We hit the beach a runnin boys, we turned those bikes around………well something like that as Johnny Horton sang. We rolled off the Ferry that took us from Belfast to Douglas on the Isle of Man at a leisurely 2.5 hours time frame. Arrived later afternoonish like 4pm or so. I had already bought food and had it packed on the bike, 15 packs of cookies and a tub of ice cream……okay kidding about the ice cream.
Before I get to carried away with cycling antics, I need to tell you about Cheryl and Brian, because they weave thru my next few days of life like a kilim rug. Our meet begins in Belfast as we all sat waiting for the Ferry. A simple conversation, as is usual, begging with a comment about the bike and the direction. Well it all gets turned around pretty quick into a discussion of Trump, Christ, carbon foot prints, Al Gore etc. And I am confused, opinionated, but still confused. Confused because I am not making the mental connections as to, how these subjects and people are connected.
So, as it regarded Pres. Trump, clearly my two new friends had taken in everything the media had dished up as being a truism. I assured them he was not red headed villan in my books. And that what he has achieved thus far from a business standpoint, is well, nothing short of miraculous looking at the stats. Now, about Gore, I was not so kind and gentle. Albert is bag of wind, a catastrophe of thought and theory, a man riddled with negative anecdotes and not ONE SINGLE solution…….oh, and please send $7.95 to help me save the world would be my description of him. We all boarded pretty much amicably agreeing to disagree. I did find out Cheryl is the minister at cute little stone Church in Dalby.
Up the road I go, and Douglas and Amarillo grow smaller in my rear view mirror. Traveled on an A sized carriageway for a few miles. As soon as possible I got off onto the smallest of backroads headed for Injebreck. Which as it turns out was once a fancy Hotel with a large pavillion where folks would come to picnic in the summer. Long gone now, the building is still glorious and the surrounding yard a botanical masterpiece. I know this because by pure God willed luck, I was out of water right at Injebreck…..and knocked on the only door around. A wonderful gal came to the door, Julie Stipple. She filled both my bottles with outstanding spring water, then gave me a tour of what used to be the old hotel. Outside she walked me thru her late husband’s garden masterpiece, with rhodendrens, honeysuckle, lilac and double Rose’s of every color.
A long and winding route up and around Snaefell, I was darn glad for a chance to roll downhill for a change. At least half the mountain top is fully exposed and the wind will RIP your hair out by the roots. Rolled down a mountain bike track for a couple miles, it was pretty rough on old Shirley, crossed a damn spillway and then roared down the mountainside into Thuly a Will. Wow, what gorgeous little piece of the world that is.
Basically followed the creek down it’s very stony path for several miles. Waiting for a junction that would take me north towards Ramsey. Everywhere on IoM, is 5 miles apart, and Ramsey not much further than that.
Ramsey, sits at the north end of the IoM, and faces the north like a rampart set against the mountains that back it to it’s south. The flats that make up the northern tip of the island lay stretched out in front. Its estimated the flats were created by advancing ice flows during the ice age. Who am I to argue, I am just a guy on a bike. By the way, I am wearing normal hiking pants, and lined ones at that it’s been from cool to downright cold somedays.
Backroads, mountain bike tracks would lead me now westerly and south. Balllaugh, I stopped at the Raven Bar to have a flat white and charge a few batteries up. My phone is dying a slow death me thinks, it does not hold a full charge for even half a day if I am not careful. And yes, I do keep it plugged into the hub at all times while riding..
The sage of the Raven Bar, there is one in every bar I think . He is the town’s unofficial greeter, self appointed world and local historian, and all round go to guy for the latest gossip or off color joke. I went for the joke first, then the gossip.. I found out some interesting possible stats about the island, that I have to say over time and meeting others they would seem to be quite accurate it seems. ITo begin with, it’s an expensive island to live on. The highest GDP of all Europe, the 9th largest economy in the world. Not to mention more billionaires and millionaires than you can shake a Wall Street Journal at.
It’s the result of creating a income tax haven for corporations etc. For some islanders, this has proven to be a wise decision, while for others they feel that it has brought an income level that has changed the intrinsic feeling of the island. Hard to know, but I bet there is a double sided blessing to it for sure.
Heavy cloud cover greets me as I roll back the tent door ( I am beginning to get along better with my tent, hate to admit it, but it’s not really that bad) I rode what is left of an old rail line between Balllaugh and almost into Peel. It was fun, even exciting as you ride past sheep, sheep, then more sheep and a few overweight cows. I am not accustomed to seeing cows that appear to be RIB-LESS. They are standing there, almost bouncing, like helium inflated cow-ballons. Its unnatural it is.
Rolled into Peel and it was early so I hit a tea shop, had a flat white and cranberry tea scone. Wonderful visit with the other 7 people who occupied the tiny shop. The morning discussion was about Police work, the dangers of it, and how so nobody had actually brought a pistol to the island. No telling what sort of trouble this could lead to? The citizens of this fIre isle are taught to immediately call FART, not to fart, but to call FART. of course, as a non-islander I am app,ying all sorts of thoughts to this notion. Finally it is just to much, these folks are. zrrying on about the tactical advantages of FART, The superior training ing………..and I am thinking I have never trained for farting, maybe that’s what I am missing. Turns out to be the police Fast Action Responce Team. And be it known that those who retire out of this unit are truly the ONLY ones to have actually earned the title of ……you got it, Old FARTS
Archibald Cox son, he is a world famous silversmith, you should go check him out says the man with but 2 teeth as he sips his fea. Still sitting in the tea shop I am. There is a big display of his work up at the cathedral, just oop the street lad. So I wander back up the hill, and make it to the Cathedral. I immediately run into a gregarious and jovial fellow named Henry as seen center below. To his right and seated is Connor who is a Music major, and specialist in pre- 1700 organ music. He didn’t know a lick of ZZ Top or AC-DC…..music schools these days fall so short on their promises. And lastly is Andrew, a Thoelogy Masters student, and soon to enter the Vickerage. Certainly looked at the Cox display of work, very impressive, not only his smithing skills but also his oils, drawings etc as well. Time for lunch said Henry, will you join us he asks. Certainly. The Vickers house, a multi roomed affair, with several men living within its rock walls. It’s not really a halfway type house, just an invitation to stop and stay should you feel like working for your room and board and possibly while their develope. closer relationship to Christ himself as a result.
As it turned out, these guys also knew Cheryl and Brian whom I had met on the ferry trip over. We had fresh sea spinach, fried, very good. Shaved carrot salad with wild dill and Gorse petals ( which are edible as it turns out ) Sister Margaret’s meat loaf, also very good……..oh yes and French fries. 2 this is I have found synonomous with the island eating habits, TOAST and FRENCH FRIES. I thought Jeremiah has a serious TOAST addiction, but I am sadly la king what it truly takes. Henry as it turns out has a degree in environmental science, and came to the island to open an art store. He found the church work more rewarding and gave up the store front. And by the way he says as I depart late afternoon, be sure to stop in DLby and say hello to Cheryl and Brian for us.
I set out of Peel towards DLby, but its hilly. I had been having some chain skip issues, and looked things over several times to no avail. This evening however it would become k own. The bottom wheel on my rear driller finLly gave way, just hanging by a thread. I was done. Mostly downhill back to Peel, I went I. the morning and sat and had tea in my favorite tea shop till the bike store opened. Got my part…..sort of, it was a used item and did not actually match perfect but got me by. Took a moment to wash a few items before again leaving for Dalby. When I finally did make it, I seen the quaint tlittle rock church right away. Met up with Chryk
And bRian and wwent to there very quaint little cottage to have lunch with them, more talk about Christ working thru us, a little talk about the environment, and then it was time for me to head up the hill and into the forest heading south. Dalby 5o the top is steep…..sorry Brian, I know you said it wasn’t much of a hill, but it is a hill. As suggested I turned of onto a mtb track out today Lashlin, what a great place. You can see the headlands s they call it, the Calf of Man and a great blue vista that is the Irish Sea. Steep hills covered in bright yellow gorse and white cotton ball shaped sheep. Up to the top and turn right and head for Rushen, down thru that and into Ballakilpheric. Turned back notherly at Colby, and rode one of the bigger roads that I had been on, the A2. Maybe 2 or 3 miles, and took to the tiniest roads and tracks I could find. Douglas now lay in front of me, and my time on Isle of Man would come to n end, sadly, but it has to happen sometime.
I have been told that “you ain’t been to the Isle, less ya tried some Queenies, smoked Kippers and had ya some Davidson’s Ice cream. So last night I had the Queenies, which are on friend baby scallops laid over a crisp slice of sour dough toast, then they pour a white wine and mustard sauce over all that. The sauce has lemon grass and bits of bacon in it. Fabulous, and JW is not a fish lover………….I don’t remember where it says it, but I k ow God said eat beef, I made fish for the cats. Today, apart from getting this blog posted, I will find Kippers and dang sure find that ice cream. I am officially having a heck of. time with my new Go-Pro Hero7. It does take stunning images as well as video for me. But the app that connects to my phone is a tedious little bugger and always disconnects or becomes unpaired. And lastly, I was going to edit on my tablet but my tablet OS is not capable of doing such. Job. Apart from that folks, I am feeling healthy, blessed indeed and fortunate that there are some out there praying for me and reading the blogs. Thank you all, and my prayers for all who mY be reading this.
