20 October, 2014

Nightride to Oktoberfest (Coffeeneuring Waypoint No. 3)


Something that I learned since moving to Germany is that Oktoberfest is not a one-time event, nor is it necessarily in the month of October. There are hundreds of them, and this past weekend was one of the larger ones outside of Germany in the city of Sittard, Netherlands. Since the festivities were less than 10 miles away, I decided to check it out and roll a coffeeneuring trip into the process.


With the sun setting low in the sky, I doubled up the normal amount of lights I have on my bike, with a backup SureFire flashlight just in case things got really dark [spoiler alert: they did]. Now, while most of the bike paths in the Netherlands are illuminated, they all aren’t and certainly not on the German side of the border. According to Google, the trip should have been around 30 minutes, so I set the timer on my watch and like always, forgot about it the entire rest of the night.

On the way, I was looking for someplace to have my cup of coffee that was close to Sittard, but not so close that the patronage would be inflated. So, I picked the Cafeteria t’ Trepke, a small 24 hour friterie on the main road into town. Though they didn’t have coffee on the menu, I asked and they were happy to make a cup. It’s fairly bike-friendly as it is alongside a bike lane, but then again this is the Netherlands where almost every business is alongside a bike lane. So, I took a seat outside and enjoyed my coffee and a croquette.


Just as I sat down, a large group of Lederhosen-clad men came rolling by on their bicycles, and stopped at the traffic light next to me. I knew I was headed in the right direction.


So I finished my coffee, got on my bike, and followed suit, where the sounds of festivities grew louder and the lights illuminated the nighttime sky.

I wasn’t sure where I was going to park my bike, but of course, the Dutch had already taken care of that. The bike parking lot had plenty of spots and even an e-bike charging station, which surprisingly, went un-utilized. Some people opted to leave their bikes unlocked, but erring on the side of caution I went ahead and locked mine to the rack. The Soma isn’t quite as utilitarian as your standard Dutch bike, so it would be likely to stand out.

The Oktoberfest itself was a good time. I met up with some friends and had a few beers, went on a couple rides, and generally enjoyed myself. There were several different beer tents set up, each having different themes and bands, and plenty of things to do and foods to try on the outside.



I got a herring sandwich which sounded good when I ordered it, but was really not that great. It was literally a pickled herring filet between two pieces of white bread and nothing more.


Leaving that evening, I took a look up at the cathedral spire that stood over all of the festivities, a reminder that gatherings like this one have been going on in this very place for a long, long time.


On the way home, I ended up taking a similar-yet-very-different road and completely lost my way. When this happens during the day, it’s usually no problem as I’ll see a familiar landmark or sign and re-orient myself. At night, nothing looks familiar, and I was just kind of hoping I was headed in the right direction. As it turned out, I was not. I had a head-scratching moment as, after riding for 15 minutes, I approached a sign telling me I was entering Sittard, the city I had just left.

Eventually, I got to a place where I knew the direction home, and sure enough needed to use the SureFire because it was a road through the forest that  had absolutely no ambient light. I couldn’t even see the stars, which made it especially frightening. Of course, coming across this statue didn’t exactly help either: IMG_4902

- Bicyclist Abroad

Coffeeneur Quick Stats:

Location: Cafetaria t’Trepke
Tudderendweg 72
Sittard, The Netherlands
Drink: Coffee
Date: Saturday, October 18th
Distance: 30 km/ 19 miles

14 October, 2014

A Lesson in Rejection: October Bike Overnight (Coffeeneuring Waypoint #2)


For me, this summer had been filled with many things: moving to a new country, travelling with the Mrs., starting school full-time, and many other events jam-packed (the way that jam is packed) into a few short months (actually standard-length 30/31 day months, but they felt short). The one thing we didn’t get to do was go camping, and this deep-seated summer tradition was gnawing at me as the temperature headed south for the winter. Wasting no time, I decided that I’d go camping this past weekend and knock out a coffeeneuring excursion in the process. An American friend of mine from the Netherlands came down to accompany me, and with my dog Ardie in tow, we set out to the campsite I had picked out a few weeks ahead of time for this very occasion.

The trip to the campground from my house is pretty flat and straightforward, which was appreciated even more so by having to lug a dog and gear. The sites themselves are just plots of grass where you can set up your tent or park your RV (some have electricity and water hook-ups). We rode in, picked a site, and then walked around a bit looking for the management so we could pay him the €15 or so for one night. Finding no one, we passed the time by picking chestnuts off the ground for eating later on. Amidst our foraging frenzy, the proprietor appeared and with a very quizzical expression, asked us what we were doing there?

“Oh, hello! Yes, we’d like to stay one night on site 50…. was it 58? 85! Yes, two people on site 85.”

“You cannot. We are closed.”


After a few more moments of him asking us how we got inside (apparently the gate arm would have remained closed to a car, but bicycles can go around it) and me asking if he was sure we couldn’t just stay one night, we reluctantly got back on our bikes to find someplace else to camp.


I remembered passing by a campsite the other week on my way out to another town in the Netherlands, so suggested we check that place out. We headed out in that direction and soon I recognized where we were, so we biked a couple kilometers down the road to this new campsite, which we were confident was open. This place looked pretty nice, and it had a waterslide. But the waterslide, like the last campsite, was closed for the season.

