Rest day in Rochefort - The land of the Belgians and Luxembourgeois - CycleBlaze

March 15, 2011

Rest day in Rochefort

Today was intended to be a rest day. I was going to explore the local caves, in Rochefort as well as in the more famous ones in Han-Sur-Lesse. I explored Rochefort a little more. In Rochefort was a quite obscure cave, which was only open by special appointment. I dropped into the tourist office and they said they'd open it up for me. So I got a private tour of this cave, including a cool balloon demonstration.

Memorial to La Fayette
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Little church in Rochefort
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"If you would take my place, would you please also take my handicap". There's a very black comic Belgian film called "Aaltra", which this reminded me of.
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Oh, deer
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Memorial to the battle of the bulge, which was fought all the way through this part of the Ardennes. The US troops became stuck out on a salient, and eventually cut off from the rest of the army - but managed to hold out until they were relieved. When the general was asked if he wanted to surrender, he replied with the single word: "Nuts". He now goes does in posterity as General Anthony "Nuts" McAuliffe
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Part of the ruins behind the tower in Rochefort
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Strange hide/treehouse in the woods
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Great stalagmite
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Weird lacy limestone formations
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Looks like a petrified jellyfish
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My private balloon demonstration. This was meant to demonstrate a physical principal - sadly I can't remember what. Some natural scientist I was.
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After this I rode the 10km or so into Han. The caves here are bigger, but rather famous and commercial. You have to take a dinky train to get to the caves.

Funny little train to the caves in Han
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What follows is limestone...
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As I rode contentedly back from Han, I suddenly noticed that my front wheel had gone badly out of true. Now, at this point my knowledge of maintenance was pretty thin. It was only when I got to Rochefort and examined it that it was clear a spoke had broken: just snapped right in the middle. I was subsequently to learn that this was very common with the wheels on the cheap Oxford bikes.

Fortunately, there was a bike shop open in Rochefort in the evening. I dived in, and with a bit of dodgy French ("cette ... chose, c'est cassé!") made myself understood. Unfortunately the shop was super-busy, and I don't think I appreciated how much of a pain retruing the wheel might be - he couldn't fix it for a couple of days. As I despondently wheeled off, wondering whether I could get to a larger town to get it fixed, another assistant spotted me and asked me what was wrong. I went back through my "c'est cassé" routine - and they took pity on me at that point. 

Now, I didn't know at the time, but it's clear to me now they fitted an emergency spoke and got the wheel roughly true. They charged me €5 and I went off, well pleased with the results of my persistence - I could ride on now! Of course, I now know that the fix was very much temporary - they likely told me this, but with my mediocre French I probably didn't get it. The wheel - the front - was probably still rather weak, I was riding with some load, at least - and I shudder to think now what would have happened if it had failed when I was, say, descending into Luxembourg city at 43mph. 

In the event, the wheel held - and indeed I rode on that emergency spoke for many months afterwards. Ironically, it was this experience that lead me to try to understand something of wheel-building myself, and with the help of Sheldon Brown, eventually completely rebulding the wheel when I rebuilt the set a few months later.

Today's ride: 20 km (12 miles)
Total: 347 km (215 miles)

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