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.
Life behind Bars, as one man journeys solo from Trondheim Norway south to Istanbul Turkey. This is part 3 of that journey, and we will pick up where Jeremiah and Shirley his bike were on that last post.
Life behind bars, a solo cyclist wanders, but not searching for himself . Not some deeper meaning to life itself, rather it’s to experience the world and all that it has to offer for those willing to get out and look. A life experience, with its warts and all, as seen from the seat of a bicycle at 10 miles an hour. A God experience, I admit the world is too large for me to explain in any other way. Continue reading “Blog 1-Life behind Bars- preparations”