Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Two bikes and a backpack

At Ten AM yesterday Ben King and I decided we were going to ride across Belgium to Huy, the finishing town of Fleche Wallonne (one of the biggest bike races in the spring classics). Since we are stuck in Europe do to the volcanic activities in Iceland we are trying to make the best out of the time here. So with no planning we stuffed a backpack with a change of clothes and heading east to Huy. Less than an hour after we sparked the idea we were on the road. With no maps we relied on my previous travels in Belgium and the knowledge that Brussels was the half way point.
I could not have set out on this trip with a better bud than Ben, a good southern boy riding for the Trek-Livestrong team. He and I have become great friends over the past month, and this adventure would only bring us closer. Taking turns carrying the backpack we rode east and into the center of Brussels. For me this was nothing new as I lived there for nine months a few years back and rode my bike everywhere. For Ben however, it was an adrenaline packed hour. Winding our way through gridlocked streets we eventually made our way out of the city.
The east side of Brussels is very different than the west; with rolling hills, thick forests, and the French language it is an area of Belgium that I enjoy much more than the flat windswept farmland of Flanders. Making our way towards our final destination I realized that this whole trek was possible, we were more than halfway there and still had plenty of daylight. With time to spare we stopped in Wavre and ate a very French lunch, we split a baguette and dipped it in chicken pate. With the seldom seen Belgian sun shining down, the gratification of embarking on this great adventure was absorbed.
With French bread in our bellies the final forty kilometers passed quickly. The final descent brought us into Namur (a large town next to Huy where we planned to stay at the youth hostel) and the hardest part of the voyage was finished. Two hundred kilometers and over six hours of riding had landed us on the opposite side of Belgium only to find that the hostel was booked. Ben and I weighed our options, however with our shallow bank accounts a hotel was not one of them. We contemplated sleeping in a barn or some abandoned building but when we finally came to a conclusion we were on the next train back to Izegem.
While we didn’t get to see the race live, we did ride across an entire country of Belgium. Once we returned the other riders were shocked to see us back. Many had expected to see us earlier thinking we would not have the courage make the journey on such little planning. Some of the riders saw our adventure as a failure because we didn’t do what we planned, but we never planned anything at all. It was a spontaneous thought that we carried out, Ben and I had one of our best days in Belgium yet and I wouldn’t’ have changed it for a thing.


David Albrecht said...

These kinds of days will end up being your best memories...

Jillian said...

What an epic journey! Thanks for that flashback to the days of Belgium and all the wonders that country had to offer. I miss you man, you have a zest for life that is hard to compete with. Keep riding strong. peace