Michael, On the Way to Ghent, Belgium
Rain and wind threaten to deter us from visiting Ghent, but indoor accommodation prices anywhere in the area on a Saturday night prompt us to make one last ditch effort to recruit our first Warm Shower host in Belgium. Thankfully, An responds to our plea for a dry place to stay. After waiting for a break in the rain, Kyle and I push off away from Brugge towards Ghent, about a 20 mile bike ride. Right at the beginning of our trip we meet Michael, another touring cyclist heading towards a Warm Showers accommodation just past Ghent. Michael is originally from Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. A little “old” to be living the touring cyclist lifestyle at age 34 when most people have settled down, Michael bucks tradition, riding around on his road bike, sometimes staying for a month in countries with work exchanges. Eventually he plans to continue his education and advance further in the medical device field, but for now he is cycling, in awe of counties where it is fairly common for people to take an extended holiday, sometimes even getting paid to do it! Like us and probably more so, Michael comes from a country with a culture of workaholics. We trade road stories as we pedal along and Michael speaks of crazy friends cycling across China and Europe. Discussing our future cycling plans, we realize we may end up in Turkey around the same time! We exchange information so that we might meet again at the end of our journey. Thank you Michael for keeping us company on the road to Ghent!
An, Luc, & Flo, Ghent, Belgium
Luc greets us at the door, showing us where we can strip out of wet things and offering for us to join him and Flo, his seven year old daughter, in watching the final 30 minutes of Le Tour de France. After Chris Froome uneventfully takes the win (due to his tremendous lead), Luc shows us to our room upstairs, inviting us to treat the house like it is our own. Around this time An walks in the door, her jeans soaked from the rain, just in time for the sun to come out. She invites us to eat dinner with them, encouraging us to head out afterwards with Luc to attend Gentse Feesten, a free ten day music festival that has people of all ages from all over Europe pulling daily all-nighters. Luc informs us that he has taken off the entire week from work to attend! When we jokingly suggest we might be home by eleven, both just balk at us. Over dinner, we learn more about the family. An is a doctor and Luc a water engineer. Both are highly interesting people, well-traveled, though not by bike. An has backpacked through India and South America (six and four months respectively), while Luc walked across America on foot for nine months in 1992 with a group protesting colonization and nuclear weapons. Flo, their daughter, only speaks Dutch currently, though will learn French as she gets older. She just lost a tooth so she proudly shows me a little tin container where she keeps them (some families do exchange teeth for treats, but Flo prefers to collect hers). Outside in their yard is Ono, “The Dumb One,” a Flemish Giant (rabbit), who eats everything in sight. A friend just recently made a sign for their herb garden that reads something along the lines of “Ono’s Salad Bar.” After dinner, Kyle and I attend the massive party in Ghent. I have never seen anything so huge! People pack the streets with a concert featuring a different style of music around every corner. Cheap drinks are in abundance. Kyle and I turn to each other, agreeing that perhaps 11 o’clock might be on the early side. Sure enough, at midnight we are still watching a 10 year-old boy bounce to the jams of Level Six, occasionally joined in by his mother. In the morning, we wake to find Luc still sleeping off the night and a breakfast spread waiting for us (An and Flo had gone to the beach). We let ourselves out quietly, waving to the giant Ono, who is nibbling on something green.