I leave Hoogkerk in a thick envelope of fog, even with three layers of clothing on I feel the cold. As I head for the city park and my 9:00 a.m. meeting with the trapsters, I forget which way to go and take a wrong turn! Has it really been so long? Arriving with just a few minutes to spare, I see Sander, Henrieke, Luuk and Ekko waiting for me. I take off my thick outer jacket and trying to push it into my back pocket I realise it will never fit, so make it into a ball and push it into my belly – now I look like I’m having another child myself!!
The sun is visible through the thick fog and I tell them it will be at least a few hours before it breaks through, only to be told it will be here in 30 minutes. No way I say. The fine mist on my glasses makes it difficult to see, so I tuck into the middle of the group. My legs feel sluggish, I’ve done very little cycling in the last six weeks and I feel slow and unfit. My last long outing was the Tour of Groningen, where my muscles cramped so badly I had to be lifted from my bike. But it feels good to be riding with the small group today as we follow the way of the Rijksweg West past Hoogezand before heading north to Stootshorn and onto Scheemda. There is not much scenery to see, but the paths seem smooth enough. We cross the German border at Nieuweschans and for a brief moment I think we are going to stop in Bunde for cake and coffee, but alas, it was not to be. Bummer, my legs would have thanked me. So onwards through Weener and then follow the Ems up to Leer. 73 kilometres on the cycle computer, we spend another one looking for the cafe. Cake will not suffice now and we all sit down to a hot meal, coffee and coke. Conversation abounds, we laugh and enjoy the respite, before heartily replenished we head on out for the return journey.
Maybe it was the clearing skies and the fact that the sun did eventually come out, but I thought the trip back was much nicer than the route there. As we zig-zagged our way up to the Dollart and rode around it’s southern shores, we stopped for photographs and to admire the amazing views. The sun was by now high and bright in the sky, warming our bodies so we could loosen the clothing. This is why we cycle, the comradeship and sharing such beautiful views. But the trapsters are true friends, because after about 120 kilometres my legs gave out. I asked the group to leave me and I would make my own way back, only to be told they never leave anyone behind – this is our club motto. So I dig into my pockets and consume almost all my remaining reserves and soon feel my energy returning. Soon we are underway again and placing me in the middle of the wheels, we quickly make our way towards home. When we get to Schildwolde we unexpectedly take a right onto the Slochterdiep, I shout “we are going the wrong way” only to be told we are taking the ‘quick’ way back. Smelling we are now on the home straight, I burst towards the front and make the best pace I can as we ride single file along the path, strewn with grasses from a recent cutting. At 141 kilometres my iPhone battery dies and I lose my GPS, but we are close now and soon we reach the outskirts of Groningen and we say our farewells as I turn towards Hoogkerk. I shake my comrades hands, but feel it is not enough to thank them for the day and the way they looked after me. I know my fitness will return, but today the trapsters proved without a doubt we are the most friendly bicycle club.