Once again I have been fighting to get the images downloaded off my camera from the SD to my tablet. Finally got that done today, and I think the issues are resolved going forward. So with that in mind, this post will be primarily images. All images have been taken between Dublin and Belfast.
So, no trip can begin till you get all your luggage…well, as many of you know, what I was missing was my bike. Kind of a big thing on a bike trip. The airline was nice enough about it, a few rather short remarks on both sides. But in the end we made it. In just one day, I learned to swear in Gaelic…..and apologize in English. I just love that languages come so easy to me.
Camped out in a small grove of trees some 5 miles from the airport. I actually went over that direction to stay at some cheap rat trap apartment that I had found on line. I was told to call again when I got there and someone would open the apartment for me. Tried calling quite a few times and finally just gave up. Threw my gear over the fence beside the bus stop and walked a couple hundred feet out and behind some trees, set up my BRAND NEW tent and went to sleep. Rained all night, nothing new, it seems to do that every night….and quite a bit thru the day as well.
I have been wet steady for a week, I am seeing new green shoots just above my ankles.
So the following day was a day of total mis-direction, that’s for sure. Go here, ……sorry we have no idea, …….why are you here, ……..you need to see this desk, ………your at the wrong desk, …….have you called lost luggage that’s where to start, ……no, o, you need to go down that hall and talk to…….we have it, …….just kidding, …………please come thru here sir for a full rectal scan and pinger frinting process…….that’s a bout how the day felt and went. I actually got my bike at about 5pm from a very nice fellow who actually walked back and done a real visual search. By 8pm, I was out the door, bike fully assembled, and riding north on tiny back roads. Felt good to have frensh air blowing strait thru ( strait thru, I hadn”t eaten all day). I got about 20 plus miles in and it was getting too dark and rain ing to hard.
I have a new tent, it’s made by REI the maker of my last tent as well. My last tent was basically a superb tent except for its ability to stand heavy wind. Needless to say, I really liked it. This new tent is the newer version and the redesign sucks like a vacuum cleaner. I have set it up quite a few times now and can honestly say, if you think it’s going to rain, stop a day early and get started…..yup, it’s that much of a pain. There are a few other things that are really annoying. The inside walls sag to much, mostly because there is no tention across the front quarters of the tent. Secondly, the doors leak like a rain gutter when you open them and the rain that falls hits right at the edge of the sleeping bag. The gear vestibule on each side are large enough they can be seen, but not large enough to truly function for a biker with panniers, for that they are too tight. The footprint or rain stop, all it as you will. Does not fit the tent floor very well, and not enough locations to fasten it down. I do like the color, all joking aside. The color for those of us who wild camp (wild camping, is finding any spot that you feel is safe and secure that is not an actual camp ground ) this tent is a safe green color, Definately not worth the $299.00 price tag.
I write this, was a rather meandering course. From village to village, one tiny 2 lane road to the next. The countryside is a verdant green, and the trees here are just now coming into bloom as compared to back in California where the bloom is over. The houses, while quaint and cute for sure, they are also a much more modern dwelling. I would expect possibly the thatch grooves and white wash calendar shoots we are all accustomed to seeing, will be off on the west coast more so.
Some will say, holy cow, he is in Belfast already. Yup, I sure am……. it’s only like 100 miles so we shouldn’t be so surprised. I have an apartment for a couple days as I sit waiting for the ferry over to Isle of man, my next leg of this journey. For now, I am going to walk a wee bit of Belfast and maybe buy a new stove since I am having a heck of a time finding alchohol fuel to burn…….may even get wild and look at a better tent?..
The trip north to Belfast where I sit now as a write this was fairly flat to Dundalk, but then we done some climbing after that to get up and over into the Lagan River valley that is Belfast proper. Took in the Titanic Museum today, pretty epic really, the size and scope of that is amazing. There were actually 10 completed ships of the Olympic class built that same year that the Titanic was built. +How bout this Titanic story. Violet Jessup, she was on board and survived the sinking of the Titanic. Upon arriving back in England she swore her feet shall never stand upon another ship. She was a nurse, and early during WW1, nurses were badly needed upon the HMS Brittanica, also built by the same ship yard. That ship was torpedoed and sunk…..and again she survived. Pretty lucky gal right there, you can stand next to her in a lightning storm, just don’t let her pick out a ship to sail on.
The Kilts and Shamrocks Tour- commences Monday, May 6th of 2019. If all goes well, meaning that I am not turned into a hood ornament along the way. Then the trip begins in Dublin, Ireland, and the ride starts by heading north towards Belfast. Once we are far enough north to hitch a ride on a ferry I will get over to Isle of Man, ride its length north and then a second ferry to get to the coast of Wales. The plan is to ride the tiny back roads, so the going may be a wee bit slow. In the UK they have these remote cabins or cottages called Bothies, I plan on sleeping in a few if at all possible.
From Wales we ride south basically, a few spots I would like to hit like Snowdonia, and Cardiff by the sea for instance. On into England and further south, heading towards the coast someplace near say Plymouth. From that point we turn to the east now and ride on or close to the south coast all the way round until we hit Hadrians Wall and cross over the border into Scotland.
Before I cross over into Tartan and Bagpipe country, Colleen will fly over and meet up with me in England’s Lake District, we will spend a week or so touring around and enjoying some time together. Once I get started into Scotland, its up around the east coast crossing up over the top and headed back towards Scotlands western coast. I will finda ferry to once again take me back over to the northern end of Ireland.
After blog post 1- all images for better or worse will be my own and not used from the photo service known as Unsplash. The end game is to ride around the western coast region of Ireland and on into the south, where Colleen will again fly over and join me for a week or so or relax and enjoy some time together. It will feel good to pry the cycling foam out of the crack of my butt for a week I am sure. After Mom leaves, I will continue on and eventually make my way to Dublin once again, dismantle my bike and get headed home. I have to say thanks to our very loyal customers who keep our business going and who tolerate my absence. Thanks to the friends and fans who follow along, take a moment to comment and make the whole trip more enjoyable. And I have to say thanks to the Lord above, who sustains me on a trip such as this.
So, what did we learn on this journey, a solo cyclist and some avid reader followers. Lets walk thru and see if we come to the same thoughts and realizations.
Yes, i had to get out of bed and add this because ai forgot and its maybe the most important realization of the trip. During this whole solo cycle adventure I was covered in Prayer by friends and saints some of whom I do not even know. That counts for alot to me and I do want too acknowledge that and say many thanks in return, all pryers are appfeciated. Then there is that group who keep me entgused simply by way of letting me know that they aee reading and enjoying every page and picture in the blog process. Knowing that for many this may be as close to another country as they get, I am thankful to give you a road side report and to have you along for the ride. SO THANKS FIRST OF ALL TO THE BLOG FOLLOWERS AND PRAYER WARRIORS.
#1 – We handed out 100 cards for Christ, were any saved or fall of there knees right there and confess thier lives over to Christ. No, none in front of me. But as my Pastor friend Mike constantly reminds me we are simply sowing seeds and may not be around to see the crop mature, nor the harvest.
#2- Mileage for this trip was approx. 5,832km or 3,645 miles so not quite as far as I had expected. My detour away from Romania is what took some of the miles out of the trip. That detour for sure saved my knees a little, and that was something badly needed.
#3- total time in a hotel room this trip was a little etravagant, with the total being 17 days not counting all but 2 days here in Istanbul. Will have to work on my manliness and ruggedness a little more. Think I will buddy up with some of those heavily bearded hipsters from Frisco and take a few pointers and renew my pledge to become more manly…………or maybe I will just get on the advil before I leave next time????? Zero stays in any camp grounds, only wild camping or hotels this trip.
