|Left to right, author Jim Hinckley, Judy Hinckley (aka my
dearest friend), and Mirjam van Ravenhorst who presented a
gift on behalf of the Dutch Route 66 Association.
(Photo courtesy the Dutch Route 66 Association)
We arrived home from the Netherlands about midnight on Monday none the worse for wear except for being tired and with a touch of the flu. It was truly a grand adventure, and as a bonus, it was an educational one as well.
Even with heavy grey skies, wind, and a fine misty rain the Netherlands is a beautiful country. However, as with Route 66, it was the warmth and generosity of the people met in our travels that gave the country a truly memorable vibrancy.
In the coming weeks I will share details and photos of the adventure, and insights about Route 66 garnered during our visit. As I am still playing catch up on projects as well as rest, and as we have not had an opportunity to download photos (somewhere in the vicinity of 6,000), a brief summary will have to suffice today.
We left long before the sun had begun to chase the darkness from the winter sky on the 7th of January, drove to Las Vegas, ran the gauntlet that is airport security, and began the adventure with a flight to Minneapolis. After a two hour layover, we were on our way to Amsterdam.
Complaint one – Delta Airlines needs more comfortable seats for long flights. We had yet to set out over the Atlantic and my backside was already numb. Fortunately pillows were provided but don’t think they were intended for the use I found for it.
|Willem Bor, Judy Hinckley, Jim Hinckley, and Monique
Bor (couresy Dries Bessels)
The flight and clearing customs at Schiphol in Amsterdam went without a hitch. We made up for that on the return flight.
On arrival I filled my pockets with Euros, made our first purchase with said currency (coffee), and deciphered the method of using a payphone as Dries Bessels and I had our wires crossed about where to meet. Then in what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were at Dries and Marion’s comfortable home where we proceeded to enter a state of unintended unconsciousness for several hours.
Somewhat rested, we set our for a delightful evening of good food and delightful conversation at the home of Willem and Monique Bor. Over a delicious dinner of kip (chicken) and curry rice we discussed Route 66, its charm, its future, the recent merger between the Route 66 Alliance and and the National Historic Route 66 Federation, and a wide array of topics.
Willem is best known to the Route 66 community for his incredibly well detailed models of iconic landmarks and we were truly honored by this charming couples dinner invitation, and a chance to see his latest project that is under construction. That set the theme for the coming week.
|Jim and Judy Hinckley, Hanneke
Wiersma, and Karel Kuperus
(photographer) in beautiful and
The following day we set out with Karel Kuperus and Hanneke Wiersma for a journey to Noordhorn that included extensive site seeing along the way. On this journey we found time for enjoying tea in a most charming canal side cafe, a bit of whimsical house shopping in the stunning village of Garnwerd Groningen, and lunch in historic Groningen. We closed out the day at an Italian restaurant where we savored excellent food enhanced by friends and heart warming conversations.
The next day we returned to Amsterdam after a bit of site seeing that included the tour of an historic windmill that is still in operation arranged by Karel. As exciting, fun, enjoyable, and fascinating as all of this was, a highlight of that Saturday was a delightful and energized gathering of Route 66 enthusiasts at de Prael in the heart of the historic city.
Attendees included Wolfgang Werz of the German Route 66 Association, Dries and Marion Bessels as well as members of the Dutch Route 66 Association, Swa Frantzen from Belgium, the owners of U.S. Bikers and USA Holiday (Jan and Henk Kuperus), friends, and a score or two of fans of the old double six. Beer and book signings, lively conversation and excellent food ensured it was a most delightful evening.
The following day there was more site seeing, this time with Jeroen and Maggie Boersma as our guides. This too was a most fascinating and fun filled adventure (details to follow) that included a tour of a wooden shoe museum. Before you laugh, consider the fact there is a very popular and very interesting barbed wire museum in Texas. The day closed with another delicious home cooked meal (thank you, Marion) and delightful conversation.
|A bit of house shopping.|
Then it was off to Belgium with Dries for visiting some World I related sites in the Ypres area.
