Hills, Thrills, Mushrooms & Muck
I ran into a guy out walking his two friendly, obedient, and untethered horses.
I met up with my friend, Rob, on Saturday (September 8). He hasn’t appeared in this blog all that much. That’s because we haven’t done a lot of riding together, not because Rob hasn’t been riding. In fact, he’s the one who should be doing this blog. He’s over 4,500 kilometers for the year so far.
Our schedules just haven’t allowed us to ride together very often this year.
He’d already been out riding on Saturday. In fact, by the time we met up at the Sv. Juliana cross in the trail-rich forest between the villages of Přední Kopanina and Statenice, he’d already done six ascents of Beer Garden Hill (hereafter known as BGH), the steep, winding hill behind the beer garden in Divoká Šárka, and one climb of the Hill of Doom (HoD), an evil, pitiless route that connects the road V Šáreckém údolí with Hanspaulka.
In fact, he’s taken to leaving a stone marker at the top of the hill for each of the ascents he makes in a given day.
With my new Garmin Edge 305 GPS device, I measured the HoD as being an average 9.5 percent gradient (although parts of it are much steeper). It takes everything I’ve got in me to make it to the top.
Using my Garmin, we also measured the average gradient of BGH on Saturday. But I’m getting ahead of myself …
I cycled from my house in the hamlet of Černý Vůl to meet him at Sv. Juliana (after first heading toward Unetice when I thought we were meeting elsewhere, as you can see on the route). The ride from Černý Vůl to Sv. Juliana is only a few kilometers, but it did entail a long climb through the forest, up a rutty, rocky, rooty path.
It’s no HoD, or even BGH, but it is a hell of a lot longer, and was a good way to get the blood flowing and the muscles burning.
As usual, the ride turned out to be full of surprises.
As I was waiting in the woods for Rob, a guy came into view along a path, calling “Pod!” or “Come!” to what I thought were his dogs. Turns out, he was walking two horses, who might as well have been dogs, so obediently did they follow his commands. They came over to give me a nuzzle and to nibble the grass around my bike and then they disappeared down the path.
Rob eventually cycled into view. He wanted to show me one of his favorite routes, which he calls the Airport Loop, and indeed it does make a very wide circle around the airport. I will call it the Tour de Coalson and include it on the index of biking routes on my home page. (If you click on the KML icon, you can import the route into Google Earth for a cool 3-D flyover.)
It’s an extremely pleasant loop, with few hills, lots of level pedaling, pleasant villages and pretty countryside. And it includes a great place to stop for lunch, too.
We started out from Sv. Juliana and headed back down the long hill I had just ascended. It’s a mountain biker’s wet dream, dodging roots and rocks and ruts, moving fast, trying to avoid a wipeout. You can’t take your eyes off the trail for even a second, not even to admire the many Czechs out scouring the forest floor for mushrooms.
Czechs love to go mushrooming, wicker baskets in hand, their eyes glued to the ground. We passed many basket-toters this day, one of whom let me take a picture of her treasures, but not of her.
We rode through the villages or districts of Tuchoměřice, Kněževes, Dobrovíz, Jeneč, Hostovice, Zličín, Sobín and Řepy.
We rode out a muddy path to the fence at the end of one of the main runways at the airport to watch planes take off.
Unfortunately, you can't really get all that close due to the razor wire. I think it's possible to get closer to the planes as they land on the other side of the airport, near a shopping mall, which I hope to check out sometime soon.
One of the other semi-interesting things that happened on the ride occurred as we rode near some road construction in the same area. I ended up riding my bike through what I thought was simply mud. In reality, it was some sort of soft clay that became lodged between my tires and mudguards and frame, effectively disabling my entire bike.
I had to spend 10 minutes dislodging huge gobs of muck from every nook and cranny of my bike, and was forced to remove my front mudguard entirely. Even once I got my tires rolling, the bike itself felt like it weighed about 20 more kilos than normal.
In Sobín, Rob and I stopped at Hospůdka na Hrázi, one of his favorite watering holes when he's out on the bike. It caters to cyclists, with bike racks outside and biking journals to read while you're drinking or eating inside, and is situated next to a little pond, with lots of outdoor tables. It looks to be a fantastic place when the sun is shining.
On this day, however, the clouds were low and it was chilly and threatening rain, but it was still a pleasant stop, made all the more appealing by the Staropramen and a delicious 11-degree Kozel Special that I'd never tasted before, both for 17 CZK for a half-liter, or around 85 U.S. cents.
That price ties the record for the lowest-priced half-liters of beer we've been able to find in our Prague ramblings. (The others are Hospůdka Zvířátka (Little Animal) in Roztoky, which serves creamy Černá Hora, and U Vokacu in Klecany, which pours Gambrinus. If you know of somewhere cheaper, please drop a line!)
The place also has a decent menu. I had a bowl of goulash soup and a plate of classic chicken řízek, or schnitzel, while Rob chowed down on some spicy beef and potato pancakes.
(Look up as you're heading out the door and stare into the massive, whiskered face of a 16.5-kilogram catfish, pulled, I'm guessing, from a local pond.)
We hopped back in the saddle for the homeward leg, through Řepy and across the park known as obora Hvězda, down (for a change) the dreaded Mt. CMC, then up Evropska street to Divoká Šárka, and to the base of what we call Beer Garden Hill.
There are three tough climbs that we do regularly (some of us more regularly than others) -- the Hill of Doom, Beer Garden Hill and Mt. CMC. We've always wondered which was the tougher ascent, with the HoD usually getting the unofficial nod.
Well, now it's (almost) official. Using my Garmin GPS device, I determined that the BGH has an average gradient of 9.06 percent, compared with the HoD's 9.5 percent. The HoD is also longer, at 820 meters, compared with the BGH's 740 meters.
Measuring Mt. CMC is next. It's much shorter, but pretty steep. I still think the HoD will win out.
From the top of BGH, Rob and I connected with the path that takes you along the airport highway to Přední Kopanina and then into the forest, where we parted ways at Sv. Juliana. I headed home for a total ride of 55 kilometers, while Rob did the same.
He exceeded 100k for the day, putting him over 4,500k for the season thus far.
I tip my helmet to you.
Length of ride: 55.5 kilometers
Average speed: 17.1 kph
Maximum speed: 46.8 kph
Time on the bike: 3.13.25
Distance ridden in 2007: 1,400 kilometers
We passed this intricately decorated house or barn in the village of Dobrovíz.
We passed this neglected cemetery out near the airport, in the middle of nowhere. It's almost as if there used to be a village or church nearby, which may have been demolished to make room for the airport. The graves seemed to all date to the 19th century.
Hospůdka na Hrázi in Sobín, with its bike-friendly outdoor seating, is a real find. I can't wait to go back when the Prague weather is something other than awful.