Sunday night joyride

October 9th, 2006

I used to joyride more often, now I rarely do it. Back in Trondheim I basically stopped cause after 12 years I felt I just about knew every street in the whole of town and there was nothing new to see. And outside town there is just nothing to see, so that's pointless. Then I moved to Utrecht and I bought this crappy used bike that turned out to be a piece of junk. But now I have my trusted bike back and although it's not in tip top shape, it's a big improvement. Tonight I felt like taking a ride to explore some new parts of town up north, where I haven't been much. It ended up a pretty long trip, just over two hours. I thought I would map it out so I knew exactly what area I covered. I also marked down some highlights on the map with dots (click map for full size).


As always with these things, when I start out I have nothing specific in mind, I don't know where I'm going or how far I'm going. I was just out there to clear my head a bit, but I thought I would head north as I've seen most of south Utrecht already. I took the familiar road heading up to my old house, which is a ride I don't really enjoy all that much normally, but tonight it was very nice out. It was 8 degrees, with a nice cool coming over me as I walked out the door. Very familiar Norwegian kind of weather, cool and quiet, I would take this weather every time over a windy day, which there are a lot of here. A light jacket and thin gloves, the perfect outfit. As I passed by my old house, I noticed there was a light on in the basement (which is a freak thing cause the basement was sealed off and looked like a bomb had gone off down there last time I looked). It's not been torn down (as it was said so many times). I wonder if there are people living there now. I headed up north, the narrow little streets where I once took a shot at jogging (I did in all about 3-4 times before I realized it really doesn't suit me).

1) I was just cycling down a narrow little street that I hadn't seen before when I see a car about to enter from the right. It is one of those streets where the lanes are separated, so I knew the car was turning right, the same direction I was going. Since I was a little ahead, I wasn't stopping and I was going to just pass the car with a little arc out to the left, to give myself some space for safety. Just as I come up to the intersection, I see it's a police car. Well, I passed it anyway, and that wasn't the smartest decision ever, but by the time I saw it was the cops it was too late to pretend I wasn't going to do that anyway, so I just kept going. So they catch up with me, roll down the window and pull me over. This is pretty much what I've been trying to avoid for the last 6 months, being pulled over by the cops on some biking infringement. So they tell me that I should have lights on and that I shouldn't be on the road in the first place, I should be on the bike pad (frankly I didn't realize this street even had one, it's dark and not all streets have them). They said they didn't see me and they were about to hit me. Well I take that with a pinch of salt honestly, I've been biking for 2 decades and I have a pretty good idea of how traffic works, I didn't feel I was in danger, they never came up that close to me. But you don't argue with the cops, so I took their comments with great humility. They were pretty nice about it, didn't say anything else and so I took off. The cops were out in force tonight, I saw a bunch more cars the next few blocks.

2) Now I'm effectively in an area I haven't explored before, and I don't really know where I am. So I'm just heading north more or less, trying to make out street signs without really knowing where those locations are relative to my position. I cross the railway line and not long after that I'm on a bridge across a canal. Funny thing, on the bank of the canal there's a little street with a lot of traffic. Cars going very slowly, looks like something's happening down there. As I get to the other side, I see there's a line of little booths along this street, booths with red lights in them. :D Suddenly the activity becomes clear as day. I've just found the largest red light district in this town (I know of two others that pale in comparison). I don't know why, but seeing that sort of thing always makes me laugh.

3) A few streets down I'm starting to get a little uneasy. The large, wide streets are no more and I'm entering into an area that is entirely residential. Since I don't know where I am exactly, I can't say how far I am from the edge of town, if this is the residential district that marks the north-most part of Utrecht or if there's more to come. I pass by a hospital, but otherwise there are only apartment buildings around me. Bus stops are useful to find your way, they often have maps. I ride up to the nearest bus stop and begin to orient myself. I'm in Noord Overvecht now and it's not a terribly interesting area, so I might as well head some other direction. There's really nowhere to go north or west, the map shows no urban settlements there, so I might as well head east. I find my way a bit further north, turn left, cross the Vecht river and arrive at an intersection.

