Hungary and Romanai

Hungary and Romania

I’ve been less than motivated to update my blog this trip,but spending a rest day in Bucharest Romania, so after delaying as long as possible I figured I’d get started and see where it took me. Riding has been exceptionally different as we traversed the countries of Hungary and Romania. While the cities, Budapest and BuchRest are very cosmopolitan for the most part and the people young and economically viable in both, the travel through the towns to get here has been very different. 
Before I get off onto the countryside, the big cities are very easy to navigate and they take great pride in these monstrosity of buildings…a museum, opera, bank, official building everywhere. They are grand and spectacular buildings, and quite beautiful even although certainly seems like a waste of resources. Neither city is built up in height, in bucharest maybe 10 to 12 stories max, so you can see everything without the claustrophic feeling you get say like in NYC. I have not been to DC in a while, but it is more like being on our mall but spread out all over the city. They each have an old town with cobble streets that is wall to wall restaurants/bars for many streets. We eat early enough that we don’t catch the night life but I am sure it must be hopping down there. Dan and I have covered many miles in both cities in some ways more exhausting than riding. We just bought some stuff from the market and had a nice lunch in one of the big parks near our hotel and the parliament.
I have fallen in love with Romania but disliked most of Hungary except Budapest. In Hungary, many locals use bikes ( the oldest crumminess bikes you ever saw) but the drivers are not kind to cyclists at all. The Hungarian people are very dour, not ever a smile, nor even eye contact. Everyone goes to the local market with their little bag to pick up the days goods. The roads were horrific, potholes and thus slow going. No one in our group cared much for Hungary and we were glad to see it in the rear view mirror
One quick story in Hungary. We were staying in a campground in a decently sized little town. Dinner was not for quite a while so I went on my quest for a market to find my fix of coke zero, because I hate water and only drink beer when it is cold and available. Most people were at this huge community pool,I took this walking bridge over to what happened to be the university…it registered about 37 C or 99 degrees. In other words hot as hell especially when you ride in it hour by hour. As I wandered through the town I ran into a local wedding, which was quite fun to see as it reminded me of a Shriners parade with traffic stoed and all the horns, stuff on the cars, cheesy outfits etc. On the walk home there was an outdoor amphitheater and luckily for me I sat through the dress rehearsal of the town/university 100 piece symphony orchestra for their event that evening. A wonderful seat in the shade and since the theme for the concert was cinema, I got to enjoy the full medley of Sound of Music, as well as other recognizables.
Another quick story about my market quest….staying at a moderate size about 20,000 town. Got into camp and heard of one of the bigger grocery stores within a mile or so since I was almost out of candy as well as needing either my red bull or coke zero fix I headed off on my bike with pretty sketchy directions. After going in at least 6 different directions I found it, but had put an extra 7 miles on my bike and made Dan pretty worried having been gone for over an hour, especially because I have the worst sense of direction. Dan and I don’t have phones. One thing positive about both Hungary and Romania is that you feel really safe around the towns, men don’t leer at anyone not even the young ones and except in the grocery store where the security guards are posted everywhere watching you don’t see or even hear of crime on the news.  ( strangely Romanian is very similar to Spanish so I could read and understand some of the news and some of the words)
The we crossed into Romania. My first experience with passports and officials in a less modern country. It was pretty intimidating. Romania is part of the EU but still has its own current and because of some other treaty thing, they don’t have open borders. For about the first 30 miles after we crossed the border it was a very very scary tough ride. Because this is one of the main border crossings between countries (one road that’s it) and the commerce travels all by truck, these huge double trucks would be coming in both directions with hardly a shoulder. You just hoped they would slow down enough or move over enough to not hit you. You feel the hair on the back of your neck go up several times….but we all survived and things were wonderful on e we turned off that road and began to visit the small villages. 
