A Moveable Feast

A "road apple" -- green and sour, yes, but juicy and delicious.

One time, when I was about 7 or 8, my father took me on a hike on a mountain in his hometown of Piedmont, West Virginia. He had hiked up there as a kid himself, and wanted to show me where he'd played.

It was a hot summer's day, and a long hike, but we didn't take any water or food because my dad said he remembered where all the springs and orchards were. Turns out, the springs had dried up (or we couldn't find them) and the orchards had died out due to the pollution from the huge paper mill in the nearby town of Luke.

As I remember it, we did find a few apples here and there, the only sustenance we had until we got back to my grandmother's house.

My dad and I still talk about that hike and laugh.

And I was reminded of it yesterday as I was on the roads heading toward Okoř.

One of the great pleasures of cycling is the "road food" -- that is, the fruits and berries you often come across out in the countryside, by the trail or roadside. Last summer, I wolfed down handfuls of plump, ripe cherries, hot from the sun; a pod full of poppy seeds, just to see what they tasted like fresh from the field; sunflower seeds; apples; pears; plums; and blackberries.

I forgot to have breakfast yesterday before my ride, and I realized about halfway to Okoř that I was starving, so I began looking around for some road food. It didn't take long before an apple tree appeared by the road, laden with fruit. Slightly sour and green, sure, but still mighty tasty.

A road apple, if you like.

I also passed lots of elderberry bushes, bursting with fruit (pictured just above). I wasn't quite sure what these berries were (I thought they might be black currants), until blog reader Pip Hines clued me in (read his post with this entry for an elderberry recipe!). I tasted one of the berries, but decided not to eat anymore until I was sure what they were. It also didn't taste that good, frankly.

I planned to have lunch in Okoř, but my favorite restaurant hadn't yet opened for the day, so I ate a few more apples on my way back.

If I'd had a fishing pole, I could have caught a mess of carp. There's a large pond outside of Okoř, and the carp were sunning themselves in the shallow water in numbers I've never seen before. I felt like I could walk across on their backs.

A herd of sheep in Divoká Šárka the day before, and now a plethora of carp. If only I'd spied a parliament of magpies, I'd really have something to write about.

My lack of food, and my lack of riding, combined at some point about three-quarters of the way through the ride, and I really started to drag. My legs felt like they were filled with glue. I felt like I could barely make it home.

I did make it home, but barely.

And I fell asleep, exhausted, after I showered. Pitiful.

My three-week break from riding caused more damage than I realized. I've got a long way to go to get back in shape.

I took my favorite route to Okoř, through Roztoky, Unetice, Statenice (where I'll be moving next week!), and Tuchoměřice, but my new Garmin Edge 305 GPS device shut off for some reason about halfway through my ride, so I don't have a route to post (although I'm sure I'll be doing this route again very soon).

It was a weekday, so the roads were blessedly free of cars, and I had the trails all to myself. It was also the morning after a heavy rain, so many of the trails were incredibly muddy. That's when I'm so happy to have traded in my trekking bike for a mountain bike.

I love plowing through the mud holes.

Distance ridden: 45 kilometers
Average speed: 17.5 kph
Maximum speed: 45.2 kph
Time on the bike: 2.31.42
Distance ridden in 2007: 1,268.5 kilometers

Part of the trail near Koliba restaurant in Roztoky (above) and the tiny road between Tuchoměřice and Černovičky (below).

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows I'm comfortable in my masculinity and that I take time to stop and smell the flowers (or at least take their picture). This gorgeous dahlia in Okoř caught my eye.


Pip Hines said…
Those were elderberries, not blackcurrants. Pretty acid when raw, but not poisonous. You can add them to apples in a pie, or make a traditional English condiment (sometimes called Pontack Sauce) by steeping a pint of the berries in a pint of boiling vinegar, leaving overnight, draining the liquid and boiling it for ten minutes with a teaspoon of salt, a blade of mace, 40 peppercorns, 12 cloves, a finely chopped onion and a little ginger before bottling securely. (Recipe from Richard Mabey's wild food classic "Food For Free").
Keep for seven years before using, naturally.

That large pink flower is a dahlia.

Wish we were still in Prague, but England is hard to beat when the sun shines.
Grant said…
Thanks, Pip. I've amended the blog accordingly.

I'm a huge Anglophile and, as much as I love Prague, wish that I were in England right about now. One of these days I'll have to do some cycling there. Usually, it's hiking, as well as eating copious amounts of fish & chips and oysters and consuming vast quantities of bitter.
I have skipped meals but I know that I have never forgotten to have a meal. 8>)

Confirming your masulinity to people in my area is very unnecessary. There are so many variations here in Massachusetts, the subject is very rarely broached.

The flowers are very pretty by the way.
Anonymous said…
When people ride trails after a heavy rain, ruts get formed which dry out and make the trail less comfortable for everyone. This kind of behaviour has gotten mountain bikers banned from places all over North America. Mountain biking clubs addressed the problem by asking their members not to ride in wet areas and to do volunteer to maintain trails. - Todd, Green Idea Factory
Grant said…
Hi, Todd,

Thanks for your comment.

The "trails" I'm talking about here are really roads that farmers are using for their tractors, or that local residents are driving their cars over. Believe me, they are already torn up by huge tractor wheels or car tires. Mountain bikers need not worry about ruining the trails for those that come after.

Those few actual walking or cycling trails I ride don't seem to suffer from muddiness after rains, except for some puddling here and there. And they're all -- for the most part -- pretty informal.

Would that there were such organized bike trails here with some sort of oversight and regular upkeep!
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dale said…
Wow, you got spammed in your comments section! Anyway... I think summer is over here in Cambridge. It lasted *maybe* 3 weeks. ugh!

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