. In France I found refuge in chambres d’hotes, youth hostels and an occasional bed and breakfast.

Day-trips through Copenhagen, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, Budapest, Zagreb, Florence, Arles and Bruges were rich in history, art and architectural masterpieces, and the scenic landscapes of Schleswig Holstein, Bohemia, the Apennines, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, French Riviera, and Brittany were a feast to the eyes.
Along the way, in Mauthausen Austria I paused to pay respect to my grandfather and the many holocaust victims that perished there, and later on in Belgium and France remembered the fallen heroes of the battlefields of Normandy and Flanders Field (where poppies blow. between the crosses row on row. – by John McCrae). And did I mention the tantalizing fruit of the vine wine tastings in Germany and Bordeaux, France? The gelatos and paninis of Italy, creperies and pattiseries of France, beer and pommes frites in Belgium, Dutch herring and cheese pancakes, Czech and Hungarian goulash, and last but not least all the exquisite home cooking and the variety of beers, brewed to perfection in each of the thirteen countries?

It has been a great year, and a blessed journey, with wonderful people all along the way and across the hundreds of kilometers, who supported and reached out to my Blue Planet cause and me. I feel fortunate and am grateful for that. Thank you, Dank je wel, Merci beaucoup and Danke schon!

Day 8 - Sponsored by Sylvia Saperstein

An early breakfast of muslich, yogurts and a variety of cold cuts and cheeses on freshly baked buns started off the day on the right foot. From the all-you-can-eat buffet I made myself a care package of bananas, apples and egg salad sandwiches, all courtesy of the hotel. Well fed and stockpiled with mid-morning lunch and afternoon snack packs I was ready to take the ride on the road and crank out the miles.

I exited out of town through the city center and stumbled upon the marzipan house. A must stop for me, having been addicted for many years to this sweet almond paste. The place was huge and filled to the rafters with marzipan bars, figurines made from the same sweet almond nectar, and gift boxes galore all within my reach. I munched on some free samples and left the store with a handful of goodies for later in the day!

The weather cooperated with warm, sunny and slightly windy weather mostly in my favor, and the hilly route on smooth country roads, adjacent to rolling fields of wheat and soy, made for an enjoyable ride. This Schleswig Holstein region is perfect for cycling and the terrain is sometimes referred to as little Switzerland, but I don't think it quite compares.

Half way down the stretch in Lensahn I stopped for a break and found an Italian ice cream parlor. It has now become tradition to have one ice-cream cone a day and this time I tried a scoop of apricot. While the caramel gelato in Haren is still in first place, today's fruity flavor is a definite contender and tied for second place with the white chocolate mouse from Hamburg.

By seven o'clock I made it to the ferry terminal in Puttgarden for the crossing of the Baltic Sea. The vessel carried a lot of weight from cars to freight liners, and as I was parking my bike in the belly of the ship a bullet train look-a-like pulled in right next to me. The crossing was only 45 minutes long, and gave me just enough time for a sandwich and a Carlsberg beer. After debarking in Rodbyhavn in Denmark I biked for another 15 miles to the city of Maribo. Vilkommen til Danmark. Vand er liv. Videregive den! Water is life. Pass it on!

Day 7 - Sponsored by Rose Singer

I was up by the crack of dawn, had breakfast with the host family, and by eight o'clock, headed with Christian, for the ferry terminal to Hamburg across the Elbe river. It was a beautiful warm and sunny morning, and a perfect way to start of the day with a river crossing. The 35-minute ferry boat float, costing less than three euros, passed by the Hamburg container harbor and fish market and terminated near the center of town. Many bike commuters were on board the ferry catching a few sun rays on deck before getting in to work. After disembarking in downtown Hamburg, I found a park bench under the sun and lounged for a while overlooking the Binneralster. As I was about to head out of town, I spotted an ice cream stand near the Starbucks Taj Mahal and not long thereafter made good on my ice cream-a-day tradition. Today's flavor was a white chocolate mouse.

By late afternoon I had progressed another 165 miles since Oldenburg and arrived in the beautiful city of Lubeck. Without a warmshower host and having a slight cold, left over from the rainy days, I opted for a room at the Wakenitzblick Hotel, to get some rest. The price was right and the food plentiful and tasty. All in all another perfect day.

