With summer winding down to its last few weeks I had one last bike trip to get out of my system. My grandiose plan of riding the Rhein from start to finish had condensed into a trip of much smaller scale, albeit still centered on following a river; this one was called the Rur.
Basically, the plan was to follow the Rur from where it crosses the Dutch/German border down to Monschau, then take the Vennbahn from there to Aachen, and finally, the Zweiländer (two countries) Route back home, completing a circuit on pre-existing German cycling routes. Like the Rhein, the Rur flows from south to north and so the route I was taking was “uphill” even though the elevation changes were imperceptible, at least not for the majority of the route. Were you to follow it from start to completion, it would take you from Belgium, through Germany, and into the Netherlands.
As my first foray into German National Cycling routes, I was just going to see how it played out, and worst case scenario I had areas maps and a smartphone with GPS that could orient me towards the nearest train station. Following the green and blue markers (see below) depicting a winding river, the route was a fairly straightforward ordeal.
Except when it wasn’t. There were a handful of times a sign would have been helpful, but I was on my own in determining the right direction because they were either absent or obscured. Luckily, heading towards the river, or where I thought the river would be, was an effective means of getting back on track.
From Vlodroop, the Dutch border town where I picked up the route, to Linnich some 40 kilometers later, the path was mostly gravel with wooden or concrete bridges that switched back over the river periodically. This was ideal terrain for the bike I was riding, and I was pretty happy with both its handling and ride comfort. I’d never done the front pannier thing before, and it wasn’t bad once you got up to speed.
In one particular area, you could tell they had just laid down new gravel because it was quite abundant, to the point of excess. Curbs of gravel formed on both sides of the trail. I was swimming in tiny stones.
After Linnich, the next major city was Jülich, an industrial town rebuilt after the war with a decidedly 1970s feel. The river route deviated from the actual river here and instead snaked through residential roads and paths in and out of forested areas. I had contemplated staying the night in Jülich, but couldn’t shake the weird vibes and continued on my way.
Eventually, the River Route and the Rur reunited. Idyllic countryside and the sound of a slow current made for a relaxing ride. I met one couple on the trail who were on their way to Rome, which if you’re not sure, is nowhere close by.
At my signature pace of slightly above a leisurely jaunt, the evening was closing in and I needed to find a place to spend the night. A Teepee icon on a waypoint map indicated there was a camping spot next to a lake just outside of Düren, so I decided I’d try my luck there.
Arriving in Düren, I really didn’t see too much of the city aside from the city park and a giant pair of spectacles.
The signs at this point were seemingly contradictory, and I spent quite a while trying to ascertain which direction I needed to go. A man without the use of his legs sat drinking at the park entrance and was amused by my repeated checking of signs. Heading west, I saw signs for a “Badesee” which I assumed was the same lake that the camp ground sat on, so I followed those signs for roughly 5 kilometers outside of town. Upon arriving to the lake, an employee kindly informed me that the lake I was looking for was not this one. She gave me general directions to the campsite, and it wasn’t until I thanked her and was leaving that I realized the conversation had transitioned from German into English at some point.
Maybe 20 minutes later, I was at the right lake but didn’t see any places to camp other than an RV park. There was no office either, just some people working behind a café counter. I asked one of them about camping, and they told me to pick a spot anywhere on the grass, as long as it was out of the way. Also, I could use the showers at the RV park because the ones closest were cold water only. 9 Euro for the night, and I was welcome to eat at the café whenever I was hungry.
I pitched my tarp tent and stretched out for a minute before calling the Mrs. to check in getting a bite to eat. I was the only camper, and when the lake visitors and the staff all went home for the day, I had the entire place to myself. Rather than feeling lonely, it was really rather peaceful and if I had brought something to swim in (or a means of drying the clothes I had) I would have done a bit of solitary swimming. But instead, I read a couple chapters of an e-book on my phone and fell asleep, dreaming of the adventures tomorrow might hold.
*Something new!* First time I’ve tracked a ride with an app, feel free to trace my route below:
- Bicyclist Abroad