Thursday, May 02, 2013


In the 2-1/2 months I’ve been in Luxembourg, I’ve ridden four mountain bike randonnees of between 30K and 70K. They’re not races, more like road bike century rides in the U.S. and are a great way to learn the landscape. Lots and lots of forests, bizarrely beautiful rock formations in the north, windswept open fields and farmland that call to mind the springtime pro bicycle races I love to watch on Eurosport. 

Randonnees—and mountain biking in general--have been a great way to meet people too. My entry key into the Luxembourg mountain bike scene has been Fränz Schneider, who runs the site and club. (I think it’s a club; I’m still not sure how Luxembourg bike clubs, associations and the like work.) He’s the Grandmaster of all Connectors (Google Malcolm Gladwell and Connectors and that’s Fränz) who’s been a terrific friend and guide and has allowed me to follow him around like a new puppy ever since I arrived here. 

Apropos of nothing, here are a couple tidbits that only marginally have anything to do with the randonnees I’ve ridden. 

-After a 36K randonnee in Beaufort, not far from the amazing Château de Beaufort there, dozens of us tired, muddied riders gathered in some sort of community center for a spaghetti feed. Just before we dig in, Fränz says to me: “Gudden Appetit!” (Pronounced appe-teet). 

But I thought he said, “Looks good enough to eat,” so I said “Yes, it does.”

We went back and forth like this a couple times before he cleared up the English-Luxembourgish discrepancy. By this time, however, I’d found myself distracted and a little intimidated by the beauty and skill with which this room full of Luxembourgers ate their spaghetti. 

Using a knife and fork, they spin the spaghetti on the fork using the spoon as a sort of base to support said fork spinning and then, with a quick subtle move, pull out the fork so that the spun spaghetti dollop now sits in the spoon. Which they then spoon into their mouths. (Somewhere in the recesses of my brain is the knowledge that this is how one is supposed to eat spaghetti but I’ve never seen anyone actually do it.)

Looking around and seeing every single person eating this way except for me seemed a bit surreal. It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry and Elaine are in the diner and realize that everyone around them is eating cookies, donuts, Snicker’s bars, etc. with a knife and fork except for them. There was a balletic beauty about these Luxembourgers’ spaghetti-eating, worthy of a Vivaldi soundtrack. Meanwhile, I shoveled my spaghetti into my piehole caveman-style feeling like I was Tony Soprano crashing dinner at Downton Abbey. 

-The longest randonnee I’ve ridden so far here is the Mill Man Trail, a 70K near Echternach, Luxembourg’s oldest city located across the Sauer River from Germany. This was with my friends Ferdy, a Luxembourger, and Jean-Louis who’s French. Both speak excellent English and on the drive to Echternach, we talked much of languages, etc. They said that American English is harder to understand than British English and that some of the time when I speak all they hear is “Grrrr-Grrrr-Grrrr.”

So I affected my best British accent and said, “Do you think there will be a lot of people here today?”

“Ah, that’s much easier to understand,” they both said, almost in unison. I imagined it was as if I had fine-tuned a radio station so that it came in much clearer.

Later, on the randonnee I was surprised with the freeness with which riders (albeit, all male) would take out the garden hose, when the need arose, and water the lawn as it were. On an organized ride in the U.S., there’re porta johns (usually not enough) and stern warnings of the consequences if you don’t use them. Just for shaking a little dew off the lily. Here, you’ll see whole pelotons of pee-peeing pedalers mere feet from the aid tent or wherever.

“We’d get fined for doing this in the U.S.,” I said to Ferdy as we and a dozen or so others were poised at the edge of some trees personally trying to put out a forest fire. 

“Fined? Why?” asked Ferdy. “It’s natural.”

Such is true.

1 comment:

  1. Cool to see mountain bikers are the same everywhere. Enjoying the euro posts 'n' updates...