We flew on a direct flight from Newark to Dusseldorf, Germany, as close as we could get to where our camper van ‘Romy’ had been stored for the winter at our dealership. That was in a town called Dulman, which we reached in about two hours by train. There we found Romy washed, cleaned and ready for us and we were able to stay a couple of nights there at the dealership while we prepared to leave.
We will spare you all the details of the Schengen Agreement among European countries, but in effect it says that with a couple of exceptions, anyone a citizen of a country outside that group (which includes almost all the European countries, both East and West) are limited to 90 days within the Schengen area each 180 days. So for us, that meant that between our arrival in mid May and when we expected to leave the European area in mid October, we could spend three months in and three months outside of the Schengen area.
For us the answer was pretty easy. While we had both worked extensively in the United Kingdom, and in fact Dave even lived and worked in London for three months, we had never explored much outside of that city. So all of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland were free for us to travel through as those areas have never joined the Schengen Agreement. And since there is a big family reunion we will attend in Tuscany in early August, the best thing to do, counting the days, was to get out of the Schengen area and get ourselves to England. It took us eleven very enjoyable days.
Our first move was into the Netherlands, where we headed for the enormous outdoor and camping store called Osterlink. It is truly amazing! They must have at least sixty tents up and on display and can outfit you with whatever you will ever need to camp. Each time we go we simply can’t believe how huge and complete it is. Imagine it about the size of three American Costcos or Walmart Superstores. From there we drove to the appropriately named Dutch supermarket Jumbo where we stocked up on all the food that Romy could possibly hold.
Now well stocked with almost all we would need, we went on to Enschede, home to our friend Steven’s family and where we could meet up with Steven and his wife Diana, our friends from San Cristobel de Las Casas in Mexico who helped us put this blog together. You might recall that we did one blog just about them as an expression of gratitude for the time and effort they took helping us get our blog shaped into something useable and visually appealing. In Enschede we found them well and happy and Diana even expecting their first child in November!
Steven’s father and mother were overly hospitible as well and Dad cooked a great dinner that we all enjoyed. The next day Steven took us to a local bicycle shop where he bargained with the owner on two used bikes for us. Here we are loading them on the back of Romy where they are today.
Both are wonderful 21 speed bikes and we use them all the time, particularly on bike trails off the roads and highways such as this one in Holland where they seem to be everywhere.
We then headed into Belgium to see our old mentor and dear friend Danny Sparks, who lives outside Brussels not far from where we had lived for a year and a half while working for an American company. We hadn’t seen Danny for ten hears and it was an absolute delight to share the time, her home, and not a few beers with her after all the years. She absolutely refused to have her picture taken, but here is one from an earlier visit. We really miss her!
We then really started on our way to Calais and the ferry to England, but en route decided that we could spend a day in beautiful Bruges, that city so preserved over the centuries, filled with canals and stately buildings, and the setting for one of our favorite films, “In Bruges.” We rode our bikes into town,
From Bruges it is a pretty straight shot to Calais close by over the French border, but anticipating fuel being more expensive in England (as most everything is) we stopped at a Service Plaza to fill up and found ourselves next to Hank from Holland, his daughter and several friends, all aboard motorcycles of various types and even shapes.
Now you have to look closely at Hank’s bike. It is, of course, a Harley, but seems to have a rather bulging engine. That’s because it doesn’t have one engine, it has two, and as far as Hank knows is one of only four in the world. It also has an old fashioned sidecar with windshield so that he daughter rides comfortably there. But it was his trailer or caravan that initially drew our attention.
It looks like a miniature Air Stream and Hank made it himself, even down to shaping the rounded corners and the Harley eagle on the back. He has been 34 times to the USA and most of the stickers or decals all over it are from places he has visited in the States. Just an amazing piece of work and very comfortable inside what with dual tires on each side, an awning on the left side and a skylight on top. We were both so very impressed, and by the time we left Dave and Hank had become buddies.
That was about it for the European Continent and the Schengen area for now as we expect to cross back around the 26th of July to be easily in Tuscany by the first of August. Meanwhile we just drove Romy aboard in Calais and packed him in tight among the trucks down deep in the bowels of the ferry, only to emerge two hours later in Dover.