The forecast was 90% chance of precipitation. All day. Still, I was restless, it was the last day of Spring Break, and I needed to go for a ride. I also wanted to take photos. Maybe I’d just open an umbrella and shoot locally. Or, forget the camera and just go, rain be damned. Then, I came across an article from National Geographic’s website and was suddenly inspired to try taking some photos in spite of the wet weather. I packed my camera in my waist pack and layered my rain gear on, ensuring adequate coverage was provided. I forgot the umbrella. Of course, the final touch to my rain ensemble would be my neoprene water shoes, once again proving their versatility.
It being a Sunday, most everything east of the Dutch border was a ghost town, so I decided to head into Sittard, a city in Limburg for those following along at home. While the Germans are busy silently doing whatever it is they do on Sundays, the Dutch are very much out and about, with many businesses remaining open. I stopped by a grocery store shortly to get out from the rain, and happened to catch a mom ride by with her two kids on this thing:
It’s like a bakfiet, recumbent, and tandem bicycle all-in-one. The mom had the helm, the older boy sat up front, pedaling along, and the younger one just kind of sat back there on the rear rack. It was really kind of remarkable, I wish I had stuck around long enough to snap a photo of it in action. If I needed any reminder I was in the Netherlands, this was it.
I approached the town center. The difficult thing about taking photos in the rain is finding somewhere dry to take said photos. There was this overhang between two wings of apartments, so I took advantage of it. If you appreciate symmetry, there is some here for you to enjoy, though it ends just past the apartment complex.
Sittard has cobblestone streets, a lot of old buildings, and several steeples. Gazing up at these when it’s raining is a good way to get water in your eye. Still, I can’t help but wonder how roofs so steep are constructed.
To get to the actual square in the center of Sittard, you pass through any number of alleys or passageways. This was one that I had never actually been through before, and it is attached to a restaurant. There used to be a Halfords nearby that sold bicycles, but it is now closed. Apparently, they went bankrupt in 2014 and shuttered most of their stores. Luckily, there is a half dozen more bike shops in the vicinity.
I took refuge under a restaurant’s awning for a few minutes while I decided which establishment I would patronize. The rain continued on. There were several people on bicycles that rode by, and I took their photo, but they are blurry and terrible and I wish you’d stop asking me to show them to you.
I picked a small bar next to a Giant bicycle shop and had a couple beers while waiting for the water to dry from off of my jacket. There was a beer there I remember from the Bruges Beer Festival, but I can’t remember what it was called. There was a gnome on the logo? Oh well.
Leaving Sittard, I chose a different route than that which I arrived, which is a common practice of mine. Often this leads to getting lost, but I’m ever optimistic that I know where I’m going. I had thought for a moment I had missed a turn I was supposed to take, but I kept going because 1.) tree-lined cycle paths like these are amazing, and 2.) I had an incredible tail wind that basically pushed me along with no effort on my part. I think, however, I might invest in a compass just so I know which cardinal direction I’m headed.
I ended up coming into the town of Susteren, stopping at a local bar to, again, dry off and have a beer. They had Brand IPA, which is one of my favorites, and they had a little Dachshund running around. Everyone was watching the cycling race on TV, except for the person in the photo who is apparently under the table. I’m not certain what he was doing.
I don’t know where the race was being held, but it was raining there and it was raining here, so I’m assuming somewhere in Europe. I spoke exclusively in German and the bartender, who was Dutch, responded in English, so you can imagine how poor my German must be. The rain outside was only getting worse.
After having my final beer, I was set on returning home. I still had a tailwind for the most part, so I was very thankful for that. I passed through Echt and on to Maria Hoop, the last Dutch town before crossing back into Deutschland. Passing a stretch of woodlands, I caught a glimmer from somewhere within the trees, and I stopped to investigate further.
It was a bicycle; the make was Livingstone, something I’d never heard of before. The saddle, however, was a Brooks, and of course I knew them quite well. Sadly, it was left uncovered and getting rained on. The bike was locked to a tree, in the woods, for no reason I could ascertain. No one was around and it was getting dark. I left with a hundred mysterious scenarios running through my mind. No doubt its owner had gotten involved in an increasingly complicated series of bicycle-related exchanges and is now dead.
Returning home, I was finally able to dry off completely. It then began to thunder outside, and I saw a lightning flash light up my window. The rain was fine, but I’m glad to have been spared all of that. As of this writing, it’s still raining. But at least now I’ve proven to myself that the rain itself isn’t such a big deal.
- Bicyclist Abroad