Day 6 - Sponsored by Paul Saperstein

From Oldenburg the ride journeyed through the port city of Bremen along the river Weser. Two years earlier I had been here for the 2007 Blue Planet Run on our travels around the world. So it was somewhat reminiscent for me to now bike through this city of tales, passing once again by the impressive city hall, Parliament buildings and St. Peter's cathedral. Like so many historic towns in Germany, Bremen boasts an abundance of sculptures around the city square and in parks and flowering gardens. I took my time taking it all in.

This year's bike ride is different from last year's experience in that the cobble stone roads within the city limits of the towns in Germany have been a challenge. The medieval brickery makes for an uncomfortable and slow going and shakes the panniers vehemently, causing regular adjustments. On the other hand the bakeries, and eateries along the way more than offset the discomfort of the road conditions.

I traveled north to Buxtehude and rode on top the river dikes of the river Elbe flanked on the west side by acres and acres of apple orchards. Further down the road this peaceful and green farming landscape with beautiful farm homes was interrupted by the industrial aircraft giant Airbus who has made it's home here with an assembly plant for the airbus 380 complete with controversial airfields and runways. I arrived at Christian and Catherina's house by six in the evening and enjoyed wonderful hospitality, dinner and a hot shower. That evening we talked bike vacations and toasted with a local apple cider wine.

Day 5 - Sponsored by Henry van de Werken

Tanja and I said our good byes and while she was going home on the train, for me it was the long road ahead to Copenhagen. First stop was the beautiful city of Oldenburg in Germany and by noon I crossed over the border past Oude Pekela. For the occasion I had changed into my T-Mobile jersey, a gift from the cell phone giant.

To stay on course I use a Garmin eTrex. It navigates me and keeps me on course. At times I ignore the suggested route as it is programmed to take the bypasses, avoiding busy traffic through the towns. The Garmin is set for bike traveling so it circumnavigate around freeways and main highways and instead takes country roads and off-the-map routes, often adding an additional twenty miles a day. Today was my longest distance so far and the cyclometer retired at 102 miles.

At exactly 6:00 o'clock in the evening I arrived at my warmshowers host Dietmar, who treated me to a healthy fruit and vegetable salad followed by dinner. After sharing in the duty of doing the dishes there was still enough daylight to go for a guided tour through the Old town of Oldenburg, rich with history and beautiful architecture. My well informed friend and guide showed me the sights and explained the history in amazing detail. We walked around town to a small Jewish Temple standing near a memorial site commemorating a synagogue that was destroyed in 1933 during Kristal Nacht. A sobering moment. At the end of the walk we sat down at a restaurant for a glass of German wine and caught a glimpse of a world soccer cup game in progress.

Day 4 - Sponsored by Maribeth Koss

It is Saturday and an off-day reserved to tour the city of Groningen and meeting up with relatives I haven't seen for eight years. We met under the Martini tower near the town square and had a traditional mid- morning coffee and Dutch pastry treat. My father rode the train in that morning and so we had a pre- father's day and wonderful family reunion. In the afternoon we visited the local synagogue for a unique clarinet and guitar concerto. Before the intermezzo nineteen clarinetists performed on seven different types of clarinets and after the break seventeen guitar players entertained us with wonderful melodies from Brahms, Bruderl and Isaac Albeniz. The evening was concluded at an Italian restaurant for appetizers, and an elaborate spicy rijst tafel dinner at the Jaffa Indonesion restaurant.

Day 3 - Sponsored by David Pincus

The rain has finally subsided and the change of weather made for an enjoyable ride. We followed part of the eleven-city bike tour, sometimes paralleling the canals of the same number city skate route. This ultra long distance ice-skating event, occasionally held when winters are cold enough for the canals and lakes to freeze over, is a one of a kind event, drawing contenders from all corners of the country. Many skaters won't finish this event and the winner becomes a national hero!

In the city of Leeuwarden we stopped at the outdoor market and met a local cyclist who guided us through the town. A quick stop at Us Mem, a statue of a famous Frisian cow, bred for her superior dairy production was added to the agenda. We followed the country road through Dokkum and Lauwersoog to the north coast of the province of Groningen. From that point on it was down wind and we flew through the countryside and made it to our final destination of the day by six o'clock. In the city center of Haren I spotted an Italian icecream parlor and decided to try the caramel waffle cone. A nice treat and a great way to finish off the day. That evening we were welcomed at the cozy home of relatives of Tanja and feasted on an appetizing and healthy pasta dinner with a savory glass of wine.

