Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Belgian beercycling 2000: A prologue.

Work. Drinking beer. Play. Marriage. More drinking beer. Laundry. Blogging. Work again. Good meals now and then. Sweeping the floor. Walking. Riding. Movies. Reading. Community involvement. Still more beer.

The preceding episodes are brought to you by everyday life, and taken together, they have conspired to prevent me from the intended crowning achievement of my writing “career,” such as it is – namely, chronicling the travel and beer lore that has been haphazardly compiled over the course of the years spent on the road. Far too much of it has been passed on through the Homeric tradition of oral storytelling, generally undertaken while holding court at the pub, and not enough of it by inscribing the tales on paper for a better stab at posterity.

But my Muse, she of the inconsistent periodic arrivals, made a long overdue appearance this evening, scolding me rather harshly and suggesting that perhaps it is time to make another try at diligence in compiling the historical record. So, although I can’t predict how long it will last, let’s nonetheless randomly revisit the year 2000, and the first ever European excursion devoted to hunting beer while riding bicycles at least part of the time.

To this day, it is impossible for me to explain why it took so long for me to rediscover the joys of biking (beer was a given all along), and yet in 1999 this reawakening occurred at home in Indiana … and almost immediately, I began plotting and scheming as to how it might play out on the road, in my beloved Europe.

A willing and experienced bicycling co-conspirator was at the bar: Kevin Richards, a cyclist of long standing. One day we went for a ride up the Knobs to Edwardsville, and while resting at Polly’s Freeze, the venerable ice cream haven, an earnest discussion began. Might we venture a biking trip to Europe?

And have a few beers, too?

We might, and we did, opting to pre-arrange a handful of beer-oriented Belgian urban venues and accompanying rental bikes for day trips at each stop. Faxes and e-mails were sent, and the itinerary came into shape. As the calendar turned to June, 2000, there were five of us ready to make the journey, and it proved to be a classic. A beercycling group was born, and my European travel instincts were reborn. Nowadays it feels awkward to be in Europe without a bike, and what’s more, it feels just as awkward to be in New Albany without one.

Oddly, when the 2000 trip ended and the workaday world was reinstituted, I eventually sought some semblance of self-discipline to write about the experience, and found it in 2001 through the medium of the monthly e-newsletter compiled for the FOSSILS homebrewing club. Titling the effort “FOSSILS on Bicycles, 2000,” I explained to readers: “As an inducement to finally finish writing about last year’s biking and beer trip to Belgium, I’ve elected to run the article in installments. Here’s the first.”

History repeats itself. With a few revisions, expansions and contractions, I’m beginning the series again … on Wednesday.

Tomorrow: A beer orientation in Brussels, and arrival in Tournai.

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