The owner of the small cafe in Friesland where we’d taken shelter from the rain paced around our table, tapping his iPhone, shaking his head and muttering.
“There’s no rain in the forecast. I just don’t know where it’s come from. I’m sure it’ll pass soon,” he added, trying to make us feel better.
We nodded and turned back to the steaming mugs of coffee in front of us, trying not to look at the puddles forming underneath our dripping jackets. Rain or no rain, we were determined to draw pleasure from the moment – a brief escape from the latest downpour in what was turning out to be a very wet bike tour.
Earlier, we rode off the ferry that goes across the IJsselmeer – a huge artificial lake in the middle of the Netherlands – with about 50 other very soggy cyclists. On the pier, everyone started putting on rain gear, and we all looked a bit fed up with the weather.
The rain had been nearly steady for the past 4 days. All the campgrounds were soaked, and most cyclists were too. Later, a friend informed us that 2011 was turning out to be the wettest summer on record in over 100 years – it certainly felt it! The brief sunny moments we’d seen right at the beginning of our trip, seemed like something from last year, not last week.
Still, at some point you have to make a choice. Are you going to ride on, fed up and grumpy, or will you make the best of it? We chose the second option, and tried to adopt some of the bracing attitude that Paul de Vivie showed, when he was bike touring in the 1800s.
After a long day on my bicycle, I feel refreshed, cleansed, purified. I feel that I have established contact with my environment and that I am at peace. On days like that I am permeated with a profound gratitude for my bicycle. Even if I did not enjoy riding, I would still do it for my peace of mind. What a wonderful tonic to be exposed to bright sunshine, drenching rain, choking dust, dripping fog, rigid air, punishing winds!
We covered our heads with wide-brimmed hats to keep the rain out of our eyes. We sang silly songs to distract ourselves from the strong winds and rain, and we happily stopped for a chat when we came across these two Brits on a ferry. They’re riding to Copenhagen on a Dawes tandem, with a heavy homemade trailer!
In a brief rain-free moment, we paused to snap a picture of our bicycles by the water’s edge.
And when the rain started up again, we thought about buying a very Dutch saddle cover, decorated with bright colours and flowers. We didn’t get the saddle cover (a shower cap works just as well), but we did take shelter from one rain storm in a camping shop. We walked out with a new towel to replace the one we’d lost somewhere, and some camping bowls to replace our smelly X Bowls.
And then, we jumped back in the saddle again, looking for a bit of sunshine somewhere down the road.