Monday, August 30, 2010


They evolved over the years to meet our changing needs.
Leaving Netherlands along the Amelo-Nordhorn Canal and entering Germany on the paved bicycle path known as the “Grenz route” or border route we enjoy the friendly open borders of the Euro-zone.My wife Jane and I have been bicycling together for over forty year’s extensively in North America and all across Europe.
After all these years we have found that our most pleasure is in exploring on quiet paved roads. The slower we go the more fun we seem to have.
Having said that, we now own twelve different bicycles and they serve a variety of our needs.
This motley amalgamation or collection of cycles has filled the gap in our amusement, entertainment, and shopping requirements. After all these years we still roll along on our oldest machines that we refer to as our exotic bicycles.
For the past ten years we have not owned any motor vehicles and all of our travels are either by bicycle and public transport.
Jane’s sister said; “how can you possibly live without a car?” Well, I assure you that not only can we live without a car but our standard of living has actually been richly enhanced without one.
A word about our exotic bicycles; Jane over forty years ago purchased a used 27 x 1 1/4 inch Swedish go-fast bike as her second. At the time it was the most spirited bike I had ever ridden.

Not being racers or speed freaks, modifications began to evolve. For comfort Jane got new handle bars and a springy seat. For shopping and touring, a carrier rack was installed. Then alloy crank, wheels, and shifters became upgrades. Before our Rhine River trip up to Switzerland, new mountain compatible sprockets were installed. After our cross Europe trip through East Germany and into Poland where we broke twenty spokes on the cobble stoned streets, I replaced all of the spokes with Mexican industrial heavy duty. That was the end of the problem.
A computer, drink holders, and front rack for straddle bags or panniers were added to made cross-country tours even better.
My bicycle is a total make over; the only original parts are the front fork and handlebars that I inverted.
I originally started with a frame that was a tad too big. Forty years ago I was a lot more nimble and couldn’t resist the super-light all alloy bicycle. As the years went by that over sized frame began to be a problem. One day at a bicycle shop in Netherlands I purchased a smaller French frame and went home to our camper, swapped out all the parts and the net result was a frame size that I could handle.
For serious cross-country and shopping, fore and aft luggage racks fitted with packs and panniers made our bikes like little pack animals. A map holder and my personally designed “save my ass” bike seat came next. I designed the seat to save my sex life and protect my kidneys using light duty springs and special high density padding. A compass and two drink holders finished the innovations.
Our exotic bicycles are heavy but roll extremely well.
My bike innovations made me think back to a story my grandfather told to me;
One day when I was in his repair shop he held up a well worn little hammer and exclaimed; “this hammer has been in the family a long time, it has had seven handles and two new heads.”
That sounds a lot like my exotic bicycle.

Ten years ago I was 60 years old and many times made 120 kilometer days.
Now I am 70 years old and 40-50 kilometer days are enough…it must be global warming?
We still see people spending mega-bucks on ultra-light bikes and then strapping or bolting on so many extras that they are as heavy as discount store clunkers.
A brief history of our exotic bicycles.
Both were purchased second hand in Florida where we lived in five different locations over a period of twenty-two years. We even took them on a five month long junket aboard our commercial shrimp trawler Secotan where they were stowed in the fore-peak.
Next they were transported on carrying racks aboard our camper van and traveled everywhere across the US from Florida to the Pacific Northwest and from California to the state of Maine.
I still remember biking down Las Vegas Boulevard and pulling into the Mirage where the valet parked our bikes.
In Canada we biked the islands of British Columbia and across to the Maritime Provinces in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
We eventually had a home in Brownsville, Texas and biked the border towns there. Next the bikes came to Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.
Sixteen years ago we loaded the bikes aboard a commercial freighter along with our camper van and headed for Rotterdam, Netherlands. In Europe we have bicycled with our exotic bicycles from Norway and Sweden to Spain and Portugal. From Western Europe to Poland and every centimeter of the Rhine River from the North Sea all the way up to the Swiss Alps in Switzerland at the rivers headwaters and everything in between.
In Netherlands outside the old town of Ootmarsum where numerous well maintained bicycle paths meander through stately forests and past medieval castles…picnic tables abound. It is a bikers paradise.
Biking the sparsely populated Dortmund-Ems Canal region near Emsbüren.  Quiet paved roads and immaculately clean bicycle shelters make Germany as good as it gets.  We are still rolling on our exotic bicycles and they don’t owe us much.

