Oh my gods, I'm in Antwerp!
I learned a few things yesterday. Not like, about myself. When people start talking about their recreational activities and learning things about themselves, it's because their recreational activity sucks. Also be aware of words like "tough" and "challenging" and phrases like "pushing myself" and anything involving "limits." These key words signal people who like to punish themselves. They do things like run 26 kilometers for no good reason and learn something about wanting to barf while running. I learned nothing about myself, but did acquire information that may be useful to travellers:
If you walk up to a stranger and, without any polite words or words in their language, ask where to find a bank AND you're covered in blood, the person will be happy to help. In fact, strangers will offer to do a lot of things, like drive you to a doctor.
Also, I learned that Bromptom's messenger-ish bag's support frame is pretty tough and will protect a laptop from death. Also, bike gloves are great for preventing road rash. Oh, and I learned it's important to look where you're going. If you're gazing off to the side at deer and some fool road engineer decided it might be a good idea to put a huge wooden post in the middle of the road, you might hit the post. Your bike will stop, but you will not. I took my first trip over my handlebars and landed on my hands and chin. My hands are fine, but my chin was not. I've got three stitches in it now, but all of my teeth are still in place. I got stitched up and was back on the road in about an hour.
So, yeah, I was looking at deer and ran into a pole. I remember seeing the pole in front of me and thinking I was going to hit it. Then I remember flying through the air and I remember hitting the ground and thinking "oh good, I'm ok." And then I noticed that Nicole had fallen too and I wondered why. And I saw people stopping in alarm, so I thought I should get up off the ground and try talking to them in broken Dutch. Somebody alerted me that I was dripping blood everywhere. I asked if the dog was ok. She was fine. Her trailer hadn't even tipped over. She wasn't even freaked out very much.
A passerby and the postman had a discussion and decided that I needed stitches, since the bandaid that Nicole handed me wasn't really helping. The passerby drove me to the doctor and had a talk with the receptionist, explaining what had happened. The first thing they did was tell me I would have to pay cash and ask if I had the money. While I was leaking blood everywhere. That conversation would not have occurred in France. There, they stitch first and ask about money later. But in Holland, I can drip blood on the floor while folks discuss my ability to pay.
The stranger who gave me a ride to the doctor waited for me the whole time and then gave me a ride back to where I crashed and Nicole and Xena were waiting. Nicole had righted my handlebars and checked my laptop for visible dings and removed smashed things from my bags - including an orange and plastic wine glasses designed for camping. Alas, my wine glasses are dead. But my laptop seems ok. And then we biked slowly for a while longer and stopped to camp for the night.
I don't want to say that it was anybody's fault but my own that I ran directly into a pole. But. Why the hell would you put a pole in the middle of the road anyway? It's dangerous! A car that hit it would maybe not hit bikes on the other side, but certainly hurt the occupants of the car. Those poles would not be legal in California. Markers have to break away in a crash or cause a vehicle to glance off of it. The start of barriers, where a car could smash into the end and cause injury, are padded. they have big reflective garbage cans full of sand at the start of every barrier on the highway. Ok, to be fair, if I had run into a barrel of sand, I still probably would have fallen and my chin would still have hit the ground, but I think those poles should go.
Anyway, after biking a while longer, we stopped in Essen, Belgium. For those of you following along on your Landlijke Fietsrouten maps at home, Essen, Belgium is not the same town as Essen, Germany. There are several important differences. 1. One of them is in Flanders and the other is in Germany. 2. One is a famous city and the other is a tiny village. Anyway, we went to Essen, where, ironically, I couldn't eat so much because smacking your chin in to the pavement is much like getting a big punch in the jaw. I couldn't open my mouth very far and it hurt to chew. I drank a liter of the soymilk in my bag. It was light! Curses! Why would anybody want low calorie soy milk?
A guy at the campground said he knew another guy who could fix the wheel of Xena's trailer. Nicole ran her bike into it and it was all askew in a comical sort of way. If you ever want people to stare at you in the border region of Belgium, bike along with a huge bloody bandage on your chin and a dog trailer with a warped wheel. Anyway, the bike fixing guy seemed a bit, well, off. So instead of having him spend the whole next day fixing the wheel, Nicole and I walked to dinner.
It's hard to eat when you can't really chew or open your mouth. Also, vegetarians are sort of at the mercy of the chef. You usually only have one option. "It is squishy?" I spent 2 hours mushing up my pasta with my fork and slowly putting it in my barely open mouth. I went to the bar to pay and a drunk guy looked right at me, surprised, and made a comment to the great amusement of all gathered there. The bar tender declined to translate. An old drunk guy started talking to me in English. He wanted my address. He wanted me to know that he had connections in California, with a very sexy lady. "Not a man, a sexy lady." Oooo-kay. I got my change from the bartender and was leaving. The drunk old man said, "you're a very attractive person. A man or a woman, I don't know." Apparently, he's bi-curious. I've got nothing against bi-curious folks, but I do try to avoid them in bars because often they'll want to kiss you and then run away. My heart gets broken too easily. I did not tell him he would break my heart and his boyfriend's too (not to mention the sexy California T-girl), but instead said "me neither." He called back "You're neither?" but I was already out the door.
And today, after getting a bike shop to de-warp Xena's wheel, I biked to Antwerp. We went back across the border to get back on the Fietsroute and followed it for 50+ kilometers. This evening was the first time I felt brave enough to try the laptop. It works! (so far) Those of you following along at home will not that we're late in arriving in Antwerp. Oh my goodness, we got lost around Breda. We spent half the day sightseeing and the second half of the day lost. Somebody put duct tape over many of the signs for the LF-13b. Is the route closed for some reason? Is this a joke? Why would you put duct tape over the signs? I cursed the LF-13a/b for being confusing and poorly marked and it extracted revenge in the form of blood.
We went in wrong directions for hours. My landlord called my school and left a message saying that my rental contract had expired. My school called me, while I was pondering which way to go. So I called my landlord, who explained that he's been reading my blog. (Hi Yuric!) So I'm not being evicted. Hooray.
I'm too tired to continue for now. Perhaps I'll find wifi tomorrow.