Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Arriving in Amsterdam

I wrote this almost two days ago. Since then, everything has gone perfectly in Amsterdam, and I am ready to ride out tomorrow morning to The Hague. Feeling very mellow and happy, knowing that this pickle I have put myself in is just the ticket.

The adventure begins. I got five hours sleep on the plane to Amsterdam, the gift of a half tab of prescription Temazapam made the more effective by the circumstantial gift of two seats all to myself. What awaits me in a about an hour is the horror of schlepping that 62-pound bicycle box through the narrow confines of an old city.

But once settled into the Hotel Hestia, I will lay back for a moment and drink in this bizarre quest I have laid before myself. Not so bizarre in a prosaic sense. I mean, a bicycle tour of the Low Countries is hardly unusual and nowhere close to a trek through the semi-charted jungle of Papua New Guinea. I did that too, in 1983, with by best friend then and now, Ian Mackenzie, as capable guide. But I was young and vital then. When I set out to conquer the lanes of alleys of Holland and Belgium, I was coming off two dogs, those perfect complements to a sedentary lifestyle, and a not as shocking as I might have thought 60th birthday. I could barely cycle 10 blocks, but soon after I started biking along the sidewalk - legally - of the Embarcadero, and I just decided that this trip would make sense.

That was a year ago. Now I am here. Or more to the point, it is here. The bizarreness is that I have just thrown myself at it, willfully and inescapably. I'm here because I said I was going to be here so many times that I eventually jut had to do it. I'm going to be a 61-year old man on a bike by himself on roads I have never seen before with faith only in a Garmin Edge 810 GPS bike computer and a bunch of Google maps printed out on waterproof paper. And in myself. Faith, that is. Faith in my now well-trained legs to power me forward irrespective of the uncertainties. This trip. I want to be alone. I want my mind to go where it want to. I want to be away from work and quotidian reality. I want to be here, not there. But I want to go back there refreshed and transformed. I want to relish the slowness and revel in the uncertainties I have brought on myself. And I want to write. I want to start writing again. The things that normally make me anxious traveling are money and loneliness. I guess I am finally thoroughly middle class because the money side of it all is not worrying me. And for once, at least right now, I am looking forward to the loneliness. That's a paradox in my traveling behavior. I really like traveling alone, but even so I am always lonely. The ideal way to travel would be to set an itinerary with a friend, agree to part ways during the day and meet up for dinner at a pre-arranged spot. The ideal combination of loneliness and companionship. The plane just entered its descent. I'm going to call this a blog post, and will put it up as soon as I have wifi. Subsequent posts will be less centered on myself, at least that is the hope.

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