No Country For Tan Men

This lovely, forgotten hay bale and vista greets cyclists who make it to the top of Mud Hill.

I wore my sunglasses while riding with Stewart on Saturday (December 8).

Let me repeat that.

I wore my sunglasses while riding with Stewart on Saturday.

Yes, the sun actually shone in Prague. The sky was blue. There were puffy white clouds. The sun felt warm against your skin. There were shadows. Yes, shadows!

It was a glorious day for cycling, something you can't say too often in December in Prague.

Indeed, a bright day in winter in Prague is as rare as a sincere smile from a shop clerk in this sun-forsaken city. Wait, we don't even get insincere smiles from shop clerks here.

Most of the time, in Prague in winter, the clouds are low and gray and it's cold and raining. It looks like it's getting dark, yet it's midday.

I think Cormac McCarthy described a typical Prague winter day best in his powerful post-apocalyptic novel "The Road" -- "days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world." That's what this morning's drive to work felt like, anyway. A few pages later, he describes "watching the ashen daylight congeal over the land."

I hadn't realized McCarthy had spent time doing research in the Czech Republic.

I don't think the budget for holiday decorations is very large in the village of Únětice.

Saturday, however, was sunny. I hopped on my bike in my new cycling gear -- breathable jersey and jacket, shoe covers, and gloves -- and headed over to Stewart's fancy new house in Roztoky.

From there, we just winged it, heading basically along a similar route we'd taken a month or so ago, which took us in the direction of Úholičky. Between Roztoky and Úholičky, however, we encountered Mud Hill, a long, steep, slippery, rutted and altogether treacherous ascent.

I made it about three-quarters of the way up before my tires, caked with mud, refused to grip the earth any longer and spun in place. I was forced to dismount.

Behind me, however, Stewart, pedaling sure and steady, somehow managed not only to pass me but to reach the summit without stopping. I was forced to walk my bike the rest of the way to the top.

From there, it was a long downhill into Úholičky and a quick beer at a neighborhood pub before heading toward Velké Přílepy, then back up the hill toward Roztoky.

We parted ways where the road forks one way to Roztoky and the other to Únětice. (Click here to see the entire route in Google Earth.)

It was a short ride, to be sure, but it involved a few of my favorite things (an appropriate thought, as we head toward Christmas) -- sun, beer, and good conversation with my good friend.

Length of ride: 24 kilometers
Average speed: 12.5 kph (too much talking and not enough pedaling)
Maximum speed: 39.7 kph
Time on the bike: 1.52.37
Distance ridden so far in 2007: 1,891.5 kilometers

Stewart and I on a clifftop overlooking the Vltava River (below), near Roztoky.

Stewart points out the route to the nearest pub.

I really like this shot. While we were having a beer, sitting outside, I looked up and Stewart was looking down and checking his phone, and he and his hood and his beard made for an interesting composition.

Muddy bikes await their riders.

These shadows are proof that the sun actually shone on Saturday.

The sun sets behind some cattails in Únětice.


Wow, I can't believe you wore sunglasses! We're about to get a snowstorm here (another one). 4 inches! Shit! Ulandt put a knobby tire on my mountain bike; it vibrates a lot, but it should help on the slippery stuff. I'll bet your buddy had knobbier tires than you did for Mud Hill. I get a kick out of Stuart's khaki pants! Doesn't he turn into a sweatsicle? I am used to looking like a freak on my bike...sigh. I can't remember if I already told you that you would like leg warmers.

Thanks for your great pictures of the Vltava River. We really need to visit again, because there is so much we missed. I have now posted a draft of our Dec. 4 ride; Ulandt still has to add his parts, but you can check it out and link it to your blog.
But how much was the beer? I've been wondering actually why you don't have a line for it under "Ride Stats"?

Good luck for more sunny days...
Stewart looks like quite and interesting character. I'll bet he is a fun riding partner.
Grant said…
Well, good Captain, the beer was 19 CZK for a half-liter. And that's a fine idea indeed about listing the beer price under RIDE STATS. It's as important a part of the cycling as any of that other info!

And Stewart is indeed an interesting character, and as fine a riding partner as you'd ever want. Although the talking we do when we're together does seriously impact on our average speed. Too bad they can't measure the speed of our lips flapping.

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