No! Sleep! ’til Belgium!

I’ve forfeited more cash at Mountain Equipment Co-op this past month than in the three years that preceded. Cycling shirt, shorts, tires, waterproof Panniers, tubes (and emergency tube repair kit), handlebar tape, lock, gel seat, pedal wrench, a tune-up, something called a “multi-tool” and 16 vegan-friendly Clif Bars purchased, I’m as prepared as I’m going to be.

Tomorrow my newly restored 12-speed flies with me to Holland, for the start of a two-week beer vacation.

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The last couple of days I’ve been forcing myself out of bed early, pushing my body to pre-acclimatize to Europe. Yesterday was 5:30 a.m. Today was 4:45. It’s now 13 hours and four beers later, and I’m cozied up to a rail, celebrating the first anniversary of the bar that sponsors my softball team, adrenaline soaring in anticipation of the next half-month.

Last week I cycled 63 km in 2.5 hours and still had plenty in the tank.  Yesterday I went for an uninterrupted 17 km jog.

I feel ready. I feel really, really good.

Originally this trip didn’t involve two-wheeled transport.  This whole trek was built around Belgian Beer Weekend (next weekend) and a cheap flight to Amsterdam.  Then I saw a tweet from @BeerCycling and, well, the wheels started turning.

My own bike had quite literally been collecting dust for five years, but I’ve been zipping around downtown daily, since Bixi finally brought their commuter vélos to Trinity Bellwoods earlier this summer.

The expression “it’s like riding a bike” refers to muscle memory, not the high you get when you’re gliding uninterrupted over paved trails with the wind in your face. These last few weeks, venturing into suburbia (“the 905”) has given me back that sense of invigoration; something my body had long forgotten. When I was 21 I felt it, riding south, 200+ km from Calgary to Lethbridge, under a searing, mid-summer, Prairie sun. Seven years later I left Cowtown again, this time trekking west to Banff (climbing, descending, climbing, climbing…), through a rather ferocious storm.  I’ve never felt more energized than screaming myself hoarse into that angry, belligerent, pelting rain.

Now, more than a decade later, I’m once again fully aware of how alive I am standing over my seat, feeling all the muscles in my legs working in concert through each pedal’s rotation, my upper frame subtlety shifting, while maintaining its rigidity, all to get a cleaner, smoother line.  It’s a fucking great feeling.

I love cycling and I love beer, and BeerCycling puts the two together in the countries I’m visiting (more on that in the weeks ahead).

Video camera is packed. Laptop isn’t.  So although I’ll be updating this blog when WiFi makes itself available, the final cut has to wait until I’m back.

A new, solid journal has been purchased and a fantastic pen “acquired” from a recent meeting at the Ritz-Carlton. I’ll appear to be alone with my bike for two weeks, but words will travel with me.

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Today I’m at Tallboys, drinking Amsterdam. In two days I’ll be in Amsterdam drinking with tall boys (and tall girls). Then I’ll be in Bruges, Brussels, Dusseldorf and Cologne, before hitting the Fietsroutes and progressing from a Trappist Monastery in South Holland to an acclaimed brewery just West of Amsterdam.

I hope you’ll follow along.

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