#4- Explain “Life behind Bars” I have been asked. So, here it is in a nutshell. Life behind bars certainly carries that first thought notion of prison time, whixh I have never done. But there is an underlying sentiment that life is a precious gift and we want to harbor and safeguard it so we can enjoy the opportunities the Lord makes available to us. But more than that, Life behind Bars means just that, life as seen from behind the handlebars of a bicycle. Its the freshest, most honest way to really see a country and meet people. Lastly would be the largest extent to which I applied the title to this trip, all of us are guilty of living a life behind bars. While the bars are indeed invisible, they are there, for me, for you, for everyone. Those bars are formed by the media, in every format as they foster hate, fear, misunderstanding and distrust. All in the name of selling articles, tv shows, movies and yes even slanted and biased news. 5hose bars can be formed by our religion as well, as we harbor ill will and distrust of one another all because of our difference in faith. I keep reminding myself again and again, something Pastor Mike keeps pounding into my head…….we are to be Love with Skin on……..and that is so true. MATHEW 5:44 applies well in this spot. We suffer from bars of ignorance, just simply never walking across the street to meet the new nieghbour is something we are all guilty of, but how about another country to see what it and its people are really like. Firsthand knowledge will always trump rumor and innuendo. Lastly we observe our world thru the bars of ignorant education. Our kids know so little about the real world that fills in the rest of the globe that is a really sad state of affairs when some secondary school age kid can rattle off 5 city names within Canada when I ask him. And it has been shown that quite a few at college level think Europe is actually a country. I conclude that just plain old geographical ignorance may be the largest bars out in front of any of us. For me, this and any other travel that I do, is to give me a better appreciation for that place I call home “AMERICA”. and secondarily for me to better understand my new friends and the hardsgips that they have to endure.
#5- Images taken this trip have hit 7632 with my Camera and Phone in combination. S well as 61.5mg of video shot on a Go Pro. Total images used on my blog is 678…..so, I got a few extras laying around.
#6- GEAR REVIEW.
My Surly LHT vike has once again be stellar. My Schwalbe tires, also once again preoved to be totally bullet proof. Not one single flat or slow leak down on this entire trip, and I did hit some road surface that is super tough on tires. Brooks saddle, the B17 model also preoved superb. My Ortlieb Bags and handlebar bag are just the best. If I had a complaint it is with my tent, I love everything about it except its ability to stand in any sort of wind. The tent is an REI Quarter Dome T2 version. Other than that I had basically szero reasons to be unhappy with any of my gear choices for this trip.
SO, WHAT COMES NEXT??????
THINK I WILL WAIT FOR GOD TO SPEAK TO MY HEART AND THEN ANNOUNCE.
The penultimate chapter (second from last ), as I type this I am sitting comfortable and safe in the Bestikaarea of Isatanbul. I could still get run over in traffic, but it will happen while I am on foot not a bike. Some have asked, whats in-store for the future and other trips. The real answer is that I am not at all sure. No decision has been made to that end. For now we will leave it all right there.
Lets return to Veliko Tarnovo shall we, as I need to explain a few things about JW being off the grid for 5 days and tender an apopogy to a friend Anton Maranov. I shall explain, prayers were asked for and recieved as well as delivered upon in my mind. It was said that ol’JW sure was having trouble with health issues this trip, to which I say oh bogus……nothing to worry about it is all normal wear and tear. To have sore knees is nothing more than the culmination of years of wear and tear and proof that God designed us all as individuals…..we simply dont all wear out at the same time nor of the very same ailgments. LUKE12.7 makes this very clear.
The riding from up in northern Bulgaria had been a hot one and at times was a ride with less than adequat food intake and maybe a little short on water at times. I arrived Veliko in what I felt was good shape with a few body functions that were not quite the way they should be for me. Dont bother telling me about your body functions, nor about the national average on how many times a day a fella should take a leak etc. TMI for one thing, and secondly, YOU aint me. I already know me pretty well. Biggest part of getting to Veliko was to meet a great engraver and human being, one Anton Maranov. Got that done and had supper with Anton and his wonderful wife Bobbie. The plan was to leave the next morning and begin cycling again. Little background……..JW is always in a hurray. A small piece of my character that I am not always happy with.
That same first evening, about 2 hours after supper is when everything sort of came unraveled shall we say, at least healthwise. What didnt come up got shot out….if I can put it that way and have you understand. Went thru shivers and shakes, hot as heck then freezing. First and second night were spent sleeping on the cool floor of the tiled bathroom…….it was also 3.75 steps closer to the crapper folks and that had become an important factor. No matter what I tried eating, nothing would stick to my ample rib cage. I tried everything that my two favorite nurses suggested, my Mom and my wife……..my wife by the way could write a medical journal I am sure of it. She is way beyond chicken soup for everything but herpes, she knows stuff only a indigenous island Shaman would know…..mater of point they call her for advice. No amount of magic, smoke filled room from burning insect candles, 3 string of prayer beads wrapped around my skull, walking to the bathroom backwards……it works like drinking a glass of water upside down says my wife. Nope, didnt work. I drank water like a fish.
Elasticity was gone from my skin, drowsy all the time. I finally concluded that it was pure dehyration…….not the feared Leprosy as my wife thought, nor was it Scurvy as my 3 niece nurses thought, nor did I need accupuncture as Selina suggested I try. My body simply needed time to take on enough water to be restored to its full and proper function and form. Day 4, food stayed down/in, both ends are important. Dont forget that the posterior is the only place on the human body known by accupunturists too be able to raise a teenager of the couch from the reclining position in just one stride. From lounging to work in less than 3 seconds…….sounds like a Trump Plan. OKAY, OKAY, we will drop all political referrence.
Day 5, JW felt human again but was suffering from “restless leg syndrome” and needed to be moving. I could have hung around another day and went out to Antons engraving shop, sorry but I didnt. I headed out early and began to thread my way thru the mountains heading south out of Veliko. I had read blogs and even talked to a few local riders. They all warned that I was heading into hills that would likley overwhelm me on a loaded bike. The first range of mountains seen me riding out on a small local highway marked Hwy 53. It winds its way up thru constantly growing foothills, wine grape filled valleys in some places and herding stock in others. I even came across a small herd of those SE asian water buffaloe cows…….seemed real strange to see them here, but have since learned there is a brand of very popular milk product down here in Bulgaria and Turkey that uses milk from this type of cow exclusively.
In the end, there was one short grade at a marked 10% as I left a tiny vilage, everything else was 8% or less. So in all it was a pretty comfortable ride. The hills are heavily timbered, mostly hardwoods, but also some places with pines etc. So the ride was nicely shaded for the most part. Along the way as with many mountain roads over here, all road side springs are developed and cool water is pouring forth. One sad note here, in Bulgaria and as I have seen especially in Turkey. Any place lower than the trunk of your car is a qualified GARBAGE SPOT. And the last rule is it cant be in your own backyard……but its okay if its the house next to you. So, as a result of this practise, what I seen was that many of the roads side springs had turned into dumping grounds as well. Doenst seem to matter that the stuff is 10 feet away, the human mind smells and sees this stuff and automatically concludes the water is also tainted. I dont think it was or is, but on a few occassions it was less than pleasant.
I camped among a grove of huge Sycamores, with a thick leafy carpet under my tent, I slept well. As a point of interest. JW is now on book number 40 in my evening reading pursuits. Woke up and pdealled the last 10-12 miles to the top and tipped over on a downhill run into Slevin. An unpleasant little town, dusty, dirty and on the edge of a large plain. Stopped and had my morning coffee, a piece of Burik, which is a philo type pastry dough filled with cottage cheese in this case. Later, I will have Burik made with lamb and liver that doesnt settle so well in my internal garbage disposal………somehow that taste and smell of the ghosts of Mongolia come creeeping back in.
Next stop was Yambol before I head over what I was told would be my steepest climbs yet. Yambol is a rug weaving region within Bulgaria and I was excited to see what was there. NOT MUCH, to be honest, not much at all. Matter of fact rather dissappointing. JW is not a trained rug buyer, but I aint the village idiot iether, and what I seen would be classed as junk with a very hefty price tag since it was a non Bulgarian asking about them. The folks of Yambol all still own thier rugs and I have my money that I intended to spend……that is how a free market works.
Truth be told, the row of mountains coming out of Tarnovo was my last real mountains, and the ride out of Yambol south to the border is just a long undulating slog is all. No climbs, no hills pushing 20 percent, just row after row of hills. The riding after I got to Turkey would make me work far harder as I am about to tell you.
Turkey, at least this western end of the country is a step down into lower poverty that is very evident. The towns change, the roads are dustier, the villages dirtier or far less developed if I can put it that way. Rock and brick hovels in some cases, and then in another part of a village you would see a gorgeous house and yard. The hwy recommended to me was D020 all the way to Kemerburgaz then take the park road. This is what I done, but once again the ride did not fit the blog description very close at all. It struck me as being a little like the way Mongolia had been described to me, or the way the locals described the climbs up to the border…….made me wonder if they had really been there.
Turkey grows on you as it makes you work hard to cross it. Its is huge arid farm and grazing ground at its outer western edges, all this gives way to heavier tree cover and a change in crop types as you swing up and under the influence of the weather pattern created by the Black Sea. You begin to ride into a constant head wind for one thing, but in addition to that the hills get taller and steper and much closer together. By mid day, you will have serious sweat stains on the cycle shorts. By days end you are plenty glad to quit and just take a rest.