© 2010 John M. Grimsrud

Thursday, August 5, 2010


  For openers; I have been seriously afflicted with this writing affliction for a number of years and appear to have a severe addiction.
  It all started when my wife Jane and I spent four months in Europe a number of years ago.
  Norway was my inspiration and six intense weeks there opened my eyes to an intriguing family link reflecting Viking origins.
  My first attempts to chronicle my family history were painfully pathetic…but I was determined and persistent.
  I finally turned out a winner entitled; In Search of the Old Country.  This short story was ultimately published in Norway in that language.
  Over the years I did a number of short stories and with practice I began posting some of them on the website that my wife Jane and I created.
  With prompting from family and friends I was persuaded to write the adventure travel story about the dreamboat that Jane and I designed, built and sailed away to live aboard for fifteen years.
  This story became four volumes, and a few months ago the first three of the four volumes of Travels of Dursmirg became reality and were published.  They have all received five star reviews and are available through Amazon books accessed from our web site;
  That website was like a pyramid built one stone at a time. The website has now mushroomed into dozens of topics with hundreds of links pertaining, in the most part, to our adventures of bicycling and living in Yucatán.
  I have more topics to cover and things to say.
  The “Bing”, my nick-name, buzz blogspot has been hatched and will build like another pyramid, one stone at a time.   

© 2010 John M. Grimsrud


    At 69 degrees north latitude deep within the Arctic Circle where the borders of Suomi Finland, and the Russian tundra converge just off the road to Nordkapp, (North Cape) this curious adventure begins.
    Here is the land of the midnight sun, Midnattsol, where inquisitive adventurers journey north from May until July to the northernmost point in Europe on Norway’s rockbound coast of the Arctic Ocean to witness days with no sunset.
    This is the land of the Lapps, Norway’s dogsled and reindeer people, who have adapted and evolved to thrive in this frigid forlorn terrain of arctic isolation.
  In this rare photo these Lapps are fully dressed in their decorative native attire for a wedding celebration. (photo by Trygve Trondsen)
    My cousin Trygve  Trondsen, a dentist, had worked and lived in this district for four years, bought a cabin and made lifelong friends. Now Trygve makes it a point to visit this outpost area at least two times a year.
    Nearly all of the year the Lapps travel by dog sled and even on occasion use their dogsled dogs to pull them about on skis. These huskies are specially trained dogs bred to the task.
    For a short time of the year the snow occasionally melts enough that the dogsleds become unusable.
    That problem has just been solved by enterprising Ole Bakkevold, a Laplander and close family friend to Trygve.
    The ingenious and natural solution would be to use bicycles towed by their Lapland sled dogs.
    Yes here in the mountains of northern Norway in the province of Finnmark, the probability of running into trees is not a worry and finding a shady resting spot is not a priority concern either.

    In Trygve’s own words;
    “Yes, we employed the dogs for assistance upward and down the roads. At some places on the road we had to get off the bicycles because the road had been washed away for a little distance. I must admit that I was uncertain how this biking would end, but I was surprised that the dogs mostly kept a steady course. But I had to keep a close attention on my dogs”.
    Trygve noted that one of his dogs had a sudden tendency to run off when he spotted any water and that the other dog couldn’t resist chasing rodents.
    “My dog loves water so whenever there was a brook on the side of the road I had to watch up. The other dog has a nose for mice and that kind of creatures. So we had to be aware. But the dogs are used to follow a track; Ole is skiing with them.” 
    “The dogs were tied to the bicycle by a flexible kind of rope. The rope goes in and out of a kind of box. Before we started I did not think that was a good way to do it, but Ole has experience. It worked very well. He trains his dogs in this way.
    In the treeless mountains of Finnmark, Ole Bekkevold makes a campfire for the night.
    Out of the mountains and down to the tree line to the end of the dog towing bicycle adventure where Trygve and Ole successfully survived but the dogs are spent.
    This is the glacial pot-hole lake named Rehpi and the neighboring country of Finland can be seen beyond.

    Little Norway has but four and a half million residents, 100% are literate of which 73% of them are urban, leaving the rest of this expansive country sparsely populated.
    Norway’s extensive rockbound coast is highly indented with tens of thousands of islands interspersed with profoundly deep fjords. Most of the country is mountainous with high plateaus and only 25% forested.
    The abundance of hydroelectric power of which more than half is exported, and enormous oil reserves has produced one of the highest living standards in the world.
    In the area where Trygve was bicycling and a few kilometers west on one of the countless barrier islands in the municipality of Harstad, Troms, is the small town of Kasfjord where Trygve’s family originally came from. During the occupation in WWII the German battleship Tirpitz was stationed here, it was of the Bismarck class, the largest ever built in Europe and was finally sunk by the British in 1944.
    Norway is a land of contrasts from the midnight sun country in the far north where there are two months without a sunset to the city of Rjukan in the south central where the sun never shines. Rjukan pioneered in hydroelectricity, nuclear development and during WWII witnessed the German attempt to spirit off a key component for the A-bomb…heavy water. At least one book and a movie were produced about that epic wartime espionage event.

    A thank you to the Viking adventurers Ole Bakkevold and Trygve Trondsen, who provided us with a look into one of the most ecologically friendly countries on this planet earth, Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize!

© 2010 John M. Grimsrud