Easily satisfied

I must have woken up ten times during the night, every time I wanted to turn I got my legs tangled up in the linen sleeve inside the sleeping bag.. nevertheless I feel rested when the alarm goes at six thirty. We undertake a first express expedition to the facilities, it’s not raining! Breakfast is bread with choco and bananas, though there is a marked difference in strategy: my Mom cuts up the banana in pieces on top of the choco layer, whereas I fold the choco’ed slice around the whole banana and eat it like a taco. I’m not sure if that tells you something about my character..

It starts raining while we pack and the weather radar looks bleak, so we set off again in Gore-Tex from neck to toes. My mom goes further and puts on the hood of her rain jacket, but I prefer a large billed cap to keep the rain of my face. I wear Gore-Tex shoes as well, but it turns out they’re ready for replacement, when we arrived yesterday the inside was pretty wet. Mom has a new pair since last week and her socks were perfectly dry, so I’m blaming it on age. After a quick clean of the hut and an inspection by the camping employees, we set off around eight thirty, in the rain. We follow the busy R4 periphery road along the Ringvaart canal until we reach a large railroad, which we want to follow all the way to the Schipdonk canal. First we need to climb the steep staircase to get from the canal to the railroad bridge, it takes two to push a loaded back up.

The bike path follows the railroad where possible but this includes frequent climbs to the level where you can cross (though we never do) and forays into quiet suburbs. Not a lot of cyclists on the road in this rain though. It rains steadily but fortunately not extremely hard, though this will get you wet through and through if you stay out in it for long enough. At Landegem railway station we leave the tracks behind, take a short break with a snack under the bridge where it’s dry and drive south along the water.

It’s a pretty stretch for cyclists: a wide asphalt road (wide enough for two cars, I wonder why) lined with old trees, with fields on one side and the canal on the other, where we can wave to the passing cargo river boats. The wind is strong and mostly in our favor, so we try to remain positive despite all the rain and sum of the advantage of cycling in this weather: no sun screen required, almost no other cyclists and .. no, that’s pretty much it. We try to remain thankful: the rain is not extremely hard, the wind is in our back and.. no, that’s it. At least the company is pleasant and we can take frequent breaks under all the bridges that cross the canal. I wonder why here they have bridges, while the Scheldt river yesterday had only ferries?

It seems like a long way – partly thanks to road works on the tow path near Sint-Eloois-Vijve that required a bit of a detour – but finally we arrive at our next waypoint and we take a right along the canal Roeselare-Leie. A short break with a piece of seaweed cheese in the tunnel by the locks and then the last stretch to lunch! I had added this brasserie to the map, thinking we would want to to most our kilometers in the morning. We had already called to check if they’re open and they promised to hold a table even if we were late and wet.

Reaching the restaurant is a bit of a detour on its own, but we can admire the new bridge over the canal (you can almost smell the paint, some random pretty castle and a cute park before we arrive. We secure the bikes with my fancy lock (an alarm goes off if you try to fiddle with it) and enjoy the warm and dry atmosphere. I even take off my shoes to let my socks dry, nobody seems to mind. Food and service are excellent and it’s quite busy. We avoid alcohol as a rule and have a coke zero instead – is it my imagination or have the bottles gotten a lot smaller of the last decade? Down to 0,2 liters..

It’s stopped raining when we leave the restaurant but we’re wary and put our rain gear back on. A half hour later there is an actual ray of sun and it’s immediately a lot warmer: I stop to take off the rain layers. We continue on the canal, but are soon confronted with another deviation: the tow path is closed again. We follow the detour arrows but start freewheeling when we see that the detour will take us away from the direction we want to go. We follow the railroad bike path into Roeselare and then a few busy roads to get to start of the Stroroute: an old railway that was converted to a long bicycle path. We have lots of those in Belgium and they’re always fun: almost straight, almost level and usually in the middle of the fields or forests.

It stays dry and we’re almost euphoric with the lack of rain, but after a few kilometers we encounter another obstacle: the Stroroute is being renovated and we have to follow the local roads instead. Aside from the fact that these have narrow, bumpy bicycle paths and are right next to loud traffic, it’s also up and down.. This is West-Flanders so it’s not much, but they’re long climbs of about 5% and really take it out of you if you’re carrying 20 kg of luggage plus 2 liters of water. My knees are protesting, but my Mom remains supremely patient and lets me set the speed. And so we continue all the way to Ypres, where it starts raining again.

I don’t really mind following these local roads, there’s less trees but more history and culture: the closer we get to Ypres, the more monuments and graveyards from the Great War we encounter. I visited this area a few years ago following the western front line, so I know a lot of the history and I relate some of it to Mom, as we cycle into town. A quick stop at the supermarket (my wishes are French toast for dinner and choco-banana for breakfast) and we roll into the charming camping ground just after five. I hose down my bike and bags before unloading and we scatter our stuff over the whole hut. Shower, dinner, dessert (cookies), picture sorting and writing. We investigate the camping options for the next days to see if we can get trekking huts again, because a tent in this cold and wet weather does not appeal. All in all a fun day: good food, a few hours without rain and good company.

Today’s statistics:

  • Km today: 82,4 (that’s due to all the detours)
  • Average speed: 15,4
  • moving time: 5h20

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