We are having coffee in our hotel room in Amsterdam this morning, watching a most peculiar phenomenon out our window: A steady stream of bicycles travels to and fro on the bike path below. The riders, many of them dressed in their office clothes, sit bolt-upright on their bicycles, Kermit-the-Frog style.

It seems bicycles rule in Amsterdam. The bicycle Utopia that American cycle enthusiasts dream about is a reality here. At the intersection of the bicycle path and the street out our window, the cars queue up until there is a break in the bicycle traffic, then they (the cars) dart through the opening – Ha! How about that!

Yesterday afternoon we walked to the nearby train station to do a money exchange and the parking lot was filled, not with cars, but thousands of bicycles:

Our big plans to ride our own folding bicycles through Europe suffered a fatal setback in the final days of our preparations when we learned that it would cost us $1200.00 to ship the little buggers! And I was so looking forward to riding mine.

An interesting detail to note: bicycle theft is a problem here and way most Dutch combat it is to ride clunkers that no one would want to steal. We’ve seen very few nice bikes. Another interesting detail is that almost no one wears a helmet. Even little kids, which many parents ride on special seats just behind the handlebars, wear no helmets.

As soon as we get going this morning we’re going to rent bikes for the day and join the stream heading into downtown Amsterdam. We just gotta experience “bicycling in Amsterdam.”

Our flight from Seattle to Amsterdam was trying. The Airbus was surprisingly quiet for a jet but there’s something about being wedged into an airplane seat for nine hours straight that approaches torture for me. Forget about water boarding, the CIA could learn anything they want from me by simply strapping me into an airplane seat!

Along about three hours into the flight, Mary and I tried a variety of sleeping positions, none of which worked very well. I finally dozed off for a while with my head on the aisle arm rest when something brushed my nose and awakened me. I opened my eyes, only to learn that the something was a fat Russian’s ass. This guy wandered the aisle through the night, periodically sweeping any elbows (or noses) that protruded into that space.

There was a troublesome hitch with our rental car at Schipol Airport. The $600 monthly fee that we prepaid back in June over the Internet had morphed into $1400. We stood our ground, however, an the rental lady caved. Whew!

The drive into Amsterdam went well enough but we spent quite a bit of time head scratching as we deciphered Dutch street signs leading to our hotel. That hotel, the Golden Tulip, turned out to be very nice and we’re happily luxuriating there as I write.

It was morning in Amsterdam when we arrived but midnight in Chelan so we were faced with the dilemma of resetting our internal clocks to match the local ones. We allowed ourselves a three-hour coma-like nap then forced ourselves out of bed and took off walking through the city parks. In addition to bicyclists, the Dutch are real nature lovers and the parks are full of people lounging on the grass beside the canals. The weather was glorious yesterday and today also so our trip into the heart of the city should be great. Got to get moving.