Buying a spare tube did cross my mind. Instead, I packed light, and opted instead for a small repair kit.
That decision cost me dearly.
Somewhat fittingly, I guess, my back wheel made a popping sound in Boom, a town about halfway between Antwerp and Brussels. In Boom, I was told, shops don’t open until noon, so between 10:00 and 12:00 I sat on the side of the road, trying to convince a couple of patches to stay sealed — at least long enough to get me to Brussels.
Finally, just after the lunch whistle blew, I gave in and walked to the only repair shop any English speaker knew of, and found it actually closes at noon for lunch, then re-opens at 13:00.
The silver lining in this, of course, is that it afforded me enough time to grab a Lindemans Kriek (maybe two).
A charming, tattoed and somewhat weathered women, Tamara, watched my bike while I refreshed. I’m sure there are better places in this town of 18,000 to grab a drink, but I’m really not disappointed. The beer was both inexpensive and excellent, and Tamara, who I think is Roma, knew that I was trying to learn Dutch without my speaking a word of it.
The trip from Antwerp to Brussels took about seven hours (downtown to downtown). On a straight-ish course with no deflation issues, I can cover the same distance in two.
It was a frustrating journey, but scenic. How often do you ride through a Canadian town and find cattle resting in someone’s front yard?
Now, 20 minutes before sales close for the night, I’m in line for Belgian Beer Weekend. At this festival, you buy bottle caps which serve as currency, and one token that exchanges for a new glass at each station. You get the token back when you return the glass, and move on to the next tent. This way you’re always drinking from the brewer’s intended vessel.
Unfortunately, arriving so late meant I missed MPI’s Guy McClelland, who had a weekend VIP pass for me. Now he’s on his way to Munich. I’m drinking out-of-pocket.
This trip has thrown been filled with obstacles, but it has also uncapped a lot of bottles no Ontario beer opener will ever touch, and I’m learning so much along the way.