Day 3

The day's route (50 miles exactly):

And the ride to date (148.9 miles):

This time we decided not to wing it on accommodation, and started the day by hunting on the excellent for guesthouses. We were initially aiming for Zurich (the Dutch one), but could find nothing there so Harlingen was the next place along and that turned out to be an excellent choice. We found a guesthouse with rooms for us and secure parking for our bikes (at a push, we would have sacrificed the former).

It was again quite a leisurely start to the day. We needed to do a little stop on the main shopping street.

Yeah, I know, but we needed an SD card reader so we could import Eric's photos and video to my laptop (MacBook Airs have the emphasis on Air - they don't even allow the weight and space of an SD card reader).

Eric made it out without buying a MBA of his own, which was by no means a certainty when he went in as he was quite taken with mine.

But then we finished Internetting and shopping and hit the road.

Eric's GPS was absolutely insistent on following the North Sea Cycle Route to the letter, no matter how ridiculous, and mine had a very weird idea of how to exit Schagen. Still, it took us through some pretty villages.

I'm not quite sure I understand that roof.

The route was quite varied, with a mix of small rural roads and cycle paths paralleling more main roads. Well, main roads for the area.

There were lots of wind turbines. Lots and lots and lots of wind turbines. Really lots. We were beginning to realise the reason for this.

Everywhere you looked, there was a wind-turbine. The more observant of you will have noticed which way they are facing.

Versus which way we were riding. Did I mention there were very many wind-turbines?

You'll notice these guys are motoring, not sailing.

It was slow going.

Eric's GPS kept crashing. Here he is, having words with it.

A lot of the route paralleled the motorway which was to become the causeway. Or Afsluitdijk, I should say, to keep Ian happy.

These litter bins are everywhere, and are pure genius.

It was a scenic route.

I argue to my Dutch friends that there is in fact no such language. They just make up nonsensical sounds when foreigners are in ear-shot, and the rest of the time just speak English. I enter, as exhibit A in my contention that Dutch is just made up, this place name:

The GPS wanted us to do two sides of a triangle for no good reason that we could see, so we consulted a handy roadside map. It turned out that the last part of the motorway run into Den Oever has no parallel cycle route. With the headwind, we didn't fancy joining the motorway.

We thus crossed it, then turned right.

Although slightly longer, the cycle path did have the virtue of taking us along the coast, providing us with a sea view.

Or dike view, as it turned out.

We did manage to find a bit of sea. Though as this is inside the causeway, I guess technically it's a lake.

We'd saved a couple of pain au chocolat from breakfast, and ate them here.

Then we picked up North Sea Cycle Route signs and followed those.

Back under the motorway ...

We were 23 miles in and I hadn't had a cup of tea yet. Fortunately, salvation was at hand.

It's a random fish hut in, basically, nowhere. But it still has a decent (and elegant) selection of teas, including Earl Grey. Cafes in England, I'm looking at you ...

And then it was onto the causeway. 20 miles of dike, motorway and cycle path across the North Sea. It's a pretty amazing concept. You can read about it on Wiki here.

The fact that I was doing the trip from Holland to Denmark rather than vice-versa was not coincidental: the prevailing winds favour that direction. The wind today was not, however, favouring us at all. It was, in fact, sticking out its tongue then laughing very hard at us: we had 20 miles of basically being at sea in the face of a fierce headwind the entire way.

A quarter of the way across is a statue of Cornelis Lely, the Dutch engineer and politician who came up with the original idea for the causeway.

Did I mention that the causeway is in the middle of the North Sea and it's very, very windy?

I imagine it wasn't actually constructed using a random array of small boys.

What other excuses can we find to put off the moment we have to set off back into that headwind?

The headwind made progress very slow. It has to be said that the novelty of cycling across a sea does wear off. And I might have been running short of things to photograph by this point.

I'd been told there was a cafe in the middle. Actually, what there was in the middle was a Texaco service station. But it had a reasonable selection of food and some wooden benches.

Eric, who had his GPS set to the kilometre things that those Johnny Foreigners use, announced we'd done 200km. "Cycle 200km to a service station," I observed. Eric thought I wasn't entirely selling the concept of the holiday.

Maybe a photo of the service station would help?

I think we'll go right.

Three quarters of the way across, we stopped to look at the sluice gates. Because they were interesting, not because we wanted a rest from that damned wind.

Though we had to stop shortly after that as the swing bridge was open to let a queue of ships and yachts through.

Almost at the far side, we found some people who were happier with the wind than we were.

Finally, we reached the far side. We both decided that cycling across a sea is a lovely thing to have done. We now picked up signs to our destination, Harlingen.

Although we were back on dry land, the sea view was not that different.

Our navigation was looking a bit suspect at this point.

I picked up the world's naffest pen for Esther's collection of tourist pens. Not only was this from a tiny village whose only claim to fame is the name it shares with its rather more famous cousin, but the pen celebrates the bait-and-tackle shop in Zurich. I can confirm that this is the highlight of the Zurich tour.

A pretty bridge.

And sheep. (Look, it's a straight road with a dike to your left, you see if you can find more interesting things to photograph ...)

I'd been keeping an eye on my odometer as a certain number was about to roll around. I stopped at the exact point where I'd reached my 6,000th mile on the trike.

Glad to see I'm not the only person who puts their thumb over the iPhone lens. It's the mark of a proper photographer: we're not used to cameras without viewfinders.

6,000 miles isn't as impressive as it sounds, by the way: I've owned the trike for seven years.

Another mile and a half brought us into Harlingen, which is a very lovely town.

Our guest-house turned out to be equally amazing: an 18th Century house on the inner harbour.

Not bad for a random guesthouse in a random town. The day had been exactly 50 miles.

Eric's room had a roof terrace, which had its virtues:

But my room had wifi coverage, which didn't quite reach to his.

They managed to squeeze in our bikes:

We showered, and I arranged with our landlady to do our laundry. We then did the technology thing until 10 minutes after the restaurant next door closed, at 9pm. Fortunately there was a pizzeria that was open late: it didn't close until the early hours (10.30pm). We made a note to adjust our dinner schedule to small-town timezones.

We had an entertaining time trying to find anywhere big enough the next day to have guesthouses. There was one sizable town at around 38 miles, but that wasn't far enough, and the next one didn't appear to be until around 65 miles. But some time on our now-favourite website identified a potential target for the next day. It was too late to call, so I bookmarked the page and we'd call them in the morning.

And that was day three, approximately five miles ahead of schedule.

On to day 4