I called on the intercom at the front and several minutes later, a woman came out to show us to the tent area. All was going well until she walked up and saw Ardie, sniffing a wall, and told us that no dogs were allowed in the camping area. Are you kidding me? She offered us an alternative: we could set up our tents in the RV lot, but it would cost a lot more, something to the tune of €35. We entertained the idea, but soon found out the plot to be no more than a small grassy parking space next to the dumpster. No thanks, thank you anyway-- we were shortly back on the road.

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Luckily, we had passed a small sign on the way to this last campground that showed another campsite down the road. It was well past lunchtime, and we were hoping to finally set up camp and get something to eat. We arrive, and we see people about and dogs barking, a sign that maybe there is hope.

But no, camping is not possible. “It is October. We are closed for camping.” I couldn’t believe it. All of these people were refusing our money, and they would literally have to do nothing in return but let us pitch our tents on their property. “It’s the Dutch, man.” my friend said to me. “That’s how they are.”

So we discussed our options, and decided we would find a spot in the woods off the beaten trail and set up camp there for the night. Now, whether or not this is legal in the Netherlands, I can’t say. I did try to read the sign posted at the trail entrance, but alas my Dutch is lacking,



So, there in the woods we stayed (or might not have, to maintain plausible deniability). Ardie enjoyed being out in nature and us humans enjoyed it too, along with a couple beers. The rain cut the evening short for me as I had got wetter than I was anticipating and was eager to get into a dry sleeping bag. The moon shone bright that night and illuminated the darkness of the forest.


[Above: Ardie (left) guarding the tent (right).]


In the morning, it was time to check off the coffeeneuring box, so I used my Porlex to grind some beans and then made a couple cups of French-pressed coffee for us to share. It was good, but not quite enough for two people, so we ended up getting more coffee later on that morning. All-in-all, it felt good to get out in the woods for a while, and I learned a few things for next time I go, which will be whenever the Dutch deem camping appropriate again.

- Bicyclist Abroad

Coffeeneur Quick Stats:

Location: Undisclosed, Netherlands
Drink: Coffee. Starbucks Pike Place Roast
Date: Sunday, October 12th
Distance:   19 km / 11.8 miles

05 October, 2014

Café aan de Müehle (Coffeeneuring Waypoint No. 1)

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So, coffeeneuring. If you’re a regular bike blog reader, you’ll know what I’m talking about (you almost can’t avoid it this time of year). If you’re unfamiliar, I can sum it up as a very loosely structured “event” where participants ride their bikes to get coffee in seven different locations before the event ends. If it sounds rather silly, it is by design—it’s a playful nod towards the seriousness of dozens of other bicycling challenges. [For further reading, visit the originator’s website, Chasing Mailboxes.]

For my first ride, I picked a relatively nearby cafe in Selfkant, Germany—the Café aan de Müehle. Now, if you associate windmills with Holland, you’d be partially correct. This portion of Germany is on the Dutch border and shares similarly flat terrain, so it makes sense. But also, Selfkant itself has only belonged to Germany since 1963 so it was a Dutch windmill at one point (or still is, I suppose). The cafe is situated directly next to the windmill, offering a nice view while you sip your hot beverage. So naturally, I could not pass this up as a coffeeneuring waypoint for this weekend.


My vehicle of choice for this trip was the Avon-- an upright, leisurely ride for a pleasant, leisurely morning. Also, even though it’s not a Dutch bike, it’s most similar to one, so I thought it would be fitting to visit a windmill cafe on it. Having not ridden it in a while, I was reminded of how comfortable it is to sit upright on a bicycle (and how one speed is sometimes all you need).

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The sun was warm and the leaves were drifting down in a picturesque fashion as I rode through the first village on my way to Selfkant. I really hope we get snow this winter, I thought to myself, because this place will look like one of those ceramic Christmas villages.

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After leaving the village, it was a bike path for the rest of the way there. Part of the coffeeneuring challenge is assessing the bike-friendliness of the particular place you are visiting, and although I’m sure the windmill predates the cycle path, it’s very convenient to be able to take it all the way there. This particular cafe also had a charging station for e-bikes, something that is becoming more common as e-bikes gain popularity here in Germany amongst the older riders.

Arriving at the cafe, I took a seat outside and ordered a large coffee with a roll and jam. I am still not very good at speaking German, but I felt I did a decent job of ordering this time. After a few moments, I was pleasantly surprised with a nice “large” coffee (by European standards), a basket with my roll and jam, and a shot glass of something yellow, topped with whipped cream, and definitely alcoholic. I still am not sure what it was, but I liked it.

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I found it interesting that, depending on where you sit, you either are looking at the old windmill (which is in fantastic condition, and still operational) or the horizon full of new wind turbines. Either way, you get a picture of how the wind has been harnessed over the years in support of industry here.

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When the Mrs. returns from the States, I will definitely suggest returning here with her. Until then, it’s off to the next coffeeneuring waypoint and another cup of coffee.

- Bicyclist Abroad


Coffeeneur Quick Stats:


Café aan de Müehle Waldfeuchter Straße
Gangelt-Breberen 52538[website]

Date: Saturday, October 4th
Drink: Coffee (+ mystery beverage)
Distance: 11.2 km / 6.9 miles