Pierre Dybman (dybmapi) wrote,
Pierre Dybman

My little chemo adventure: the week-end before

In order to prepare the procedure as well as possible, i decided that a few days away from the city would do me good. While it wasn't clear beforehand that this week would turn out as a record breaker for Belgium and Holland, with a heatwave starting on Tuesday and lasting until Sunday, with temperatures well above 30 centigrades (34 under the shade on Thursday, that is above 40 under the sun).

To spice things up, we booked a nice flat in Antwerp, distance 45 km from Brussels, a duplex with one bedroom under the roof, and two tabby house cats, one grey and the other one apricot. Through Airbnb, of course.

The main reason is that we wanted to venture to Holland, be able to wet our feet in the North Sea, and we took an electric car for that trip, a BMW i3, with range extender, that is a small motorcycle engine that kicks in when the battery is nearly empty, and allows to continue wile keeping it slightly above dying.

So,range anxiety here we come! The car is proposed by Zen car, which has a number of stations and hence cars, all over Brussels. For a fixed price, you can either have a "normal" full electric car, and i would recommend the new Renault Zoe they recently received, or a premium one, that is the above mentioned i3, with or without range extender.

The cars are parked and tethered to a charging station, you reserve it on-line, you receive when applying to the system a card that will allow you to open the car and to start or complete the charging operation at a charging point. Included in the rental price is insurance, parking in underground parkings in Brussels, including at the Zaventem airport.
The normal i3 has a range slightly above 100km when full, ours indicated 120, and the range extender, once the 8 or 10 litres of petrol are put int he tank, provides an additional 100/120 km of range.

So the thinking was as follows: take the car on Friday evening at 18:00, drive to Antwerp and arrive around 19:00, have a dinner and spend the night there. Next morning driving to the Netherlands, that is 40 km to Bergen op Zoom; then 63 km to Middleburg, another 10 to reach the sea at Vlissingen, finally 85 km to drive back to Antwerp for a second night there on Saturday.

That amounts to around 250 km all in all, and that is more than the maximum available on a single charge even with a full tank. So i sent an e-mail asking whether it was possible to recharge for free, at least in Belgium, apart from Brussels, and Zen cars replied that the card i had would allow me to recharge at any Bluecorner charging station, and there are quite many in Belgium, including in Antwerp, so it looked doable.

On Friday evening, we arrived a bit later than planned, because many people were leaving Brussels to take the opportunity of the last meal hot week-end of the season, but nothing dramatic. This impacted a bit the mileage, as we were left with about 60 km of range on the electric part, and the previous renter had left a couple of litres of petrol, so there are twenty kms available there. While we didn't feel like hunting for a charging station that night, we thought about going out for breakfast, finding one and spending an hour or two in a cafe while we top-up.
The blue corner web-site showed a few stations not far from where we were staying, we went to the address of the first one, but could find nothing. Just a couple of hundred metres was another one, on a market place. That charger was also nowhere to be found. Finally we tried an underground parking on that square, we went in and there was a charging station for two cars. I swiped my Zen card, and it accepted it and started charging.
We left for one of the numerous cafes on that square, had a nice breakfast and after about 90 minutes we went back to the parking.
An unusual sight was waiting us: some cars waiting to come in, both entry and exit barriers lifted, the parking fully dark, and an alarm ringing. The electricity had gone off, and once i opened our i3, it became apparent that it had only managed to gain 10 km of range! On the plus side, there was no way of paying for the parking, as the automated machine was also down.

So we left to Bergen op Zoom, elegant small resort town in NL. We reached it rather quickly, and as i didn't have anymore access to my data package, as we were in another country, i checked and found that the integrated GPS in the i3 had a list of all charging stations in Europe. So we looked for the nearest one, found it and parked alongside. I inserted the cables, swiped my card and...nothing. We had a look at another one, a couple of km further, at the limit of the old town, went there and same thing, no charging for you sir (it seems there is a system for most dutch charging stations, where you should take a monthly or yearly contract).

So, having now clearly not enough range to go to our next destination, we went to a petrol station to top up the tank, and...were unable to open it! A good long look at the 200 pages manual, present in the glove compartment, showed that the petrol door could take some minutes to open, because of some decompression issues. But i got an error message on the main LCD screen, so further manual reading showed a way to manually open the engine bay, and there i could find another button to manually open the tank...

Which i did, and added 8 litres or 10€, which added 120km to our possibilities.

And we went further, towards Middleburg. Very soon, the small engine started rumbling (a bit unpleasant, as in full electric mode the car is virtually silent). But we reached our destination, and again tried to find a charging station, got there, took out the cable and swiped the card...and it worked! basically, a number of green dots appear when you link your cable to the station, and if they turn blue after you swiped your card, then you are charging! Plus you can check from the car side, the electronic odometer shows you existing range, the maximum reachable and the time it will take you to get to that level. So, it's with a light heart that we started strolling in this very nice city, with hundreds of other happy pedestrians, crossing bridges over canals, passing a nice mill, and getting to the historical centre, while musing in and out of nice boutiques.

There are more, we can send them upon request...

So basically after three or four hours we got back to the car, and it had charged a bit more than half, we had again about 75 km available, plus a little under 90 from the tank, so we set towards the seaside, while it was getting close to 17:00, but still very nice and warm.

After a short walk around the beach, and walking in shallow water, we headed back to the car, and started our trip back to Antwerp, for which we didn't have enough electric range, so we would need to use up close to 40 from the petrol tank.

That wasn't a problem, and we prepared to put the car for charge at a charging station, 2,4 km from the place where we were staying, on the parking lot of the Conservatoire, where we had a blue corner station, which did accept the card when swiped.

We put it there around 10:am on Sunday, and when we went back at 16:00, it was already full, so that means it's a fast charging station.

We spent the day in Antwerp under a slightly more bearable weather, but still quite sunny and with a bit of wind, in Antwerp the 28 August is day of culture, so we were able to listen to excerpts of various musicals on a square where we had a brunch, to sets of alt)rock, were invited to a classical concert, but preferred to continue visiting the town, saw the oldest building there, the Het Steen castle, which dates from eh end of the 13th century. And we found time to visit Peter Paul Ruben's house and museum, which i would recommend for anyone appreciating the fine arts.

The return to Brussels took barely more than 30 minutes, and tomorrow i will park the car back to its original place by 9:00 am, ending this very pleasant week-end rental.

And then we can talk about chemo...
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