Belgium, January 2, 2008
By Zach McDonald
Monday, Mitch, Nick, and I decided to go to the mall in Kortrijk for a change. We left the house with no real plan on how to get there other than to take the train and then walk from the Kortrijk station. We hopped on the cruisers and headed down to the Izegem train station and when we got there we went inside and were looking around for a schedule but couldn't really figure out the times. Luckily, a little old lady offered us some help. The only issue was she didn't speak English so it took some effort to convey our destination to her but she was able to tell us that the train left in 5 minutes.
We then headed to the counter and proceeded to purchase out tickets. The guy behind the counter claimed to only speak a little English but we were able to have a completely coherent conversation with him. We each paid for our round-trip ticket and headed under the tracks to the other side of the platform to wait for the train.
The train came and we sat ourselves in the second car and were on our way to Kortrijk. Once on the train we realized we didn't know how to get to the mall from the station so we asked a group of girls a few seats over where it was. At first they didn't know what we were talking about but after a few tries "shopping center" came out from someone and we had some common understanding. They informed us that we would have to take the bus there because it was too far to walk. Our adventure was getting more complicated.
After sitting back down we realized how American we must have sounded when we were asking where the mall was so we could do some covered shopping. When the train pulled up to the Kortrijk station we could see the busses right outside so we walked off of the train and straight to the bus that said shopping center. We stepped on the bus and asked how much it was to go to the shopping center. The driver told us it was cheaper to pay inside so we stepped of the bus and started to head inside. The driver immediately shut the bus door and drove off. We now had to wait 15 minutes for the next one to come.
Our bus came and we got on and rode it for maybe 10 minutes before we reached the shopping center. Finally we were there. We went inside and started to walk around. After about 15 minutes of being there the stores started to close. We forgot that it was New Years Eve and the shops were all closing at 5. Mitch managed to slip into a store just before they closed and try on some shoes while Nick and I browsed the magazine shop that was the only store still open. Our mall experience ended a little after 5 and we went back to the bus stop to wait for it to take us back to the train station.
Once again it took us a while to decipher the times for the buses but figured out it was going to come at half past 5. That is when we remembered Els was making a special New Years Eve dinner and she would not be happy if we missed it. As we continued to wait for the bus we couldn't remember if the guy who sold us the tickets said the train left 10 minutes before or after the hour. All we did know is that it only came once an hour. Our bus came and we got on and sat in the back. It was now up to the bus driver if we made it back for dinner or not.
When the bus pulled in we rushed to the train platform looking for the train to Izegem. We kept hearing Izegem and Inglemunster over the intercom, the train we needed to be on, but the rest was in Flemish so we didn't know what was going on. We then found a ticket collector and asked him where our train was. He looked at the monitor and told us that our train had been cancelled and we would have to wait for the 7 o'clock one.
We immediately thought of what Els' reaction would be if we missed all of the dinner. We started to turn when the guy told us to wait. He poked at his handheld a few times and then told us that the train was delayed not cancelled and was on platform 8. We walked over to the platform and boarded the train thankful that it was not cancelled. The ride home on the train was not quite as interesting as the ride out to Kortrijk since it was dark out. The train arrived in Izegem at quarter after 6, dinner started at 6. We rushed to our bikes and sprinted back to the house. We put the cruisers away, entered the house, and casually walked into the dining room and quietly sat at the table to eat gathering stares from almost everyone.
The next day the juniors, minus Steve since he was having some stomach problems, and Tristan headed to Baal to race on Sven Nys' home course. The course was epic. It started on a false flat road that then went in to some grass and up the side of a hill. It then turned downhill and twisted through the slick mud until traversing across a field and heading back up hill toward the top of the hill where there was a flyover/run up that crossed over the course. The entire course was slick and riders were down everywhere from the start. One rider even managed to ride into the barricades on the road section when he was only around 4 other riders. It was quite an impressive show from the Americans with Gavin, Eric and I all in the top 15. Eric finished 13th, Gavin 9th, and I finished 8th..