picking up the bakfiets

How we got our bakfiets…

We woke up early on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 to catch the train and take a bus across and south of the big rivers, from Utrecht to Uden, both in The Netherlands.  We had made a spontaneous bid and won the purchase of a bakfiets (Dutch cargo bike) on Marktplaats, the Dutch version of Ebay the day before.

When we got to the city called Den Bosch at 10:30am, we took a couple of photos in front the center statue and hopped on a bus, the only way to get further to Uden.  When we got there, we rented a bike from public transportation, OV, without any hand breaks (back pedal to break) that I had absolutely no experience riding!  The guy we were buying the bakfiets from, Erik, picked Johan up by car and I followed them on my newly acquired bike that I was terrified I was going to fall off of when I tried to stop!  When we got to Erik’s house, Johan took the bakfiets for a little spin while I snapped some shots. Then we sat down for some tea around noon with Erik and he told us about how he used the bakfiets for transporting meat and barbequing at special events.  He told us about some additions and remodeling he did at his house and then walked us out to his garage and gave us a wood stain to touch up the paint on the bakfiets. Then Johan rode the bakfiets, I rode the OV rental bike, and Erik followed us in his car to the local bank so Johan could withdraw the necessary cash to buy the bakfiets. 

Below leaving Uden, we took some photos in front of the central church, taped our pre-planned path written out on two pieces of paper to the wooden lid of the bakfiets (yeah, yeah, we have electronic devices, but we didn’t know if (a) the battery would last and (b) if we would have coverage the whole path home), adjusted the seat with the tools Johan brought, and we were off around 1pm for our estimated 7-hour bike ride across The Netherlands.  It was cold, but we were prepared with multiple pairs of gloves, hats, scarves, coats, and we were ready for our adventure! We got to see The Netherlands in a way that I would have never imagined; we went through cow-pattie fields, sheep-mowed medians, small towns, big towns, logging areas, and stretches of land with no towns, seeing all sorts of new and old windmills in so many different settings.

I don’t know of any place in the United States where we could travel across half the county all by taking the bike lane!  This scenic route was filled both by land and water, including two ferry rides and crossing a very steep bridge. We saw a baby lamb that looked like it was recently born and some baby birds in a very high nest guarded by their mama. I’m pretty sure that we even saw a dead miniature horse along the way…either that or it was extremely tired! We were having a great time seeing all the different animals, scenery, and taking turns riding the bakfiets. But steering the bakfiets was not easy and it was too heavy to ride for long distance for me, so I left the majority of the bakfiets-riding to Johan since he was practically born on a bike and he handled the bakfiets much better than me!  The bakfiets was about 140 kilograms or 300 pounds, but for the most part, the path was flat and easy to get the bakfiets around, for Johan; we did go up one difficult bridge across the Waal river, one of the big rivers that divides the north from the south. That bridge was extremely steep; when we got to the middle, we stopped for a rest and to eat the lunches we brought with us.

We thought we could bike across The Netherlands in 7 hours, but only going about 10 miles per hours wasn’t helping us…we ran out of food and water sooner than we thought and when the sun started to go down, we started riding faster and getting worried as we did not bring any lights with us.  At one point, we weren’t sure if we were lost or not, but then we found a sign that pointed towards Utrecht and said 26 kilometers…that simple sign made us very happy! Later, we rode past the house where Johan’s grandparents lived, but we didn’t stop due to the lack of light falling on us. As we were going through downtown Utrecht, along the bike path, we got to a tight spot we weren’t sure the bakfiets would fit through, but Johan was able to nimbly navigate the bakfiets through it and we were on the final stretch home.

We got back to Johan’s mom’s house at 9:11pm, parked the bakfiets, took one final photo, and quickly went into the house to drink water and eat some food.  Johan decided sprite and milk would be a good idea for quick energy and I gave him a protein bar. I started cooking dinner and then Johan threw up…not once, but twice!  Mom came to the rescue with some saltine crackers.

It was a longer day than we planned and it was a heavier ride than we intended, taking over 8 hours by bike and 14 hours since we left the house that morning.  There you have it – that is our story of how we got the bakfiets! After that, we had to import the bakfiets into the United States, but that is another story.