August 1, 2013 I forgot to mention some good folks I met yesterday, who were neighbors at my campsite. Some Americans, from Virginia, were in the tent next to me, Chris and his daughter Payton. Chris was introducing his daughter to cycle-camping, after he’d been on a few trips around the world. He built both of their cycles. We exchanged stories, a few cycling tips, and showed each other our favorite gadgets. It was a pleasure talking with them. There was a German couple next to them. I didn’t get a chance to talk with the man very much, but the woman laughed a few times at some of the comments and jokes that Chris and I shared. She lives in Stuttgart, which is where Gabriella was born. We spoke briefly about Germany and the joy of simple travels.
I packed up my tent and gear while talking with them all, since I was leaving that morning. I also had the challenge of carefully packing the Belgian chocolates I bought for Gabriella, so they wouldn’t melt while they were inside of a pannier. That would be a respectable challenge today, since the forecast said it would get over 30 Celsius, which is about 90 Fahrenheit. I asked Chris for suggestions, and he had a good idea, putting a bag of frozen peas inside the pannier.
That gave me the idea to pack one pannier in a way that made it into a cooler, with clothing or sealed plastic containers on the outside, with the chocolate in the middle, leaving room for a bag of frozen peas when I got to a grocery store. I knew where a grocery store was at, after my day of sight-seeing yesterday. After my gear was packed, I headed off to town to write in my blog, go to a grocery store, and probably borrow some of the wifi from the same bar I was at a couple of nights ago. I still had the wifi code the bartender gave me, so I suspected I could sit nearby the bar and borrow their wifi. That bar was very close to the grocery store, so it was handy having all the places I needed nearby.
In a few minutes, I was back into the city center of Brugge, or very near it. I went to a grocery store first, bought some frozen potatoes instead of frozen peas (since they were cheaper), put the frozen bits in ‘cooler/pannier’, and found a nice place to write in my blog next to a canal. When I was done writing, I went to the bar, actually just outside of it, to borrow their wifi. That worked fine. I posted a blog posting online, read some email from work, replied to a couple of notes, and started peddling out of Brugge around 1pm.
My route out of town took me on some wonderful backstreets. The slow pace of Brugge and sights continued to impress me, including some of the ‘other transport’ I followed for a while.
Once I was out of town, the cycle path was next to canals again. Being next to water and the tree-lined route was great.
About 20 miles later, I saw some water that wasn’t in a canal. It was part of the North Sea, or maybe the English Channel. Yet again, I was impressed by the sights of this trip, since Belgium has a reputation for being ‘ordinary’. I was also impressed with the diversity of sights on this trip, since I’d now seen many crops, woodlands, old cities, small towns, and now, the sea.
A final sight involved some wind-turbines. I’ve seen many in Europe, but this set also had several solar panels under them. I enjoyed the sight, especially since I create small amounts of electricity on my bike. I have some portable solar panels I put on top of my front panniers, which help power my netbook. They’re about 3’ x 1’. I also have a small set of solar panels that recharge AA batteries. They’re about 6” x 3”, and last, the front tire of my bike has a dynamo, which helps power my cell phone.
The end of most days are tougher than the start. Actually, that usually applies to most days, on vacation or at work. Anyway, at the end of this day, my legs were tired, and I needed groceries, batteries, and I suspected I needed some more frozen food to keep Gabriella’s chocolates from melting.
I looked at my GPS and saw that my route took me next to a town with a ring-road around it, which usually means it’s big enough to have a grocery store in the city-center. I have no idea what the name of the town was, but it sure was pretty. Unfortunately, I had a tough time finding a grocery store, until I saw my old favorite, a Spar grocery store. Gabriella recently told me this is a German store and that Spar stands for ‘save’ in German. As usual, it had everything I needed, including the French apple-brandy I’ve become very fond of, called Calvados.
The day ended with a colorful character, when I found my campground for the night. My GPS showed there were a few campsites to choose from, within a mile of each other. I chose the one that was on the least busy road. I set my bike near the reception desk and talked with the owner of the campground. He told me there was space for me and my small tent, explained some rules of the place, and asked for my passport. It’s common for campground staff to ask for a passport, since it’s a form of ID that works in all countries, but then he explained one other rule. He said that I would go to the campsite I was assigned and return in a half hour to collect my passport and pay the bill. I had no idea why I would have to leave and come back in a half hour, but his strict tone suggested that it wasn’t a good idea to question his rules.
While he was explaining all this, a woman walked up behind me and started asking a question. He told her to step back and wait. She stopped asking but didn’t step back, so the guy told her to step further away from the counter, in a stern tone. She did. I decided to follow the rules. A half hour later, I returned, waited in line, and saw the sign and red light in the picture. It shows how nobody should walk to the counter until the red light is switched off.
I actually like campsites with clear rules. They tend to be quieter and cleaner, but this owner showed how everything is better in moderation.