2010 – Holland & Germany

Photo Gallery – Holland & Germany 2010

In 2010 my friend, Minna-Ella, went back to Finland. I thought it would be fun to ride along with her as far as Travemunde in northern Germany where she would get a ferry back to Helsinki. I could then do a circuit southwards back to my ferry in Amsterdam, thereby taking in as much of the German and Dutch countryside as possible. Before we even got to the ferry at Newcastle things started to go wrong.

As we approached the ferry terminal at South Sheilds my bike suddenly started stuttering and losing power. It had done this before and I’d got the garage to check it. They thought it was just some grit in the petrol tank and assured me they had cleaned it out. As the first 150 miles had gone by without a recurrence I, too, thought the problem was solved. But as we rolled off the ferry in Holland, and the stuttering got worse, it became apparent that it was something more serious.

I haven’t a clue about mechanics though and although I had AA European Breakdown Recovery cover, Minna-Ella had a tight schedule to keep so I didn’t want to hold her up by calling for help. We took the A9 from the ferry port at Ijmuiden all the way up to the top of the peninsula where the Afsluitdijk spans the Zuider Zee. Crossing the Afsluitdijk was something I’d wanted to do for years, it was a 20 mile man-made dam across the sea, and I was thrilled to finally be able to do it. As the day went on though, the bike lost more and more power and even I could tell it was only firing on one cylinder. I was finding it harder and harder to keep up with Minna-Ella. As we were going along fairly quiet back roads it wasn’t too much of a problem, but the next day, when we joined the motorway east to Germany, I really struggled to keep it at 60mph. By the time we got to Weener, just over the German border, it was obvious that if I stayed with Minna-Ella, she wouldn’t make her ferry so we agreed to part company and I picked up a back road south to Meppen then headed west, back across the Dutch border to Coevorden. It was the middle of April and absolutely freezing so I decided to stop there for the night. As I tried to defrost under the hot shower it occurred to me, surely it couldn’t be something as simple as I’d run out of oil? That would explain why everything was so stiff and crunchy.

By the next morning I couldn’t shake this thought, so at the first petrol station I came to, I bought some engine oil and poured it in. Then I filled up with petrol, paid using my credit card and continued west. The last thing Minna-Ella had said to me was “Whatever you do, don’t take the ring road round Amsterdam – it’s terrifying”, so I spotted a long dyke back across the Zuider Zee on my map that would take me towards Alkmaar where I could pick up the road back to the ferry terminal again. When I got to Lelystad, where the dyke starts, I was getting low on fuel so stopped to fill up. As soon as I put my credit card in the machine, my mobile phone started ringing. It was the bank asking if I was overseas and had I made a series of purchases? I’d only made one of the transactions they listed so they advised my credit card had been cloned and that they would have to cancel it with immediate effect. This meant I had no means of paying for anything, including the fuel I was about to dispense, so I put the nozzle back in its holder and carried on. I was going to have to get fuel soon or I wouldn’t make it back to the ferry.

Then I took a wrong turn and missed the dyke across the Zee. Before I knew it I was on the ring road around Amsterdam. Shit, what was I going to do? The bike was now only able to go at 40 mph, I couldn’t turn my head to see what was going on around me because my neck had seized up and I was about to run out of fuel.

Suddenly I saw a petrol station ahead. I pulled in and thankfully was able to use my debit card to pay the bill. But I was in a real predicament now – if the bike broke down completely before I got to the ferry, I’d be snookered. Although I had Breakdown Assistance which covered putting you up in a hotel and the costs of changing your ferry tickets, I would have to pay these expenses first then reclaim them. I only had a few pounds left in my bank account, nowhere near enough to cover such costs, and as my credit card was now out of action, I’d be without the necessary funds to get home. My only option was to get to the ferry and get back to the UK, from where I’d be able to use my local AA cover to get me back to Glasgow for free.

Rejoining the ring road, I eventually saw a sign for Alkmaar in the north. The A9 which we’d taken from the ferry terminal went there, so I figured if I started heading for Alkmaar I’d eventually be able to switch onto the southbound carriageway and follow it directly to the port. I pulled off at the first junction but I couldn’t find the way onto the southbound carriageway. I went back and forth along the main road of the town I’d arrived in but it was no use, there was no on ramp south. Eventually, I decided to use my common sense and followed the main road through the town south. I only had an hour to get to the ferry and I had no idea which way to go.

Just when I was about to give up, I suddenly saw a sign for Bevenwijk, a town I’d seen on the map just above Ijmuiden, the ferry port. I followed it, but when I arrived in Bevenwijk there were no more signs for Ijmuiden so I pulled into a petrol station where no-one spoke English and attempted to say “Ijmuiden”, then, when that didn’t work, “ferry”. Finally someone understood and pointed to the right road. I made it to the terminal with 15 minutes to spare but the bike was howling in pain. Would I ever be able to use it again?

The next morning when the ferry docked in Newcastle the bike wouldn’t move. I let out the clutch but the “bite point” didn’t bite and I had to freewheel it down the ramp. When I stopped for passport control I had to rev it right up to get it to pull off. I should have called the AA then, but, no, I thought I’d just get clear of the terminal first. We limped at 10 mph through Newcastle up to the A69 where suddenly I smelt burning. I looked down and the exhaust was on fire. Finally, I admitted defeat and pulled over. With the last drop of battery charge I had left in my phone I called the AA then waited an hour and half for the recovery truck to haul my injured steed onto its back and carry us home to Glasgow.

When the garage called the next day, it turned out some water had got into my electrics and that’s why it was only firing on one cylinder. Poor thing but what an adventure.

Ride Statistics

Date Route Mileage
Glasgow to Newcastle to Ijmuiden/ Amsterdam (Holland)
M8, M73, M74, A69, A1058 to Royal Quay Ferry Terminal at North Sheilds then the overnight ferry to Ijmuiden/ Amsterdam 179
Ijmuiden/Amsterdam to somewhere near Drachten
A9 to Alkmaar then N9 and N249 to Den Oever
Afsluitdijk then N31 to Harlingen
N393 to Leeuwarden
N31 to Drachten
Drachten to Coevorden
A7/E22 to Groningen
E22 motorway to Weener (Germany)
M-E carried on to Travemunde
I took 436 to Meppen (Germany)
N377 to Coevorden (Holland)
Coevorden to Ijmuiden/ Amsterdam then the overnight ferry to Newcastle
N34 to Ommen then N340 to Zwolle
A50 to Epe
N309 to Lelystad
Meant to take the N302 over Ijsselmeer (Zuider Zee) but accidently took another unnamed road to Almeer where I joined the E231 then the ring road round Amsterdam eventually making it back to Ijmuiden via Zaanstad
Newcastle to somewhere on A69
Total Mileage