Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Trip...

The first day in Belgium is the hardest as jet lag saps whatever energy I may have. I couldn't sleep on the flight, even with the help of ambiens. Arriving in Brussels, I had to wait for the bike box to arrive, not everything is efficient in Belgium. Sam was waiting for me with Nele, a former co-worker of his from Hansen. She was kind to let us use her apartment to shower. We waited at her apartment for Tom to get off work. Surfing through the channels we found Sporza which was showing the De Panne time trial, try that on ESPN or even ESPN 8, the Ocho. Once Tom got off 'work', we followed him to his parent's house where we were staying. We assembled the bikes then it was back in the car to go to dinner in Antwerp. Nele met us at the restaurant which was on the banks of the Schelde river and we enjoyed a delicious meal and beer. After dinner we walked around Antwerp finding ourselves in De Engel, touted as the oldest bar in Antwerp. The smoke was all encompassing, as if they hadn't aired it out in a hundred years, but the Westmalle I had was delicious. Belgian beers for some reason taste better in Belgium. go figure...

On Friday, Tom's mom made us breakfast and after we filled our pie holes, we kitted up to spin the legs. Tom rode with us and led us to the canal. My legs felt like wood and I had to concentrate on pushing the pedals to maintain 30kph on the flat canal path. Tom dropped back leaving Sam and me to find our way back to his house. After 45km we made it back and piled back in the car to drive to Aalst and the Van Eyck bike shop. It was amazing how much inventory this shop had displayed. 8 Cervelo frames, Willier, Merckx, Colnago, Bianchi, the list could go on, and the accessories wall was impressive. Everything, and I mean everything, that could be needed on a bike was displayed. After Aalst we made our way south to Oudenaarde and the Ronde van Vlaanderan museum, recently reviewed in We were close to Melden, the small village at the bottom of the Koppenberg climb so we hopped in the car and drove there to take a few pictures. Once we got back to Zoersel, Tom showed off his culinary skills by boiling water for pasta and reheating some sauce. Ah spaghetti, the cyclist fuel of choice. We loaded the bikes for the drive to Ninove in the morning and called it a night. We had an invite from Nele to go to a concert but didn't think it was wise to get 2 or 3 hours sleep before the RIDE.

Saturday and The Ride.

Sunday and The Race.

On Monday, Sam and I followed Tom to the house he is renovating. Or should I say the Bachelor Pad. Maybe the Love Pad. Nah, Tom's house is the best description. He started with just wanting to install new floors, which led to replacing the heating system and then he decided to redo the kitchen. Ah the joys of owning an older home. The upstairs bedrooms are on the list to be redone, sometime in the next year. Or so... He gave us the full tour and showed us what he plans to do with the garden. It had a lot more space than I thought, even larger than my yard. Sam and I left Tom to his construction duties and headed north to Amsterdam. Arriving in this wonderful city we began our journey to find a parking spot. 45 minutes + later, we shoe-horned the Kia into a spot and started walking towards the city center, rounding a corner we found a bike shop (imagine that in Amsterdam) and rented bikes. We bought a map and set off across the canals, dodging bikes, cars, bikes, trucks, bikes, pedestrians, bikes, scooters and bikes. Ok, I'm a pretty good cyclist. I had just ridden the full route of the Ronde. I've won a few races and series, even beaten Patricio in a few heated sprints, but damn I felt like I was riding a bike for the first time. It didn't help that I was on a coaster brake bike for the first time since I was 9. After a few stops and turns while enjoying the sights, sounds and aromas of Amsterdam, we stopped at a cafe in the Nieuwe Markt and enjoyed a couple of Heinekens. We had to ride back to the car to feed the meter and I felt much better on the bike after a few beers. That's all I needed. Just get a bit sauced and the riding comes naturally. Not sure if I'll try that in the Mabra cyclocross races, but maybe in the VACX (watch out Dawg)... We made the decision to go to the Van Gogh museum instead of the Riksmuseum. I wish we had the time to make it to both, oh well I'll just have to go back and enjoy more of Amsterdam. Back in the car to Zoersel where Tom had finished patching of his roof. Kind of important in a country where it rains pretty much everyday. We finished off the day with another wonderful meal and beer next to the canal we had ridden on Friday. Tom didn't have a beer, even with our taunts to 'man up', he had a glass of port wine and sipped it with his pinkie finger in the proper position. We said our goodbyes that night. Tom's parents were wonderful hosts and I enjoyed our stay with them.

Tuesday we got up at 'zero-dark thirty' so I could make it to the airport for my 7:30 flight. Sam's flight wasn't until noon, so needless to say he got some reading done in Brussels. Brussels to Vienna to Dulles to Staunton in around 20 or so hours.

Damn that was a great trip, long enough that we got to do and see a lot, but short enough I didn't get too homesick. I did miss Parker and Holly and was elated to see them once I got home. Parker liked his toy Quick-Step bus and hat, and Holly and I both enjoyed the Leonidas chocolates I brought back.

I'm already looking forward to my next trip to Europe.

A few pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Too bad that wasn't the rental car.

Tom, riding a bike. He's available ladies...

Koppenberg hill, doesn't look too tough.

But it is a bitch.

And this is why, just add water for slip-sliding fun.

nice angle on the cobbles.

Dude, where's my car. Amsterdam Style.

Ah, beer. Heaven is a cafe in Amsterdam.

This is how you ride a bike in Amsterdam, with flowers.

This is how I roll.

Caution work area.

The garden before. (after pictures sometime in the next few years)

Remember ladies, he's single. Owns his own home and is gainfully employed. Enjoys long walks on the beach and can cook spaghetti...

thanks Tom for everything.


Blogger Jim said...

So I'm guessing you owe us some epic entries relating to "The Ride" and "The Race," not to mention "The Hangover" and "The Frites-induced 10 Pound Weight Gain"

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm guessing he was too beat down by The Ride to even wake up for The Race and it's all just a haze now.

Where are the reports? Inquiring minds want to know.

3:06 PM  

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