Belgium

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 I crossed the border into Belgium this morning, a solid two minutes after I left. Anyone can get through. We have to build a wall!

  

The border between our two countries has been a virtuality for some time already. Border posts are now a tourist attraction, and controls are done randomly, mostly on the highway, by chasing vehicles. How will they do once trucks, first, will have no human onboard anymore? Special police shortcut tools to take control? Corner the vehicle to force it to stop? Talking about automatic cars, I read a joke recently. The saddest part about them will be mid-trip death, when your pizza delivery guy, or your friends, arrive dead at your place. Awkward start for the party! Maybe you’ll be able to simply send the car back. “The pizza was cold, and so was the guy delivering it”

  
So I crossed the border unchallenged, and was quickly pushed into another canal bike lane. I actually followed it for almost all the way to Gand. That meant a flat, rather smooth lane, with no vehicle and no signs, for 60kms. Lots of cyclists, maybe 30, so 30 more than in France. Vive la Belgique! And no rain or wind. I was there in three hours.

  
Speaking of death mid trip, yesterday’s rain claimed the life of my iPhone charger cable. I thought the phone was safely in the plastic map holder on my bike, but over the day it had became a pool of water. I stored the phone inside my (only) bag between clothes. But the cable was already damaged. It was functioning erratically in the evening, and was dead in the morning. I realized that on the way, and it became the top priority. Without my phone, no gps, no map, no way to find a place to sleep or eat, no calling for help! I couldn’t get lost today, but yesterday I would have never reached the end. I did a quick stop at Oudenarde, which was supposed to be my finish line today, before I decided to visit the family and push further north.

  
One problem down, the next one, while riding along the canal and the barges, was the brake pad on the back wheel. It was so worn out it was screeching on the wheel itself. I found a shop easily in Gand. Still, I had left the bike to be revised completely a week ago in Paris. The guy there was arrogant even for a Frenchman, advising against self sealing tubes, that do not work, for instance. They only carried me through the whole US, but what do I know. Another professional who missed one simple checkpoint on what is overall very simple mechanics. So people in Paris, avoid Rando cycles – at least the repair shop. The quest for honest specialists remains open.
  
I arrived in Gand early, a little after noon. I was there with no idea yet of where I would stay, which is an unbelievable low level of planning for me. Thanks internet once again for good last minute deals.

  
The city center is really beautiful, maybe even more than Brugges. It feels more like a living city, complete with a small castle, a typical Belgian city hall and market place. And of course, canals everywhere. I will stay in Antwerp one day to rest, I hope it’s just as nice.

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