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Gotta Love a Bike Ride to Belgium

September 5, 2008

I submit a note about the Dutch: they love their bikes. They claim to have invented them, but this is a big fat lie. Nonetheless, they embrace this two wheeled transport like no other culture on earth. Every man, woman, and child has a bike. And on top of that, they are really sick bikes. We’re talking the creme-de-la-creme of cycling. With big thick shiny frames, baskets, saddle bags- the works. AND here is the truly crazy part, if you don’t have a bike it is perfectly normal to jump on the back of someone elses and make them ride you places. In fact, whereas most American bikes just have a back fender, Dutch bikes have a little platform-flat-thing over the back wheel so that you can sit on it. I have tried riding on the back of a bike, and I will never relive the experience. It was horrible. I was told by a Dutch friend that its not my fault, I’m just not Dutch. Jumping rides is in their blood, a foreigner just can’t understand.

I understand. I understand it is terrifying and you are highly likely to go whizzing through the streets, holding on for dear life, screaming at every turn. But hey, try it some time. It’s fun. I believe the quote of the friend whose bike I was on was “Why is you’re face inserted into my spine? I can’t pedal when you’re holding me so tight woman!” Again, try it some time.
(Also it’s called “Dinky-ing,” as in “Jump on, I’ll dinky you! To me, that just sounds dirty)

So,originally lacking a bike of my own here, I nicked my neighbors for a week while he was away, and experienced the Netherlands the way it was meant to be experienced, on a RoadMaster. And, just so that I could utter the phrase, “this one time when I biked the Belgium…” I did in fact bike to Belgium with my friend Maggie, passport in my pocket.

Just East of Malberg, the lovely little hole that I live in here is a park, and through that park there is a road, and about 1 km down that road the signs switch into French and Flemish and you are in Belgium!! Maggie and I biked through cornfields, farms, rotaries…apple orchards, the works. With a random church steeple in the distance, we figured there must be a town there to be supporting the church. Upon arrival in this town (the name of which we never found out) we discovered there was nothing open but a bar. Not even the church was open- locked down after 10 AM mass. Venturing into this bar at 1 pm on a Sunday was especially comical, as it was quite the scene of Flemish farm-life. Four scraggly old men throwing down whiskeys like there’s no tomorrow, a family of four and their two dogs- wine for the parents, half-pints of milk for the kiddies, something that was probably beer in the dog bowl. And then Maggie and I…bouncing in and ordering “deux cafés s’il vous plait.” Sitting outside waiting for our coffees, the ancient Flemish barman came out and interrupted our conversation asking “Why are you speaking English?” as if he couldn’t imagine why anyone in these parts would speak anything but Flemish or French.

I answered, in French, that I was from NY and she was from Australia, that was our language. I have never seen a Belgian look more bewildered. His face asked 50 more questions than he had originally posed: why are you here? only we live here. What are you doing in Belgium? He gave us mini waffles with our coffees and tried very hard to speak some English, as his flemish french was even less understandable. It was like a time-warp…utter amazement at the “outsider.”


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