I just loved Romania, a country so still stuck in the past but with much investment in roads and tourism, etc. Every village in Transylvania you could see from miles away by several steeples. The smallest of villages would have these spectacular churches. We learned some of the history about Romania in that Romania is made up of Germans ( mostly gone now), Hungarians, Roma (gypsies) and Romainans Orthodox and non orthodox. Many of the church structures were fortresses over history and each sect-ethnicity of course needed their own. Many of the progressives complain about all the money that still gets poured into building new churches on a hill in some grandeur in a poor town…I digress. The people Re much friendlier although not friendly. They work so hard. Many live off the land themselves as this part…Transylvania is quite fertile. At first it was rather shocking to see a horse drawn wagon with an old weathered man or woman on it with the wheels about to fall off loaded to the gills with hay, then it just became commonplace, clopping down the busy highway. You see them working the fields with their scythe. Sometimes you see them moving the cows from field to field or herding sheep across the road with their dogs. Oh Dogs….we were warned Bout the dogs because they are everywhere, we had no problems with them but stray dogs are just part of the culture. We would stop at little markets at the end of the day near our hotel or campsite and drink beer … not with the local men but alongside. It was quite common to see men drinking early in the morning. Beer is like a dollar in many places. Cheaper than water And in many towns they have to buy their water. 
I briefly mentioned my hellacious climb up the mountain on the most famous Transfagarason Highway. 18 miles up 6000+ feet with not one inch of downhill. I learned to respect the mountain, and learned that no matter what gearing you have you can always use 2 more. At the top was this bazaar like atmosphere with tons of cars blocking the top because it is a big tourist thing And we were there on a beautiful Sunday. Luckily it rained before we climbed and that night but we went down very steep switchbacks in dry weather. We  had to stop halfway down because your hands start to cramp from squeezing the brakes to slow you down enough to manage the switchbacks and the bumpy roads. New found respect for cycling pro racers they are nuts!!! Romanians don’t have any sense of keeping the environment clean and they seem to drop trash wherever, so around the mountain where people camp there were bottles etc everywhere. No the top of the mountain was certainly not Romania at its best.
A touch of stomach stuff hit several of the riders so they got a ride in the van. I was severely nauseous for a long 75 mile very hard day. To compound the misery, the last 10 miles into town was the most harrowing. These trucks would come zooming by literally coming within inches. hen. you have the BMW fast cars coming from the opposite direction passing a truck coming right at you head on before barely squeezing back in. We all had stories to tell. One guy Frosty an Australian yelled F ck You at one of the BMW and it turned around. Luckily the police were there in a second to prevent anything from going further ( big police presence in Romaia… another time one of our riders touched wheels and went down and within 2 minutes they were there)
So after that difficult ride our fabulous tour leader scouted another route for us into Bucharest….and I thought some of those little villages we went through were poor, well they were poor but more like a throwback in time. This time we took some gravel roads and you road through shanty a with a bunch of kids out and people out, but despite their lack of wealth, these communities seemed very friendly with all their neighbors and happier, while those older communities appeared to be more distrustful of each other.
Finally one quick last story. This was out of Abdul Julia, on our rest day Dan and I sauntered off about 10 miles through 2 off the beaten path villages. Not many people out behind their gates ( all thes towns each of the houses have these big gates which face the street…so it is just gate After. gate (not wide at all) but you don’t really see any open space or their houses. Anyway, we were going by this church and a very old lady in black saw us coming and started yelling at us and then took some produce out of her bag and chucked it at Dan. On our way back, at around the same spot an old woman and her grandaughter started doing the sign of the cross, so I guess they must have thought we were the devil.
Still planning on going to the Silk Route S we only hav 8 more riding days left. As in these things, in some ways looking forward to home, but in many ways sad to see it ending, that is why planning the Silk Route… 4 months all through China end to end, the mountain passes of a few of the istans nd then Iran and Turkey will give us something to look forward to. 

