Day 89, Brussels, 7.139 km
I had been warned: « well, the North in October, that’s going be tough… ». Since I’m a little stubborn (I wonder who I got this from), I found a lot of excuses to go anyway (if I wanted to see everyone, I didn’t really have a choice, better October than January, etc. etc.) and that’s it: I reached the northernmost point of the trip for this winter: Brussels. And as I had been told, it was cold, it rained, there was wind… It’s less pleasant than riding in summer but I guess everyone already knew that…
I’m leaving Frankfurt on Friday morning, under a real deluge. As I expected it, I don’t really mind and decide to ignore the fact that I’m wet altogether (the full gear, including the overshoes, helps a lot). I ride along the Main, it’s flat, nothing out of the ordinary, except a factory every now and then… And it still rains. A lot. But since I decided to not be wet, it’s okay. I arrive in Mainz, where I join the Rhine. Nothing particular to report either (to be honest, I did not dig more than that)… I continue to follow the Rhine and begin to think that the poor Germans have not been spoiled by nature: even the banks of the river remain soporifically monotonous (fortunately I slept well the night before, otherwise I would probably have fallen asleep on the handlebars).
I arrive in Bingen am Rhein and I tell myself that I have judged a bit quickly: I understand why people have written poems about this region. Steep mountains that surround the Rhine, a castle perched on the heights every kilometer, vineyards on the hills and pretty little villages. The Lorelei region. It’s simply beautiful. I even forget that it’s raining. I wonder if I can follow the Rhine a little longer to enjoy the landscapes a bit more but that would make me make a « small » detour of about a hundred kilometers and I realize that despite everything I have decided I’m kind of wet… Too bad, I turn towards Luxembourg…
As I leave the banks of the Rhine, I climb. The road is quite steep even. The rain doesn’t help but I finally get on the plateau. I see windmills everywhere: bad sign. The rain stops but the wind takes over. Awesome. I take a look at the weather forecast, which tells me that it shouldn’t rain until the evening! Great. 5 minutes later it’s raining so hard that I can’t see 5 meters away. Thanks weather forecast! I run into an old man during a break who tells me he still rides a bike at 75 when the weather allows it. Not today, for example. We laugh and I leave. I’m starting feel my legs and I’m looking for a forest where I can hide for the night. Mission accomplished at nightfall, I manage to pitch the tent in the dark (I’m kind of used to it I imagine), have dinner and jump in bed!
The next day I wake up late (around 7:30 am) and it’s still dark… It’s a change from this summer… It’s cold too, so I put the full gear back on. In addition, I start my day with a big descent and Switzerland has taught me to beware of the cold in such cases … I join the Moselle at Bernkastel, a pretty little village by the river. The GPS recommends that I cut straight on towards Luxembourg but I decide to follow the Moselle instead: wise decision! It’s flat, in the sun, very pretty and I just have to reach out to pick a bunch of grapes for my breaks.
I cross a new border and enter into Luxembourg (9th country since the start). I find a sign for the traditional photo and set off to climb the last hills before arriving at Laura and Adrien’s place. Adrien picks me up on its bike (second reunion on the road, a little delay this time but nothing serious) and we ride the last kilometers together. We even go as far as to exchange our bikes (I have the impression of flying without my 30 kilos of luggage)! Small mechanical problems at the end of the stage: I get a flat tire (but with Adrien’s bike so I don’t know if that counts for the stats), I realize that my brake pads are dead and that one of my spokes is broken (though I lightened up at Barr…). We will have all that fixed on the road Monday morning, but before that, raclette, board games and well-deserved Sunday rest!
Monday morning, new start. First step: a bicycle repair shop to change my broken spoke. I leave in the rain wondering 1. If the store is open (conflicting information between Google and the website) 2. If the wheel will hold. In the end everything goes well and I quickly have a brand new spoke! However, I realize on the next climb that the derailleur has not been adjusted correctly (the repairman must have touched something when changing the spoke) and I almost broke my chain. Luckily, I had a derailleur-setup course at Coco’s and I can do it on my own like a grown-up man. I follow the bike path in the forest, it is a bit slippery at times (I have to push on a climb and hesitate to do it on a descent) but overall quite pleasant. I enter Belgium without realizing it (no photo-border this time) and I arrive in Bastogne. I also pass the 7.000 kilometer! In a few years, there will be a cycle race, the famous Pélunaise classic, between Sète (Sète is pronounced the same way as sept, which means seven in French) and Bastogne, which will have exactly 1,000 km: they will only have to change the letters on the roundabout…
Belgium ! I cross the Ardennes. The forest is beautiful. There are bits of tanks or cannons in all the villages I pass through. There is also at least one tree called King Baudoin in each of these villages. We are not talking about dumps but container parks (it reminds me of an amusement park for containers… I’m trying to laugh as soon as I can). We are not talking about Cycle paths, but about RaVEL (that makes me laugh too). I cross Thon (Thuna in French) and Jambes (Legs in French). People smile at me and say hello. It’s raining but not too much. It’s hilly but not too much. There is wind… but not too much !! Happy Belgium!
After a night in my tent, I reach the Meuse before riding along it to Namur and then branching off towards Brussels. My GPS tricks me and takes me through paths at the limit of the practicable … I have to push on the climb and I fall hard in the descent. A big hit on the knee and I have to finish walking. But as soon as the Meuse is there I pedal again. Like any self-respecting cyclist in Belgium, I have to go through a little cobbled section, It shakes! Then a long streak through the forest and I arrive in Brussels at Anaïs’ place!
From tomorrow on, I will be heading for the south and the nice weather again (at least I hope) … And I will stay in France until Christmas!