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One of the truly Dutch activities is riding bikes. This is not the sporty bike touring that I think of in the states but as an integral part of the day. You see kids, moms with babies, grandmas and business men all riding around town. People use their bikes to get to work, go to church and see their friends. The bikes are really well suited to the task. The Dutch bikes are very upright with flat pedals and fenders. Dress-guards keep your clothes from getting hung up in the spokes and every bike has a chain cover and kick stand. Biking in the small towns of Holland is easy because they have lots of well maintained bike lanes and it is flat. I think that is what other cities miss when they try to copy the Dutch biking model. Bike commuting works because they do not have to go up hill. That means you can arrive at your destination without getting hot and sweaty. Perfect. People do have nice expensive bikes but most are old and beat up. This is a necessary because you normally store your bike outside. The nicer the bike is the better the chance of getting stolen. Often locks are just a metal loop around the back wheel. This makes the bike unrideable but is not a real deterrent. The best way to make sure that your bike does not get lifted is to be the crappies looking one in a sea of bikes. That is pretty easy when the train stations have many hundreds of bikes parked outside.

On thing that I have wanted to do for a long time is see cyclocross in Europe. I got my chance to do that last weekend. We rented a car and drove down to Brussels, Belgium on Saturday. Brussels was a fun town. They know how to eat. The whole town seemed to be filled with the smell of waffles. The waffles are amazing with little crunchy bits of sugar. I am not sure what the secret is but they are amazing. The old town center is beautiful with gothic buildings and little bars serving…Belgian beer of course! We sampled a number of tasty treats we’d never heard of before and walked home in the rain. Did I mention that is seems to rain a lot in Belgium?

On Sunday we headed southwest to Roubaix, France in the sunshine. It is a town just on the other side of the border. We learned that this is considered French Flanders. It feels like an extension of Belgium, but the signs are in French. The town is small but it seems to have a strong cycling legacy. The velodrome is right in the middle of town. The cross race was at the velodrome. Yesterday’s rain made for lots of mud, which made the race all the more fun to watch.  We sampled some great French frites and enjoyed some hot spiced wine as we admired everyone’s mud boots – part of the international Cyclo Cross uniform.   We even got to see an Oregon native cross racer warming up.

We had to leave a bit early to get back to Amsterdam. The Belgian country side is very nice but I think it looked even better when we crossed into the Netherlands. I think the windmills definitely add something.

Brussels Wafels

Waffle VW

Belgian Bier




Trebon from Oregon


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