Moving on from Germany to Austria…Ulm-Regesburg-Passau-Linz-Vienna

Moving on from Germany to Austria…Ulm-Regesburg-Passau-Linz-Vienna

It is pretty easy to fall in love with cycling on a tour when you can be out for 23 days and every day is sunny. Yes EVERY SINGLE DAY! We did have one hellacious thunderstorm that blew in just about the time we had cleaned up after dinner, but it had cleared out by morning. The long range forecast is more sun. The last few days have been tipping in the 98 to 102 degree range, which does get hot when you are out all day riding. Even I am beginning to get thirsty and actually drink more than one water bottle on my ride. 
I am struggling to think of things to update to you as everyday is just one spectacular day after another but hard to encapsulate. The ride on the Danua-Danube is extremely varied and you run through some spectacular old little towns. It is not flat and boring like a rail trail. Probably the most memorable day was our morning at the concentration camp in Mauthausen which is just south of Linz Austria. You can read and see documentaries but when you are there along with the pictures and the description of events it is an indescribable experience. It was hot as hell too and made a long day when you take 2 hours of prime morning ride time to see it. 
Our rest day in Regensburg was spectacular. Regensburg is a very historical old city which is a unesco world historical site so it was packed with tourists. Streets and streets of windy cobblestone little streets…tons of places to eat and many many shops mixed in with historical places. We stayed at a wonderful very old but redone hotel in the heart of the city. You could hear everyone in the little alley/street below as they walked by. We had a really good rest day ride for about 30 miles with some very long good climbs and of course 
Everyday is wonderful…REALLY. If you ever get a chance, think about spending a week or 2 on the Donau trail. Tons of people do it and you don’t have to be much of a cyclist at all. 
Oh I just remembered a highlight or lowlight as the case may be. After our very long hot day, we pulled into our campground on a fairly small size lake. The campgrounds are kind of strange in Germany, no reservations and these tiny little areas for the through bikers that tent to put down for the night. People here tend to start their days late and end late. The night before a group of Hungarians were up drinking and partying in the little pavilion until about 3:00 am. Luckily Dan and I had put up our tent about 30 yards away ( the whole area was probably 75 yards x 20 yards). So the next day at the little lake site the area was about half the size and as the evening wore on more and more people came in so we were packed in with only a few feet between tents. There were families with kids babies etc, but strangely enough the camp settled down early and was really really quiet. You just have to go with the flow and not get stressed by little things….I digress however. So back to my story. After dinner I like to put on my iPod and go for a walk to get away from everyone and unwind. So I started this walk around the little lake. I started off going around the edge on the surrounding road and then I saw this guy come out from around the lake and figured this would be much more pleasant. I can’t read German so I just entered behind this sort of screen gate…well I walked just a little before I looked up and I found myself smack dabb in the middle of a nude beach. There must have been 300 or more nude bathers as I walked right amongst them with some down by the water on my left but many on the grass to the right of this little worn footpath. Since I was the ONLY ONE with a stitch of clothes on, they all looked at me as I passed. I must say I was very disappointed in that almost all were saggy old men and women which did nothing for the pure aesthetic appeal which the human body has for me. After about  1/2 a mile I saw a guy put on his clothes so I locked on to him to find out how to get out of this place. Surprisingly enough sightings of naked people along our bike route happens daily but only isolated instances.
We also had a talent show before entering Vienna. Dan wrote lyrics to an old folk song about several of the riders on our tour, which were both true and funny, there was a chorus and the whole group really got into it. The whole night was a blast but I was especially proud of Dans award winning talent.
Today is our second day in Vienna and I am sick of the time off. We spent yesterday morning on our bikes navigating our way to the laundromat through the heart of Vienna. It is a wonderfully bike friendly city, but with ring roads, it is quite easy to get all turned around. One of the couples was returning home, (he is native Austrian) so the whole gang went to dinner at a place famous for pork knuckle and schnitzel. Much alcohol, food and dessert was consumed and a good time was had by all!!!! Yes this crew rides hard and plays hard
Today we went to a museum and after slowly going through every painting on the top floor reading everything which took 2 hours, we decided we have plenty of stamina on the bike but none for sightseeing. We just are not good tourists, except to walk around and sit in cafes. Tomorrow we are in Bratislava, Slovakia for one night then off to Budapest. Glad to be going into new countries

Until the next time.


Troyes to Munster to Freiburg to Ulm

Troyes to Munster to Freiburg to Ulm

It is about 5:00 am and I am in a hotel room in Ulm Germany … on the Danube, Einsteins birthplace and home of the largest steeple in the world. Hard to actually describe the most spectacular days one could even imagine. when we left Troyes for our longest scheduled day of the tour, we went through this beautiful nature trail. We were riding with “Doc” about a 60 year old ER doc from Boulder that races bikes. He is the besy cyclist on our tour, but as we were speeding down the trail not really paying attention, we missed our turn and needed up going around this beautiful lake for an additional 15 miles. It was a beautiful hot day and the hills for the last 30 miles were long and tough into the wind. We stopped in a little town to have coffee and fill up our totally dry bottles, but alas as we found in all of these little towns in France, there are always long hours of the day when they choose to close. In this ride early on we were on the Champagne car/bus tourist route so about every 6 miles you would enter an old old town with the most beautiful old homes with spectacular gardens and of course many housed their own champagne. I won’t go into every day but the scenery and stops along the little cafes are fabulous. I don’t eat bread, but every one loves stopping off to get the bread, strangely enough the bakeries do’t sell coffee so you usually have to go across the street to the bar/restaurant where coffee is served ( way too small a cup for me) and you may sit next to a local drinking wine at 10 in the morning.

