Sunday. Race, pack up, eat at Pilot Butte Burger, drive home in stupor. Sleep.
Monday. Really tired and sick. Sleep 13 hours. Eat enormous salad.
Tuesday. Wake up late. Still sick. Go to the Orthopedics. Collarbone still broken. Doctor says I can start riding again in a week or two. I show him road rash from crash a few days ago. He shakes his head. Go home. Pack. Drive car to Jacob’s house and drop off empty bike box, duffle bag, and backpack. Drive home and leave car behind. Ride bike back to Jacob’s. Eat dinner. Pack bike in box. Go to sleep.
Wednesday. Wake up at 3:30 am. Drive the Rathe’s car to downtown PGE Max light rail stop. Get lost. Miss first train. Find the train stop and park car for Jacob to pick up later. Drag bags and bike box to the train stop. Realize increasing seriousness of upper body weakness. Get on Max train. Hope it goes to the airport. It goes to the airport. Get off. Drag bags to ticket booth. Hope plane isn’t full since I’m flying stand-by. Plane is not full. Chug NyQuil at security gate. Get on plane with 5 minutes to spare. Sleep entire plane ride.
Still Wednesday I guess. 6 hours to kill before flight to Brussels. Call bunch of people to log onto my email account and find a 1-week old email from guy named “Luc” and remind me what city I’m going to. Sandwiches eaten since waking=4. Sandwiches left=0. Apples eaten=3. Apples left=6. Hours until destination=between 24 and ¥. Need food.
A while later…
I made it to Belgium. Pretty easily too. I got on the plane without any issues since it wasn’t a very full flight. My grandfather used to work for United Airlines and our family gets to use companion passes—discounted tickets with the risk of not getting on flights if they’re full. Meaning I could potentially be stuck in an airport for days on end if there were consecutive full flights. Works fine for me since my time has no value.
One of the perks to flying on companion passes, aside from the much more affordable price, is the chance to get into first or business class. And despite not having a collared shirt, the travel agents like me enough to let me fly in business class, which was exactly the opposite of my time spent traveling on Greyhound. I spent the majority of the trip worrying they’d find out I didn’t belong there and kick me back to coach with the rest of the livestock. As a precaution I grabbed a free edition of the Wall Street Journal as I boarded the plane—to fit in of course. I read it as well as a Belgian newspaper with a large sports section on le Tour as I took my seat after boarding, and since I don’t speak Dutch, Flemish, French, or smart person I was pretty lost reading both. At least the Wall Street Journal made me look important and dignified. Up in business class there are certain standards to be upheld. First of all, you have to divert your eyes when the low class scum walk by on their way to “economy” aka the poor man’s shit hole cargo bin where they throw everyone into a holding pen full of screaming babies, whining children, and state university-educated slobs wearing T-shirts and jeans. To make eye contact with such imbeciles is unspeakable. The other rules for being part of the elite (but not so elite you can afford First Class) is to blab on your phone before take off about a business deal with Johnson, wear polo shirts, ignore the flight attendants when they refill your drink, close all the window shades and sip champagne in silence as you rest your head back into your seat and close your eyes–showing everyone you’ve done this many times before and you take no trivial enjoyment out of it and are in fact bored and slightly impatient to get this uncomfortable trip over with because you’ve got important things to do and playing with the remote control to the giant TV screen in front of you would show just the opposite.
Up in business we sat in personal thrones that turned into full-length beds. We had control of our own TV screens with movies, TV shows, games, porn, etc. They served us hors dervies, warm salty nuts in a hot bowl, dinner, ice cream, hot towels, endless glasses of wine, and orange juice. I almost didn’t want to go to sleep since I would be giving up valuable time and much fun to be had. But my eyes grew weary as I finished my movie and I stretched out on my recliner and slept until they served breakfast, dreaming of livening in a mansion encrusted with rubies and pantries filled with éclairs and fancy cuts of roast beef.
Now it’s back to the real world: being confused and hungry. I somehow managed to collect my bike box and duffle bag after we landed and found my way to the train station AND got on a train gong somewhere. I think it’s going to the town I’m supposed to go to. At first the woman at the ticket booth said my town “Zigem” didn’t exist. After much confusion, she found out that there does exist a town called “Zingem” with an N. So that’s where I’ve decided to go. I’m sitting on the train right now as we head through Brussels. It’s 11:15 AM here but 2:15 AM in west coast Kennett time. It’s overcast and humid here, low 70’s and Enya’s on my ipod. And I’m out of apples.
Ok I made my way to Zingem. I navigated my two train rides perfectly and arrived in the quiet little town at around 12:30pm. The location of the place I’m staying is known by its proximity to the McDonalds across the street. So I drug my bike box, duffle bag, and backpack from the train stop to the street and asked the first person I saw where the McDonalds was. She pointed and told me it was 20 minutes by foot. At the pace I could go, hauling all my stuff, it would take me about an hour and a half. I began the long walk and gave up about 2 minutes in and decided to build my bike right there on the sidewalk. I got it built up pretty quickly in front of someone’s house and just left the cardboard box there. Hopefully it’s still there tomorrow or whenever I can get a car to go pick it up. It was on its last legs anyways. It attached my race wheels to my backpack, grabbed the floor pump in one hand, loaded my duffle bag onto my back and the backpack around my neck and set off on the bike. It was slow going and painful, the straps digging into my neck. I couldn’t really pedal very well with the backpack and spare wheels in my lap and dragging on the ground. I was veering all over the road and crashed as a couple cars passed. I swore loudly and one of the cars honked at me. The floor pump was bent from the crash. I loaded all the stuff onto my shoulders and neck again and tried it once more. I stopped a few minutes later and decided to ditch the duffle bag and pump in a deep culvert on the side of the road next to a cornfield and come back for them later. I scrambled back up out of the embankment to the road and hoped back on the bike.
I rode fast to the McDonalds, found the building across the street from it, and began wandering around trying to find a sign to lead me to the apartment flat that was shared by a half dozen random cyclists. The lower half of the building was comprised of closed apartment stores and a bakery. I tried the doors and they were locked. One wasn’t and I went in and up some stairs. I had a stroke of good luck as three cyclists came down, heading out for a ride. I’d found it just in time since they’d all be gone for hours and I would have been locked out and unsure of where the place was until they returned. I quickly unloaded my backpack and race wheels and took off to the spot I’d ditched my duffle bag.
Now I’m here, waiting on the couch for the guy who owns the place to come and give me a bed or something later tonight. I just called him on Skype and I’m pretty sure he had no idea I was coming. It wasn’t as difficult getting here as I thought it would be. Seems strange that I’m already here too.
2 thoughts on “To Belgium. Getting there.”
Staying at Luc Assez’s place in Zingem? How is it? Love your stories by the way.
living accommodations are minimal but there’s a good group of guys here. and the training around here is great too.