30 July 2013 I cycled back into Gent this morning, to see what the town looked like when there wasn’t a festival on. As you’d expect, people were taking down the tents, bandstands, and removing litter from the festival.
I cycled around and looked up more often than down, since the architecture is quite a sight. I did look down when I heard the sound of glass rolling under my bike. I saw a broken bottle rolling forward, under me. After looking closer, I realized that I’d cycled through an especially littered part of the street, could have been near a former beer stand. One other sight I noticed, while looking down changed my morning. My rear tire was very low. My guess was that I rolled over the bottle, pushed it forward and punctured my rear tire in the process. I wasn’t actually too bothered. Punctures are part of cycling.
I pulled my bike away toward a wall and sat on some unused steps to removed the wheel and put in a new tube. That involves taking off all my panniers and the various parts that attach to the rear wheel, like the chain and cables for adjusting the gears. When I got the tire off, I took out the punctured tube and looked for the leak, while it still had some air in it. I couldn’t find the puncture in the tube, so I just set it aside. I then spent a little under an hour putting in a new tube, re-attaching the rear tire, and putting all the cables and chain back on it.
Then, a couple of surprises came up. The first was that my air-pump had some loose parts, so air leaked out when I used it. I tightend some things, and the pump worked fine again. The next surprise was even more impressive. Remember that tube I set aside, with the puncture? It still had air in it, an hour after I took it off. That meant there was no puncture. I only imagined the glass punched a hole in the tire. The tire was flat, but that was probably from my past attempts to put air into the rear tire, with a pump that leaked air due to loose parts. That meant that I used an hour repairing something that wasn’t broke. Cycling also has moments where it teaches me the value of looking more carefully at the details, and continues to teach me humility.
I looked around the town for a little while longer. Gent is definitely a place I’d like to return to. For me, it has the wonderful architecture and feeling of Paris or London, without the gritty big-city part.
After that, I headed for Brugge. The trails were along canals again, so they were flat and pretty. While I cycled, I talked to Gabriella again, this time about the canal next to me. I told her that I suspected this canal connected Brugge and Gent, since they’ve been trading for about 1,000 years. The two cities are also great rivals. It seems that most good rivals are near each other and are still more than happy to do business, hence the canal.
It rained pretty hard for part of this ride, which wasn’t a problem since it kept me cooled off. I put on some rain-gear and carried on. A few miles were on some the most attractive frarm roads I’ve seen, actually a network of them. They were gravel, and I passed a few tractors, but the part that caught my attention was how they were all lined with some wonderful trees.
When I arrived in Brugge, I found a campsite and put up my tent faster than usual, so I could enjoy something that was very over-due. I was going to have my first Belgian beer, with a meal in a restaurant. There were surprisingly few places open, so I stopped by a bar that looked cozy enough, except for some loud music. Unfortunately, they didn’t serve food. All they could do is direct me to a little restaurant across the street. It didn’t look like I had many options, so I went to that restaurant to eat. It wasn’t exactly Belgian food. It was a little kahbab restaurant. I finished the meal quickly, so I could return to a bar and try some local beer, which Belgium is known for.
I started walking into the noisey bar again but noticed another bar nearby. I walked to that one, and it was much more cozy, had no music, free wifi, and servred a good looking meal, shame I had just had a large kahbab. I wrote in my blog for a while, enjoyed some wonderful beers, and took a nice night-walk around Brugge.