Blog 22 -By Gods grace alone
Thouroughly ticked off with the WordPress app. Thjs post was done in total, and last night Pine even proof read it for me so we could be sure we told our story accurately ans in order. But trust the danged WordPress to eat,destroy,skip,erase, or generally make life in hell look like more fun than everyday infront of WordPress. God, has been given the naming rights to this post because I am here due to Gods grace alone.
Pine and I spent a day wandering Sibiu, a very pretty city and as far west as we will be going on this trip. Sibiu is one of those cities who,s outer industrial type zone about had JW ready to leave before I got into the heart of it. Its an old city with some amazing sites to see, a huge armour museum, a rennasaince art museum with some of the finest pieces in the world, then there is the very quaint and achitecturally interesting downtown……..plus there is a Ben & Jerrys Ice Cream…….and thats the only thing we were here for. We seen it all, sat and watched a Christian Band play in old town center, watched people, and took many photos. The road into Sibiu was way to busy for our liking, many heavy trucks.
We wrapped up our time in Sibiu, and made our plans to leave by way of tiny backroads. This woukd take us out thru rolling farm country, and take us directly east along a major river Here in Romania. As soon as we climb over the first ridge east out of Sibiu, we were in a much different world, the single lane blacktop gave way to gravel or various conditions ranging from good to nasty. Plenty of long slow climbs spotted our days pedal effort. Sweat was rolling, shirts were off, sun screen shone in the sweat and sunshine that bounced off our backs……pretty soon pants were off. Okay, don,t get to excited, I am lying about having my shirt off. Farmers, mostly working in pairs along side thier horses, were out hand loading hay to be taken back to the farm yard. The hay is most often cut with a scythe, forked and rakwd into windrows, then hand tossed onto wagons, were once in the farm yard it is then stacked over a triangular rack were it can dry completely. Huge thunderheads rolled over the distant mountains edge, beckoning us to venture closer.
We are headed for Trans Fagaras, this is considered by many to be amongst the top 5 climbs in the world……..and we are going to do it, or die trying. And for that cowboy friend who said we had always taken the easy way out, this is for you, to satisfie your cruel heart that we done at least one very difficult climb. Not that there haven,t been more than that. Some of you are harkening back to my claim, 4hat I am here by Gods grace alone. Maybe now is a good time to explain. Our cross country route from Sibiu this day, kept us away from a very busy minor highway for as long as possible. But as fate would have it, we had to ride 12 miles of this road before we could make our next turn south towards the infamous Trans Fagaras.
Roads are generally pretty good here in Romania, that is if you are in a car. But on a bike, it looks and feels totally different. Here are some details before you call me just another idiot on a bicycle. In almost all places along the road there is a vee shaped ditch to catch running water, it would be about 3 foot wide and 2 feet or more dee, the ditch is sometimes right at the white line and at others there may be a foot or so of cement edge before the ditch.. This ditch is open if you are out of town, but intown, there is a cement grate placed over it, the grate is designed to allow water to pass thru and into the ditch. Probl2m is, that witha bike, if you hit the ditch at just the right angle, your wheel also passes thru it and the wreck is on. When going thru towns and villages, there are curbs made that are usually about 10 inches tall, these really catch your pedala quick if you dont pay attention. And last, also maybe the worst, is the blacktop edge drops right off at the white line, the drop can vary from being ess3ntially flush to as much as 10 inches which really wakes you up.
