This morning I put my bike in manual mode, and the added control allowed me to enjoy the Belgian bends a little more than I had the day before. By the time I was called upon to mark a junction, I was far enough ahead of the pack (thanks to an aggressive overtaking policy) to whip my camera out and take some action shots of the other riders approaching.
Coffee-and-petrol time found us on the border with Luxembourg, parked outside an enormous duty free booze emporium which Howard and I found time to explore. When we set off again, I, unusually, went in front of Howard, so he could film my ride. We spent a happy twenty minutes in pursuit of Jen before we came to a junction and I was dropped off as marker.
Pointless though it is, I have spent a good deal of time since then thinking up scenarios in which things might have been different if I'd been in my customary spot behind Howard, and regretting the fact that being left at the junction meant I was one of the last to round a nice, wide downhill bend, only to see Howard's bike on its side in the middle of the road and Howard sitting against the barrier being helped to take his helmet off.
I confidently expected him to be up and running again in minutes, very cross about the fuss everyone had made. Instead, First Responders arrived, summoned by a car driver who witnessed the off, then the police and an ambulance, which I announced my intention of following on the bike.
"Don't stop for anything, Alice," Jen told me, after checking I was in a fit state to ride. "If the ambulance goes through a red light, you go too." I positioned my bike behind the ambulance in a state of readiness; a helpful Luxembourgeois policewoman told me the ambulance would in fact be going in the opposite direction; I turned around again; and we were off.
We made a stop in a layby so a doctor could join us and make an inspection, then we set off again. I rode between the ambulance and the doctor's car, both with their flashing lights on. Strangely, none of the bikers I saw going the other way returned my waves.
I have nothing but praise for the medical staff, all of whom spoke four languages and were incredibly nice to me, keeping me up to date on what was happening - including which town and what hospital we were headed for. I did mislay the ambulance shortly before our destination of Ettelbruck when a coach made way for it, but spotted it again and found a safe place to park in time to watch Howard getting unloaded and wheeled off. I was taken away to fill in forms, then instructed to wait in the waiting-room.
Bike Normandy's John, who had stayed behind to sort out the police and a local garage while Jen led the rest of the group onward, found me there an hour later and immediately went off to the cafe to buy me a Coke and a sandwich. Eventually a doctor appeared ("I go fetch your woman," I learned Howard had been told), and once all documents had been produced we were allowed to leave, Howard with a souvenir X-ray of his floating shoulder.
The next three nights would be spent in the same hotel in Germany, which was lucky. Howard went as a passenger in the Bike Normandy van, and I followed up the motorway to Boppard, on the Rhine - arriving minutes after the rest of the group, who had got lost on the way. I wanted a bath and a bucket of gin, but at last everyone was where they should be.
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