Day 2 - Sponsored by Ross and Malka Wolman

After tightening some screws and greasing the bike chains, dry and rusty from the copious amounts of rainfall from the day before, we were ready to get back in the saddle. The winds had picked up and gave us a good work-out through the Noord Holland polderland. The route followed the river towards the North where eventually we connected with the Afsluit dike. This dike some thirty kilometers in length is an ingenious and ambitious Dutch water project from the nineteen thirties to safeguard the country from floods and water inundations. It is flanked on one side by a now fresh-water lake called the IJselmeer, formerly called the Zuider Sea, and on the other side the North Sea, and connects Noord Holland with Friesland. On top of the dike sits a four-lane highway with on the seaward side a separate bike path and herds of sheep grazing the grassy slopes. With a northerly wind this would be a tough haul, but fortunately this time around the wind was in our favor and pushed us at a comfortable cruising speed of 40 km per hour.

The route continued from the Afsluit dike through the Friesian polderland, populated by sheep, cows and world famous Friesian horses, and further inland through scenic villages like Bolsward and Sneek. After being douched by a cloudburst of rain a lunch break was in order and we found refuge at a fish store in Bolsward where we dinned on the new raw herring of the season. Still somewhat wet and cold we continued on our way, got drenched again and finally made it to Wygaart where we met our warmshower hosts Pier, Marit and Jelle.

When Pier gave us the choice of pasta or pancakes for dinner we opted for the later which turned out to be a great choice. The pancakes with home-made strawberry, cherry and plum jams were prepared to perfection and soon the rain and bad weather had faded from our memory. When my iPad, and Tanja's iPhone came on the scene, both Marit and Jelle were spell bound for several hours. Later that night Marit serenaded us with beautiful tuba music.

Day 1 - Sponsored by Tanja and Tessel Jarigsma

The 2010 tour de water is finally here and started this morning as planned at eight in the morning from the city of Lisse, known for it's tulip gardens and nearby Keukenhof. It was a special departure for me, with three generations in tow. My 88 year old dad leading the pack, me sandwiched in the middle and my niece Tanja following close behind. We tracked along a country road and before long rain was pouring down our faces. A blessing from the sky perhaps, since it is after all a Tour-de-Water. "Water is leven. Vertel het verder!" Water is life. Pass it on!

This first cycling day traveled north, across the Noth Sea canal locks through the beautiful city of Alkmaar, famous for it's cheese market, and onward to Broek op Lange Dijk our final destination for the night. In this quaint village in the middle of Noord Holland we were hosted by Jos and Maria, friends I found on the warmshowers website. Their hospitality was over and beyond expectations. Besides a hot shower, a healthy organic meal complete with wine and herbal tea, they took us on a late evening boat ride through the Oosterheem zorgtuinderij where Jos was enthrusted with the cultivation of organic vegatables on several islands, only reachable by boat. These wetlands are a waterfowl and bird watching paradise.

Almost ready to take the test

The time has come again to go for another roundabout. This time it will be Europe and having upped the ante over last year’s ride a bit, I have to question myself whether or not I have pushed it beyond my limits. But to quote Elder Regal Black Swan: ”The only way to pass any test is to take the test”, and thus I go yonder. The voyage will begin from the familiarity of my childhood neighborhood near Amsterdam and will return there seventy days later. I feel fortunate to be able to undertake this journey in support of the Blue Planet Foundation’s important initiative. When I finished the ride last year I was elated and grateful, because of all the positive encounters and energy that came my way. Will this year’s European bike journey be able to repeat that? Only time will tell. Please let your family and friends know about this water mission and forward them my blog link, because in order to reach my fundraising objective we will need all the support we can get.

Together, wifi permitted, we will explore, over fifty major cities and a multitude of different cultures. While riding the Dutch countryside, I will be your personal tour guide, as I know this country like the back of my hand. Some destinations will be personal, like the city of Mauthausen in Austria, where my grandfather died in a concentration camp during the Second World War. Other day-trips through Berlin, Dresden, Budapest and Florence will boast rich history, art and architectural landmarks. The route will follow major waterways including the Rhine, Danube and Rhone and traverses through scenic landscapes in Cinqa Terra, the French Riviera, Arles, and Flanders Field, where poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row, … (by John McCrae). And did I mention the anticipated endless fruit of the vine tasting parties in the rolling hills of Italy and France? My carbon neutral pedal power adventure will take place during the time of the Tour de France and World Cup soccer. I will undoubtedly spend time looking for the Dutch soccer matches wherever they may play on the silver screen, and dress up with my orange bandana in support of this Dutch powerhouse team. They may even go all the way this time around. Hup, Holland hup!