So, there we are, Pine running about 50 yards out front of myself. We are rolling uphill thru a small village, these are always the worst and we hate them for the simple reason that there are so many things to watch out for. Traffic is generally very considerate on Romanian roads, and this is not a rant about drivers. As I pedal uphill, watching for people, bogs,curbs, white line and one single tree that borders the very road edge in front of me, I can here a semi tractor coming behind me. I take a second to check my mirror on his position, and in that briefest instant several things happened simoultaneously. The reality of knowing that the semi was right on my butt probably played into things even if only sublimanely. The road edge dissappeared from under my bikes front wheel, as road edges are, that being uneven and rough. It allows my front wheel to roll off, then attempt to roll right back on……..I could tell I was going down. But, there was nothing that I nor Superman could have done about it. When the bike rolls off and back on like this, its shoots you and the bike at an angle out across the lane of traffic……and thats right where I was headed, in slow motion I watched as I headed out into that place I last wanted to be. My arms extended to break my fall, my left hand leads the way to impact………my feet attempt to turn and twist trying to free myself of the wieght of the bicycle. The fork and front wheel bounce with the impact……….. theres a screech but I cant see from what………..the panniers partially break the bikes fall……..the ashphalt rips at whatever exposed flesh comes its way…………an acrid smell of brakes fills my nose……………my left knee comes to a halt finally and it hurts…….there is the sound or horns honking……….my left elbow is complaining……….in the back of my mind I hear the expulsion of air from the semi but it dosen’t really register yet………we have landed and come to our final rsting place……blue wave of smoke passes thru my immediate vision…….. I look for blood, none. GOOD praise God. I am stuck, momentarily, but stuck nonetheless, my legs, and my feet are tangled in the bike frame and I cant get to my feet as I frantically try to work free knowing there is a semi coming. I roll over to my back, and push hard with my right leg which shoves the bike out and away from me. As i try then to get upright now, my feet and left hip encounter the huge silver front bumper of the semi…?….reality finally sets in here as I look over my placement and predicament. The reality of just how close all this came, has me shaking. Yes, I could have fainted the way I felt, everything in me was set on vibrate. Aches, pains, a little blood, some skin missing…….and the click of gears engaging as the semi now moves on from where it all happened. Total time, in actuality it took only seconds…….but in feeling……it took an hour from the moment I checked my mirror to landing on the road in front of the semi. Life, its a precious thing that we hold onto for all we are worth. Only God knows the number of our days here on this earth, and he alone is in control. I am blessed, yes blessed in being here after the very close call. But to a greater extent folks, I am blessed knowing that I have confesed my sins before a loving God Christ, he has alotted me a place in heaven……but not today. HE has something greater in mind for me, I know not what but I am on this walk and in his hands. He lives in my heart, he was saying and thinking the same things as I during this whole episode, only he was not worried because he knew the outcome. I am convinced that without Christ in my life I would not be here writing this today.
WHAT COULD YOU POSSIBLY BE WAITING FOR, be thankful that some of your Christian friends actually think your life here has value. Life can be snuffed out so quickly, and in the most inoquous fashion that you may well have no time to ask forgiveness. Dont use that “I WILL CALL HIM WHEN IT HAPPENS” as your fall back plan. Oh’ but for the grace of God go I, in a pine box back to my family in California…..thankyou Jesus, for the angels placed around me because of the fervent prayers of your Saints here on earth.
We take a short break after the accident, to gather our wits, our courage, check for damage. We are all good, albeit a little shaky, but good. We turn south towards the Trans Fagaras and its now famous grades and switch backs. Seen on 2 or 3 different TV shows that demonstrate driving skills, the Trans Fag is not to be taken lightly. We run about 18 miles due south, creeks cross our path in several places, all of them running fast, cold and clear likea mountain streem should. We reach the base of the climb and camp for the night.
The next morning, we tackle the climb with the determination that we would be victorious. Ate a big helping of porridge and some toast. Rolled out and made the first inclined bend just 200 yards after our camp and it never let up for the next 5 hours. The initail climbs are all made within heavy forests or hardwoods and fir, just enough is cleared away to leave a road to drive on, huge branches swipe at you and cars as you pass. Stinging nettle lines to road side like fawning crowds of cycling enthusiasts, only to leave you with a rash and itch as a reward for your passing. The sun struggles to find a place on earth to lands its golden rays the trees are so dense. We had prayed that we would have sun during our climb so we could take pictures, and once again……my GOD answered our prayers as sunshine abounds. Thunderheads adorn the crest of the rocky peaks like whip cream dollops, sun warms the slopes above the tree line. After mayabe 2.5 hours of continuous climbing thru the forest, we break out above tree line and are greeted witha full view of the Balean Falls as our reward for our effort thus far.
Starting at the falls, the first turn is hard left, uphill at plus 10 percent, and nothing quits from that stage on. We round the first hairpin, and are greeted by a huge bowl formation inwhich the roads snakes as if alive, yp to the very precarious top. We ride this writhing alive strip of ashphalt for some 40 assorted hair pin turns. Sosme less than 10 percent, and most are at or over the 10 percent grade. The lungs and the legs are about to burst, the lactic acid in my legs is on fire, my butt muscles feel like I have been branded. No amount of water seems to quench my thirst. And my riding shorts are now more white with salt, than they are black. There is the lingering smell of an “old goat”, and it seems to share a place on the bike with me. Turns, water falls, mud, rock slides, fog and mist rush in to invite us to attempt to tackle this God made rock behemoth……..crank, pedal, pray, drink, wipe sweat, grunt even fart……but just keep your eyes on the crest and nothing more. We are here, we both made it. Pine arrived maybe 45 minutes ahead of me. Here we stand at the top of Trans Fagarase. Done with one of the greatestroads to drive, and climbs to tackle in the entire world. I will carve a notch in the proverbial bed psot when I get home after this one. My hips are aching but other than that I feel pretty good. Pines butt muscles are tight, I didnt feel them, I took his word for it being so.