No, my real sense of adventure came when a police car strolled along side us. 'Titus!', I was screaming in my head. Titus is our own Friday bobby, but Titus couldn't make the ride this time. I was aware that not all of us were wearing hi-viz vests, we were not always sticking to the cycle paths, what else? Are flashing lights allowed, are they mounted too high, too low? We're all going to get arrested. Instead of cycling all night, we'll spend the night in a police station. Weak tea ... no, coffee in a paper cup. I thought all this in a flash, when the police man wound down the window, smiled and said in English: 'One of your riders has a broken chain'. Oh, is that all! A chain breaking is one of the more 'advanced' mechanicals you can have on the road, but now, it didn't matter. It also doesn't matter when you have chain repairer extra-ordinaire mmmmartin taking charge. Well done mmmmartin on doing the allegedly impossible which is to fix an 11 speed chain with a 10 speed chain link.
|Chain repair about to begin|
We left Brussels later than planned, but that didn't matter either. We were all present. I texted our middle of the night hosts to say we're setting off an hour late and after getting a reply of 'no worries', the ride could begin. Hurrah!
I really, really enjoyed the event. This was helped by hearing re-assuring comments of appreciation during the ride. I was worried how the towpath detour near Aalst would be perceived. I don't mind going off-track when I'm on my own, but in the company of others, I go a little twitchy. But I should never have, BalkanExpress, John and others were at hand to put us right and nobody seemed bothered.
That was the point where I relaxed my shoulders and thought what a wonderful team effort this ride is. Everybody puts energy into logistics, the bikes, the route, the riding, and, maybe unwittingly, the atmosphere. I guess that's the spirit of the Fridays!
|The Fridays! |
For that I have a grand Ostende finale planned. Well, grand-ish! Although I think the Oosteroever and ferry option was better than going the ongoing-road-works and tramline-plenty way, I have a third option in mind. I'll do a recce. If it doesn't work out, we'll stick with the ferry (with optional Fort Napoleon and sea view detour).
|The North Sea |
In my mind it was a mild night, but in reality it wasn't. It was a bit nippy. But no rain! Ten days earlier the forecast was for 9 hours of rain. We didn't have a drop of it, although something was falling out of the sky when we went past the Aalst brewery.
'It's better than my Christmas' replied John after I likened Karen and David's table setup to Christmas. A three course meal we had, with cutlery to match! That asparagus and pea quiche was superb! So was the soup, and the humus, and the cake... The fact that, as vegetarians, they even bought ham for us, shows to what extend they cater for us. Very generous and absolutely splendid. We can't thank them enough!
The night was topped off with an amazing sunrise. The sun over the misty canal always makes for good photos.
R & S' observations on the cycling behaviour on the towpaths prompts me to add a few notes on this. You know that coureurs are god in Belgium. And club cyclist are pretty high in the pecking order. They own the road and in our case the towpath. I kept shouting out when cyclists were coming our way, but I also kept looking behind me to see if everybody was ok. It can be scary when they race through us. But you can't tame the proud Flemish cycling lions. Best we stick to single file and hold our breath on that stretch, when the Sunday morning club runs are happening. Still, R & S got the last laugh when the tandem engineered a free ride with the Maes fiets club.
Here's to a fantastic edition of the FNRttKust. I was pleased to hear everybody who was going home, got home OK, and everybody who was continuing their journey got on their way.