BY BIKE FROM HOLLAND TO FRANCE
second half of August, 1950

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 front.
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)
BLO refecit 20040823 - stories