I’m now in Amsterdam with my lovely girlfriend Shannon. Newcastle was my last stop in the UK and because the ferry’s were booked I had to stay there a few extra days.
During the visit I had a variety of hosts including Tim and Penny who had a lovely home overlooking the city park. I got my own loft room with a beautiful ensuite bathroom with a view of The Moors (the local green space). The couple were absolutely delightful people: well travelled, inspiring and full of thought provoking conversation. They grew a wealth of their own food which they were kind enough to share with me over wine and beers.
The vast majority of my afternoons in Newcastle were spent hanging out at The Cycle Hub, where my long meandering three mocha mornings quickly made me a regular. Eventually the staff would make me the odd mocha on the house. There was a cool fellow mechanic named Sarah who had recently done a bike tour that caused knee damage. She lived in a quaint home in the English country side, set in the middle of a stunning horse pasture. I stayed there for two nights.
On Wednesday a comic I met in Edinburgh named Rahul hooked me up with a show and a place to stay. Fortunately for me the other comics decided to drive back home rather than stay at the shared comedian-apartment, so suddenly my shared accommodations were now my own king sized bed in a large suite overlooking the marina.
In a five day period I went from camping in a stinging nettle filled ditch, to the weirdest creepiest person I’ve ever stayed with, all the way to private rooms overlooking parks and marinas. The spectrum of experiences you get while cycling on a budget is always invigorating and eye opening.
Sarah’s little home had me cycling twenty kms into town and back. One day I accidentally entered the finish line of a local marathon. I had forced my way through some blocked off streets in a cyclists endless desire to be a true anarchist. Unfortunately I funnelled into a street surrounded by eager fans who were sorely let down to see a scruffy Canadian confusingly led off the track by local race officials.
After my stay at Sarah’s in Newcastle it was time for me to make my way to Amsterdam by ferry. Just before arriving at the ferry security check point I remembered I had a tiny bit of pot in my saddle bags. Watching as security thoroughly inspected vehicles before letting them pass, I slowly began to panic… In my mind I figured “no one’s looking for someone bringing pot into the Netherlands…” and it was only half a gram, I can explain its for personal use and it would be fine. But I began fumbling through the toiletries pouch where it was sitting atop everything, unburied and foolishly unconcealed. I thought “Fuck it! I’m a comic, if you get in trouble these are great stories, and hey Tim Allen got caught actually trafficking cocaine and he’s had an illustrious career.”
However, the trepidation turned into dread. “Maybe if I find some trash in my bag I can casually walk it over to that garbage right beside the police and border guards.”
“But I’ve got nothing. Not a candy wrapper, old hummus containers.” For once a modern human was short on trash. Then I realized my vessel was at hand. A traffic cone was only a few feet away. So cautiously rolling The Enterprise forward I crammed the tiny amount of pot and little pipe into it’s new home.
I was relieved to have rid myself of the potential issue, having done it discreetly enough that no sirens went off. The border guards flagged us forward and the fleet of motor bikes and cyclists rolled in. The agent looked at my passport and ticket and without a single question waved me through— my anxiety had been for nothing. When I got into the hull of the ship I realized that a slew of bikers we’re wearing Hell’s Angels (Amsterdam division) jackets and that some dirty Canadian hippie was the least of the border securities concerns!
The ferry itself was a glorified mall where at least I had my own sleeping room but they wanted to charge for everything. You weren’t allowed even eating your own food in the common areas, and look at what they charged for internet access!
After arriving in the port, the border agent was laid back. When I told him I was meeting my girlfriend and cycling to Berlin he excitedly asked “is she Dutch?!” When I replied she was American/Canadian he was oddly disappointed and sighed “ok… I’ll get you a stamp,” and sent me on my way.
The hotel I was meeting Shannon at was about 30kms away from the terminal. The cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands is unbelievable. Bike lanes are everywhere, separated from cars and foot traffic, and it’s an astoundingly flat country.
Unfortunately I have been getting significant knee pains while cycling almost any distance. Thus the ride was a bit on the painful side. Shannon and I spent the first three days in a lovely little hotel next to the Rijksmuseum. In a foolish attempt to culture me Shannon took me to the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, which despite my best efforts were both enjoyable experiences, especially the Rijksmuseum, which showed the rich Dutch history of arts and innovation that most people are unaware of.
For Shannon’s birthday I got us an Air BnB that was a 130 year-old sailboat located 16 kms outside of the city centre. Though mildly cramped, the boat and area were wonderful and enchanting.
The same night we stayed in the boat I had a spot at the Amsterdam Comedy Cafe—a gorgeous club located in the banking district. To my delight the 8-10 minute jump on spot turned into me getting a chance to headline. I don’t get as many chances to close shows as I would like, but hearing “your headliner Dion Owen” was a real treat and overall was very happy with my 17 minute set.
Shannon and I trained back to the boat as the hour bike ride there was a bit much at 12am. Accommodations in Amsterdam are absurd. We almost got stuck in a random van for 90$ a night! My cousin Roberta, despite being fresh off dental surgery and hosting other extended family offered to save us by hosting us for the last two nights we’re here.
Which means I get to hang with some great extended family and play the “uncle Dion” role. Today I picked up the kids from their school and I am currently writing my blog while the kids get swimming lessons from Roberta at the local pool.
We have two nights left here in Amsterdam and then we are off cycling to Berlin and giving ourselves 10 days to make it as I have a show on the 27th. Really hoping the knees hold out and we’re only aiming to do 60-70km a day which should be manageable. I’m elated for our Sunday Air BnB which is in an old castle. Shannon being a much better and more diligent photographer should ensure better pictures!
It’s been great having Shannon here. We’ve had lots of laughs with the occasional spat. The next month and a half will be a challenge for us both. But with some give and take the results will hopefully be lots of love, smiles and stronger legs.
That’s it for now, further blogs will be just like life– erratic and unpredictable. I will try and get em out every 7-10 days, thanks for reading.