Pride Goes Before A Fall

There was nothing to do but laugh (after first checking for broken things).

"Just don't use your brakes!" Stewart yelled from across the icy expanse.

He'd been the first of our expeditionary party to make it safely across this vast stretch of frozen river in the woods behind the castle at Okoř.

We'd crossed this body of wild water many times, in warm weather and cold, always feeling like kids as we sloshed through, soaking our socks and boots but always tickling our fancies.

This was the first time we'd attempted an ice crossing. Foolhardy, perhaps. But you never feel more alive than you do after cheating death. Staring it in the face and smiling.

Moments before disaster struck.

I've fallen and I can't get up. (Photos of my fall by Stewart Moore. Thanks, Stewart!)

The water moves swiftly in this spot, and the question in our minds was whether the ice was thick enough to hold us. The sun was shining, and temperatures had moderated a bit from the frigid grip of a few days ago.

Stewart was the first to attempt the dangerous traverse. No safety ropes. No spikes on his tires. Only the hair on his chest. And on his face.

Other than a few places where his tires sunk slightly into the surface, sparking a momentary fright, he had no troubles. He made it to the other side. Alive. Dry.

Our friend David Murphy was the next to go, hesitation not being a word found in his vocabulary. At least not on this day. But I'm pretty sure he knows what the word means, generally speaking.

What words are in his vocabulary? Courage, for example. And bravery. Oh, yes, bravery.

Dave set off, and in two or three seconds -- seconds that, to us who were watching, seemed more like hours -- he made it, too.

Dave attempts a crossing, with Stewart safely on the other side.

I was next.

"Just don't use your brakes!" Stewart yelled from across the icy expanse.

I swallowed hard, tasting fear. Or perhaps it was the Jim Beam I'd swigged generously from my flask earlier in the ride. It tasted good.

The ice moaned under my considerable weight. A crack here and there. The sun a blinding flash off the polished surface.

And then, in an instant -- or perhaps it was two -- I was down, and down hard. The bike slid out from under me, and the back of my head, fortunately helmeted -- no fool am I -- struck the frozen water, while my ass made a cute round indentation in the cold wet surface.

Stunned, I lay motionless. Was I alive? Was I broken in any places? I felt no pain. Only shame.

And my butt was cold. Truly.

I burst out laughing.

Man, it's a blast to be out on the bikes!

OK, enough with the purposefully bad writing. On with the unintentionally bad prose...

David and Stewart heading into Černovičky.

Heading down into Černovičky.

I met up the other day with my old riding pal, Stewart, and David Murphy, a good friend of Stewart's whom I haven't really had the chance to ride with. Except for a Critical Mass ride in 2007, but even then we didn't get a chance to talk.

Stewart and Dave rode over to my house in Černý Vůl on a brilliant January day -- deep blue sky, brilliant sunshine. It was a cracker of a day.

The back way into Okoř. No cars anywhere.

Our ultimate destination was going to be the Family Hotel Okoř for some lunch, but we figured we'd take a decidedly circuitous route to get there.

From my house, we headed to Statenice and then Tuchoměřice, heading up the steep hill out of the village that always kicks my ass, past the restaurant L'Auberge de Provence, and then down a small paved road that winds its way through the hamlet of Černovičky before linking up with Male Číčovice. We then followed another path through the forest that eventually links up with Okoř.

Somewhere above Okoř. Does biking get any better than this?

It's one of our favorite ways to get to Okoř -- a minimum of cars and a maximum of pure mountain-biking pleasure.

By the time we got there, it seemed a bit too early for lunch, and the sun was still shining, so we continued riding.

Stewart showed us a cool spot behind Okoř castle. We climbed through some doorways in an old stone wall that appeared to be part of the castle somehow, and admired an old, abandoned villa back there that is just crying out for someone to buy it and turn it into a restaurant or hotel. Some sort of restitution problem is holding things up, I'd reckon.

Behind Okoř castle, where we did a little Urban Exploring.

From inside the castle wall.

This place (above and below) could be something with a little tender-loving care (and a few million dollars).

Stewart wanted to explore some trails he'd seen, so we climbed a steep, snowy path that seemed certain to lead somewhere cool. We just get riding, through farmer's fields and a forest labeled as a protected pheasant sanctuary.

We stopped in the woods and warmed up with a few swigs from my flask of Jim Beam, and somehow ended up in a long conversation about the latest James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace," compared with "Casino Royale" (there's no comparison, in my book; "Casino" wins hands-down), as well as the latest Batman movie, "Dark Knight," compared with the previous film, "Batman Begins." (Again, no comparison, "Batman Begins" is the far superior movie.)

We finally headed on our way, down some snowy, slippery trails through the trees, tentatively crossing the first of what would be two frozen streams, unsure if the ice would hold us, before linking up with some familiar trails behind Okoř.

That's when I fell crossing the second frozen stream.

From there, we headed into Okor for some hot soup and a beer.

A bowl of soup and a beer at Hotel Okor.

By the time we finished, the clouds had started to invade, and it was time to head home. We had kids to pick up from school and shopping to be done.

The real world began to intrude.

Thank God, though, for these escapes. They clear the mind, strengthen the heart, and cement friendships.

Length of ride: 25 kilometers
Average speed: 14 kph
Maximum speed: 42.4 kph
Pivo Index: 1
Time on the bike: 1.35.24
Distance ridden so far in 2009: 61 kilometers

I've gotten pretty good at taking pictures with one hand while steering with the bike with the other. It's a little hairy if the trail is bumpy and icy, though. I end up with a lot of pictures of my biking buddies' backsides.

We're all in love with this fantastical house behind Okoř, with its yard full of fanciful sculptures and the house itself a storybook vision from the English countryside.

A railroad bridge behind Okoř that looks like some sort of ancient aqueduct.

I am including this photo only to be able to say that I managed to ride all the way up this steep, snowy slope. Not everyone managed to ride up. Some had to carry their bikes. ;-)

The 14th-century Castle Okoř. If you haven't been to Okoř yet, you're missing out. Very cool.

The stream that flows by Castle Okoř.


Pivní Filosof said…
That must have been a tough fall, man.
Lovely pics BTW. I really miss Okor, we haven't been there since we moved to Holubice.
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Definitely one of my all-time favorite places! We've been going there for dinners, too. Amazing steak at the restaurant there, too.
As alway a wonderful entry. It seems like only yesterday we would have done that ride back and forth across the water dozens of times just so we could fall again and again.

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