Good morning said Adam as I approached him sitting and resting half way up just such a hill. Adam, 28 years of age and hailing from Hungary. Began his solo recumbent cycle journey in Budapest, and is determined to cycle Turkey, Azerbijian, Georgia and Iran. A considerable journey as mountainous as Georgia and Iran are, and given the current geopolitical tensions. I told him I would stick with circumnavigating Iowa, a challenge and a joke that seemed to be lost on Adam. Having a Masters in electronics, he worked in UK for almost 8 years for a computer firm. Saved his money and has been planning for this 6 month sojoirn ever since completeing University. No more cubicles, no more computer screens and blue prints for Adam, when the trip is over, he plans on pursuing something meaningful to him not just the wallet. I ask, what may that look like, and he replies that wood carving has always fascinated him as has ornamental iron work……so, we will wait and see what surfaces. We rode together for the next 20 or so miles till evening came. While I planned on a wild camp again, he stopped of to check on a couch surfing stay…….something else that i dont mess with…….I think you have to be sub 30 to adapt to the whole couch surfing thing.
The second from lasr day, I am some 70 miles or more from Istanbul proper and its a Saturday evening. JW is riding along looking for a place to throw down the tent. Everywhere I turn, the woods are jam packed full of folks camping, and camping some of the worst places that you can pick at elast in my estimation. I find a sliver of naked woods where I can take a bath and not see any other campers. The next day however told the real story. Sunday would see many folks leaving the surrounding forests and heading back to urban life. What stood out so clarion clear is just how little respect they had for the property and the place on which they camped. The woods, on both sides of the road as far as could be seen were just littered with every sort of trash imaginable. I could not believe the type, nor the sheer amount of trash that could be left behind. Disspointing to see, and to make matters more striking, the following day I would ride my last 20 or so miles thru one of Turkeys National Parks…….and that gorgeous park had been abused in very much the same manner. The park was fenced along both sides, so from road to fence line was a very visible trash pile. Anyplace that the fence had for some reason failed to stay standing, the trash at that point just meandered out into the bush as far as could be seen.
Dropping down out of the National Park, you tumble strait down with 3 hairpins right into Sariyer. The road down is drop dead gorgeous, Sycamore lined road way, spotlessly clean. 3 – 6 foot plus Sycamores line the roadway, and they are RIGHT at the roads edge with no more than perhaps 30 feet between trees. Deep dense shade canopy, bright blue of the Bosphorous sneeks a peek back at you every once inawhile till you get lower and the azure blue of the sea lays before you like a carpet. While the roads are busy when you turn right and head for Istanbul proper, they are quite nice to cycle since the drivers are more than generous with room. T jis seems to me as a rather wealthy end of the peninsula, as the houses are huge, and the restuarants are many.
I pull over and stop to take a break, and happen to roll up to a Chai House, where many old men……..yes, older than me. They are sitting around drinking Chai (tea), socializing for hours, playing back gammon or cards. The atmosphere is jovial, relaxed, social, you are welcomed by all around, you are asked where you are from, and then if needed there will be someone who speaks better english for instance who comes over and acts as a translator for all the rest. So far, my age has been almost the first question I have encountered since being in Turkey. Not by the way so much in any of the previous countries. When it was learned that I was 61, that was a big deal among the patrons. As It turns out, I would have been in the upper age group or this collection of men. Now only about 4 or 5 men noticed that I rode a bicycle into this place and parked out front. Now, they all wanted to know how far I had ridden and this took 2 men to do the translating since the first fellow didnt seem to have much of a grasp of geography and everytime I showed him my map on the phone he would keep trying to turn it upside down to see it???. So, with the help of another fellow, we got it across to the audience where my ride went and when it started. Keep in mind that as of now, all gaming had ceased, as had chai sales and social conversation……….I was a bit taken aback by thier rapt attention. 2 fellows, maybe one on iether side of my own age where looking quite skeptical and even maybe a little doubtful. One guy made sort of a jesture that would be seen as me riding a motorcycle…..no, no said my translator……..bicycle only and camping in the wild at night in his tent. Ach, no way was my best translation of thier reply. Needless to say, they were total disbelievers……..because they do not know MY GOD. so my translator told me they want to look at my bike to see if it has a motor………so, I told him that I would go you one better………they can just take it for a spin and see for themselves. So, there ai was with about 6 maybe more folowing along just outside, actually, just on the other side of a stone wall as this was an open aire chai house with a shade cloth roof. Rolling the bike out away from the wall, and right up infront of the fellow who seemed to be the fellow with the most doubt……..I haneded the bars over to him and allowed him to catch the bike with himself just a little off balance……..this always amazes them as they quickly realize if they dont pay attention they could quite easily be UNDER the bike. His first reaction was to smile broadly, keeping the bike balanced now, I encouraged him to throw a leg over and go for a spin. He could not get his leg over, he tried only twice, but each time the bags on the back messed him up. With that he was done with the challenge, but not his sidekick, he asked for the bike and then asked if he could try, too wihich I said be my guest. He got his leg over, admittedly I am taller than he and I dont think that crossbar felt to good when he landed flat foot trying to regain balance and control of the bike. There was a slight tinge of purple around his gills, but he was game and not going to allow it to stop him. He got a left foot on the pedal and promptly pushed off, wobbling badly trying to get his foot on the other pedal a few of his friends came to his aid and gave him a push and he was off………..at least till it came to the turn and come back portiion of his trip. You have to have a certain amount of speed to make a tight turn back to the opposite direction, and you cant have too much tilt on the frame or the load will overbalance and bring you to a complete halt and simply try to fall over into the turn radius. Thats what he done, to slow, to tight and too slow with way to much angle on his vody and bike. He done the classic inside stiff legged bike rescue fall, keeping it from totally laying out flat. But he only had one hand on the bars and one stiff leg stuck into the pavement and he was unable to lift my bike. Masallah, masallah, masallah seemed to be all he could say from his red face. He was embarressed that he could not ride nor lift the bike once it was near flat. He bought my chai, and the other fellow bought my second glass of chai.
A lesson learned, and a chance to allow room for humbling. One thing i learned, was that when faced with a doubting challenger be sure to place BOTH CEMENT BLOCKS on the same side of the bike……..make sure its not well balanced.
All in all, I have to say that i am really enjoying my time in Turkey, the people are very friendly and wanting to be helpful. Not as many english speakers here as in other countries i have been on this trip, but with google translate we got by be it one word at a time. Sentences in Google seem to fall apart………..you need to be careful as the change of just one letter can make a huge difference. The city seems huge and sprawling, with bridges , high rises and the usual brick and mortar type tile roofed structures we have all seen in movie shots. Tea, is everywhere, and always a popular pastime, served in a tiny micro glass and skin scalding hot. The infamous Turkish Coffee, actually this type coffee has been set on a preservation list by the world Heritage Center since it is such a well known coffee style synonymous with Turkey. Then we have the dogs and cats……..dude, I mean they are everywhere and have complete rule. They are not someones pet, they are pets of the city of Istanbul. The dogs all seem to be the big 100 pound types, nothing to see 6 or more on just one block. And cats come from nowhere when you sit down to eat, they if allowed will help themselves to what they want off YOUR plate. Everyone feeds them, except JW. these critters freely walk into AC facilities mid day and take a break, sleeping sprawled out on the floor whereever THEY choose. I would call the city beautiful, from a distance, and yes, even close up.
I 5hink there is a Mosque, with there pointed missle shaped minarets at least one for each 3 or 4 city blocks. Not a problem for me. Each day, five times a day you will hear the amplified call to prayer, mournful, wailing, crying type prayer being sent towards Allah, and calling the faithful to the Mosque for prayer. Each Mosque begins its own prayer at each given time, so once the clocks sync, and all Mosques are sending out thier prayer call, it can be quite a noise for several minutes. Again, its all fine, it never stopped me from praying before each meal, and nothing has been said to me to make me feel uncomfortable about my own stopping to pray.
I bunked at the Rosa Roach Hotel the first 4 days, pretty nasty, glad I could move to a nicer room when colleen showed up. I upgraded rooms, by alot, and went from 47 per night down to 43 per night. I walked, and sight seen to a certain extent, but didnt want to jit the main tourist sights till colleen got there to see them with me. So, I done quite a bit of drawing till that made me nuts, then i would take my camera and go for another walk. Once colleen got here, we took in as many sights as we could. To answer the question most common in my email #1- is it safe? I would say yes as safe as you can be in europe these days. We feel safe as we walk the streets. We did end up walking some pretty unsavory feeling back streets on one ocassion and felt we needed to pay attention more at that moment. 2- would i go again. YES, I would but i really believe that Istanbuls days of democracy and secular society are nearly over. My prediction is 5 years, Colleens is more like 10 till Turkey is under the iron hand of Sharia Law and a Theocracy. We heard this particular lament countless times as we visited shops and from people of all ages. My visit woukd be sooner rather than later JMO #3- would i go to Mongolia again…..hell no.
Our solo traveler is melting his way south across Bulgaria, boy howdy folks the heat has been turned up along with its cousin humidity. Bonked badly 3 days ago, riding a geniune rural Bulgrian road with little to no food available at those little markets. I even hit two small villages without so much as a bad market. BONKING is when you have depleted your bodies stores of available energy. And I was totally empty just half way up a huge bald hill free of any respite from the scorching sun.
