Fog, Nuts, Puppies And Beer
Stewart and I took a break at the archaelogical site in Budec, which overlooks the foggy Okoř valley.
As usual, what started out as a routine ride on familiar roads and trails had its share of surprises.
Stewart and I met a man from Michigan who runs a chocolate shop, got to play with a beautiful puppy, were enveloped by fog, drank a beer, and ended up caked in mud.
Not bad for a few hours on a disgusting Saturday.
We met, as usual, at The Smallest Pub In The World in Úholičky -- Stewart coming from Roztoky, me from Černý Vůl, both northwest of Prague.
The temperatures were moderate, but still pretty nippy, with a thick blanket of fog smothering the landscape.
And mud. Mud on the sides of the road. Mud in the farmer's fields. Mud on the trails.
From Úholičky, we headed up the hill to Tursko, and then, as usual, toward Kozinec and Holubice.
Near Holubice, we stopped and watched a gigantic hawk or falcon sitting on a fencepost. He'd fly away when we got too close, but would alight on a tree branch just a bit farther down the road. We'd try to get close enough for a photo, but he'd fly away again.
We never did get a photo, but we enjoyed the privilege of getting so close to such an awesome bird (whatever it was, exactly).
From Holubice, we headed to Trneny Ujezd, and then down the hill to Zakolany.
In Zakolany, we decided to tackle the trail that leads up to the historic site of Budec. (I've written about Budec in more detail in a previous Bike Blog post here.)
The good thing about the Budec trail is that it is paved.
The bad thing is that the trail is extremely steep and seems to wind up the hill forever.
It may equal the dreaded Hill of Doom in difficulty, although the Hill of Doom is gravel and dirt in many places, so it still may get the edge.
(The Hill of Doom haunts my memory. I hate it. I fear it. Although I have conquered it. Fortunately, it's no longer a part of my usual riding, since I moved to Černý Vůl in September 2007.)
The air was so saturated with moisture that the fog was condensing on the tree limbs. It was quite beautiful.
In any event, I did conquer Budec Hill. In fact, I think it was the first time I made it all the way to the very top without first taking a break on a strategically placed bench that is almost -- but not quite -- at the summit.
At the top, Stewart and I did rest, taking in the view from the valley overlook.
From there, it was all downhill, through the forest, until we were spit out on a road somewhere near Kovary.
We've cycled these parts many times, so connected easily with the familiar path that takes the back way into our beloved Okoř.
Just outside Okoř, we encountered a gorgeous puppy romping along the trail, followed closely behind by a cute little girl.
Oliver and friend.
Sadly, she didn't speak English. And even more sadly, our Czech isn't what it should be. But we did discover that the puppy's name was Oliver. We played with Oliver for a few minutes (is there anything more joyful than a puppy licking your face?) and then headed to Okoř.
Or tried to.
Man, was it muddy.
We were forced to walk for part of the way. It was either too slippery to ride, or, in my case, the mud and grass had built up so much between my tires and my fenders that my tires were extruding thick globs of the stuff with each revolution. It was a real mess.
We finally reached Okoř, muddy and surprisingly cold.
We discovered a few tents and booths set up beneath the castle, and discovered that there'd been a mountain-bike rally a bit earlier, as well as some sort of organized hike from Prague to Okoř.
One of the booths was manned by a guy named Michael Hughes (that's him at left), from the U.S. state of Michigan, who came to Prague in the early '90s and, in the classic story, met and married a Czech woman. He's been here ever since.
He's now living in the village of Hole, not far from Okoř. It's the village where I wrote about the unusual hand-painted French billboard on the side of a building. (Turns out it's not old, but was put there a couple of years ago for some German film.)
Today, Michael is running a chocolate shop on Lidicka in the village of Roztoky, near the Tesco, and making palacinky, or crepes, and selling his awesome sugared almonds at fairs and festivals through the Czech Republic.
I loved sugared almonds, and I can safely say that Michael's were the best I've ever eaten.
All the best to you, Michael. We'll stop by your shop sometime soon.
Michael Hughes mans his booth.
Stewart and I then had our usual bowl of soup and a half-liter of beer at the Family Hotel Okoř, sitting outside in the chill.
Then it was back on the bikes for the ride home.
Just another routine ride.
My odometer wasn't working for some reason, but I know the route, so I'll hazard a very good guess:
Length of ride: 25 kilometers
Pivo Index: 1
Distance ridden so far in 2009: 110 kilometers
The infamous Smallest Pub In The World in Úholičky. It's a great place to sit outside in the sun and have a beer after a long ride. In the winter, there's a fireplace inside. Note the Heaven and Hell markers on the chimney.