he day we road into Munster , I wish I could adequately transplant by brain images, even pictures do absolutely no justice…in this ride was a 9 mile climb with only about a half mile break within it to the ColDe La Schluct. The las 2 miles get steeper and steeper. I love love to climb so made it to the top first, but had about 20 miles before the climb so we did not start the climb at the same time. Then 10 miles down this wonderful smooth not too steep road all the way into Munster ( a beautiful small town with plenty of tourists). In Munster Dan and I had a beer in the tourist spot with one of our fellow riders and then found a little out of the way bar to watch the Tour de France while having a couple of very good Dark beers. At first I ordered some type of beer, you never know what you are getting with the language barrier; and got this bright red beer that tasted like cAndy/cough syrup. Dan drank it while I ordered another. Well 2 pints of beer is well over my limit but 3? After the third we decided to get upearlyand go back up the mountain from the Munster side before starting our scheduled ride. This was so much fun, a much easier ride on this side and then after we flew down, the market was going on in Munster. The bread-cheeses- fresh meat and produce from the local farms and just watching the people…what a treat.

Food has been great, our tour cooks for dinner on riding days and we eat on our own on rest days but the hotels all provide breakfast…not those little breakfasts you get from US hotels, I am talking the biggest best buffet of breakfast you could dream of. I eat vegetables cheese and some meat but nothing white, so no bread, grains, potatoes etc. I supplement my calorie deficiency with candy  (caramel things you suck on, and licorice) plus beer. Still lost plenty of weight I the first 2 weeks but that is pretty usual for me on these long treks as I lose a lot early and then stabilize. 
Food is so much better than when we went across Canada.
I am so wordy but it is hard to decide what to put down as it is also new and wonderful.
I won’t go into our tails of woe in Freiburg except that nothing and I mean nothing except a few restaurants are open in Germany on Sunday and everything shuts down early on Saturday even restaurants so we missed getting to the supermarket and almost missed laundry on Saturday ( we had planned on doing it Sunday) . Long hungry day. Getting out of Freiburg we climbed out into the Black Foresr. This time a much tougher steeper climb although shorter at 6 miles. Doc beat me to the top but I gave him a run for his money falling back about 30 yards at the end. He said his power meter registered about 90 to 95 percent of his effort when racing the mountains in Colorado so he was very impressed with my climb. I can climb but thankfully Dan pulls me through all the wind and navigates for me.
Navigating is a whole other story, the Tour tries to help by flagging some intersections but mostly you just have your cue sheet. We got lost in one big industrial town and spent about an hour trying to figure out how to get back on track.
The last 2 days we have been in Germany riding along the Danube.
Update: Rest Day now at 3:00 pm and doing laundry. Dan and I went out for a little spin and ended up doing 40 miles through about 8 towns of various sizes. We got just a little lost. I caught a cold here, first cold I think in over 2 years, but not hard to do given all the contact with people. 
A cole of words about riding on the Danube. It is absolutely nothing like I thought it would be, which is some flat path like the rail trail on the Cape with a bunch of people slowly meandering around with family. Quite the contrary at least this section is very scenic with come gravel road parts, and the Danube is quite small here. We went through a beautiful nature park with big rock faces and hills and monasteries built on the top of these cliffs. There are hundreds and hundreds of people that use the trail many many that carry all their camping gear on their bikes as they travel various distances on the trail. The Danube extends from close to the German East border to the Black Sea about 1200 miles but we are ending our journey along it in Slovakia. 
A couple of things about Germany…at least this part. I am shocked at how religious they are. Big big churches (catholic) in every town and huge mini personal shrines with either the Virgin Mary or Jesus on the cross everywhere. I really like the German people, they proudly speak English and given the chance…bitch about the French not trying to learn German where they all try to be able to communicate.  met A lovely 80 year old woman that was so thrilled to be able to practice her English. All the waiters and hotel personnel spak very good English. I love the cleanliness.
The farms are spectacular as you go across country I would imagine it must be like the farms of the old days before the big companies bought them all up. we all noticed how they plant very small sections of varying types of grain corn etc, so it is quite colorful and probably ,uch healthier for the soil. They seem to all have advanced machinery as well. In France there were many many windmills in Germany there are huge arrays of solar panels on just about every roof. 
When I see how wonderful this trail is for commerce in all the towns it goes through, I wonder why we can’t get our shit together on the Cape. Every town has a big cobble stone center of town with restaurants, shops cafes, and these unbelievable sculptures which must tell the story of the town.
I would definitely put this on this list for ANYONE to do. You don’t have to ride as much mileage to really enjoy. In fact most people probably spend a little more time in each town than we do. For us it is either a great coffee shop in the morning or place to eat lunch in the afternoon. We like to explore off our route on our own, although one elongation trip on a “bike path” sent us on a very rocky mountain bike trail for 6 miles which is pretty dicey on a road bike wih skinny tires.
we had to walk our bikes up a steep slope for about 1 mile but luckily found a beautiful road to go flying back down to the Danube.
Well as you can tell…life is good!Dan and I have planned our next trip. Doomsday Ride…which is very hard mountain riding from Belize to Costa Rica. Forging rivers, plus mud and long descents down muddy roads. That means new bikes and more adventure. Until the next time

