Menen, Belgium to Osstburg, Holland

Riding in town in Belgium

Riding between towns in Begium
My seat took quite a beating today

I, not at all reluctantly, left Belgium today. I'm in Holland now, staying at a hotel that cost half as much as my hotel last night. It the 'Hotel du Commercial' in Osstburg. I could have ridden on to Breskens, where I'll go tomorrow to catch a ferry to Vlissengen, but that is a resort and I didn't feel like paying resort prices. This room is really nice, cost 41 E with breakfast, and the bed feels just as good as the bed in last nights 80 E room, which is quite good indeed. Of course, in the 80 E room I had three times as much space, good sound isolation, and a nice desk. Tonight I have a small table, which is too low for easy reading of the tiny text on my 4" diagonal display, speakers mounted in the ceiling of the bar below me, and earplugs. I miss the room darkening curtains from last night or, even better, the proper German shutters which allow me really darken a room, but again, I can adapt and, for 39 E, I'm happy to do just that.

The availability of relatively inexpensive lodging and meals is a major reason I came to Holland today. The other reason is Belgiums great bike paths. They are almost everywhere you want to go, including along most highways. I have never seen a country with a better bike path/lane setup. Unfortunately, the standard bike path/lane is made of concrete slabs with tar joints. They are not smooth enough for comfortable riding at 15 mph. My fanny is quite sore tonight from the many thousand 'thumps'it took today and my bad knee hurts from riding such rough pavement. Those paths are great for utility bicycling for relatively short distances at slow speeds. They are not so good for riding six or more hours a day at higher speed. My average speed today was only 11 mph, mostly beacuse I spent a lot of time riding even rougher bike lanes/paths in cities, so it took six hours to cover 67 miles. The riding was almost always flat and there wasn't much wind (yeah!) for most of te day.

Notice the concrete slabs with tar joints in the middle of the nice smooth asphalt road!
Notice I'm riding on the asphalt 'walkway' ;-}

I headed out this morning thinking I would route through Ghent, which is northeast of Menen, but ended up rding almost directly north to the sea instead. Most of that ride was on N 32, the road I left Menen om, but, after I left Torhut, N 32 banned bikes and had no bike path, so I had to compass navigate through small towns on my way north. That added a little distance, but I managed to come out at De Haan which is almost directly north of Menen. De Hann is also the neatest (tourist) towm I saw in Belgium.

I didn't go to Ghent because, despite getting directions, I did not find the road to Ghent. It was easy to continue north. After reaching Torhut, I decided to route through Brugge. I tried two roads that led to Brugge, one of them was N 32 and found that I couldn't ride them or find a marked bike path to Brugge.

A fun pig in Roeselare, Belgium, for Sara

I found Belgium, with the exception of De Haan, to lack the charm and vitality of either France and Holland. It was nice enough, and easy riding, but not pretty, and not interesting. Most of the Belgians I dealt with spoke English and were quite nice, but most folks from Holland speak English and are equally nice, and the culture and country side is simply prettier - lots more flowers, and the architecture is more interesting. I knew as soon as I crossed the border that, despite the issues of having to use bike roads in Holland, I would be happier riding here than in Belgium.

Coming into Blankenberge

Riding along the 'beach'

All I could see of the beach at Zeeburgge

I rode along the beach road from Der Hann to Knokke Heist and made excusions to the beach itslelf in the first two cities on that road. I was fun, but very bumpy riding, and the beaches, which were behind big buildings - apartments and hotels - were pretty well covered with cabanas. The views were limited. Lots of people were sunbathing in enclosures that blocked the wind, and the ocean view. There were lots of people everywhere in Blankenberge. Zeebrugge was less crowded and the beach was a little more open.

Two boys playing on the beach at Zeebrugge

I got lost in Knokke Heist, mainly because I didn't consult my map, so I stopped at a bike shop for routing advice. Then I looked at my map and got back on route fairly easiily. A few miles south, as I was looking for the road to Sluis - the first road to Holland - I spotted a McDs. I stopped for an early supper since I didn't know where I might end up in Holland. It is always comforting to know I have everything I need to spend the night camping when I'm riding into new territory. Then, when I left McDs, I realized it was on the road to Sluis. There was only a small sign and I probably would have missed it if I hadn't stopped to eat.

In Holland

When I reached Holland, I had two bike routes to choose from. The one through Sluis looked most promising. I rode through town - very touristy, very pretty, with three and four star hotels - then found the bike path that I thought would take me to Bresken where I figured I could find a bike road heading eastalong the Westerschelde, the big bay north of this part of Holland, to Perkpolder where my map shows a ferry. As is often the case, once well out into the country, the route split and neither side went to Bresken!

The bike road from Sluis

I took the south branch and, realizing I had no idea if that was the right branch, stopped the next couple I saw bicycling and asked for routing help. They told me that I should take the ferry at Breskin - not shown on my map - and that I could get there by first going to Osstburg which was the way I was heading. They also told me that there were hotels in Osstber and in Bresken, which they said was a popular resort. The bicycle road split twice more on the way to Ossbur, but Ossburg was signed each time.

When I got to Ossburg, and saw - and heard, folks were watching a world cup game - this hotel, I stopped and asked about a room. I didn't worry too much about the noise level since I liked the hotel mamger and the room. I think, with earplugs ;-}, I'll get a good night sleep here.

Cabans amd parasails at Zeeburgge

A telephoto view of ships passing

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