When we left Liège in the morning the weather was not our best friend… but that didn’t matter much. First of all Herman and I are so used to adapt to any circumstance that is thrown at us that we don’t even care any more. We just put on the rain gear and drive on. Our moods were too much with the importance of the day and with the Contal. Els and Rudy came out to Liège to help us with the various big and little problems of the Contal.
And God, did we need their experience! On the road to Liège, still on the highway in Germany coming from Wolfsburg… the back axle started squeeking… so we stopped right away. After some looking at the back end of the vehicle we realised that it didn’t move any more! F….! We dismounted the back brake, we checked the chain, opened the front pignon and found nothing. Until Rudy advised us on the phone to loose the back axle a bit. It worked! We drove to Liège on eggs (+/_ 50 km/hr) and got there to see this magnificent couple nurse the Contal to perfection.
That was the second reason for our bright mood. Ypres was in sight and the Contal felt in perfect health. Well, perfect is a big word. The Contal’s vibrations kept on messing up my hands where two fingers on each hand are completely numb now. The oil is till coming out of its aluminium reservoir but all that we can manage. As long as it brings us to Ypres, almost home. And at about 15 km before the Market Place my friends Nono, Philippe, Jean-Paul and many more suprised us with a Belgian Pre-Reception. First I saw our names on the road (like in the Tour de France) and then suddenly there they all were… happy days! Nice guys.
I will be honest, the arrival in Ypres was fenomenal. It was, as I see it now, the real finish. All Belgian participants pitched in to organise a real party for all competitors and Patrick, Arne, Wim and the others made a gigantic effort what paid off in a big way. The ambience was very nice, all our fellow competitors dived into the Belgian beer and served themselves with the REAL “French” fries with mayonaise. and finally… there was Inge waiting for me and I will not hide it: I cried. She is the sweetest thing in the world to me and I missed her dearly.
And then… another real big surprise was yet to come. The original 1906 Contal stood waiting for me on the corner of the Market Place… waiting for me!!! Rudy and Els organised it as a super suprise, and yes, it was. I cried for the second time that afternoon, the fatigue and the emotions were a bit too much. What a beautiful suprise, what a moment!!! I will remember this forever.
The beer and the love remained in the air for a long time that evening and it was after midnight when I found my bed. Herman vanished with his Peggy along time before and I knew I would see him back in the morning, half an hour before start time. He’s a rock. I love the guy! Tomorrow to Paris.