After a lovely stay with two Warm Showers hosts in Leeuwarden, we left in the pouring rain. We had known it would rain, but had hoped that it wouldn’t be quite so heavy. Instead it poured for the first three hours of our ride.
B and I wore bike shorts, tights, rain pants, wool base layers, our Castelli soft shells, and a rain coat. I wore “waterproof” covers over my feet and B’s rain pants have small built-in shower cap-looking things that extend over your feet. We also wore gloves, which we knew wouldn’t stay dry for long, but which we hoped might provide some warmth for our fingers. The temperature was around 60.
We were warm and dry for about the first 40 minutes. As we headed into the countryside along a canal, I figured all would be okay. One and a half hours later, pushing at about 15 mph through driving rain in the empty countryside, I started to question why we were doing this. No one was making us put ourselves through this misery. Luckily it wasn’t cold enough to be dangerous, though of course if we had been in that weather all day, it would have been a different story.
Our hosts in Leeuwarden had told us about the pannekoeken ship in Groningen, which serves Dutch pancakes on a boat in the canal. I thought about the pannekoeken and the promise of a warm ship on every pedal stroke. B was doing the same thing. We stopped a few times for a snack, and also once when the Garmin route appeared to bring us into the middle of a farm field (ended up there was a thin, concrete path through the field).
Our goal was to make it to Groningen where we could eat Pannekoeken and attempt to warm up. As we rolled into the city, the rain began to let up a bit. We were both entirely soaked by that point. So much for having waterproofed my rain coat before we left.
We arrived at the ship around 2 or so in the afternoon. It had been a slow 37 miles up until that point. We locked the bikes to a drain pipe across the street and carried our heavy panniers down the stairs and into the ship. We left a trail of water and puddles as we slowly peeled off the wet layers. Not only were our rain coats soaked through, but so were our Castelli jackets, and our wool base layers. We stayed in the bathroom for a while in order to take full advantage of the hand dryer.
The pannekoeken were really giant pancakes – thicker than crêpes, they reminded us more of American pancakes. I got the “Canadian” which had lox, leeks, zucchini, and onions in it. Bryna had a pancake with curried chicken in it.
After finally warming up and drying off somewhat, we put on dry tops over our wet wool shirts and headed out. The rain had abated and within about 25 minutes of riding, the sun was out in full force. We kept stopping to strip off more layers as we headed toward the German border.
Riding in and out of cities has enabled us to see how cities spring up out of the countryside and then how the countryside and the rural farmland creeps into the cityscape as we’re leaving. As we rode towards Germany, we stayed primarily in the countryside, occasionally passing through small towns with a grocery store and a few shops. We have been doing much of our riding in the afternoon when many shops are already closed.
Our entrance into Germany was marked by a tiny drawbridge – about 20 feet long – over a narrow canal. We rode along train tracks, past dozens of giant wind turbines, and through a small town with a large sign post in Hebrew in front of the bank. We were in a rush to get to our AirBnB for the night in Leer, so we didn’t stop to read the commemorative plaque.
Speaking of drawbridges, the many bridges we saw over canals in the Netherlands were just gorgeous. Many of the drawbridges were somehow cantilevered to either lift up or rotate the roadway over the canal. They were most often painted bright teals, periwinkles, and sky blues. Large signs stated “automatische slagboom,” warning of the gates that automatically came down when boats approached, before the bridges turned or lifted. We were not sure how the boats got the bridges to open for them – perhaps they radio in to someone or there’s an automatic sensor.
When we crossed the Afsluitdijk on day one, there was a large command room operating that drawbridge, although that was, without a doubt, a much larger operation.