Out Of Shape, But Back In The Saddle

I think these are plums. They looked like cherries, but had the flesh of a plum. Pretty tasty.

My thighs were burning. My lungs were heaving.

And I wasn’t even out of my driveway yet.

Yes, I’m back on the bike after three months off to nurse a reconstructed acromioclavicluar joint, the joint on the top of the shoulder.

I had surgery at Prague’s Motol Hospital in late May. Wires removed from my shoulder in July. Spent two weeks resting and recuperating in Croatia. And now I’m in physical therapy.

But that isn’t preventing me from getting back on my bike. Which I finally did on Saturday, my first ride since mid-May.

I actually felt a bit nervous, although I don’t know why, really.


I also felt out of shape, but I definitely know why that is. I haven’t really exercised for three months, save for my daily swimming in the Adriatic while I was in Croatia. Great for my shoulder. Not so great for my thighs and lungs and overall cycling stamina.

I figured I’d take it easy on my first ride, so on a gorgeously sunny, hot day, I met up with Stewart at the fabled (at least in our minds) Smallest Pub In The World in Úholičky.

The first hill climb out of my home village of Černý Vůl to Velké Přílepy was a real eye-opener. It’s not that difficult of a climb, for God’s sake. Not even close. But it almost killed me. Or at least my thighs.

I did spot a local orchard selling plastic bottles full of most, or home-pressed apple cider, and was tempted to stop and load up with a few (they were so delicious last year), but in the end I didn’t want to weigh myself down any more than I already was weighed down by my overindulgence in Croatia. I’d just stop on my way home.

I made it to the SPITW, met up with Stewart, and we decided just to tackle one of our usual routes – from Úholičky, up the hill (ugh!) to Tursko, and on the road toward Kozinec.

Near Kozinec, we decided to check if the mean potato-throwers of last year were harvesting any more of their spuds or vitriol, but the field in question was deserted.

Along the way, though, we did enjoy a cornucopia of what I like to call Road Fruit –- apples and pears and plums growing in massive quantities along the country roads. Found some strange miniature pears that were delicious (do they have a name?), as well as what I think were a variety of plum but which were shaped and sized like cherries.

We also found vast fields of poppy pods drying in the sun, which sounded like nature’s baby rattles when we shook them. We emptied a few out and ate some of the seeds, confident since we weren’t scheduled for any drug tests later in the day. (My favorite show, “Mythbusters,” proved that it is possible to eat poppy seed products and test positive for opiates.)

Stewart and I stopped to admire a vast field of dried poppy bulbs. Each beautiful bulb was filled with thousands of seeds.

We ended up in Holubice, and discovered that the archaelogical dig we’d marveled over last winter was completely covered over now, with a few houses built on top for good measure.

Then down toward Trněný Újezd, but turned just before the village, and headed up into some farmer’s field between Hole and Kovary.

We pedaled through some lovely Czech countryside, with commanding views over rolling hills that stretched into the distance.

Stewart and I head into the unknown. It's good to be back.

My shoulder didn’t really bother me, just a few twinges as we descended a particularly rocky path down into the valley behind Okoř, where we, naturally, stopped for a beer at the Family Hotel Okoř, perhaps the Greatest Place To Stop For A Beer While Cycling.

Hey, the village has a cool castle ruin and the hotel serves a fantastic half-liter of Pilsner Urquell or Gambrinus, and a killer steak. What’s not to like?

We had one beer. Then two. Then three. That was probably one too many, especially since I was heading out for a boozy dinner a few hours later. But it felt good, sitting in the sun after a sweaty run, back in the saddle after so many months away.


Leaving Okoř was excruciating, however. Not because it was hard to leave such a cozy watering hole, but because my muscles had totally seized up, and a fairly steep ascent is required just after leaving, heading back toward Velké Přílepy.

It was all I could do to limp back home.

To make matters worse, the lady selling the fresh apple cider was nowhere to be found. Drats.

Length of ride: 28 kilometers
Average speed: 13.8 kph
Maximum speed: 43.4 kph
Pivo Index: 3
Time on the bike: 2.00.31
Distance ridden so far in 2009: 428 kilometers (so sad!)

We had to stop to admire this field of wildflowers. Buttercups?

I love this house, which is in the valley behind Okoř. Someone told me that a famous opera singer lives here. It's called Novy Mlyn, or New Mill. You'd swear you were in the English countryside. Perfectly manicured lawn. Beautiful sculptures. Flowers. A house right out of the Lake District. So nice.


Ole Forsberg said…

Welcome back. We've missed you.
Rob said…
Well done, Grant. It is good to have you and the blog back in action.
Karen said…
That house is made for the movies -it' so inviting!
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks, everyone! Glad to be back. And yes, that house should definitely be in a movie, if it hasn't already. A dream house.
SMB tech geeks said…
What a brilliant ride report Grant, accompanied by some great photos - we can't wait to see your next post now ;0). All the best for a continued smooth recovery.
Wissy said…
So glad you are back Grant. I've really missed your blogs here and on Gusto. Pleased you are on the mend but remember to take it easy and take your time to recover fully. The house looks like some of the houses i encounter on my walks in Surrey.

p.s. If you've read my blog recently we still are searching for the perfect collective noun for a group of blondes! You are the journlist - any ideas!
mommy said…
Hi Grant,
I was just thinking about you today and wondering if you had joined the biking world again and then I found your post.Glad you are back with Stewart and your audio comments are a nice addition to your blog.Glad you found Zhenya. Did the couple really take your reward money? I just moved last July from a flat down the street from Ustredni Vojenska Nemocnice and I used to hear the bells from Brevnov Monastery. Miss that and the Hotel Okor... Eileen
They are indeed plums, egg-plums in fact. The czechs call them špendlíky. The also make a good substitute for apricot. My wife actually just made some faux-apricot jelly from those on our tree.
Grant Podelco said…
Wow. Thanks everyone for all the good wishes and for the info on the plums. Egg plums, indeed!

As for the couple who helped us find our cat, yes, they did take the money. But we'd offered it, and we couldn't have found her without their help, so no worries. We're just glad she's back, safe and sound.
Dudarino said…
I think Mirabelle is the most often used common name in English. Its a very medieval fruit. For plant nerds its:
Prunus x domestica var. syriaca
majklp said…
How to find Novy mlyn owner:
1. Go web http://nah.cuzk.cz/
2. Insert name of village here: http://nahlizenidokn.cuzk.cz/VyberKatastr.aspx
3. Look on map and find the object - house
4. Back to http://nah.cuzk.cz/
Insert name of village and number of the house
5. Read the name of the owner
6. Google it
7. The owner of Novy mlyn is Lichoceves mayor. Google for more info about him.
Grant Podelco said…
Wow, Majkip. That's cool. Thanks!
majklp said…
This way you can find owner of every house, every area in your neighbourhood. Sometimes its interesting. MP

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