Flats, Hills, Gingerbread & Pain

Beers before noon (or in this case, 10 a.m.) just somehow taste better.

I was looking for an excuse not to ride.

In the end, I was presented with many, but took none.

Stewart and I had tentatively agreed to meet at 9 at The Smallest Pub in the World in Úholičky.

Despite beautiful weather in the days leading up to the ride, the morning itself dawned cold and gray and threatened rain.

I texted Stewart:

Pretty blah out there. Hard to get excited by a ride. What do you think? Ride at 9? Wait a bit? Or cancel?

He was having none of it:

I'll be there at 9, dude. Lovely day!!!

Righty-o! I replied.

The ride was on.

I suited up, grabbed my gear, including a rain jacket, and prepared to hit the road.

It had started to drizzle.

Then the phone rang. It was Stewart.

He’d suffered a puncture almost as soon as he’d headed out to meet up with me.
Which was funny, because he’d woken up to find his front tire flat, and had just replaced the tube.

And now the new tube was flat.

I had a few extra tubes at home, so instead of calling off the ride (which is, funnily enough, kinda what I wanted to do in the first place), I offered to throw my bike and the extra tubes in my car and drive over to Stewart’s house in Roztoky.

Which I did.

Once he took off the front tire, for the second time that morning, he discovered a small thorn still sticking through the rubber. He’d changed the tube, but had forgotten to check the inside of the tire.

(I use these things called Slime Liners, which fit between the tube and the tire, and I'm sure it's helped me avoid many flats.)

We pulled out the thorn, replaced the tube, and set off.

We headed down to the trail on the west side of the Vltava River, below Roztoky, and headed north toward the village of Podmoráň, and then up the killer hill to Úholičky. (The river section of this ride is very pleasant, especially on a morning that’s not cold and damp and spitting rain.)

That hill is a killer for me anytime of the year, but it was particularly painful on this day, what with me being totally out of shape and fat and all.

But I did make it.

And then Stewart suggested we have a beer.

We’d gone about six kilometers so far, and it wasn’t even 10 a.m.

I said yes.

Sadly, TSPITW was still closed, but a pub with outdoor seating was serving across the road, so that’s where we went.

Beer tastes different before noontime. Better, somehow. Funny thing, that.

I thought the rusted metal sides of an old building near Kralupy (above and below) were quite beautiful, in their way. Like an abstract painting.

(In Croatia a few weeks ago, Stewart and I walked to a neighboring village to buy some fresh fish for that evening’s barbecue. By the time we’d gotten the fish and some veggies for dinner, it was about 8:30 a.m. or so. We sat down at a sidewalk café, ostensibly to have a coffee, but it was already warm and sunny, and we’d been walking, and found ourselves ordering a beer instead. And then another. Beer never tasted so good.)

We limited ourselves to one beer and hit the road again.

We decided to head toward Marina Vltava in Nelahozeves, grab a few more beers and maybe a bite. It’s become one of our favorite rides, as I wrote about a few months ago. It’s got everything – beautiful scenery, car-free trails, exhilarating downhills, painful uphills, and a very pleasant riverside pub at the end.

The ride to the marina was uneventful, but a lot of fun. I’d gotten over my disinclination to ride. The beer didn’t hurt.

We had a couple of 12-degre Pilsner Urquells at the marina, and two bowls each of some unusually tasty garlic soup, and then it was time to head home.

Hot garlic soup and a cold Pilsner or two.

The ride to the marina is very nice, but it should really be flipped around, with the hard bits in the first half of the cycling. Instead, after you’ve had a few beers, and your legs have had a good long chance to stiffen, you’re faced with the long, steep slog out of Libčice nad Vltavou toward Úholičky, which seems never to end.

I loathe that section of the ride.

Before that ascent, however, we passed an oddly depressing country carnival set up in a field along the river in Libčice. The carnival was sparsely attended, which only added to the overall sadness that seemed to permeate the grounds. It featured rides decorated with garishly colored paintings that seemed to date from the mid-1980s or so.

The whole thing was kind of sweet, but creepy, in my opinion.

I must admit to having felt a bit depressed at this fair in Libčice. This ride, called Break Dance, seems to date from the 1980s.

A kiosk selling "perník," or gingerbread hearts decorated with sweet words that boyfriends traditionally buy their girlfriends at such fairs. At least in the old days, I'm told, the gingerbread would often have a small mirror embedded in it, so the girlfriend could see her reflection.

We high-tailed it out of there, up the hill above Úholičky, near what we call Garbage Mountain, and then down through some overgrown forest trails back into Podmoráň.

We retraced our steps back to Stewart's house, me walking my bike part of the way up the very steep trail back into Roztoky. My thighs just couldn't take anymore punishment.

I was exhausted, frankly. We both were.

And then I had a stag party to go to that afternoon and evening.

I finally made it home after midnight that night, and slept the sleep of the Gods.

Length of ride: 46 kilometers
Average speed: 13.9 kph
Maximum speed: 51.1 kph
Time on the bike: 3.15.16
Pivo Index: 3
Distance ridden so far in 2009: 474 kilometers

River reflections near Kralupy.


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