I have been here before and knew I was in trouble. Now is not the time to bow yer neck and “cowboy up` as we are inclined to think. Proped my bike up with a stick, sat in what shade it gave. Poured water over my computer system….(head) one thing good I was well suited with water. Sat right there in the middle of my lane on the road. Only problem was, I had goten lax about keeping my food supplies up as i should. The second car that came by gave me and apple, and that was all i had at that point. 2 hours went by, I began to feel the apples energy coursing thru my viens. Its really amazing to watch an elite athlete come up out of a BONK. The leg and arm viens swell, the normally ample torso muscles that have gone flacid (yes, arms and legs do that as well ) become full and taunt…..the athelete is like a race horse being held back till the best poll position….anxious and bouncing in anticipation. BUT, that weren,t me folks. I had taken on a crepe shape and almost the same stiffness.
Made every effort to stand……those leg things had left on holidays. Had heck holding the bike upright, and even more trouble throwing a leg over. Had to cheek that sucker round and mount in a manly way…..till we all fell over. While on the ground and semi flat, I thought it a good time to check the map and distance to next village. Only 6km, i knew I could make it and revive, plus is looked like just one more ridge to climb over till I arrived.
Made it, many of these little towns have a town water spring, fresh cool and so far has always been very good to drink. Stripped far enough that the town folks thought Miley had arrived……….10 seconds under the running water and your head was purple it was so cold. Washed my legs, my arms, rolled around and around playing with that beach ball while the seals avoided the pool. Thouroughly cooled now, and actually pretty clean I headed into the village a little deeper to see what food I could find. BEER, was everywhere in all 2 cold cases. I did find a couple tomatoes, a piece of dried meat in the meat case…..born on date had been surgically removed by the looks of it……not that it would matter much. I was going to eat it no matter how much mold was needing to be scraped off. No bread at all, not even a stale bun. No noodles, no place so far….Bulgaria is officially noodle free. There where tins of what looked like tuna or mackeral but I had ditched my can opener trying to rid excess wieght.
I rode to the very top of the next ridge past this village and set my tent up in the best shade I could find from a relentless setting sun. Poochy maggie, she was a hot one. Too hot to lay in the tent naked, so I sat outside naked. I no longer cared what sort of papparazzi may be around. About 9.15pm I rolled into the tent and slept on top all night.
Ever seen a kid walking thru the monkey exhibit at the zoo, minding his own business, only to get his ice cream cone ripped out of his hands before he even knew what hit them. Thats the story which I am about to tell you, but it was a melon farming gypsy not a monkey. I had been wearing a very bright colored COOL HORSE ball cap that my niece Kip gave to me. It was like a magnet as soon as I walked into this bar.p, this gypsy farmer took note of the hat instantly.
My intention was to fi d something cold to drink, which I did. Sit and enjoy the shade for a wee bit then move on. Dora, the bartwnder spoke pretty good english and began asking me questions, to which I would aswer and she would translate for the 4 drinkers our among the tables. The guy who was on his 6th can of beer wanted to know why I wore a hat with a horse on it. So, I explained and showed Dora some pics in my phone of what I do back home. The drunk melon grower then says “jiss a min” and dissappears out the door. A few minutes later he comes back in with a tiny round melon. He then tells dora I shoukd take thier picture…….so, I get it all set up and chairs turned etc to get a pic. I set the timer and sprint for my chair, in that few seconds it takes to sit, the melon guy swaps out hats with me….and I go along thinking it was just for the photo. I take a series of 3 images, then pack my camera back up. The melon guy comes over to me and hands me the melon……like I want to carry a melon around with me. He points to my hat on his head and says MINE.
So my Cool Horse hat now lives in northern Bulgaria and worn by a drunk melon farmer. I however have the drunks hat which says Bulgaria on it. The first 3 days I had his hat, it had the hiccups. Twice now, I have walked into one of those small markets/bars and the hat orders a beer for itself without even asking me. Its taken a little getting used to in the heat, not as cool as my mesh ball cap.
Veliko Tarnovo said Daniel Roose or Austria, its a town you should consider Jeremiah. So, thats where ai am now. The town is built on the jagged cliff edges. Its known as the home of the tsars, because 4 different tzars have resided here if I ave my history strait. It is picturesque for sure, with cobble streets, and castle walls and huge old cathedrals. Fine place to make a stop. My problem is it ended up being 3 days. Meant to leave after the first day, but caught some sort of bug and have spent the last 3 days recovering. Plus this is the home of a very fine engraver, Anton Maranov. I got to have supper with Anton and his wife Bobby, along with Marion our translator and his wife Daniella. A fine meal, up in the hills at Arbanazzi.
So tomorrow will see me on the road once again, and as is so usual, you cant wait to stop and rest, but then the next day you are anxious to get back on the bike and pedal. I have 2 major mountain ranges to cross befor I get into Turkey and my final destination of Istanbul. It had always been my intent to have my wife come join me in Istanbul, feeling guilty since I am not sure we can make that happen now with other commitments elsewhere. We shall see, we shall Pray.
From what I have been told, I should expect several hills in the 20 plus percent grades……thats sure exciting to know………NOT. This is how I rationalize the hills at this point, I know from running the maps that Istanbul is only 247 miles away at this stage from right where I sit in Veliko Tarnovo. I can live with that, its a weeks worth of cycling even if I go easy.
Our lonesome, solo cyclist is making his way across Hungary, then Romania followed by Bulgaria and finishing of by crossing western Turkey to Istanbul. Dont get to excited and get a cold beer in celebration just yet as there are plenty of miles, mountains and villages
to conquer yet. Solo travel, cycling, touring, loaded touring, and adventure cycling are by-words for an event such as this.
Mom is already at 32,000 feet and smiling I guess as she wings her way home. Meantime its a hot, humid morning here in Budapest as I work my way out of the almost 2 million souls that comprise the city on an average day. First stop was to find a tiny foundry known for its high quality castings. Since I have interest in that sort of stuff and it was within 25 miles of my route anyways, I stopped in and yes we had a visit about possibly doing some work with them in the future.
BUT, my bike was not running as it should. My new Shimano hub was not giving me the juice to charge…..and I was on the lookout for shop to have it looked at. I am in the middle of a very heavy industrial area, keep that in mind. Rail tracks knit the ground everywhere, and semis and small delivery trucks are like ants. My main goal is to just live thru it all at this point. Whoosh goes the semi………….and right ahead of the semi is a nice black BMW 2 door with a fellow who just swung the door open……..its now a 1 door BMW along with a crunched front fencer where the rear semi tires ran up. Guess what, amidst that exploding glass and plastic body parts?………there it was on the left, tucked in between metal munchers and rebar crunchers…..Eurovelo and the great mechanic Istephan Visi. Look him up if your ever thru thzt area…..he’s located right across the street from an accident. That should be easy to find.
My route leads me almost due east towards Timisoara, and yes I confess it was very hot and muggy with the humidity. No shade like I had become used to in Poland, no clouds till late after noon. Just pedal and wonder how Moms flight home was, or how was Nevada’s and Uncle Bills class with Eddy Mardis / Shawn Didyoung and Russell Yates? Fun I bet, as I sit here pedaling away. No, not feeling sorry for myself, I understand I am being given a chance to do something very special by a wife who is willing to shoulder the burden I place on her. Thanks Mom, your the best…..and when I get home I am going to let you pick whatever you want off the McDonalds menu. My treat.
Some miles south of Timisoara I encountered what I will call pretty incidental hills. But the next ay my knees where killing me. The goal was to tackle the Trans Alpina thru Romania. But given what is taking place I made a choice that would allow me to hopefully conclude this jorney not be medically unfit before it was done. Yes, I turned due south back towards the shores of the mighty Danube.
It was the ckickety clack or shod horses, and two young men in folk costumes that caught my attention as I cycled slowly thru another tiny village in Hungary. Not sure what I was watching, I walked over to a fellow holding a movie type camera, and asked him the best could what the event was that was about to take place. The celebration of the Grain Harvest by wnich bread is made and by which we take communion was the reply. I stood around for a good hour, letting the crowd of participants and spectators build. More and more teams showed up, thier wagons festooned with wheat sheaf decorations, the occupants dressed in thier finest attire. MIRKO, was introduc3d to me, and he spoke enough english to be my chaparon and translator for the event. As it turns out, Mirko has 2 sons whom have both moved to USA as well as his youngest daughter. MIRKO has visited Miami and Washington DC, loves it, but his home town will remain his home town. The parad3 begins, with horse and riders out front, sheparding the wagons that follow, down the street in parade format to the Orthodox Church where a mass is held, communion, and then a paprade to town center where a meal is served. I WAS invited to the meal, but sorry MIRKO, i passed so as not to offend anyone with how badly I smelled. Maybe next time amigo, we will break bread together and call upon Jesus to bless us and our families in 2 different languages at the same time.
