At half past nine we are ready in front of the door. The skates under our feet, the harness clicked in, poles in the hand and helmet on our head. The neighbour across the street waves for a moment, but for the rest the wave-out committee is limited to father, mother and the dog. "Enjoy it and be careful," says Zoë's mother, as if we were going to camp overnight and be back home tomorrow. Zoë's father is a little further down the street and wants to have those first meters on film. They look anything but smooth over the bumpy brick roads. We've been practicing with the roller skis for the past two months, but we've only done one test run with the trailer. It was the same four years ago. A five-minute test ride on the bicycle was sufficient and the rest we would learn along the way. "It is quite heavy" says Zoë when we have stumbled to the end of the street. There are already drops of sweat on Olivier's forehead, but also a big smile that realizes that our journey really continues.
The first few meters we skate through the city. People stop walking, construction workers put down the trowel and even the parcel deliverer forgets his delivery. They have never seen this. We hardly have an eye for all the people who look up, because we have our hands and feet full of dodging cars and poles. Just outside the city we cross the highway via a small bridge. Puffing we hang over our sticks when we are on the top. "My god, I don't know if we will reach Sweden," says Zoë. "If we make it, we'll be fitter than ever before". We roll down the bridge and from now on we follow small country roads and cycle paths. “Pppssssssjjjjjj” sounds with a loud hiss, as if someone opens a beer can. Olivier looks at the back wheel of the skate and it is flat on the floor. We have done five kilometers. Two days ago, the other rear wheel exploded in a similar way when the skate was laying next to us in the garage. Zoë's two rear wheels are still intact, but this way we have two ticking time bombs that will explode one of the following days. The tool bag opens for the first time and we replace the rear wheel with a new, shiny version. "Already 2-0 down" laughs Zoë with a wink. On the bike, Olivier has already lost the flat tire race, 18 to 15, after 28.000 kilometers and this start is not very promising.
After twenty-five kilometers, Olivier extends his lead for a while. Zoë skates forward easily, while Olivier wonders if his legs are so tired already. Only after a few hundred meters he notices that the other rear tire, which we replaced two days ago, is also flat. We brought three spare wheels with us and we thought we would at least reach somewhere in Denmark. On the first day we already used two thirds of our stock. We call our personal home insurance and twenty minutes later Zoë's parents are standing next to us again with a few sets of extra wheels. "You will see us and the dog again soon," Zoë's mother said, almost prophetically, this morning. We hope this is bad luck and we will be saved from flat tires from now on.
At five o'clock we covered more than forty kilometers. We are exhausted, drenched in sweat and longing for a dive in the water. At a local sheep farmer we refill our water bags and skate further to a point on the GPS that appears to be next to the water. Wild camping is not allowed in the Netherlands, but the farmer's field seems to be a great place and we only set up the tent in a few hours. Olivier is already in the Rhine and rinses off all the sweat. 5,000 kCal says his watch and more than 300 minutes of intensive sports today, and that in an area flat as a pancake on a pleasant day without too much wind. "The first three days are the toughest, then our body will get used to it" says Olivier convinced. In our mailbox we see an email from a loyal follower. "Enjoy the adventure, and hopefully the roller skis are as fit as you are."