GP07 Assen TT, Race 9 "Man, I love this place!" Part 1
Hold on to your hats, everybody, because it's time to get into the amazing race that was the A-Style Assen TT, 2007, and also delve a little deeper into what is surely one of my favorite countries on the World Tour. Having just flown in from Birmingham early Monday morning, our first step was to secure the Team rentacars, and then hit the road for the two and a half hour drive to Assen, and our hotel in Groningen (say it like a Klingon from Star Trek, and you've almost got it - KRro-ning-Khen). But before all that, we needed to eat - YES! It's the friends, family, and food, that help make this a very special race for me, and I wasn't disppointed in any way. A huge thank you to everyone who made this race great, especially the Ates family and Dennis, and hey, another set of Top Ten finishes for my boys, Alex Hofmann and Alex Barros! Woot!
Coming in to Schiphol airport, you're immediately struck by how clean and orderly everything is. It's easy to navigate, the people are pleasant, and you never really feel "pressed" like you can be in other places. It is lightyears ahead of Heathrow (no offense, Brits), and I just really like this airport. Now that I've seen a few of them, I have to rank Changi Airport, Singapore, Schiphol, Holland, and KLIA, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as my three of my top five airports in the world. My absolute favorites? Honolulu and San Francisco - Ha! There are weird, lumpy statues in Schiphol, and driving to the circuit, I spied some huge lumpy elephants on the side of the freeway. Don't know much about the artist or the style, except that it's lumpy, and drippy - which is about the opposite of the people here since they're the "Tallest People in the World".
Another great thing about Schiphol is the KLM (the Royal Dutch Airline!) hospitality area, which I managed to slide into. You need to be a gold/platinum member, but somehow I got in and then signed up for a card. Figure at this rate, it will take me a couple years of flights before I qualify for the upgrade card, so I took full advantage of the refreshments while I could. Special shout to Felix, for distracting the girls in front while I maneuvered my way in.
Aha, airport food! Next to the fish-n-chips I had with Paul, this was my best meal in England. Just kidding, haha, but seriously this sandwish rocked. It was almost like it was made with Milton's bread, and had some weird meat-jelly substance which helped moisten everything and keep it yummy. When in England, I always do what I can to pick up some Cadbury's Fruit and Nut chocolate, just like in Germany, I will buy Haribo Gold-Barens!
Unfortunately, time was against us at the airport this time around, so between a choice of Italian food (like normal, haha), I went with something I never do. That's right, baby, I went to Burger King. I just couldn't resist the signage, and it's been a long time since I had a hamburger, so there you go. Comes in Original and MotoLiam versions.
We finally got everything together and loaded up into the vans, and then it was time to hit the road. We made our way through the miles and miles of freeways thanks to something neat called GPS. Unfortunately, we screwed up somewhere because 100Km past where we should have been going, we noticed we were headed into Germany. Doh! That meant a roadside pitstop, and here you can see how well manicured the countryside is. It never seems like there's anything out of place here, very green and well irrigated. You'll see tons of trees lining the roadways and waterways in the country, and they're all the same height, like clones. It's a little strange, actually. Also, the fields are usually full of farm animals, like cows, and sheep! Even managed to see a bunch of Black Sheep, which was cool.
Yup, nothing really happening over this way, either. Everything goes according to plan here, which is something that was mentioned to me by a local. It's almost like Holland is TOO structured. Either way, the topography of the place is fantastic, with all these fields in various shapes and sizes. They definitely have a unique viewpoint towards utilizing available space, and you can learn more about some of their interspacial philosophies by googling around for how their National Football team, the Clockwork Orange, operates on the pitch.
Yeah, Man (Bob Marley Styley)!! We made it. The Mercure hotel was to be our base, alongside the Gresini Honda crew, the Dunlop guys, and a few teams from the smaller categories. It's always nice to see other team people outside of the racetrack, we can say hi and catch up a little without worrying about who's watching, haha. Since we all share the same duties and travel gremlins, we always have some neat stories to share. "Dude, I can't believe that happened! Flat tire outside of Donington and you had to hitch a ride to the airport?!?"
Once our things were planted in the hotel, most of us rested for a little bit, grabbed showers to wash the travel grime off, and then we headed in to the city center to get our Groningen on. It's a beautiful little college town, with gorgeous buildings and waterways with houseboats interspersed through the city. The houseboats are really cool, and I wish I had more time to check them out closer. We were all pretty hungry so we went to, you guessed it, an Italian place! Hahaha, the town center is well laid out, with lots of restaurants and bars within walking distance. I particularly liked the Hoppe Bar, which looked from the outside to be one, long, skinny bar, but was actually a labyrinth of bars connected to one another from the backside. Different music and ambiance in each room, but the people were always mellow. Except upstairs, which is where the under-21ers were at, and they were lively! Incidently, the Hoppe bar is directly in the center of this photo, if you're ever in the area (like you should already be planning to do for next year's race!).
Obligatory Church shot shows that it's still light at 9:45 PM. Was this before dinner, or after?
Great Scott - that's a lot of bikes! Everyone uses bicycles in Holland, and it only contributes to the feeling of healthiness and well-being that I pick up from most people.
You could almost think it's China, except that things are a little cleaner due to the lack of constant construction dust everywhere. Oh, and the bikes are a little bigger, also.
On the subject of larger, check out this One Liter BOTTLE of coke. I didn't know they made glass bottles of coke that big! Sergio is all smiles, in his fancy Ducati shirt, haha.
Did I mention that Heineken is from Holland? I put the national product to the test, and it passed. How appropriate that this shot came out fuzzy, haha.
And for all you people who think eating in restaurants is a permanently damaging thing, I'll let the photos do the talking, haha. Sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's great! A lot of places in rural Europe don't use things like MSG, or tons of salt, and you get what I consider to be fairly healthy food, like this Dy-No-Mite Pizza!
The pizza was fantastic, and was for sure a lot better than these hamburger/freaky-sandwich vending machines I found outside. People actually were eating this stuff after the bars cleared out, and in a depressing twist, they'd simply throw the garbage on the ground after eating. When I questioned some of the locals, they said that they had immigrant workers who came to Holland just to clean up. Not so cool, people, but then the chances of finding good and bad people around the world are pretty even. Maybe even stacked against you a little if you're only looking for good people. I have been very fortunate to meet a lot of great people in my travels, and I'm hoping to keep meeting more of you.
Eventually, everyone migrated to this place, which was down a narrow stairway. Beware, the Blue Angel (Blauwe Engel?) is filled with lots of loud music, ranging from current electronic hits to 50's rock-n-roll! Actually, I should mention that most of Holland's nightlife revolves around music, and the people love to sing and dance. Being a bi-lingual country, everyone is able to sing along in English with the music, and you hear everything from the 50's all the way through today. 80's music is still going strong here, but I was really blown away by how many "classics" I was hearing from the 50's and 60's. Particularly cool was when some Dutch "country" music would come on, and then entire bars would light up with everyone singing along! Hurdy Gurdy herty gerty! Wait, that's Swedish, bwahahaha.
Aretha Franklin, anyone? This girl was just belting it out, and it was amazing. I wish the night could have lasted longer, but I wanted to be fresh for the following day of work and I took off for the hotel pretty early. When I had asked what time the bars/clubs closed, I was told that as long as there were people, the places would stay open, haha. Talk about dangerous! Tuesday meant that we'd begin setting up for the race, which traditionally in Assen is run on Saturday. Don't ask me why, just know that it meant one less day between the back-to-back races, and that meant everyone had to up their game to be ready by Thursday morning's Free Practice. We were going to be ready, I would see to that.
More of Assen to follow!