The nightly Last Post memorial service in Menin Gate would have been moving at any time of the year but with a cold misty rain it was most somber. It is nothing short of amazing to consider that the names inscribed on the walls are of those men from the British empire whose bodies were never recovered.
It was in Ypres that we experienced our first bad meal. It would be difficult to describe the food or service at Old Tom Restaurant as even mediocre but it did provide adequate fodder for jokes about Belgian chicken.
We chased away the chill and washed down the meal with a few beers, and a shot of Hexengeist at Old Bill Pub. What a charming old place! It definitely shows its age but the new owners opened on January 2nd and they exude excitement for their venture.
We closed out this day at the modern and restful Novetel Leper Centrum. Aside from some issues involved with decoding the combination for the light switches, it was a nice hotel.
A cold, drizzly rain accompanied us on the return trip to Amsterdam that included stops at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, and the Sanctuary Wood Museum at Hill 62. The latter was most intriguing.
At first glance it appeared to be little more than a Route 66 type mom and pop museum of odds and ends collected from area farm fields, and a place to grab a beer and sandwich. First impressions should not always be trusted.
The collection of artifacts and photographs were stunning and mood setting for what awaited us in the forest outside. With a cold misty rain swirling around us, we stepped from the world of history into a time when that history was made.
Preserved here are trenches and shell craters, bunkers and remnants from a time of unimaginable horror. The shivers that ran along my spine were not the result of the cold rain or the water I sloshed through in the trenches, it was that the weather had completely cut me off from the present and returned me to a time when a British soldier lost his life every forty five seconds in these damp, muddy mazes.
We closed out this chapter of the European adventure with another delightful dinner courtesy of Marion, several beers, and even more stimulating conversation.
Wednesday and Thursday were an absolute kaleidoscope of sensory experiences that ranged from historic sites, exploration of historic Amsterdam with Dries as our guide, excellent food, finding a store that sold my books, our first visit to the Holiday Fair in Utrecht, and an evening boat tour through the canals of Amsterdam with Dries, Marion, Jeroen, and Maggie.
The only fly in the ointment was that our state of exhaustion and the curse of the Belgian chicken prevented us from enjoying dinner with Jeroen and Maggie in Amsterdam. There will be more details on these adventures as well but suffice to say it was a most overwhelming and exciting couple of days.
|courtesy Dries Bessels|
Our last days in the Netherlands were consumed by the holiday fair, and evenings of shared conversation, excellent food, and cold beer at a cabin in a forested resort near Utrecht shared with the owners of U.S Bikers and USA Holidays and a few of their employees.
The holiday fair was an extraordinary event that pulsed with excitement. I made three presentations about Route 66 (two of which went well and one that wasn’t very pretty resultant of an array of technical difficulties), and answered questions about that famous highway as well as Kingman at the booth for U.S. Bikers and USA Holidays until my throat was raw .
|Courtesy U.S. Bikers|
Our visit to this charming country closed with another excellent dinner courtesy of Marion, and conversation that went well into the evening. The following day it was a quick breakfast, a trip to the airport, and an adios to our dear friend Mr. Bessels.
The flight home was, well, interesting. It started with a weather delay that left us trapped on board and on the tarmac for almost two hours.
The cold I felt coming on early Saturday morning was beginning to manifest in spades. The delay in take off from Schiphol resulted in a late arrival in Detroit. This coupled with an hour at customs resulted in the missing of our connecting flight to Las Vegas.
The airline booked us on another flight – at 8:30 the following morning. Instead, I went gate to gate in search of Las Vegas bound flights, pleaded my case, and was rewarded with a flight leaving at 6:00 PM.
To say this grand adventure was a life changing endeavor would be akin to saying Minneapolis is cold in January (guess how cold it was when we landed there). To our European friends and neighbors that displayed such open generosity and warmth, thank you. To our Dutch friends new and old, thank you. To the owners of U.S. Bikers and USA Holidays, thank you.
Can we do this again next year?