I arrived in Brussels with David after a nine hour flight with little sleep at 9:00 AM. The Brussels air port was surprisingly painless and we found the baggage claim with our a fuss with plenty of the booth people saying things like
"you here for Cyclocross?"
"Very good, what races are you doing?"
"Namur, Beernem, Loenhout, Diagem, and Baal."
"Oh good! I cheer for you eh?"
At the baggage claim we ran into Jeramy Powers (multi time US national champion, best cross racer in the states) and chit chatted for a while, maybe even got on behind the barriers, hopefully it makes the cut.
Once we got our baggage we headed to the meeting area and found Jim, who was driving us back to the team house in Voselaar. I spent a good amount of the drive playing chess with Skyler (one of the other EuroCampers) but I was definitely looking out the window plenty. As we pull on to a road about as small as a bike trail going 80Kph, I ask nervously; "this is a one way right?" Jim chuckles and says "no, this is a two way. See the little shoulders? You each pull off onto those to pass each other". The road was twisty and rural, farms off to the side with horses and muddy fields. Yeh, about the mud. It's been cloudy and drizzling the whole time. Jim says the conditions will almost certainly be the same for the entire trip. "You won't see the sun until you get back to the states or get really lucky". "You brought your mud tires right?"
The drive continued along the small windy road with tiny ditches that looked more like V shaped cut outs. Don't bail into that ditch! I couldn't shake the impression as we passed the farms, houses, and villages that everything was being packed into a small space. Even the trees seemed squeezed into their forest. As we neared the house and started to drive into the little town of Voselaar, Jim started talking. "Now the drivers here don't give you much space, and they don't slow down. Everyone bikes here and they assume if you're on a bike, you're experienced enough to handle it. As long as you hold a straight line though you'll be fine, these drivers aren't stupid. You won't see many cars though and a lot of the streets have bike paths right next to them." We pulled into the house and started unloading.
After eating lunch and putting together our bikes, John Fransisco, David Lombardo, Skyler Trulejilo, Curtis White and myself went on a ride, with Curtis leading us making sure we don't get lost.
As we spin around Voselaar and the surrounding country, I get struck by the feeling I'm in Harry potter of all things. The houses are so quaint and there is SO MANY HEDGES. Every single house has proudly maintained beautiful hedges, and some of them verge on art work. There doesn't seem to be a "bad neighborhood" here. Everyone looks hard working and reputable (or drunk). Everyone's houses look well maintained and every shop and cafe is quaint and fresh. We looped around and took a small dirt road after a Pub, lined with massive trees. We stopped next to a patch of forest. "Look in there man!" Curtis says. "That's the local cross course". I look in and see a snaking, pure dirt, beautiful trail lined with wooden posts and rope. It's muddy and has a few stairs in it, clearly a cross course. "That thing?" I say, shocked. "It looks like its had more work put into it than half the big races I do!" "Yeh man" Curtis says. "The local pub puts on little races here, and all the little kids around here practice on it". We truly are in the motherland.
We continued down the road and find a castle, complete with a moat, in the middle of the country side. It's clearly not a medieval castle, it's full of windows. But it's big and has a real moat. It was awesome!
We got back, ate dinner and did chores, then hit the hay. It was a very busy day so I didn't take many photos. I'll make sure to do a better job of taking pictures today! I'll keep you posted.