Birthday girl rides to Bastogne

Natalie didn’t sleep well last night. Maybe her body clock is taking some time to adjust. Maybe it isn’t used to getting more than 5 hours of sleep the night before…. She eventually fell asleep but we were up early getting ready for the ride to Bastogne.

Our Airbnb host provided a nice breakfast and we took off before 8:30. We chose to push our bike for about the first 15 minutes because of the steep, narrow, cobblestone roads. We started riding once our legs were warm and the road widened. The weather was overcast and cool. Perfect for riding.

We rode most of the day on two bike paths without the noise of cars. This has to be one of the most beautiful ways to see Europe. Not only to see it, but to hear and smell it too. (Natalie’s note: all day we were passing through beautiful mountain forests, rolling hilly farms, and lovely villages with flower boxes in pretty much every window! Amazing.)

As promised, I let Natalie rest her feet on my back as I pedaled, because after all, she is the birthday princess. Luckily for me she is more comfortable with her feet clipped into the pedals. (Natalie’s add: this is all true.)

Today’s route was moderate physically. We gained 2600 feet but none of the climbs were sustained. Some of the hills were 8 and 9 percent in grade, but we feel like our legs are getting stronger and making it up hills that would have challenged us a few weeks ago.

We ate lunch (snacks) in the middle of nowhere with broad fields and rolling hills in a beautiful empty picnic area off the bike trail that appeared to be there primarily for bikers. (Natalie here: we could have taken a nap or gotten a suntan on these nice comfy chairs!)

Natalie is enjoying speaking French. So many people greet us with friendly comments as we ride by.

Arrived in Bastogne at about 3:30. Our hotel allowed us to store our bike in their basement. Our first order of business (after showers) was to take care of laundry. When everything you can travel with has to fit into a small pannier, you don’t have a lot of clothes. We were both at the point that either we find a laundromat or start wearing dirty clothes. Luckily we found one about a 20-minute walk from our hotel. I chose to wear my swimming suit (not a speedo) and a shirt to maximize my laundry opportunity and to establish myself as a bold American with little sense of fashion. My black shoes and grey REI socks topped off my ensemble nicely.

I got a slushy on the way and pretty much was in heaven from that point on. There is something about sugar water and ice and food coloring that brings me to my happy place after a long day’s ride. Natalie seems to have a more refined palate. Her loss. (Natalie again: I was craving nuts, which I bought while he sat with laundry.)

The laundromat was in the same building where Natalie worked at a grocery store 30 years ago. So while I got dizzy watching the clothes going around Natalie went back to her old stomping grounds and bought us snacks. We  chugged grapefruit/orange juice, ate nuts, and finished with chocolate rice cake sandwich thingies.

Then we walked back to our hotel, went and ate a slightly more normal but less satisfying dinner, and finished our day planning our next.

Happy birthday #50 Natalie! 30 years ago you probably never would have guessed that you’d be on some crazy trip riding a crazy bike with a crazy husband staying in the same town in which you celebrated #20. I raise my slushy high in the air to you. (Natalie’s note: Thank you, Pete, for inspiring all this craziness! What a memorable birthday!)

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