Horse Latitudes

Stewart and I stop for a couple of shots of medovina in the middle of nowhere.

What I'd always feared finally happened.

I came racing down along a woodline from an overgrown field onto a dirt path or road, and surprised a group of five or six horses and riders, who were about 30 meters away.

The horse in front of the pack, surprised by my sudden appearance, spooked, and reared up. The rider -- a young woman -- tried valiantly to keep the horse under control, but couldn't, and fell, hard, onto the frozen mud track and between some trees.

I froze as it was happening, not wanting to spook the horse any further, and felt helpless as the woman fell, hard, seemingly in slow motion. The horse was riderless, and none of the others dismounted to help the woman, who remained motionless on the ground.

You can just make out the five horses and riders in the center left of this picture. I didn't want to make matters worse by taking out my camera and clicking away while they were right in front of me.

I feared moving forward to help her, or to grab the horse, not wanted to make matters worse by spooking the other horses, or frightening the riderless horse enough to make him bolt.

In the end, the woman stood up -- she said she was unhurt, though I'm sure she was bruised the next day -- and grabbed the reins, and Stewart, who had advanced, held the horse while the woman remounted.

The group passed us, and continued down the trail. They didn't really say much to us as they passed. I thought it strange that none of the men had gotten off their horses to help the woman who fell. Maybe there's some unwritten law or something.

I felt bad for having scared the horses, but the trail we were on -- indeed, all of the trails in this area -- are shared by both bikers and horse riders, and encounters like this seem inevitable.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. Stewart and I hung back for a few minutes to let them get ahead, and continued ourselves on our ride.

As usual, Stewart and I had met at the Smallest Pub In The World in Úholičky and set off on a cold, gray day. I was feeling a little better about riding than I did on my last, depressive outing. We headed out of Uholicky and up the hill toward Tursko, with the intention of visiting the archaeological dig we'd discovered a few weeks back in Holubice, to check on any progress.

It was gone.

Covered over. Construction site. Laying some sort of pipe or sewage system. Too bad, really. Our guess is that when such things are uncovered during construction, they must be mapped and recorded, but then can legally be covered back over.

There used to be an archaeological dig on this construction site.

In any event, all the cool stuff we'd seen a month or so was gone.

We rode and talked, talked more than rode in some parts, explored unexplored paths and dirt roads, stopped in the middle of a huge field and had a few shots of medovina, basically a modern version of medieval mead. I'd brought a flask of the stuff, which we'd first tasted on an outing to the Bee Institute a few months back.

The middle of nowhere, somewhere near the village of Holubice.

It's smooth and sweet and delicious, but I think next time I'll bring the usual bourbon or whiskey/whisky. Need more of a bite out there on the trail in the cold and raw.

As usual, we behaved like kids as often as possible, in this case aiming squarely for all of the frozen puddles on the trails. The sound of our tires slicing through the ice sounded like some large, thick piece of cloth being ripped from end to end. As often as not, there was a pool of cold water beneath, and our feet got a bit wet in the process, especially Stewart's. He had a fine old time bunny-hopping his bike from the trail into the puddles, sending shards of ice and ribbons of muddy water flying.

By this time, our feet and fingers were cold. Or at least mine were.

We ended up, of course, in the restaurant at the Family Hotel Okoř, one of our favorite biking stops. Decorated for the holidays, it was the definition of cozy. (By the way, they serve the best steaks in Prague, in my opinion. Daisy and I go there for dinner a few times a month.)

As darkness swiftly fell, Stewart and I holed up inside, warming ourselves with good conversation and, not inconsequentially, three glasses of Ballantine's whisky and a half-liter of beer each. We also had a nice chat with our favorite waiter at the hotel, Tomas. He deserves a separate blog entry all to himself, which I must do sometime. Great guy. I keep forgetting to take his picture while I'm there.

Nice and toasted -- er, I mean, toasty -- Stewart and I headed back out on our bikes.

By this time, it was bitterly cold and pitch dark, and I had neglected to bring a headlight. Stewart had a tiny clip-on headlight, and I had my flashing back light, so he rode ahead and I rode behind.

It's fun to crunch through all the iced-over puddles.

Funny where you find yourself sometimes. Here we were, riding on an empty country road in the middle of nowhere in total blackness and in the freezing cold. We could only laugh.

We parted ways in Velké Přílepy, Stewart heading home to Roztoky, me to Černý Vůl. Truth be told, I had trouble even seeing the road from that point on, it was so dark.

For the first time, I was actually thankful for the occasional car, so that its headlights could remind me where the edge of the road stopped and who-knows-what began.

I managed to stay on the pavement and made it home in one piece. So did Stewart, eventually. He had quite a bit further to ride than I did.

A memorable ride, which helped to put the bad memories of my previous outings out of mind.

But I gotta get my headlight hooked up. Jeesh.

Length of ride: 30 kilometers
Average speed: 12.3 kph (!)
Maximum speed: 35.6 kph
Pivo Index: 1 beer, 3 glasses of whisky
Time on the bike: 2.25.24
Distance ridden so far in 2008: 1,393.5 kilometers (866 miles)

The Restaurant Okor (above and below) is always a welcome sight, but never more so than on this cold and raw night.

While I was waiting for Stewart in Uholicky, I stopped to admire this building, whose architect has, like me, a soft spot for trees.


Anonymous said…

Happy New Year to you and Daisy. We miss Prague but it also very nice to be home for the holidays. Best wishes to you and RFE in 2009.

Al Tischler
Grant Podelco said…
Great to hear from you, Al. All the best, and nice to know you had a pleasant holiday. Probably more snow there than here, I'm betting!
Anonymous said…
Happy New Year Grant,

I just wanted to let you know that I've been following your blog since about May and check the site several times a week in eager anticipation of every new entry. You've got a great blog here and I am sure I am not the only rider who finds the tales of your adventures both entertaining and inspiring. The maps of your rides are really handy too.

Thanks a lot and happy trails in 2009!

Andy F.
Grant Podelco said…
Wow, Andy. That's really nice of you to write. Thanks! Where are you reading from? (By the way, I was trying to put up a map of this particular ride, Horse Latitudes, but I can't quite get it to work. I'll keep trying...)
Anonymous said…
I'm living in Prague 3 and often use your maps to help plan rides with friends. Hope to see you riding in the vicinity of Cerny Vul one day!

Anonymous said…
We are Dutch living in Velke Prilepy and also love to hyke and byke around Okor, and then stop at the lovely family hotel Okor, perhaps we see you sometime ! Enjoyed your blog !
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks very much. Keep an eye out for two muddy cyclists, both with beards!

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