To celebrate Don’s birthday on 9/28, we decided to go for the longer ride, 59 miles, which included a beer tasting and tour at the St. Bernardus Brewery. That meant staying focused on our speed in order to make the 2 pm tour.
We averaged over 14 mph to our late morning snack/lunch stop in Diksmuide, a town totally obliterated in WWI and painstakingly restored over the last 100 years. We joined several other tandem teams for pastries and soup. Much of the morning ride was along a canal and/or through farmland. It is harvesting season and there were numerous farm vehicles along the route.
At mile 38, we stopped at the St. Sixtus Monastery, thinking we were in position for the tour, but alas no sign of other bicycles. Another team happened along and reminded us we had 6 more miles to go and we pedaled hard and were the last team to arrive at the brewery.
While we weren’t able to buy the infamous Westvleteren beer, we enjoyed our tour and tasting at St. Bernardus Brewery, in a more modern facility than the rare small batch monk’s brew. We each received samples and a glass to take along – wonder how many bottles will make it back to the U.S.? We did buy St Bernardus jerseys to show off on future rides.
The final 15 miles into Ieper turned into 20 for us, as we missed a turn and went too far south. We finally arrived at the hotel just after 6 pm having ridden almost 100 km (61.4 miles), quickly showered and dressed for a group dinner, just down the road in a WWI casement. I had bought chocolates to share for Don’s birthday and the restaurant had special “candles” to celebrate.
After the long day yesterday, we decided to sleep in and go to the In Flanders Fields Museum this morning and take a shorter loop ride in the afternoon. We definitely have been educated on the WWI battles in and around Ypres, which suffered terrible losses for battles to claim less than 10 km.
Our afternoon bike ride, just over 19 miles, took us to the German cemetery at Langemark, to the Passchendaele 1917 War Museum and the Hooge Crater Museum.
After Happy Hour with tandem friends, we joined Steve and Roni from New Jersey for a quick dinner so we could attend The Last Post at the nearby Menen Gate. This is a somber memorial service conducted each evening at 8 pm to remember the 250,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died in WWI.
Afterwards Don and I rode the visiting The View ferris wheel, located next to the Cloth Hall and the Flanders Museum, seeing the nighttime city from above. We enjoyed the daytime climb and view from the belfry more than the nighttime vista, though both were great.
Off to bed now, photos will have to wait until tomorrow.