Stewart on his bike in the middle of a wheat field.
Not on every ride, but often enough to surprise even myself, I achieve transcendence. There I am, pedaling away, and I'm looking at something, or surrounded by something, or feeling something that ignites my brain, and I'm only experiencing this frisson because I'm on my bike.
It happened again the other afternoon.
I was, literally, in the middle of a vast field of still-green wheat. Splinters of lightning stabbed the sky, which was the color of a deep bruise. A storm was coming in and the wheat was swirling madly in every direction in the wind. There was no sound but the shafts of wheat rubbing against other shafts of wheat, and the thunder. The air was vibrating with positive electrons.
And there we were -- me on my bike, Stewart on his -- amidst it all. A bit wet, sure, for it was starting to rain, but far away from any cars or humans and smack dab in the middle of an amazing moment.
Storm clouds. Wheat. Lightning. Bikes. No cars. Amazing.
We'd left from his house in Roztoky, rode down the hillside to the Vltava River, and headed north toward Úholičky.
To get to the village of Úholičky from the river, you've got to climb a long and steep hill that seems to go on forever, and by the time we'd reached the top, we'd felt as if we'd earned a beer.
We stopped at the Smallest Pub In The World in Úholičky, which was just opening for the day at 4 p.m., and inhaled a half-liter of Gambrinus.
Lifeblood, it was.
A storm's a' comin'.
Suitably hydrated, it was back on the bikes for yet another climb out of Úholičky to Tursko. The storm clouds were gathering, but we seemed to be heading away from the rain, and so on we went.
Stewart thought he knew a path through some farmer's fields in the direction of Okoř, and I was game, so off we went down a dirth path, past fields of poppy plants (and yes, I think they're identical to opium poppies), their green pods filled with thousands of not-yet-ripe seeds, until the path ended, and we were left with the option of either returning whence we'd come, or soldiering on through some wheat fields, in the narrow tracks left by a farmer's tractor.
Guess what option we took.
Poppy pods near Tursko.
It was tricky riding, this wheat field route. You had to pay attention every second, or you'd find yourself in the wheat and not in the tire track. Even riding in the track, the wheat stalks pulled fiercely on our pedals and ankles, and I almost went down a few times.
My shins were stinging from the abuse. Shafts of wheat were wrapped tightly around the pedals and gears, and later it took some time to unravel them all.
Stewart, riding point, ended up surprising two deer at various points of our ride this day, but though I was only a few meters behind, they were gone by the time I arrived.
Stewart also saw two large hawks, but I only saw the one, but it was a massive bird, with a wingspan of two meters, seemingly. Is that even possible?
We ended up descending a hill that took us down to a path that was three or four kilometers beyond the village of Okoř , in a lovely valley that we'd cycled before.
We knew where we were, and so pedaled ourselves toward Okor, across a stream, and into the village. Where we enjoyed another half-liter of Pilsner Urquell at the Hotel Okoř.
And from there, it was home for both of us.
Our legs were muddy and scratched. Our backs were wet with rain. Our hair was matted by sweat. Our bike were caked in mud.
But my goodness, the things we'd seen. The places we'd been. The moments.
And all we had to do was ride a bike.
Length or ride: Around 30 kilometers (my odometer stopped working for some reason)
Average speed: 15 kph (*until it conked out)
Maximum speed: 32.5 (*)
Pivo Index: 2
Time on the bike: 1.01.48 (*)
Distance ridden so far in 2008: 927 kilometers