Sunday, November 09, 2003
End of the line
I was able to get a new pair of TKC-80s and tubes, possibly the last in the region until the next riding season. So with the music of the Scorpions stuck in my head I set off for Amsterdam, via Brussels, where I lived as a kid.
I left at the crack of noon, and was able to get to the city of Namur, on the outskirts of Brussels by dusk. I found a small hotel in the center of the city. Imagine my surprise and joy when I turned on the TV, only to find a rerun of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of my favorite episodes too (ok, I say that about 95% of them). After the show ended I went for a walk around the old city and stopped for a corne of frites (paper coneful of french fries). The Belgians are the true inventors of French Fries, and they have refined it to an art. They're cut a little thicker than ours, double fried to be light and crispy, and served in a paper cone with mayonaisse or dipping sauces. The old trick was to ask a Belgian for the time, he'll reflexively check his watch thus spilling his coneful of fries. I swear it works.
The next morning I made it into the center of Brussels and the Grand Place. The city is bigger than I remember it, but then again, as a kid I never drove anywhere, just hopped on a tram into town, so my perspective was a little different. The Grand Place is the medieval central market, surrounded by gilded buildings from the renaissance period. Strangely, it was smaller than I remembered. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the little shops where we used to by bottle rockets and firecrackers when I was a kid. But a nice Gueze style beer made up for it.
After a few hours I drove north towards Haarlem, a mid sized city near Amsterdam, where Ilja and I planned to meet. Ilja wasn't able to get tires for his Dakar, so had to ride on his boxer. Since that bike is significantly faster than a Dakar, and given the lack of speed limits on the Autobahn we decided to ride up separately. The next day we rode the 5 km or so to the coast, just to make it official, before touring Amsterdam.
For more photos go to http://homepage.mac.com/mattyg35/PhotoAlbum12.html
That night as we slept, possibly dreaming of past accomplishments and future endeavours, our bikes went on a rollicking adventure of their own. It seems around 2 a.m. a couple of thieves brock the ignition lock cylinders and took off with the bikes. Fortunately, an astute police officer in the next town noticed the two nervous and helmetless riders at a redlight. When he tried to stop them, they took off. After a few minutes of the chase, the one on Ilja's bike launched over a speed bump. He apparently flew some 10 meters before crashing and sliding into a moving car. Amazingly he appeared to be uninjured and was able to jump on the back of my bike and the chase recommenced. The chase lasted a good 30 minutes, complete with police cars blocking the road (they were able to get around them), and through three police districts, before the thieves were lost for good.
The next morning a handicapped widow went to her door and discovered that she couldn't get out of her house. Someone had left a motorcycle leaned up against it. Yup, mine. No damage, except for the lock. Ilja's bike was totalled in the accident. Well, he wanted a new bike anyway. I'd like to thank all the police involved, especially, Gary, the Ozzie who took our statements (his mom married a Dutch guy and they emigrated when he was 11), and of course the ones who first noticed something afoot. Without them, the bikes would probably be on their way back to Russia by now.
Ilja was able to get a direct train from Amsterdam to Ulm, and I had an uneventful ride (finally) back to Ulm. I'm leaving the bike here and flying out tomorrow morning.
This will probably be my last post as well. Thanks for reading, I hope you've all enjoyed our thoughts and photos. Its been a pleasure sharing with you. Shaun and I may clean up a few of the old posts and flesh out some gaps over the next few months, but this is pretty much it for now. For those new to the site, there are some links at the top of the page that can take you to various parts of the site and the archives. Also, if you sign up for the mailing list, we'll let you know when we start up again.
posted by matt; |