10-Mar-2018 -- As I had just arrived in the Netherlands on this very day, and as the focus of my visit was to promote spatial thinking and the use of geotechnologies, and as I had just undergone three full months without a confluence visit, and as I would be so busy with meetings, teaching, and conducting workshops over the next four days that this was the only day in which I could conduct a confluence visit, I found myself arriving at a hotel in Rotterdam after taking the train from the Amsterdam airport too early for me to check in. I took that, and the fact that the day was not (yet) as rainy as had been predicted, as collective good signs. Thus, I set out on foot around city centre Rotterdam to search for bicycle rental shops with the intention of bicycling to 52 North 5 East.
I figured that when in the Netherlands, where bicycling is so commonplace, one needs join them! I first declined the hotel bicycles (60 euro, which I thought was much too expensive), and at the first rental facility, the proprietor stated it was too early in the season for rentals. Fifteen minutes later, walking to the second shop, back at the Central Station, I was told that I had to be a member to rent a bicycle. But ten minutes later, at the third, Zwaan Bikes, they were so no-nonsense and wonderful, that I soon found myself on a nice big white three-speed bicycle. After a bit of a challenge to find the back gate for the office block in which the shop was located, once done, I made my way south to Rotterdam Harbor. Besides loving geography, I love history and also GIS; Rotterdam harbor has a rich, long history, and their GIS staff presented at the Esri User Conference a few years ago about how all of their shipping is tied to GPS and digital mapping to maximize efficiency and safety there.
After taking a few pictures at the harbor and of some of the magnificent bridges, including the one that looks like a harp, I set out in earnest for the closest confluence, that of 52 North 5 East. I know that many have visited it, but I had not, and my route would provide a great way to see Rotterdam, the suburbs, and the Netherlands countryside. As this was my first day in the Netherlands, I could not think of a better way to get out there and see the landscape. I also could not help but think, as I cycled along the harbor's edge, and then underneath a bridge and an enormous wind turbine, that this trip was very similar to my trip to 51 North 3 East in Belgium nearly 5 years ago. Then, like today, I had cycled to the point after flying all night across the ocean, on a windy day that threatened rain. And, like today, it was a very long trek. In fact, after an hour, I was still in the eastern Rotterdam suburbs and was starting to become weary: Had I made a mistake? Should I have rented a car instead and braved the roundabouts to drive out here? I thus decided to cycle to the point but then seek a bus or Uber back to the bicycle shop. At least, that was my plan at that moment, but it would not turn out that way!
I was following Google map cycling directions, which left me with several wrong turns on a bicycle, so, a work in progress, but all enjoyable nonetheless. I crossed a very large canal with a lock on the N210 and to the east, on some truly lovely bicycle paths, some that took me away from the N210 through some farms and villages. I passed through Bergambacht, through some beautiful countryside, even though nothing was blooming yet, on to Schoonhoven, after which began my favorite part of the trip: From there to Cabauw and on to Lopik and beyond, the cycling was along the loveliest of narrow lanes. The day darkened and I made haste, pausing only to take a few photographs. At Graaf, I resumed following N210 to the northwest, and then to the northeast, and then neared the roundabout where the confluence was located.
The traffic was very heavy and so I took great care. I found the confluence point exactly where Google Maps placed it on the day I composed this narrative, on the northeast side of the roundabout, between the road and the bicycle path. It was about 55 F (13 C) under cloudy skies and a moderate breeze, a very nice late winter day. I had read about a marker here, and spent about 10 minutes looking everywhere for it, even walking to the middle of the roundabout, at which point someone beeped their horn at me. Finding nothing, I took a few more photographs, a video, and then decided to go back to Lopik before seeking alternative transportation. It was a nice spot though very loud with the traffic. Nobody was on foot though I had passed lots of bicyclists an hour beforehand. I saw no animals at the spot or in the distance.
I cycled back to Lopik and stopped where a local fair offered carnival rides. I had a coffee and tried to call Uber, but no cars were available. For the next two hours, I made a few more attempts, but when at the outskirts of Rotterdam I finally got a hold of a car, I was charged but the car had no room for a bicycle. It was raining steadily now but I steeled myself for cycling the rest of the way back to the bicycle rental shop, making haste to arrive before they closed. I enjoyed the rain; fortunately I had a raincoat and it wasn't very cold. I became thoroughly soaked. Night was just falling as I pulled in to the shop and my thighs were in a terrific state of soreness by then. The total round trip bicycle distance came to 58.19 miles, or 93.64 kilometers, requiring about 5.5 hours total time including 30 minutes on point at the confluence. It was completely worth doing and I was glad I did it. Get out there and explore!
After returning to work that evening, I examined the 200 year archive of topographic maps for The Netherlands on Topo Tijdreis. It was amazing to see that the roundabout where the confluence point exists has only been there for a few years. The road to the east is less than 10 years old. Before the roundabout, dating back to around 1960 is the road from the west and curving to the north. But before that, there was just a lane along the canal and fields. It was also fascinating to observe the elevations, around 1 meter below sea level, in this area, confirmed by my GPS. Thus, a long time ago, the whole area was a part of the North Sea. I encourage you to examine these historical maps and also historical map services that may exist in your own part of the world.