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We awoke at the hostel and had to wake the girls in order to make it to breakfast before they stopped serving it. Oh jet lag! My eldest was uncharacteristically surly about having to wake up and this would last well into the first week of our trip; she is one of those kids where it doesn’t matter what time she goes to bed, she still needs 11 hours of sleep, give or take. It made me chuckle and food was more important than her attitude at this point, besides she’d had at least 10 hours by this point.

Supply stop in Arnhem

We slowly got ready and then we started to roll, back down (yes, down!) in to town the way we came in order to find groceries, fuel, a lighter – all those essential bits that can’t be flown from home, and a sharp knife (we searched high and low for our lightweight camping knife prior to departure to no avail). We knew where to go for fuel thanks to some kind souls in a Facebook group and Google Maps – it was nice to know where to go ahead of time.

Of course, we also stopped at a bakery beside the grocery store and there was a lady working there whose cousin runs the Saskatoon Farm by Okotoks (just south of where we live in Calgary, Alberta)! Small world!

Then we rolled. It was already getting hot. We knew today would be quite warm and that tomorrow would be even hotter so we were somewhat anxious to get going. But, it’s hard to mobilize the troops when body clocks are indicating that it’s the wee hours of the morning! So, in order to keep spirits as high as possible, we didn’t crack the whip too hard, instead we opted to let it go and just tried our best. No sense stressing over what already was.

Rolling up to the Veluwezoom National Park

We climbed out way out of town and thought the LF route there (LF 4a) could use a few more trees! But, we did it. We got up (yes up!) and out of Arnhem and my eldest was desperate for ice cream or a popsicle and, lo-and-behold, in the next tiny town there was a cargo bike ice cream vendor. Good thing we stopped, too, as we had just missed the left turn for the LF route by about 30 m and he set us off in the right direction. If we had kept going the way we thought, it would have been a road extremely busy with weekend roadies and driving enthusiasts out for a Saturday cruise over the undulating terrain — not suitable for a slowly travelling family circus of four!

History lesson

The LF route took us through a cemetery and then into the trees where we passed by a large Commonwealth cemetery. As far as memory serves, many British (from an earlier 1944 battle) but also Canadian soldiers are interned there as Canadians played a huge role in turning the tides of World War II in Arnhem during Operation Anger (April 1945) which, from what I’ve been told, was the beginning of the end of Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and shortly thereafter the Nazis surrendered unconditionally throughout Europe, ending the war.

It felt pretty powerful to be able to take my child through such a majestic space – truly, it was absolutely lush with growth but not in a disrespectful way, more that there was new life after death – and I feel like it is one of her first experiences of many where the magnitude of the world wars is beginning to resonate. Emphasis on the beginning because can we ever fully comprehend? Even as adults war is an abstract concept for those of us who have never been in one, let alone one of such size and duration, nor known someone who has.

A week after we arrived in the Netherlands was the 75th anniversary of D-Day (6 June 1944) and I felt immensely grateful to be where I was and to have what I have.

Foreign yet familiar

Up and up through the trees, climbing about 6% grade (or so we were told), and then we got into the Veluwezoom, a lovely treed National Park area with gently rolling terrain. I was overjoyed to be in real fresh air after all of the smokey air in Calgary the past few days. The forest smell kept making me thinking of our old family cottage in Quebec, at Lac Manitou, and that was also lovely. Scent memories are awesome and powerful.

Our trusty Wike trailer. The verdict is in, this trailer is tip-top.

We made it to a look-out but it was a bit hazy from the heat so we couldn’t see far. It was a really neat building, architecturally-speaking, and we finally found the girls some popsicles which was relieving for all!

View point (height of land). Too hazy from heat to see very far though.

After this little jaunt we rode back to the route that would take us to our campground. I tried to hook up my eldest on the FollowMe Tandem but had a heckuva time and was too wobbly; it was uphill here and I think my load was a bit unbalanced — we’ve since used it successfully, no problem. I love that thing but do find it takes some getting used to, more weight in the front seems to help.

Some times it was double track.
Some times it was singletrack!
The trees were so familiar here, there were even larches!

Camping at Zegenoord

We ended up riding about 41 km that day and arrived at this large grass field opening near Loenen – camping “Zegenoord” – that was plastered with tents around the perimeter. The trees were so tall here, big Douglas Firs that you could find in BC. The lady who greeted us was a gentle soul and took my four year old’s hand as she led us over the field to an open spot. Turns out she is a Montessori teacher. Of course!

Paper and pens go a long way. Setting up camp chaos.

The campground was crawling with kids and there was a massive fire pit where marshmallows and bread were roasted. One guy even had a wire popcorn popper, it was really neat! The kids were desperate to join in. So, I taught my eldest how to carve with our brand new and very sharp knife. She found a stick and whittled it down to a good point for marshmallows. Folk were generous enough to share their bounty with the girls.

Life has been hectic lately selling and moving house. I felt immensely grateful for having the time to sit down with my eldest and teach her this life skill. Touring didn’t slow things down as much as I had hoped (mostly due to our slow mornings) but we managed to find a few lovely moments like this in camp.

The only problem with this campground had nothing to do with it: There was a music festival between us and town and the sound carried through the forest as though we were right there. So, exhausted, the girls slept great and my husband and I finally drifted off to sleep after being serenaded by many hits from our middle and high school dances. It is challenging to fall asleep when you are singing along in your head and also astonished at yourself that you know the words still!

Surveying the scene while the water comes to boil. The kids were enjoying ripping around on the grass, in spite of their big, hot day! Thanks Air Transat for the blow-up beach ball cum soccer ball. And, oh my goodness, so glad I bought and brought crocs for this trip, my first pair and I couldn’t be happier.

All in all, an excellent first day with the bulk of our route along traffic free pathways. I was in heaven.

So many beetles in the Veluwezoom! All sorts of sizes. So many insects, in general – it was pretty cool.

Our trip