Going Dutch

Telstar BC - August 1985

Although I had visited the continent before, I hadn't driven there. That would be mainly because I hadn't been old enough to drive. So this trip was going to be quite an adventure for me. I was on my BMW R65 with the Pantera fairing, and a slightly sagging side-stand. The one problem with riding from Guildford to Dover at stupid o'clock in the morning is that the sun is directly in your eyes for pretty much all of the journey. Actually, that isn't the only problem if you have a slow puncture, as Brian Lane on his Gold Wing found. Because the ferry was booked, and we were short on time, he made do with a can of Finilec/TyreWeld for the boat and we called into a proper fixing place on the other side. While waiting for this to be done, a local walked up to us and asked, "Do you know Lez Lumps?" That man has contacts everywhere!

After the tyre was fixed, we went on our way and reached our campsite, in Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam, in the late afternoon. Amstelveen was chosen as it was the recently declared twin town of Woking. I was not having any problems driving on the right hand side of the road, although junctions required a lot more concentration than previously. One of us had to hand in our passport when paying for the site, getting it back when we left, (common practice at the time, I believe), so Julian Fletcher did so, as he was sorting it out. Since I have named everybody else, I should say that the fourth member of our party was Lee Oversby.

We found that the easiest food to order in the site café was Half Kip met Pom Frit, which was half a chicken with chips. (Apparently their speciality!) One thing I discovered was that all chips arrived covered in mayonnaise. Wherever you go. Even chip vans. Never a fan of that particular condiment I always insisted that it was not put on in all future incidents. Ordering a beer was no problem.

The next day we took a tram into the city. Tickets are bought in advance, (in our case, at the campsite), trams/buses did not carry money. On the way to the stop, I discovered that the flat paved areas next to the roadway are not footpaths, but cycle tracks. Pedestrians have to keep to the cobbled part. On arrival in the city, Julian decided to cash in some travellers cheques, (none of us had bothered, we just brought money). He first, apparently, had to find the right bank, after he had done this, he encountered difficulty as he didn't have his passport, but eventually got his Guilders.

There appeared to be some sort of race involving at least one bicycle-powered catamaran on the canal, but this was just finishing when we got there. We spent a few hours wandering around, avoiding the strangely-smelling cafés, and seeing the very bored women sitting in windows alongside the canals. We managed to find our way to our tram stop, and made our way back to the site for chicken and beer before bed.

The next day we went and explored a few of the older villages on the edge of the water. One did not allow motor vehicles in the centre; everyone had to use the car park and walk. When we got back to the bikes after looking around, the attendant had been concerned about the amount of lean my BMW favoured, and had stuck a couple of planks under the stand. Other villages weren't as concerned about their tourists, and we went through a few, before returning to the campsite.

The next day we visited the Zuider Zee, which is quite an interesting structure, but it has no turning point, so you have to go all the way along the road on top of the dyke and turn around at the end, if you are returning to your start point. This was where Brian left us, as he was visiting family members in Germany. The remaining two bikes rode a rather circuitous route back to Amstelveen for our last night, (and chicken).

After persuading the site cat NOT to get packed up in the tent, and retrieving Julian's passport, we made our way back to the ferry. Down one motorway, we hit a rather heavy storm. As I was struggling to get past a truck, I realised that, although the engine was speeding up, the bike was slowing down. I could swear I smelt the familiar smell of a burning clutch. We managed to limp into a roadside café, to let the machine cool down a bit, before continuing to the port.

While at the café, Julian thought he recognised a brand of coffee he was asked to get, and bought some. It wasn't until we got to the terminal that he checked it and found it to be tobacco. I was not bringing anything and agreed to carry it through customs, so Julian could get all the duty free stuff he had been asked for through.

After arriving at Dover, and not being searched after all, I handed the 'contraband' back and we proceeded home. Nothing of note happened on the road back in Blighty, an uneventful finish to a rather eventful ride home. And I survived driving on the wrong side of the road for several days!

Phil Drackley - Phil the Spill