Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Last Day...

I woke up around 9 and made some eggs. Around 11 Steve and I headed to the store. After that we went to the post office.

Steve rammed my rear wheel before we left the farm so it squeaks with every revolution.

Back at the house the U23 and Women’s World Championship TTs are on Sporza. This puts me right to sleep. Next thing I know the guys are getting ready to leave.

A few hours later Steve leaves with Jack and Evginey for a race in Evegem. This was the last I’d see of Jack and Evginey so I was a bit sad. With all of us so far from home we were the only family we had.

(Jack ended up winning the race.)

Steve got back around 5 to wish me off. Jean arrived and we packed my bike in the van.

We say our awkward, man goodbyes and I hop in the van with Jean. I smell Jupiler (Belgian PBR) on his breath. Ah, Belgium. Meredith Brooks’s “Bitch” plays on the radio.

Jean drops me off at the station and I hop on a train for Antwerp. I have a train from Antwerp to Amsterdam and then a flight out of Amsterdam the next day. I’m hoping I can check my bags in Antwerp since it’s part of my itinerary through KLM. No such luck. In fact, I end up paying for the train ticket because I wasn’t given the right confirmation number by Expedia.

Once in Amsterdam I find a luggage cart. I go and speak with a KLM rep about what had happened. Unfortunately I have to keep my bike box with me until my flight the next morning. So, like a nomad, I wonder the airport with my cart and luggage.

I wanted to stay up all night so I wouldn’t have trouble sleeping on the flight home. Around 11 I head to one of only two Starbuck’s in all of Holland. I pay the 250% euro markup for mediocre coffee without complaint. Then, I find a wall jack and plug in my laptop.


A guy comes up and asks me about my bike box. He’s interested in it for transporting video equipment. We chat for an hour or so. He works in TV and film and plans on moving to Santa Monica soon. We have some interesting political discussions about the Netherlands. I tell how much I enjoy the place and he tells me about the problems with the country’s unchecked socialism. They don’t seem as bad as our problems.

He also tells me that once a year a boat goes through the Amsterdam canals with a big claw. The claw scoops up all the bikes that have been thrown in the canal. He says they’re mostly stolen ones. He has to work the next day though so he decides to go catch some sleep.

I get another coffee and then play around on my laptop. Every hour or so I take a break and push my cart around the airport. The traffic at this time of night is surprising. Around 3 there are hordes of people coming through. They all look at my box suspiciously.

Around 6 I’m getting excited. By this point I’m completely wired and OCD thanks to the two large coffees. I go around the press shops checking out the cycling mags. I buy some in French and Dutch and a few newspapers.

At 830 I go through security. I realize I’ve been gone three months and have bought zero gifts for my family. I consider getting some overpriced clogs from the kiosks in the terminal but decide against it. America here I come.

I scope the crowd at the gate to see if there’s anyone I know. We board and I’m seated next to an older couple.

A few hours into the flight, after they saw me reading my French cycling mag, they ask “Are you French?”
“No, American.”
“Ahh, ve are German!” she replies.
You don’t say.

We chat for a while and then her husband pulls out a leather pouch with two decks of cards. He asks if I play gin.

We play a few games and his wife, Helga, smokes us. I fall back asleep for a while.

Finally, we arrive at SFO. All my luggage arrives and I make it through customs easily. My mom and sister are waiting for me with Brady, my dog.

Belgium’s been good to me.

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