France, Belgium, Holland
OK, my first post, apologies in advance for URL hieroglyphics, small pix, jpg encriptions and whatever else ???.....
Last month my wife was in a week long conference in Brussels, my mom was visiting from PA, and with a few phone calls to some hockey parents I was able to align my schedule with the cosmos to create a three day window to ride up to and around Brussels. Most of my riding up to this point has been in the Alps, Italy, France and Spain so I was happy to go somewhere new. After checking the maps, I decided that on my way up, I'd follow the Meuse river. It felt odd removing the stove, cookware and all camping gear from the bag liners as my plan was to stay with my wife at her hotel. I liked traveling light and will continue to pare down what I bring. I ecspecially liked the increased visibility in my mirrors with no trunk case or tents/sleeping bags. I left my house near Nyon, Switzerland and took a beautiful road 1km from my house that goes up and over the Jura mountains, entering France at La Cure. Continuing along N5 through Morez, Champagnole, Poligny, and on to D75 and then on to D67 where I made my first stop. Yes, from this picture you can tell I'm a map guy and not a GPS guy as my path was blocked by a river
At Montigny-le-Roi I took D74 north and eventually found the Meuse River near St. Thiebaut
view to the north
view to the south
yes, it was really that beautiful and I could've broke out the easel, paints, and canvas but I had about 10 more hours to ride so I settled for a few pix.
later on I came through a small town with this great statue of Joan of Arc
Here's a shot from inside a walled city... tight streets, and yes, trucks and buses use these same roads.
I rarely eat in restaurants when touring because the restuarant culture of Europe is WAY different and if you sit down to eat, you can expect to be there for an hour. With nice roads and new things to do, see, eat, and drink, it's hard for me to sit that long unless it's hailing. So, typically, this is the way I stop at mealtime.
I continued along the Meuse eventually passing through Verdun. Near Douzy I stopped for a map break as I was running out of daylight and would have to hook up with the autoroute before long. This is near the France/Belgium frontier (as they call it). It really reminded me of the terrain where I grew up, in Lancaster, PA. Rolling hills, farmland, and deciduous forest.
I hooked up with the autoroute and made my way through a cool city called Charleville. I would have liked to stop but I still had at least two hours to go so on I pushed.
My last stop before Brussels.
End of day one>840km.
The next day my wife had a team dinner so I was free until about 9:00 pm. I was really undecided about where to go. If I went east, I could go to Dunkirk and see where the largest(?) military evacuation ever took place during WWII. If I went north west, I could get to Holland and ride around some cool islands and peninsulas that jut into the north sea. Both directions had their advantages and I didn't know which way to go, yes, it was the Belgian Waffle. So, from the title of this post, you know that Holland won out. In 04 I met some hockey players from Holland on line and we made a team that played in a tourney in Vancouver. The next year the captain organized a tourney in Holland and I flew over with some teammates and we had a blast. So, I left the hotel with empty panniers and a tankbag. It was incredibly foggy and I got out of the city traffic, which is quite bad near the airport where the hotel is, and meandered through one small Belgian town after another, basically heading in a north east direction. The fog never really cleared until I got into Holland. My goal, like every other tourist, was to find some real windmills. My map had windmill icons so north of Antwerp I headed out A58 onto a peninsula. These pictures were taken near Wemeldinge
and then there were these ferocious antlered beasts guarding the grounds
I rode along the levee roads and then I came across the last thing anyone would expect to see in someones backyard in Holland
as I was leaving, I saw that there was a 7 foot tall ostrich in the next pen...... the next town had some nice neighborhoods on the water.
According to my map, there was a ferry at the end of the peninsula that would save me about two hours of riding. It turns out the ferry was for people and bicycles. I stopped for a break at the waters edge.
Anyway, after wetting my dry and filling my stomach with cheese, bread, and prosciutto, I decided to head back towards Brussels. There was still about 4 hours of daylight left and the night before my wife told me that the last time she was in Brussels, a work mate took her to Waterloo which is about 20 km away.
If you can climb these 200 some steps you get an excellent view of where Napoleon got his ass kicked for the last time by Wellington, and soldiers from 6 other countries. A total of 190,000 soldiers. Napoleon was outnumbered and had 'the low ground". This view shows where Napoleons army was.
They have a diorama inside the museum depicting the battlefield and a great surround sound of canons firing, swords, clanking, horses galloping, etc.
Nice. While the rest of us are stuck in America, you're riding around Holland. Nice. Thanks for bumming at least me out. :blah
end of day two 298m.
Day three was time to go home. My plan was to autoroute out of Brussels and then hook up with the upper part of the Meuse that I missed on the journey up. The traffic and fog were horrible and finally after an hour I exited the highway near Namur. I followed the Meuse south and stopped at Dinant to take these pictures. Check out the fortress on the cliff.
I knew that the fog was collecting in the river basin so I decided to abandon my route along the Meuse and head up N95 to gain some altitude.
I went through this incredibly beautiful town called Bouilon near the French/Belgian frontier.