Right now tonight, I am sitting in an extremely noisy outdoor bar in Kovin Serbia. They are celebrating thier cities birthday 1617, I think is what they said. And they have the volume knob twisted right off the the sound system. The base notes are spilling coffee out of my cup, the guy at the next table is hummimng wildly in his beer suds.. thats the prelude to a walk I just took.
Noticed a handsome guy making something I had never seen before…….sort of a decorative lace type waffle. I ask him if he speaks English….yes, very well he replies. And the visit ensues, in my native tongue…..no guessing, no google translate. Ends up he flies private jets, hes the pilot not the wing washer or ashtray emptier. I only go America once too see the man my father shot down during the Balkan conflict. Matter of fact, if I have it correct. It was the only US jet shot down during that war. They made a movie about it called 21st Second, that was the time to impact. As it ends up, both service men had a great visit, both profesional soldiers and understanding of each mans role. Quite a visit for me.
Riding down the road, a small village and a smokin hot day that melts your icecream before you get it out of the store. I sit out front, under yet another beer company awning and share the days thoughts with 5 locals. We cover politics, love Trump……..my kind’a guys….I bought them all a beer….PBR. A wood splitter, a painter, a brick layer, a bum and a saddlemaker decided no borders and less politicians and thier cousin burro-crats would make for a nearly perfect world. Here in Serbia, $200 euro will hire a journeyman anywhere any day of the week. Serbia is only good for the political class, not good for the working man they told me with no room for joking…….sorry folks the band just kicked into a folk round dance and hannah montana just asked me up for the rubber chicken two step…….who was I to refuse a women with a bigger moustache than myself. Hell I was born doing the rubber chicken. Hard to type with this much sweat on me, feels like my overly loose shorts will fall off…….hope she doesnt think thats to forward of me. Thank god, a waltz, I will have too dance with her brother now…..jist my luck.
Back to the blog they are going to leave me alone for a while I think. Passing thru another tiny village just this morning, slight drizzly rain falling, stray dogs cross the road with no interest in anyone, stray cats……..none. I can hear a tractor and heavy saw running behind a steel fence. Wholly crap, I may have to change bars folks my head is rattling. So, I walk up to the 2 ladies visiting on the sidewalk and ask/pantomime the sound I can hear. COME, says the bigger gal. COME ME. I follow along like a heel trained pup. We get behind the fence where an antique Soviet tractor direct drives a homemade saw mill made for dangerously remove fingers and cut up firewood which is always cut into 39″ lengths and not cut smaller till later when it arrives at this guys shop. His job is cut it all into 3 equal length pieces and split it in half or thirds. So he sweats and cuts, while his wife splits and SWEATS, yes the same bigger gal that let me in.
Then there was Mike standing on the sidewalk, wiping sweat from his brow, two empty beer and a longing look on his face. A pile of wood was at his feet, and a hot axe standing at his side. His 3 toothed smile welcomed me in like an “AIRCONDITIONED” sign does when crossing the desert. He wanted to know all about me, what I did, where I was from, why was I in his town….to which I lied a little. I told him I had heard about him as the fastest wood splitter in Serbia…..another huge 3 toothed smile……I think deep down he knew I was yanking his wooden leg.
GYPSY HIEST……..at arms length or front seat view as it was……….Fresh tomatoes, a chunk of Mangalica pig that had been smoked. I sat on a bike bag for a stool, the sky to the west had run the color spectrum out of color as the sun began to rise somewhere over the horizon. My tent was all set up in the back of a walnut grove, a 1960,s Soviet cement post and chain link fence makes up my picturesque backdrop. Feet?………..a bunch of feet……….CENTIPEDE i am thinking……….turning around to be greeted with the smiling faces of not one but 7 GYPSIES. Thats the equivalent of bathing in blood before swimming in the shark tank folks. Anytime you see a Gypsy smiling you know danged well he has just spotted what he plans on owning in 10 minutes.
Each smiles in turn, throws a gunny sack thru a hole in the chain link fence and dissappears into tall weeds like a rehearsed Las Vagas act. Stealing corn was my guess. Not to worry thier hands are full they cant take my bike or pants if thats the case. I strip and commence my evening shower. I am pouring not as warm water as I would like over my filthy goose bumps and have water in my left eye when I notice the smiling corn thieves are actually as surprised as me and watching a naked Caucasian wash his………..well he was washing. Its about now I pay more attention than the first time around, there are 4 women in this group, all under 20 except for one. SMILE I say too myself….. its an international symbol for, I am friendly, I am naked, I am caught, and whay the hell are you CORN THIEVES just standing there. I grap my only clothing close at hand and immediatly cover my left elbow. They, throw bags that CLUNK, what the hell, since when does corn clunk.
In unison, they turn and head back into the weeds again. I finish up my washing and get properly dressed into something with sequins this time and some fringe on my socks. Here they come hunched down low, only this time they are all carrying items that are to large for the bags and they also clunk when thrown down. They are stealing STEEL from out of the refinery someplace. The youngest felow sprints past me, the others duck down beside the fence……..I dont think they even noticed my sequin outfit. Here he comes with Native Dancers full brother long trotting, pulling the roughest built Gypsy wagon I have ever seen. Like fine a tuned precision drill team, they chuck bags and scrap into the wagon and are on board quicker than Seal Team 6 left Bagdad. CLUCK, CLUCK, and a slap of the riens on Mr. EDS BUTT, and a smiling crew of gypsy night robbers was off in a spray of broken grass and walnut leaves. This will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest hiests pulled off at the refinery. Darn near $3.47 cents worth of scrap metal yanked in just one nocturnal escapade. Folks, there is no way of telling when the huge smoke stack at the refinery is going to fall, but I bet the day that that news makes the headlines…….there is a smiling gypsy somewhere who knows more the rest of the story.
Sitting this afternoon, eating ice cream while sitting on a park bench as my electrical tech stuff charged up in my room. Hello she says, a beautiful young wome rolls up right in front of me to the town fountain, shes on a loaded tour bike. A few seconds later her boyfriend rolls up to join us and a touring cycle gab fest breaks out. There dream trip is too make it around the world, so the best I can, I tell them about my own trip. We share notes on roads and routes, as they are headed for Istanbul as well. Both are 4th year students at a University in Austria. Both are students of Phychiatry, have a blessed journey Nadja and Daniel our paths may cross yet again as a very fit Daniel was having knee issues identical to my own.
I cant tell you in words just how much fun it has been over the last 2 months or however long it has been. Yes, there are those days that complaining and selfpity take thier selfish toll on my blessings . But the Lord knows perfectly how to throw in someone or thing to bring me back to the reality of what he has laid before me….the health to make the trip, the safe roads, the people whose lives are tougher and rougher than any I have endured. Those same people have greeted me with a smile, and are eager to visit with me. Thanyou Jesus, bless those who take a moment to read this.
Our galavanting traveler has been running with his wife for the last 7 days, and he is elated that she came to join him……..but that is ending all too soon. Our solo cyclist will be SOLO once again as of Thursday morning.
So what all happened while you were not here to watch? Quite a bit if you want to know. We enjoyed such luxuries as $24.00 a night DELUX accomodations. FOLKS – I wrote the book on spoiling women while we travel, ever need advise on such matters just drop me an email. We took in 12,794 religious sites, cathedrals, convents, seminaries, a gas station and a funeral home.
During 7 days of travel, we hit 4 different countries, spent a total of 6 hours plus passing various border crossings, with the longest and slowest being that crossing from Ukraine into Slovakia……that was a real cat herding scenario that we survived. Fell in love with Romania all over again, I was worried that I would not like it as much the second time around but that was not the case. Mom loved it too which made it all the more fun. Rural Romania requires a visit, much more interesting than city life for me.
Ukraine, have to say that I feel sorry for the country. It was not long ago that a lengthy discussion broke out about poverty and how poor Poland was. Let me just say that Poland is approx. 3 times as wealthy in GDP per capita. I always thought Bulgaria was the poorest, but it is actually 2.35 times as wealthy as Ukraine which comes in at the very bottom of pooerest countries west of Russia. An amazing 2015 statistic of $2,145.00 euros per person per year. And as SOON as you cross that border you know you have just driven off the end of poverty street into the empty lot known as destitution. The crossing from Romania into Ukraine, then the crossing out of Ukraine into Slovakia was susch a dicotomy of poverty/wealth that it left you agast at the differences. It raises questions to no end, for instance the opportunity to attain democracy happened fo4 all these countries with the fall of the wall…..how can there journey towards democracy look so different at this stage.