4) So, where to go next. I've come pretty far already, but I decide it's so nice out tonight that I'll keep on going for a bit. On the map, there's a little town called Maarssen further north, so I turn right and hit the pedals. I've now just left Utrecht behind, so there's no more apartment buildings, just the odd house beside the road, and I'm riding just next to a canal. I see a sign "Maarssen 2km". Well that's not far. But very soon my fun comes to an abrupt end, the bike pad turns right, while the road is turning into a motorway and I can't be on there. I recall from the last map reading that there are two roads leading up to Maarssen. I was planning on taking this one and the other one on the way back, to not take the same road both ways, but now I have no choice. I take a left, by some big sports complex with lots of football pitches, and then a right again. I now come up to a map that shows all of Maarssen (and none of Utrecht), so I'm thinking I'll keep going north until the second intersection, where I'll cross the big canal. This area is pretty void of interest, there is some industry, a Blokker, a MacDonalds, but no real urban areas.

5) By now I'm thinking this is as far as I go, here I turn back and start heading for home. I was going to cross the canal and head back on the other side, but I come up to a sign by the bike pad that shows "Utrecht 2km" to the left. I'm in an area I've never been before, and I now have the railway on my left, which I think is going right into Central Station. (Looking at the map in hindsight, I was right about that.) But since I'm not sure and the sign points left, I turn left. So I cross the canal again a bit further down, right alongside the motorway. Right after the crossing, I'm looking for a right, to head back into Utrecht, but the motorway keeps going straight and the bike pad does too. :lala: Eventually I come to an intersection, and there's Utrecht on a sign again. It seems I'm stuck on this bike pad alongside the motorway, there are no other roads in this area, but at least now I'm heading into Utrecht. Once the motorway ends, I find myself right back on the same road I took north, so now I know where I am again. I have to keep checking the map at the bus stops a couple more times to figure out exactly which street to take, but eventually I end up on Amsterdamsestraatweg, which is a really long street that leads right into the center of town, and I'm pretty familiar with this one.

Two things that help me orient myself in Utrecht are a) the motorways and b) the railway. The only problem is that both those two make several turns and go in all kinds of directions, so I never really know where exactly I'm crossing it. All in all a very nice trip. I like riding at night, it's so different. In a sense more interesting, the landscape is less visible, only lit houses and buildings are visible, and it's more of a surprise of what is going to pop up next. In the light of day it's more like you can see what is ahead of you from a long distance, and it's a long ride to get there. There's also more traffic, more people, more life. Night time is very peaceful and quiet. And often less windy too.

I don't have one of those meters on my bike that shows how far I've gone, but going by the map, I'd estimate tonight was around 20km or so. One of these days I'll probably head out east to Bunnik, I've heard it's a nice town. But I'll have to go by a map, so it won't be at night. I've also thought about checking out some of the other towns nearby, and there are a few - Nieuwegein, Houten, Zeist, De Bilt... But I think my bike needs a little maintenance first. :D

EDIT: Thanks to arbscht's comment, I used gmaps pedometer to map out my route and it turns out the total distance I traveled was 23.8km, so my estimate was not too far off. There's also a caloriemeter on the site, and while I hardly pay attention to these things, since it's already integrated, it tells me I burnt about 2000 calories. I don't even know if that's a lot or very little. The calorie estimate is for runners, not bikers.

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5 Responses to "Sunday night joyride"

  1. erik says:

    You should go to the East a bit, beyond Zeist. To an area called the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. It's hilly, contains dense forests and small towns popping up out of nowhere. You could take a train to Zeist and then start cycling in the area East of the town, direction Amersfoort.

    We did that once on holiday, it's quite nice. It was many years ago but I think it's a nature reserve area so it shouldn't have changed much.

  2. Jack says:

    Looking at the route you took, it feels that your adventure was on the way there, but on the way back you just wanted to get back home, thus the straight line :D

  3. arbscht says:

    Must agree with you on night-riding -- even bland, familiar routes can become adventures.

    Fyi, to draw route maps, you might find something like or useful, if you aren't already aware. :-)

  4. numerodix says:

    I did not know about those, thanks a lot! :)

  5. John says:

    Where I come from, joyride means something rather different. :)