Forgive Us Our Trespasses

Part of the unopened stretch of the Prague ring road.

We expected to be caught at any moment, to be yelled at and thrown out, or thrown off.

Stewart and I were out for a ride, and, as usual, we were looking for adventure.

Stewart rode over to my house in Černý Vůl from his home in Roztoky, and from there we headed through Statenice, Tuchoměřice, and Kněževes, heading toward Prague's international airport. Stewart wanted to show me a trail he'd found a while ago that led him right up to one of the runways.

As you can tell from the GPS map of our route below, we made a number of false starts from the highway out toward the airport, each one ending in a dead end from far anything of note to see. It had been quite some time since Stewart had been out this way, and he couldn't quite remember where the trail was.

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I told Stewart that the whole thing reminded me of when Rob and I found a little trail off a country road near the airport a few months back and watched the planes land right over our heads, just a few hundred meters from the start of the runway. I even posted a video of the experience, which you can watch here.

Stewart and I also ended up in the same location, and hung around for a bit to watch the planes land. It's an awesome display, these giant roaring beasts slicing through sky a few meters above your head. We met a couple of teen-agers -- nerdy planespotters -- who were also watching the planes land and listening to control tower communications on a neat little radio they had.

Stewart was also able to confirm this strange phenomenon that I first noticed when I was out at the same site with Rob -- that is, long after the plane passes overhead, a good 10 or 15 seconds later, once everything has calmed down and all is silent, a strange wind appears out of nowhere that seems to rub against itself, making odd rustling noises, and in some cases, producing what can only be described as a snap or a crack, almost like an electrical charge.

A cool tunnel for bikers and pedestrians underneath a major highway out near the edge of Divoka Sarka.

It's obviously related to the turbulence kicked up by the planes long after they land. Our two little planespotter friends said there are strict rules governing, for example, how long a smaller plane needs to wait to land after a bigger plane has used the same runway. Hearing what we heard, you can understand why.

Pretty amazing stuff.

When I was here with Rob, after getting our fill of the planes, we backtracked and ended up going a different route around the airport. On this day, with Stewart, we basically kept on a dirt track and went around the other side of the runway, eventually linking up with the path that Stewart had been looking for all along. He hadn't remembered which side of the airport he had come in on.

I kept thinking we were going to get yelled at by airport security or something, because we were pretty damn close to the taxiing planes (the GPS map shows just how close we were) -- albeit separated by a tall, razorwire fence -- close enough to wave at the passengers, in fact, but no one ever bothered us.

Once on the other side of the airport, Stewart wanted to show me another path he'd discovered during that same airport ride, a path that took him along some construction for Prague's new ring road. Much time has passed, and now there's actually a road where before had been only hard-packed gravel.

The road is still under construction and not yet open, but it's all been paved, and it was catnip to a couple of adventurous mountain bikers who aren't particularly keen on sharing the road with cars.

Vast stretches of smooth, empty blacktop. No people. No cars. Kind of spooky, really. Apocalyptic, in its way.

Another stretch of the uncompleted ring road.

This is what Stewart calls the highway to biking heaven -- no cars anywhere in sight.

We figured we really weren't supposed to be here, and we expected someone to yell at us to get off the damn highway at any minute, but we only passed a few forlorn road workers on this particular Saturday, and they didn't seem to care one bit that we were riding on the road.

We felt like a couple of school kids trying not to get caught doing something they knew they shouldn't be doing.

That's why mountain biking can be so much fun!

Eventually, we couldn't go any farther on the new road, so we headed off, snaking our way back around toward Divoká Šárka and eventually to the village of Přední Kopanina, where we had a couple of deliciously cold beers outside in a cool little beer garden at a pub whose name I neglected to write down but which, if you're really interested, you can probably figure out its location from the GPS map above.

Stewart takes the lead on the new bike path near Přední Kopanina.

And from there it was out of Přední Kopanina, across a nice new bike path that skirts some farmer's field, into the forest, and then down, down, down a thrilling dirt path into the village of Statenice, and home.

Length of ride: 38 kilometers
Average speed: 15.5 kph
Maximum speed: 39.2 kph
Pivo Index: 2
Time on the bike: 2.24.41
Distance ridden so far in 2008: 1,123 kilometers

This giant propeller decorates a guesthouse out near the airport.


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