On a sturdy Dutch bike I carried considerably more than my own weight
in camping gear packed in seven different bags, five on the back, two up
The three gears gave up in Belgium, where I camped the second night at Liliane Beaupain's house in Verviers, and got stuffed full of steak and chocolade.
I continued along the river Meuse, visited Namur, Dinant, and the caves at Han (one of my first experiences with mountains and rocks!). Next came Bastogne, well-known for the "Battle of the Bulge" and the word "NUTS", shown on every souvenir.
Even though I walked and pushed my bike most of the time, I had a good time and met several other small groups of Dutch bikers. We crossed the border to Luxembourg and freewheeled for about 7 kms on our way to Clerveaux when friend Frans fell into the gravel and got damaged almost as much as his bike -
I did first aid on him while the others tried to restore his bike.
The next evening I was all alone again and decided to treat myself to a steak, considering that I had spent less than one guilder (US$ 0.25) a day up to then. When the steak was done, I put it on a rock to cool, and took off for a bush to make some space in my stomach; imagine my delight when I returned and saw a dog run away with my steak!
Next came the French border and a visit to Verdun and the depressing thousands of graves of WW1. On the way to Rheims, on August 28, my pedal broke and could not be fixed. I was referred to little house along the railroad, where the lovely witty widow MMe G.M. kept watch and would fix me up with a ride to Paris. However, after dinner no more trucks showed, so she promised there would be newspaper trucks at 4 in the morning - so I said I would pitch my tent in the yard - so she said that was not necessary since she had a double bed..
The last I remember is her asking me not to ravish her but to be gentle, so I said good night and turned around and really went to sleep!
After all, I was a boyscout and aspired to be a gentleman...
|The truck did take
me to Paris where I was the guest of a French lady scout who had visited
Amstelveen in 1949. I sold my father's stampcollection to raise money so I
could ship the bike back to Holland (cost 15 guilders), and I decided to
hitchhike back home to be in time for the start of the Naval Academy. To
my surprise, the hiking went better than biking, and I was back in
Amstelveen within 48 hours, climbing though the bedroom windows in the
early morning of September 3.|
to continue to the next page of Ben Oostdam's Autobiography (years 1950-1952)