Is the Ukraine under such poor political leadership, was the educational standards of Ukraine that vastly different before the wall fell? Understand that Ukraine is a huge country as european countries go, with a fairly sparse population per sq/km as averaged. It is like driving off Hawaii onto the surface of the moon different though, which is hard to fathom. I wont bother with a lengthy diatribe on how bad tjjis and that were, suffice it to say that if you take a rental car…….BUY THE EXTRA DAILY INSURANCE RIGHT THERE WHEN YOU RENT THE CAR AND NOT ONLINE. And take every piece of paperwork with you that pertains to the car, make sure you have it ALL.
twice now, I have had the chance to sit and dine with Monks as I traveled. Once with my son Pine on a mountaintop Monestary called Rarauliuli. I never actually thought that would happen again……..maybe because I didn’t include God in my doubts? Mom and I were walking the Budestci Monestary, nobody else was up there since it is quite literraly at the end of a rough and lonesome road. All the structures are wood, with a huge new building jsut being built at this time, by a crew of just 2 men for the whole structure. Further down the mountain we met the man who is hand making all the bajillion cedar shingles to be used.
A lone voice calls out in Romanian, so I walk over and introduce myself to Priest Clavanic. He spoke quite good english I found after I introduced myself and Colleen. His first question was about my faith, was I of any faith? My reply was I am Christian which seemed to please him but he still wantrd to know more. We talked for maybe half an hour out on the front porch of the expansive a monestary where he has studied for half his life now. You must have lunch with me he said, and led us indoors to a very simple kitchen room. We had cabbage soup, and fried golden bream fish, along with many questions, and much time with a dictionary translator not google translator. Please ask me questions was his most common statement to us.
The more questions you ask, the more I know about both you and your understanding of the faith we proclaim. His english was very good which caught me off guard?. So I asked him, how did you learn english so well sitting up here on a mountainside for so many years……………… MOVIES……was his reply. Say what.(high squeaky voice required here).
Yup, movies. His favorite movie is…….wait for it……wait……War Room. What a fantastic movie he proclaims, he recommends this movie all the time when he speaks to groups of any denomination. Next is Perfect Stranger. We were told the history of the Orthodox Church, the ramifications of change and politics within the church hierarchy. The afternoon flew by, almost 3 hours later we knew we had to get going but hated to leave.
Rolled out of there and bumped our way down the road into the local town and a huge wooden church built in 1634 and still standing strong today with regular services every Saturday. Along came a cycling group from Poland so we stopped to visit with them for an hour……we had no idea how badly the roads of Ukraine would slow us down next.
We passed thru Ukraine just praying the caar would not be swallowed in any one of the potholes that could as easily have been the excavation for a swimming pool. Holly cow folks, the roads are amazing………….LY BAD. We had a big plate full of perogies, with sour cream and suarkraut. Think of folded dough and inside is a bland of potatoes and bacon or finely chopped ham and onions. Its good stuff if you are raised eating them at farm fall suppers such as we had in Manitoba, Canada.
Headed for Slovakia next morning and the Tatra’s Mountains that are shared with Poland to the north. Drop dead gorgeous scenery, roads that make you embarresed to say your from California. Such a noticeable change in economy, it look much more like Germany or Switzerland when it comes to houses, farm yards etc. Really liked Slovakia when we got off on the small back roads, really liked the character of the region.
Dropped into Hungary once again due north of Budapest. We made several efforts to stop and visit a saddle maker from Krupina Slovakia, our friend Radovan Krkos. But no such luck, coukd not find him anywhere on FB or around the town of Krupina. Sorry Rado, maybe next time. We celebrated our 35th anniversary while in Satu Mare, Romania. Went out for a nice supper at Kios Restaurant. I had a fanastic steak, and mom ordered fish. Great meal, great couple that own the restaurant.
So much for my Superman status…..I just blew that while rolling my tent up this am. The saying that ” *%#>$@ happens ‘ and that it happens in 3’s…….folks it might just be true. It may even be Gods plan………didn’t Jesus tell Peter that a Cock would crow three times and each time he would denounce Christ…….see, there you go imperical evidence that God favors 3. Another for instance…….how many Stooges were there…..there ya go, even better evidence. Anyways, let me explain how I lost my Superman Cape status…….
This all began close to 30 years ago while wrestling a bluing tank around on a cold morning…..yup, strained my back and bulged a disc. To that I say what man has’nt done that by the time he is 40 if he is doing any sort of work outside the confines of a cubicle and keyboard….nothing new there. So, I cycle, lift my wieghts and do some special “blue funk” top secret stretches to try and stay limber. My darling wife like to tell me I am LUMBER not LIMBER as she so easily bends and wraps her hands completely around her feet as she stands strait legged. Okay, so I am closer related to a 2 x 4 than a danged marsupial like her family.
Staying something akin to limber is a real issue for me, and with only minor tweaks I can be in bad shape in an instant. There I was, 6.15am, a peaceful even sunny morning here in CZ, just rolling up my camp mat, sacking it and turned at the waist to toss it out the door of the tent……..bingo. I knew right away I had turned wrong. Layed right down and done some stretchs for 1/2 hour or so trying to work it out…….actually thought I may have got things back in order by the feel of things. Packed up the rest of camp, got the bike loaded and headed out, sort of feeling my way along as I went.
I rode on, up hill and down for maybe 10 miles. I could tell on the push stroke on my right leg that things were not as they should be, not really painful, just very tight. Gods plan, Jeremiah make sure you are still on the right road. So, I roll over to the edge and in the shade of course so I can actually see my phone screen………..thats good I say, and release my right foot from the pedal now to catch myself as I brake to a stop. Its a smooth fluid motion for a cyclist, alot like dancing or ballet. Put that right foot down flat and stepped right into a hole several inches deep then the wieght of the bike caught up to me and ZOWSA, damn that hurt as a pain shot from my butt to the top of my head. I had to flatten my hair back down to put my Cool Horse cap back on. Wow, I am in a bad way now and I know it, I have been here before folks and it aint pretty nor pleasant. Not even sure how long I stood there, but awhile to be sure. Got the bike back up on the blacktop and began rolling along, checking and testing different parts of my personal drive train. Hills are going to be a pure pain, that much I can tell.
Then came part 3, rolling downhill and thru a sort of construction site on the lower edge of a small town. Several cars in front of me make a turn at this rather ??????? sign that I did not understand……so I rolled thru and on down a pretty gentle slope. Looking in the mirror I see no one is coming my way. Figured I must be wrong, so I braked and turned to the left and back uphill…..but, a little to sharply and tipped the bike back over to the right and lost my balance. You guessed it, downhill onto that right leg again. Oh baby, dont you know I wanted to cry right there, yowzer how can that hurt so darned much.
Got the bike going, and rode right over an old roman bridge I had no interest in taking a picture of or it would be event 4……… I just knew it. Up the hill I slogged to the first flat grassy spot and rolled out on the grass quite willing now to just die. Stretched for at least half hour, then got back on the bike and finished the ride up into the town of Zdar nad Sazarova. I stopped and lay flat near a park bench for an hour contemplating wbat I should do. Rolled upright and noticed something I did not notice when I stopped…..there was a small hotel RIGHT across the street from me. As of now I have spent 3 days here, the routine is a hot shower, a walk, half hour of stretching then lay flat for an hour. Then do it all over again till bed time and sleep flat without a pillow. Each day, I assess how I am moving and feeling. I can always tell by my hips and back. If the hips and back are locked up, I am officially in the semi-rigamortise stage of back failure. I have not been able to break my hips loose so I can take a smooth fluid motion type step, I am still Zombie walking. So at this point I am contemplating a 4th day to see how it goes.
As of this paragraph, there have been quite a few days worth of time have transpired as well as events that have happened. NO such luck, J’dub is not dead. And no he is not pregnant nor still laying on his back in a hotel. And finally , NO, he is not all back together just yet but working in that direction. So, let me catch you up on what and where our solo traveler is as of today. BUDAPEST as I type – WOWW, what a goegeous city. But more on that later.
South of Prague, lay a small town of Chotabor. Within that town is a talented fellow building what look like pretty nice saddle trees. I know, a tree maker in Europe is unsual. This fellow, Tomas Vinc, and his son have started an enterprise that includes handmade saddle trees as well as very nice looking wooden stirrups. It was an impressive albeit small workshop. Organised and layed out to produce trees efficiently. Some of this may be a derivitive of Tomas’s former life as a Mandolin maker doing it on contract for assorted companies around the world. Had a great visit with them both, learned alot about the countries struggles to swing towards a open market system after having been under communisim for so long. Some difficulties there that I had not even considered, we grow up within an open free market system and have no real understanding of how much time and rethinking it takes to actually bring it all about. Thier best guess, another 25 years. The answer is NO, they do not like Trump. And my sympathetic reply was…..who the heck cares. If you dine on media “crap”, you should expect a bad taste in your mouth afterwards.
