Monday 29th April 2019 – WRWR Day 62 – My day 5
Wow.. this morning everything is covered in a thick fog… I can’t even see out of the end of Hilde’s driveway. Nevertheless, we must make our way to the gathering point… carefully.
Hilde leads the way and some 10kms onwards towards a restaurant in the middle of nowhere.. a very beautiful nowhere I have to say. We are in Kasteelpark, Gaasbeek. Again the whole restaurant has been booked out and I believe it may even have opened up especially for us… amazing.
There are croissants and coffee and it looks as though we are to be 100+ women again, just astounding.
We are split into manageable groups of around 20 bikes each. Today we will ride through Belgium, on a fairly circuitous route, arriving in Wachtebeke where most of the women will be staying in a campground. I of course will not… oh no… camping yuck!! No I am actually staying near Sas Van Gent, over the border in Netherlands where we will begin tomorrows first leg in Netherlands and my last leg of WRWR.
Each group is a different colour and we are given ribbons to wear on our arms, the international set are all in the Yellow group.. good. Apparently there were armbands yesterday too, don’t know how I missed that.
One thing that the Belgian women mention is the famous Flanders cobbled roads… oh oh, that sounds ominous… they are smiling broadly as they talk about it and are obviously hugely looking forward to it. Meanwhile, us non Belgians are feeling more than a little trepidatious. Trui attempts to calm our nerves and Mar gives us all the benefit of her not unsubstantial experience… stay in one low gear, don’t brake sharply, don’t change gear, stand up… stand up!! are you having a laugh, I’m on a Harley, no standing up on that I can tell you, my bum is firmly planted in the saddle. I am still feeling the effects of my very near miss yesterday, and the thought of cobbled roads is making me sweat!
We make our way onto the route and I am quaking expecting to be faced with mile upon mile of wet, slippery cobblestones.. after a good 15 minutes I calm down as I realise it isn’t imminent, but I have to say I am still a bit wobbly round corners and especially coming off of roundabouts… oh do get over it Pogs!!
The going is very slow.. even slower than yesterday… mmmm it’s going to be a long day.
First stop is here at Geraardsbergen in East Flanders, where some of the women climb a large hill,
but Mar and Trui decide to almost go for a swim…
very funny and Mar almost got a soaking… here she is showing off her numerous armbands.. where did they suddenly come from I wonder???
Back on the road and soon we come across our first cobbles… thank the goddess it’s dry, that’s all I can say. I turn on my GoPro to get some footage of the cobbles… won’t be able to upload til I get home though.
(I’m now home and find that my camera didn’t record anything at all for the whole trip.. gutted. Thanks to Els for these photos of the famous Flanders cobbles..)
Next stop is lunch, at this all American/Belgian Diner in Oudenaarde, East Flanders… carrots anyone??
So, I bet you are wondering… carrots? what carrots? Well I shall tell you. We all troop into the Diner and it’s the usual American Diner fare, burgers etc. but everything, and I mean everything, comes with carrots.. of course we start messing about asking if there are carrots with the ice cream. I’m curious as to the significance of carrots, is Belgium the centre of the european carrot mountain I speculate. I have to ask. I enquire of the women in front of me in the queue if they are Belgian, yes.. ok so what’s with the carrots? They look puzzled.. I explain that I am wondering why there are carrots with everything, is it a Belgian custom.. yes they say, looking a bit surprised that I am asking.. oh dear I hope I’m not offending them. I’m not a big fan of carrots so I ask one of the women if she would like mine.. she says yes. To be honest, I felt I didn’t get to the bottom of the carrot question.
I order a burger and chips.. with carrots of course.. and I find that the carrots are actually a small bowl of salad with grated carrot on the top.. ah so that is the reason for carrots with everything, it’s actually salad!!
After lunch we are warned.. next comes the famous Flanders cobbles.. oh no, my heart sinks……
It’s time to suck it up and go, but we do have time for a group photo.. this is one of my favourites so far
The cobbles await… and here they are…. rattle rattle rattle.. I am concentrating hard, keep in 2nd gear, don’t brake, don’t change gear… ok ok all going fine… oh shit, here comes a bend… my heart races… whew, I manage to get round, not my best bit of cornering ever… but I survive, whew!
Thank the goddess that’s over… oh oh there’s more, Stop IT!!! This time we are going up a very steep hill and as we crest over the top we are turning sharp left, my heart is almost literally in my mouth! Just as I crest the rise I see it isn’t cobbled, it’s tarmac, but my relief is fleeting as I see Colette has come off of her bike.. oh shit, I come to a stop and try to get off my bike as quickly as possible. I and other women rush over to see if she is ok… I immediately check and she is fine, it seems she turned left and didn’t have enough room to manoeuvre so went off the side of the tarmac into some mud, the side of the bike then hit the tarmac and toppled over, she is so lucky. Just then, as we are helping her and her bike up, another woman crests the rise and just keeps going, her bike travels straight into the ditch and she is thrown forwards over the handlebars, we are all convinced she has broken her neck, but she just dusts herself off and climbs out of the ditch. Wow, how lucky are they both.. and both bikes are fine too… amazing.
The cobbles continue and I suddenly get my confidence back.. I am even going at a fairly rapid pace… be still my beating heart.
I must admit, I am very tired. We stop again in Brugge at a motorcycle shop/cafe and it appears to be a branch of Deus Ex Machina, the same as I visited in LA.. oh good, another coffee please. I notice that there is a petrol station next door, great I need a top up, they also have a jet wash.. ok so I decide I’m leaving the group here; my bike needs a good wash and I need a break. I am going to enjoy another coffee, fill up my bike, give it a good wash then make my way to Sas Van Gent and my room for the night.
But not before I meet this little lady….
isn’t she just the cutest thing….
I am also snagged for a photo shoot.. really… ok. Trui has asked Inge Vermeiren the group photographer to take some of me posing… I look forward to seeing them.
Time for a scrub..
It’s great to be alone, too much togetherness for me these last few days lol. I’m soon in Westdorpe just a couple of kilometres from Sas Van Gent. The hotel is basic but clean and there is a bar/restaurant across the street with the same name that I find out to be where I check in. This is perfect, I have a quick look at the menu and will definitely eat here later.
Everyone is very friendly, which I have always found to be true of Dutch people.. other people too, but especially the Dutch. A lovely steak and chips and an early night is definitely on the cards.
Especial thanks to Inge Vermeiren for all the fantastic photos of me xx