Definitely a town I'd like to hang out in for a night or two. There was a big fortress up on the hill above this town also.
I found a nice little road that went from Florenville to Carignan.
about 5km from where those pictures were taken, I came across this beautiful little chateau.......... I'm sure Hansel and Gretal must live there!!!!!!!
At Mouzon, I ended up at the Meuse again and headed south, retracing my original route. Generally I don't like to take the same roads but sometime the opposite direction is a completely different ride so I wasn't that indifferent to heading back down D964. As I was entering the small town of Duns-sur-Mueuse I came across this guy riding his bike. I was amazed at how much stuff he had on the bike. I decided that I had to get in front of him, park the bike, get the camera out, and snap his pic as he rode by. His large rear pannier was handmade out of scraps of leather, looked like an abomination of that Diana Ross song about the girl with the patch dress. No telling where he came from or where he was going but I really liked the simplicity and functionality of his riding gear, his bike, and his set up.
quite a bit different from my set up on a hotel to hotel three day ride I took in September..........
yes, the jokes on me!!!!!!!!
as I was putting the camera away, a village boy came up and started talking to me ( in French) he was asking me what the fastest I ever went on my moto. I told him 160km/h. He then informed me that he went 100km/h on his moto. I appeared impressed. Soon his 8 year old brother and 6 year old sister were listening in as the boy told me about his other skills. Eventually his mom showed up and the four of them disappeared around the corner. I went to look at a statue near where parked my bike and saw it was dedicated to an American army regiment from WWI. There was a small sign that said "American Cemetery" and an arrow. I thought is was a great reason to leave my route and pay some respects to my countrymen so off I went, crossing the Meuse and heading towards the cemetery. Every few kilometers, a sign would direct me towards the cemetery, which I later found out was known as Butte de Montfaucon on my map. The roads got smaller, and so did the towns and then finally, in the middle of nowhere.......... I entered the cemetery, through some incredible tall columns. My knowledge WWII is pretty good, but for WWI, not even close. I was blown away by the size of this place. Apparently there was a huge battle in the Argonne region of France in WWI. This cemetery is the largest cemetery of American soldiers outside of the US. 14,426 lives are commemorated here and I was the ONLY PERSON VISITING! Talk about surreal. 14, 427 Americans all at the same place, one person above ground, the rest below. I will never forget being there. A crew of French ground keepers were hand mowing between the graves and picking up leaves. I rode my motorcycle in first gear around the giant compound, finally stopping at a memorial at the top of the hill to sign the guest book.
My first thoughts, as I rode the final couple hours home were......." gone..and forgotten......." It really made me sad. The longer I dwelt on the the location and lack of visitors I began to think of it in a different way. Rest in Peace.......... for sure, that is what they would probably want, and is what they definitely have.
last day 830km.
Outstanding report! Thanks for taking the time shoot the photos and write the story.
Great report and pictures. I spent some time in Belgium this past spring and had a great time. Unfortunately, I wasn't riding like you. I'm jealous.
WOW! Great ride report and a great eye for a good picture. Thanks for sharing.
Your ride report has been an uplifted beautiful morning experience. I am green with jealousy:wow
thanks for the kind words, fellas. I'm moving back to CA next summer and originally I was pretty bummed about selling the RT and leaving all these beautiful roads BUT then I discovered that even though I lived cross the pond I could join the BMW MOA . I've been monitoring the website for about a month and LOVE the ride reports coming in from everywhere. I've ridden top to bottom and side to side in CA but am looking forward to getting out to some of the spots where y'all live. And yes, Beemerboy, I will be checking out the Grand Canyon of PA.:thumb so, I have about 10 months to wrestle with what the next BMW will be.......like the looks of the S, like the all day comfort of the RT, like what Chitown did on his R, and love the pic in the "post a pic thread" with the guy going submarine on his GS..........
[QUOTE=franze;256985]like the looks of the S, like the all day comfort of the RT, like what Chitown did on his R, and love the pic in the "post a pic thread" with the guy going submarine on his GS..........[/QUOTE]
So you're getting four bikes??:laugh
France and the Lowlands
In your first picture, it does look like there was a bridge there at one time. It may have been taken out in the war.
My home country is Holland, and my wife and I love to tour in the area when we're visiting family. So your pictures, seen on a frosty Canadian morning, certainly give me a yearning to get back.
Well at least you'll have lots of good roads to ride when you move to California.
Do you use John Hermann's book to plan your Alps rides?
Excellent photos and write-up, Paul. That fortress at Dinant is breathtaking.
I haven't used any guide books, never been on a guided tour. I prefer maps with icons for chateaus, campgrounds, and scenic routes. I had a great reference in the guy from the BMW shop in Geneve where I bought my bike. He turned me on to some great areas but now he's off in Tunisia riding his KTM 650 for an extended and unknown period of time......... I
What an entertaining report. Great photography, too, Franze. It's nice to get to know you through this report. We don't get much international travel on our board, so this is a real treat.
I commend you, too, for including a couple of shots of yourself. We don't do that enough, I think.
Great report and pics.Very uplifting on a blustery day.