Rolled up and out of the small hotel, it was time to move and head somewhere. My son, Pine, gave me some sound advice that I took. Dad, head for Vienna, its a gorgeous city, its along the banks of the Danube and it will be easier cycling. Put in 76 miles that first day, made camp in a small groove of trees and cooked a great sausage and had it on dark rye bread along with a cinder block sized piece of some sort of smoked cheese. This is the day that I found a certain type of drinkable yogurt that I always look for now. The drinkable yogurt idea comes from my Russian friend Vladimir…….you remember him, the guy that spanked me with branches back in the russian bathhouse. Yes, him. The yogurt is great for me till mid day then I quit it and go onto PASTRIES……just kidding…..kind,a. I try to get in some fruit, I dont screw with the veggies much while cycling. Next day should have been a piece of cake, my Google map showed me 25 miles from Vienna. Set out on cyclable roads, not bad traffic, but hills galore. Nothing real steep, just sort of 3-5% type hills, but just one after the other. Stroked a total of 61 miles that day, took in one 15 mile detour and fianally made it to Vienna. YES pooped to be sure. Back felt pretty good right here……should have just flown home!!!!!!
Took a shower, changed my clothes and hit the streets of Vienna in the evening. I was in a tiny $37.50 per night apartment not very far from the Votive Kirche (church). As my brother will attest, and some of you know all to well, JW is always headed for the next Cathedral. The Votive is a splendid structure, one of the very prettiest I have yet seen. If you are here in Vienna, take it in.
Sat and had a Viennese coffee, watched people for awhile and rolled it up for the night. JW, he is a morning light sort of fellow and to be out befor the crowds are there to mangle every attepmt a good shot. So by 5.30am JW was walking the city streets. I hit 5 new cathedrals that day. One for sure would rival that majesty of the Votive. Sadly though there were cleanjng the outer rock work so scaffolding and air hoses were everywhere………and an unbelievable number of used up tooth brushes laying around on the ground lol. Took in the Military Museum expecting so spend most of my time in the medium-evil section…….on,y to be told that the true HUGE collection of that type was at the Museum of Modern Art…….now who’da thunk???.
I am pretty sure I walked to much this day and stretched to little, because I arrived back at my apartment at 9.30pm and could barely navigate. Done all the uasual, hot shower, stretches etc but next morning was a beast. Rather than stay another day I decided to hit the trail for Bratislava. I was in Brat by about noon, had a great pepper steak and potatoes, walked the streets till about 4pm and rolled out of town heading east towards Budapest. There was a fellow in Brat who offered me a place to stay if needed also to show me around – many thanks Adrian Obselka, but I simply didnt find your message till the following day.
Kept pedaling towards Buda, pretty much just ride and stop once in a while for maybe coffee or ice cream etc. Cooked each evening, I met a family group of 7 headed for Buda. 3 adults and 4 kids from 11 to 14. Qjite a crew, there were doing about 800km over a 3 week holiday. All the bikes were loaded and no kid seemed to be suffereing to badly. We actually met several times. And no, these folks were from Germany and did not like Trump. My answer remains the same.
Thdr there was HERBERT. I think God put him in my path to teach me a lesson…….JW, quit your bloody whinning and whinging ya big gurl….as my aussie friend Ty would say. Herbert, is 77, turning 78 in August….but he is quick to say he is not 78 yet. His summer trip began in south of France on a fully loaded bike like that of my own. He rode EVERY mountain pass ever used in Tour de France. Somewhere in northern France he crossed over and across Switzerland heading into far westwrn Italy. Once there, he began riding every pass used in Giro de Italia all the way around the north of Italy, ending in the Dolomites and crossing over into Slovenia to ride the Julian Apls back and forth till he had to cross over into Hungary and make his way back home to central Austria. I wont bother to tell you all about his swimming 26 miles to attain his friedom when he was just 19, nor his climbing accident he had at late 20,s that fractured his neck. His only complaint to me was with his left hand. He had no grip, not enough to hold a fork for instance, and it just layed on the handlebars as he rode…………and me………….yup, my back is ouchy. I NEED A BARNEY BANDAID……. and a kick in the butt. This guys wears a very quiet Suoerman cape folks. We talked for over an hour, compared notes, griefs, would be,s and want to,s. I attempeted to tell him about Christ, but he would ahve no part of it, so we parted as friends who share the ride together but not eternity.
On we go, another lesson, met another couple, also from Germany. Lars and Veronica. Just 6 weeks ago, Lars was wiped out by a car and hit a curb and the stone fence. He broke 5 ribs on the left side, and fractured 2 on the right…..and here he was pedaling away and also headed for Budapest. I still have no idea just what drugs he was on, vut there were visible shades of both Bob Marley and John Lennon in his mannerisims
“Hey, were you come”???? was rgw question as I pass rthis fellow on his rustic junk laden bicycle. I said hello, and was looking at a fellow mid seventies, should have shaved maybe 2 days ago. Rusty framed cycle, witha. Chunk of plywood on the back as a depository for that which he finds as he cycles along. Todays prize, the most worn out bike tire you have ever seen. Small hat to lend protection, a bareback mountain short sleeve plaid shirt and a pair of khaki shorts and flip flops was this fellows attire for the day. Oh, a pretty floppy flip flops I might add. Norway, was my reply, I started in Norway. “You be long” ? No, not really, just a month and a few weeks is all. “Come my house with coffee” he says. Well, I am trying to get into Budappest before it gets to late is my reply. “I make only 1km from dis path you make”, pleez come my house mit coffee for you”. Okay, okay, I come for coffee. I can see he will be heart broken if I pass his offer. The front of his bike is the home to the largest junk basket outside of the state of Texas ( easy now you Texans, before you get all knotted up. Not that Texas is a junk basket, its just that everything is bigger in Texas ……a point to ponder. If that be true, why is it you seldom see a recliner twice as big as the fella sitting in it…..just sayin)
Back to Gustave, my junk and plastic bottle collecting friend. Yes, every danged smashed flat plastic bottle on any part of road or sidewalk had Gustaves name on it and we had to get every one and “put in bazkit pleez”. Finally made it to Gustaves house, and he rolls up and slides a green gate to the side and rolles thru. Since I am behind he motions for me to slide the gate shut. I turn. Standing astraddle my bike and slide the gate shut hearing it latch I turn an begin to move forward. ……what the hell. GUSTAVE has dang near stripped naked in the time it took for me to close that gate……thats 15 seconds faster than most women with a brass pole in a club.
I guess my face, or maybe my eyes hanging out ontop me cheeks gave it away………to which Gustave simply says…”chew wan be comfitable?” No, really Gustave I can actually swallow coffee with my pants on…….thanks……I think. Gustave, stood thier like an innocent fairy nymph…….just him and his underwear. “Come, see my house…..suddenly I make Coffee…….yes”. I AM really wondering about my own itellect and life choices at times…….but I am here to have coffee wbile wearing my rubber pants. Baxkyard, pretty normal rural setting, big tree in this case a walnut for shade. A 4 legged table underneath that would maybe safer if it had like 6 legs possibly? A bench that needs 6 boards for seat and back…….but only has 2. “Pleez sit and be still, I suddenly make coffee`. Roosters and chickens take yp the opposing side of the garden area, beets, carrots and assorted other vegetables act as a fence between the chickens and us higher life forms. Apricots, hang like a solid viel off in the far corner. “What from you in Norway” comes crashing into my mental picture I was taking in…………..ah, Trondhiem……….I started in Trondhiem, Gustave. “You home”. No Gustave, I am from America.
Gustaves face is washed clean of color……….his eyes grow…………his countenance changes persievably as he stands facing me in his budgee smuggling underwear, me? I am counting steps to the bike………just what sort of shape is Gustave in……those sort of things. “Ach, I hate Ehmereeka” he says with a great deal of emphasis. “Everting bad comes from Ehmereeka”. Well now hold on here Gustave, I might the first American that you end up liking I say…….trying to end this quickly but on a positive note……….where the heck is that coffee he talked about is what I am thinking. So Gustave, how did you learn to speak Hinglish so well I ask him, trying to lead the conversation in a different direction. “I am singher” he says, and turns back to the house saying “we come inside yah”. My mind says hey Jim bob, he has the upper hand once inside, you sure you want this???? I step in, not a light on znywhere, its only 2pm, but no lights and all the blinds are drawn. “vroosh, vroosh he says, again with enthusiasm……Vroosh”. What, I says to Gustave……vroosh what. He motions for me to wipe my feet. “Dis my houz, it is big houz in Hungary”. Nice…..I think……..I cant see crap, and I dont know if I just touvhed a wall or a piano its so black. “You vash you hands……come here……..vash vit me” I look into tnis bathroom, Guatave washing his hands and the whole danged room is a bout 3 feet wide and 6 feet deep. He is washing his hands and face in a plastic bucket set in the sink…..at best a quarter inch of water in it. “Come, come vash vee have coffee suddenly”, he is motioniing for me to hoin hjm in the bathroom. I am like a panther in my approach, every muscle taught as a bow string, every tendon tensed to the max……if any one moves wrong……if anything that shouldnt feel right doesnt feel right, crap is going to hit the rotary ossilator folks. Gustave slides past me from behind and I…………..”VROOSH HERE PLEEZ” as he points to a tiny towel on a hook.