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A good friend has a cycling blog with a great name: ‘Al playing in the traffic’ (well worth a look if you don’t already know it).  Our farewell ride in the Netherlands could have been called ‘Bruce and Elly playing in the wind’.  We had one full day left after catching the train back from Berlin to Amsterdam and we could (should?) have spent it sight-seeing in Amsterdam – but we have been to Amsterdam a couple of times before, and there were knots to work out of the legs after the train journey, so getting out on the bikes seemed like a better idea.  Since we had already crossed the Afsluitdijk earlier this trip, we thought it might be fun to try the other major sea dike, the Houtribdijk, between Lelystad and Enkhuizen (see map above) and make a loop back to Amsterdam.  Particular fun would be cycling without luggage, so it would be really easy…

To start off, it certainly was easier. It always feels great to get on the bikes without the load after lots of days cycling with luggage, although you get the effect much more strongly if there are lots of hills.  We were doing very well indeed until we reached the first long, open stretch of dike along the coast between Almere and Lelystad, where the wind felt a lot stronger than the forecast had implied.  We settled into the headwind groove and made it to Lelystad for a very welcome lunch stop.

Then we set off across the Houtribdijk and did some more headwind miles.  I was very, very grateful for a coffee stop at the little harbour halfway across, at ‘Checkpoint Charlie’s Roadhouse’, and not at all keen on setting off again into the wind for the last section of the dike.  It felt a lot more exposed than the Afsluitdijk, and I had seriously underestimated the effect of even quite a moderate headwind continuously for 45km or so.  Once we finally reached Enkhuizen and turned the wind was mercifully at our back, but why does it never feel quite so strong then?  The last 30km or so was a bit of a slog as I was really tired, but we made it back to Amsterdam without any problems.  Bruce, who was navigating, was giving me the countdown of distance to go near the end, to keep me going, but it seemed unrealistic that we were so close to Amsterdam Central Station when we were still cycling through what seemed like villages and quite rural landscape.  Then, suddenly, we were at the cycle and pedestrian ferry that crosses the IJ to piers immediately behind the station – and it was done – a circuit of the Markermeer, the inner section of the lake that is part of the former Zuidersee.  Very glad that we did it, but really don’t feel the need to cycle on any more sea dikes for a while.