Getting into the swing of it

Well, that’s the first 500km knocked off. Set off a week ago from Greenwich, under a glorious late-winter clear sunny day. Had a nice escort out of London with a local touring group who were going for a ride along the Thames path. They stopped for coffee at Erith, and then I was on my own.

Pushing on down to Dover, I got picked up by the cops in Canterbury for riding somewhere I wasn’t supposed to. I thought I was following a bike path, but I guess not. Got off with a warning though. Got the ferry over to Calais, and after some fun riding in the dark with no lights, got a hotel. The campsite doesn’t open until Easter apparently.

Got a rip in my sidewall, so swapped over the rear tyre – thanks to those who convinced me to carry a spare tyre. Will try and pick up another spare in Germany I think.

I was going to cross France and direct into Germany, but after taking into account the wind forecast, I decided to head more north-east, and into Belgium. I’m in Namur now, and will try and make it to Bastogne tomorrow, before crossing Luxembourg, and into Germany.

Has been hard going for the first few days, but I’m starting to get into the swing of it, and it’s getting a little bit easier now. Another week or two and I should be good. I had thought I’d have more time to do some thinking, but it’s funny how you keep occupied with stuff like route planning, food and water, where to stop, etc.

Perhaps it will be different when I’m camping, and I can’t watch the French version of “Wheel of Fortune”. Not sure exactly why, but it has been compulsory viewing for me. Hopefully I can find a German equivalent shortly.

Beer and Chocolate

And waffles of course. Just a quick post about a recent trip to Bruges, in Belgium. I went with some good friends for a long weekend, via Eurostar. Definitely the way to travel – so much less hassle than flying anywhere. I like arriving in the centre of town, rather than some godforsaken industrial wasteland miles from the city.

I learnt several things about Belgium:

  • They understand nice dogs – this pleases me greatly, for it will make riding through there so much easier next year. All the dogs were nice friendly breeds, well kept. I think I equate that with nice people. It’s the f**kwits who want ugly fighting dogs.
  • They love their rotisserie chicken – I don’t believe I have ever seen so many chickens being rotisserised at one point, as at the market in Bruges.
  • You can drink copious quantities of Belgian beer without suffering from a hangover, provided you get enough sleep. 11-12 hours is good.

Work is ticking along well – I’m really enjoying my current contract. The only thing that is killing me is the commute – I spend between 3.5 and 5 hours commuting every day, depending on how Thameslink is feeling today. I was quite impressed by their effort today – it took us nearly half an hour to cover the distance that Southern manages to cover in about 7 minutes. I haven’t quite worked out why, but for some reason there is a train pecking order, and Thameslink is the very bottom of the heap. Frequently trains stop – not at a station – for no apparent reason. Some times they roar along, proving they can go fast. Other times they just trundle along at about walking pace. My personal favourite is when we are forced to stop at a station to let other trains go past…but we don’t let anyone on! I also can’t work out why we trundle through stations when other trains fly through, barely slowing down.

Oh well. Less than 7 weeks to go, and then I’m going to go to NZ for 2-3 weeks, before coming back up this way, to set off home again…the slow way