The Wind Breaker

#Hague #DutchWeather #Cycling

The Defier of the Wind Emperor

I enjoy my morning coffee, pack my laptop, books and notes in the yellow backpack. I exit the bicycle shed. I have two bicycles; a metal lump of a roadster with an ugly paint, and a grey rusty piece of scrap that once resembled a fine racing bicycle. The breaks, gears and chains are nearing the need of care and oil. Regardless of the looks and mechanics, the new bicycle has proven to be a solid and reliable machine. I climb on my bicycle and set the course towards Leiden. A bold sea wind blasts against me as I begin accelerating. A storm is brewing. Winter is coming.

The Netherlands is famous for its bicycle culture. Everybody owns a bicycle and majority of the people commute by bicycle. Apparently the Netherlands started building better infrastructure to support cyclists after 1970s, when an uproar rose against reckless car drivers who caused the deaths of many children. The oil shortage of the time had a major impact too. The Netherlands wasn't always a proponent of the bicycle culture, but it really took off after those events.

I leave the city outskirts, and now finally, I pedal as fast as I can on the red, flat road. My spatial field of view narrows and I reach my top speed. A powerful wave of wind blows directly at me — it is the mighty emperor in this valley of the plain — a force that one must respect and accept.

I slow down to catch my breath. There are animals gracefully roaming free in their natural habitat on the vast fields of green. My awareness, like a spotlight, shifts its focus on the many cows, horses, lambs, ducks and other strange-looking birds with long necks that go on about their daily lives eating, sleeping, mating and brawling.

The perception of time flows swiftly, and as my attention veers back to my body, I feel its signals throughout my body. I am attempting to break personal limits. I love speed, always have. Since the time I was a child, and I had to push myself to cycle then seemingly impossible steep hill to make it home. Year by year I grew stronger, and then finally, I could do it with ease and hardly sweating.

I count three trains have passed me, thus inferring the final destination is imminent. When I mention about my long bicycle travels to my new friends, their eyes go wide open, and they ask me if I've gone absolutely haywire. Simple. For me cycling is an alternative to jogging that once was a hobby of mine. Now living inside the city, it confines me into the large concrete cage that surrounds me.

Rainy days are an exception and only then I use the trains. Squeezing the brakes under rainy weather hardly halts the bicycle and that is way too dangerous risk to take. In addition, I don't have the necessary rain gear. An occasional luxury, a trip by train that is, wouldn't hurt either.

I enter the Leiden suburbs. I need to make a halt before a bridge that is half vertical. A boat seems to pass under the bridge. I don't mind: I take a sip from my seasoned Klean Kanteen water bottle and check the time. I have now spent close to 50 minutes and traveled almost 18 kilometers.

Inside the city of Leiden, there are many pedestrians and cyclists swarming in every direction, and as negatively charged particles, they somehow know how to dodge collision amidst the chaos. Incredible. There are also multiple hidden rules and hierarchy of things at play.

I arrive at the faculty early. I sit down, drink water and relax before the class. A sudden realization hits me: I spend more time in the journeys combined than sitting on the classes.