Fietsroutes and Flanders

It was pissing down when I pulled my bike off the road for the night. My right ring finger and pinky are numb from seven hours of pressing on handlebars and beads of rain are dropping from my head down on to my journal. I’m cold, wet, tired.

But enough about me. 

Well, not quite yet.

Today was all about dragging my somewhat hungover ass out of bed and pushing myself back towards Holland.  I’m less than 15 km from the border, but the rain clouds didn’t just open up; they also robbed me of the day’s last light.

The wet stone streets of Turnhout

So I’m in Turnhout now, praying the nice Chinese lady that took my order gets it right.  Chop suey is the only vegetarian menu item and my vegan body already got assaulted this afternoon in Aarsehot. I managed to slide the boiled egg slices off my salad, but the mayo (which, of course, is made with egg) was unavoidable.

My Airbnb host in Brussels said Holland is a cyclist’s paradise. I’ll know better tomorrow. Belgium, I gotta say though, sure doesn’t suck. Nearly every street has areas marked off for two-wheelers, while Fietsroutes connect towns and spin off through fields and forests. 

Alongside a WWII anti-tank canal

You might be cruising alongside a winding canal that served as an important defense feature in WWII, then gliding a few minutes later through a stunningly peaceful canopy of trees.

A canopy of trees

When school lets out mobs of students are sharing the path with you.  It’s an incredible sight coming from Rob Ford’s Toronto, to see so many fit, fresh-faced Flemish of all ages relying on pedals for transportation.

The paths themselves are very well maintained, and I have yet to see a squirrel (or varmint of any persuasion) wander on to a path.  Crows make themselves known occasionally, but are in flight at the first sound of my bell.

In general, cycling here is smoother than Prince Harry in a hot tub.

Deer and goats just sort of hang out in backyards.

Until the heavens empty tubs of water in your path, then biking becomes a wee bit hazardous. I hit a few small patches of the wet stuff earlier, but tonight it came down with enough volume that I learned my Mountain Equipment Co-op running jacket is not, in fact, waterproof.

Chilled to core, I spotted a Best Western in this 900-year old city of 41,000, and took one of the two remaining rooms.  Fortunately my M.E.C. panniers are resistant to the conditions, so I had dry clothes to change into, after peeling off the soaked. 

My fingers (the ones with feeling) are crossed that the rain lets up before I get up, so I can get back on schedule.  Arnhem is a little more than 100 km in front of me, so about the same distance I covered today.

At worst, I’m right next to the train station here, and can rely on rails if trails prove too difficult.


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