The team is bonding nicely and learning to love one another’s foibles. We love Andy H for saying the things we all think but wouldn’t necessarily let pass our lips: “I kind of need a poo”. We love Jamie for his self-sufficiency: “I wondered why this bar bag is heavy; Lyn’s packed enough munchy bars to feed Ethiopia”. We love Mike for making us do the things we know we ought to: “Let’s completely unpack and repack the van!”
The run to the first stop was broad, green and rolling. Tucked under a bridge, the stop was easy to miss so Amy and then Andrew stood sentry calling people in, but it wasn’t enough to stop Steve from rolling right past and up the next hill. Nothing stops Steve. Someone suggested calling his mobile, but I think it was Andy again who said: “Steve doesn’t really answer when you’re standing next to him, why would he answer his phone”. We love Steve for his taciturn independence. Guy rolled in the stop with a Happy Meal clutched between his teeth like a dog with a bone, so I think he’s feeling better. Tim F arrived to find a message on his his mobile phone. “Dear Mr Frank. Your mobile data allowance is 25MB per day, yesterday you used 30MB. Please stop posting photos of pretty receptionists.” I made the last bit up.
En route to lunch there was an unscheduled coffee stop, staffed by the only two people we saw awake in France yesterday. The lunch stop village was definitely aslumber. Mark’s clunky bottom bracket was pored over by (inevitably) Mike and Andy B. I think it works OK but he says he feels like Metal Mickey.
Post lunch, just when our energy levels are lowest, the hills started to get serious. There was a tough climb over a ridge. The route didn’t reach the fort at the top, but the energetic Tom E, Tim D, Neil and Max detoured to see it and said it was impressive (and had a good coffee shop). Ben, Simon, Ollie and I plunged on into the valley beyond just as a sparkling plum-coloured vintage 2CV pulling a matching trailer miraculously reached the summit.
We didn’t realise that Dom, just behind had lost his rear derailleur in a replica of Daniel’s mishap of a few weeks ago. Dom rode on with the spare bike, but the big bike shop in Esch-sur-Alzette will have a few folk knocking on the door at opening time this morning.
Belgium soon arrived as the quartet worked together effectively, and we posed for Richard’s camera at the border sign. We passed a lumber mill with piles of saw dust and wood shavings the size of a Welsh slag heap. With only a short 10 minute afternoon break for water, we were soon approaching Luxembourg, though the border slipped by unnoticed. Suddenly we were surrounded by a huge complex of industrial plant; I think this is what Caroline described as the smelliest most sulphur-fumed place she’d ever been. The smell didn’t live up to billing, but as we arrived at the supposed location of the hotel under a mesh of high-voltage power lines like a crazed spider’s web there was no hotel to be found. Tim D said his satnav froze, and the possibility of free WiFi was a forlorn hope. Jim enquired with the man next door to where the hotel should be, and he narrowed his eyes (all three of them) and reached for a printout of directions to the real hotel. An extra 4km at the end of a hard afternoon wasn’t what the doctor ordered, but we soon arrived. Yet another mystified bar tender looked curiously at us as we ordered milk with ice.
Reputation of the crazy English spread further through the town as a group ordered XXL pizzas, at least 2 feet, in diameter at an excellent Italian restaurant. “Il faut mange toute” said the waitress to me, rather threateningly I thought, so I did as told and devoured the lot.