 PS Remember I don’t go back and edit so excuse all errors or parts you have no idea what I am talking about.

Paris to Chenoise to Troyes…rest day Troyes

Paris to Chenoise to Troyes…Rest Day in Troyes

We arrived in Paris at about 6:30 am on Thursday, and stayed up all day to get in the same time zone. Everything arrived safely, however our3rd bag cost us about $130.00 each, but our bikes and our bodies arrived safely so all was good. Our taxi ride from the airport was more like the formula 1 racing but felt strangely comfortable with our young driver.
What can I say about Paris…I can see why so many people love it, there is such a carefree attitude at least in the nicer areas and compared to the Cape so very young. We walked down the tourist areas which were magnificent in their grandness, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, the original Statue of Liberty and the grand mall down the Seine of which Washington DC was modeled. Actually most of Paris that we walked through had magnificent old buildings. Our hotel was on a canal and on Friday about 3:00pm people just start drinking and sitting out either on the cafe/bars or on the sides of canal. forget it if you want dinner before about 8:00pm. Such a young festive atmosphere and I can see why so many people would love it here, but for me, two days was enough because while I enjoy people watching and can somewhat put myself vicariously as a young Parisian, the reality is that I hate sitting around and was so happy to get on my bike finally! 
A couple of side notes- Paris is an unbelievably heavily biked city as is most Europe and they use these rent a bikes to go from place to place. The streets are crowded and the motorbikes legally speed and weave in and out through the lanes of traffic. In order to check out our bikes to make sure we were in good working order, Dan and I ventured out…SCARY!!! but I am still alive to tell about it. The day we left Paris, our whole group rode as a group to the Arc and the Eiffel, not so bad with 20 of us.
Another side note- Was surprised how I could not pick up even minimal French. Looks like vocabulary ended up being BonJour, Merci, Pardon. You should have seen me trying to find a laundry in Troyes. I thought there was a movie called my Beautiful Launderette, but it did not seem to translate in my English/French. I was going to try and learn a little more but Dan said why bother we will be in Germany in 2 days.
Food has been really good and I eat cheese and eggs but am staying off the bread, rice, etc. Riding a lot of miles and walking a ton means I fill in my carbs with beer and hard candy. Was going to give up the candy but just not enough calories to make it 2 months without cheating. That is the company line, but the real story is that I am a serious candyholic and gave it up for about 11 years until my trip across Canada on bike. Quit again and seem to quit every few months but given ANY excuse and RATIONALIZATION and I can’t pass it up.
The group so far is Nice, trying to keep my initial judgements neutral or positive. enjoy finding out About them and I am sure you will hear things as we go along.
The riding has been beautiful, the towns, farms and fields of flowers are just like you see on the Tour De France. The little towns are old old but so well preserved and beautiful. 
Tomorrow is a 90 mile day, which I so look forward to, I hate the short days (about 50 miles) and try to convince Dan into going to side trips  for an extra 10 – 20 miles to see a different town and get some mileage in.
weather has been about 90 degrees and sun forecasted for another full week. does not get dark here until about 10:30, but I settle in around 9:00.
Was doing some yoga with come of cycle group after the first day and may try to schedule something more organized for those that want to.
Sorry this was so boring, hope a little more excitement in the next week. I guess boring is good, good food, good weather, good drink, spectacular sites and safe riding…makes good days but boring blogs