Blog 5: Rain, Grey Nomads, Hating Cycling Southward and the Garminator


Rain, rain, go away, come again another… year! The Dutch summer has so far provided us with days which rain more often than not. It is only today, in Belgium that I can say that there have not been any clouds with potential rain in sight. In fact it has been really delightful, the petrol station sign flicking between 28, 29 and 30 degrees every five or so seconds.

Last week Kat was devastated that her shoes were filled with water whilst we were riding. Even though my shoes had booties over them, I was no doubt in the same boat. I spotted Kat tipping the water out of her shoes and wringing her socks as we were about to ride into torrential downpour, boggling my mind. I reckon that if you were to ask Kat right now, she would still say that her feet were wetter than mine at that time. I am not too sure how they can be wetter than completely soaked!

We have just heard that rain is due back in Belgium in 2-3 days. Luckily out plan is to be in Germany by that time… suckers!

Love to Hate: Cycling the Netherlands

We almost lived a nightmare. Ok – so more of just a bad day on the bike. Anyway, our plan was to get in a solid day on the bike, shooting us towards Belgium at the speed of a… bicycle. As the crow flies, Belgium is probably only 70-80km away, but unfortunately the crows of the Netherlands are neither big enough nor don’t have anywhere to stow our bikes in order to achieve this short distance. After a late, lazy departure we started our navigation of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The GPS, as always, took us on an adventure, zig zagging the industrial areas of outer Utrecht and through the built up neighbourhoods. Looking at the days route on the GPS, it looked as if we were going in no direction towards our destination. The line basically went west for 20km, the south for 1km, then east for 20km, then south for 1km… moving us in a southerly direction towards Belgium at 1km per hour!

Thinking we could outsmart the dumb GPS device, we stupidly made up our own route; this way would take us south in a much more direct manner. Our cycling started off great, a road next to a freeway, how perfect. The road then ended, but luckily we found a bike path on the other side of the freeway. But then the drama set in – a canal. This stuffed up all plans, and was all of a sudden whisking us in a direction not fit for getting us to Belgium. Then the super drama set in – the GPS ceased working. Trying to turn it on-off at least a billion times, it just didn’t help. But it was kind of ok, we had maps on our iPads. We then decided that since we had no GPS, freeway riding was going to be the only way to get south in an effective manner. Then the super dooper drama set in – the honking. It seemed as if no one could pass us at 120km/h without sounding their horn. We very quickly got the message that bikes weren’t as welcome on freeways as they are in Australia and made a quick b-line down a ravine next to the freeway.

Sitting on the side of the road, still getting honked at (this time due to friendly truck drivers), we worked out that zig zagging the countryside was the only way south. Following the iPads maps, we attempted a little farmers route through the Dutch countryside, but due to the irregular intervals between map checking, we were again lost. This time we had a muddy walking trail to contend with, watery fields within a metre either side. Giving it a short, but ineffective crack, we turned around and discussed a plan… f… g? Again, another long way round due to farms and canals we continued to pedal.

About an hour later we were in a cute town that had a bakery which would pick up our sugar levels. This put us in relatively good moods for the road ahead. However, it was now after 5pm and after noticing a sign to a caravan park, we made a swift 180 degree turn towards the grassy plains where the caravan park of “grey nomads” sat. We decided that stopping at the caravan park here would allow us to get a good rest and prepare for a fresh (and successful) day tomorrow despite not even making halfway to our planned destination.

The Garminator and the GPS lovin’

My GPS device is called “The Garminator”; quite unimaginative given it is branded a Garmin Edge 800 cycling computer. I know at least two other Garminators; the name may be almost be as popular as Mohammad in some countries. We have spent a fair bit of time together, maybe nine or so months now. But now I rely on the Garminator every single day and I believe our relationship has changed.

The Garminator loves life as much as any Australian. It loves routing, then re-routing and is no doubt partial to a scenic route or two. Every morning we plan our route for the day on the Garminator. If you follow the Garminators route it does not fuss, calling every turn for you so that you never get lost.

Often we decide that the Garminators route is stupid, and make up our own way to the next town. The Garminator offers mainly anger towards us in these situations, telling us to turn around and go back for as long as possible, before finally giving up and calculating a re-route. I’m sure I grind it’s gears as much as it does mine – but we get along.

One day the Garminator decided enough was enough. We were already having a shit day (read ‘Love to Hate’ above) and were pretty lost. I’m pretty sure it switched itself off due to the sheer number of times that I ignored the ‘turn arounds’, as I forged my own amateur route across the Netherlands.

When I attempted to turn it on, it would show Garmin, then ‘loading maps’ then… OFF. I tried to revive it, a bit of mouth-to-mouth (maybe I was trying the wrong end?), a tummy rub… but it was all futile.

It was not until the Garminator was gone that I realised how much I relied on it. You know, taking things for granted and all that. We had had some great times, but given it was still within its warranty period, I figured the Garminator mustn’t be for me and prepared myself for the replacement model, the Garminatron3000.

We got to camp that night and I did some googling about “finding the g spot of a Garmin”. Google asked if I meant “finding the g spot of a girl”, but wherever that was it wasn’t as important as the scenic routes I wanted the Garmin to offer me tomorrow. After some sweet forum investigation times, I finally received the elusive location (power plus top left corner of screen). BAM. Full reset of the device and it was back in action. The annoying sound of its beeps had never sounded as sweet as now.

Lesson. Don’t piss off the Garmin. It will shut itself down on you if you do. Follow it’s routes as best as you can, and unless you know for certain that your route is shorter or definitely connects up to where you want to go – listen to the Garminator!

Alleykat and the Grey Nomads

We are camping on this trip for a number of reasons. There’s the cost effectiveness of it all, there’s the space, there’s the natural environment and associated elements. But it only really just dawned on me that caravan parks are the pre-retirement village of the physically (and mentally) capable! Not all caravan parks of course, but many of them!

I find it quite odd that I am friending people more than a decade older than my parents. Not that I think it is wrong, but just that I don’t really do it back home. Maybe that’s due to the fact that I always have friends in my age group of whom I tend to have more in common.

This doesn’t just occur in caravan parks, but with people that we meet who invite us to their houses, or people we stay with from the CouchSurfing website – they can all be double, or even triple our age. I’m not sure what it is about travelling that puts everyone on such an equal playing field. Whether you are 16, or 82 – everyone says hello to each other, makes an effort to get to know you and sews a seed for potential friendship into the future.

I also find it amazing how much you can know about someone in just a five minute conversation. A grey nomad I met in Leerdam lived in Canada between the age of 10-14, was a truck driver his whole life, was retired, was planning to go to Austria with his group of friends until some fell ill, had two children, drove a Saab, told me about all the roads he’d driven across Europe, told me how bad for cycling the section of the Netherlands we were in was – and I had managed to fit in everything about our ride around the world!

It is these little snapshots with younger and older that make our life richer and broaden our horizons. It is these snapshots which present an opportunity for future friendship.


  1. Yup. Had a similar ride today in Germany. The destination wasn’t very far away but it took many hours of zig zagging through random villages to get to our destination. On the way home a massive thunderstorm came in and we got absolutely saturated!

  2. Kat, if it’s raining why not just stop? Or at least put raincoats on? Good news about the Garminator. After trying to navigate across France and Italy I’ve decided to buy one myself for next year. Garmin is the brand I’m looking at. This weekend we’re off to Broken Hill for Charlotte and Stuart’s wedding and the weekend after Mum is going to visit Liz in Maryoochydore and I’m going to Sydney for a Light Railways conference.

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