Not In Sheep Shape

We passed a couple of inquisitive sheep near Dolany.

I always seem to have close encounters with trains when I go out riding with Rob.

Regular readers may remember when we narrowly escaped getting flattened by a local commuter train as we crossed a railroad bridge with our bikes on a ride near Tuchoměřice a few months back.

On our latest ride, I found myself standing in a long, dark railroad tunnel near Nelahozeves, with a huge passenger train heading straight for me at high speed.

Fortunately, I had a quick exit, as I was standing in the mouth of what looked like a cave carved into the sandstone cliffs near the Vltava River, but which was actually an emergency entrance to the railroad tunnel.

Rob out ahead, somewhere between Tursko and Debrno.

I’d ventured into the “cave” many times on previous rides to Nelahozeves, and had always wanted to capture the moment of a train whooshing through with my video camera. But each time, I waited and waited and no train. Of course, as soon as I’d leave and head back on the bike trail, a train would appear, but by then it was too late.

Not this time.

It’s a pretty eerie feeling to stand in the darkened railroad tunnel, with just a speck of light on either end, knowing that a train could appear at any moment.

And when a train does pass through, stand back. The wind is pretty fierce, shooting out of the mouth of the cave with impressive force.

It was a thrill. I feel like a little kid in these situations, getting to stand so close to a speeding train, and no adult yelling at me to get back from the tracks.

Rob and I were out for a rare ride together. He wanted me to show him my new favorite route, from my home in Černý Vůl to Marina Vltava, a cool restaurant/pub on the banks of the Vltava near Nelahozeves, famous as the birthplace of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.

Or should I say, used to be my new favorite route? I think I’ve changed my mind.

We set off on a crisp September morning, the sky blue, the clouds puffy and white, and Rob’s cycling jersey a bright bumblebee yellow.

Rob and I chill out at Marina Vltava, halfway through our ride.

From Černý Vůl, up the long climb to Velké Přílepy, to Úholičky, up the steep hill to Tursko, then through the countryside to Debrno , then down the wonderfully long descent into Dolany, connecting with the trail along the west side of the Vltava, up to Kralupy nad Vltavou, and then the final stretch into Nelahozeves.

In Dolany, Rob, who was riding behind me, yelled "Flat!" He'd suffered a puncture somehow in his rear tire, despite his Slime Liners. (We never did find the culprit in the tire or the tube, although Rob later found one of his rear spokes had snapped, which may have had something to do with why he had a flat.) Rob turned his bike upside down and changed the tube beside the trail. After 15 minutes or so, we were off again.

A few kilometers later, we were crossing the wide paved streets of some sort of old train depot or storage yard south of Kralupy. The trail ends along the river, so cyclists are forced to go through this old depot area to connect with Kralupy and pick up the trail again.

Rob was riding ahead when I noticed a car barreling at high speed right toward him. Some teenagers out for a joy ride, not expecting to find someone else sharing the road in this forgotten part of town.

Honestly, for a moment there, I thought Rob might be a goner. I wasn't sure if he'd seen the car's trajectory. He didn't seem to be moving. But then simultaneously the car swerved to avoid Rob, and Rob took evasive action. The car flew by.

I looked in the eyes of the driver and shouted and raised my arms incredulously, as if to say, "WTF?!"

I half expected him to slam on the brakes and come back for some sort of confrontation, but he didn't. I was prepared if he did. My blood was up. One of these days...

We continued along the trail to Nelahozeves. I pointed out the curvaceous sandstone cliffs to Rob, and we stopped to watch (and film) the passenger train passing through the tunnel.

I clambered up the slippery cliff face and managed to make my way into one of the caves. Very cool.

At Marina Vltava, we enjoyed a few half-liters of Gambrinus. I had liver dumpling soup, while Rob opted for a penne carb feast. (Perhaps I should have done the same, as I would soon learn.)

It's a lovely spot to ride to, especially when the weather is so nice. Water and boats and bikes and beer.

We set off for our return, backtracking for much of the way, but following the river trail farther south, to Libčice nad Vltavou.

I had been dreading the return home. I'm out of shape after my two months off for shoulder surgery, and in Libčice nad Vltavou begins a long, steep uphill slog back to Úholičky that never fails to whip my ass.

Rob disappeared for most of the climb. He was just that far ahead of me. I made it, but it took everything I had. My thighs burned like hellfire.

The only bright spot was passing by a tree laden with mirabelle plums. I reached out my hand and grabbed a few and popped them into my mouth. Perfectly ripe. Flavorful and juicy. I had to turn around and fill my pockets with a few more.

If that climb wasn't torture enough, there was another ascent to conquer in Velké Přílepy before I could collapse in a quivering heap in the comfort of my own home.

To my great good fortune, about three-quarters of the way up, a woman was selling bottles of "mošt," or home-pressed apple cider. I was hoping she'd be there.

Better than beer? Bottles of freshly pressed apple cider on sale at a roadside stand for around $1.75 each.

I've bought quite a few bottles of cider from her over the past two years. It is so delicious. Nectar of the gods. I love it. It reminds me of growing up in the northeastern United States, when the local cider mills were pressing cider and selling bushels of apples and trays full of caramel apples.

We stopped. I bought three bottles.

And then I limped home.

I was spent, my legs like soggy pasta.

Rob had another 10 kilometers or so before he was home, including a very challenging ascent on Route 240 to connect with Evropska.

He made it home, no problem. (Although he did say that he thought it was a tough ride overall, and that I shouldn't be so hard on myself.)

Rob's logged some 3,500 kilometers already this year.

Me? See below. Pitiful.

Length of ride: 44 kilometers
Average speed: 15.6 kph
Maximum speed: 51.9 kph
Pivo Index: 2
Time on the bike: 2.47.01
Distance ridden so far in 2009: 534.5 kilometers

The sandstone caves are like something out of Middle Earth. I just had to explore (below).

The view at Marina Vltava.


You've changed your mind?!
I hope you found another route that you like, and haven't just gotten frustrated by the hills on this one.

I like to take in the trails on the other side of the river as well and maybe a ferry or two, but the Nelahozeves section is great on both sides of the river!
Gio said…
I've noticed you mentioning the slime liners quite a bit. Problem with those is they can get twisted between tire and tube and be less usefull. If you get slime tubes, or just the slime in a bottle and fill your tubes you won't have to change the tube when flat. Get a thorn flat, pull the thorn out, check the inside, pump up and go. The slime will fill the hole and seal where the liner will have to be precisely over the hole. Happy Trails.

Grant Podelco said…
Cory, I haven't found another route, I'm afraid. Just getting frustrated with how bad this one hurts. Definitely, the Nelahozeves trail is awesome. It's just getting back home from there that's painful. I'll have to check out the trail on the other side of the river, too.
Grant Podelco said…
Gio, I'll check out the slime tubes. Hadn't heard of those, frankly, but they sound cool. I have to say that I haven't had a puncture since I can remember with my Slime Liners. Maybe I'm just lucky.
I can attest how easy it is to lose our fitness. But I have to comment on the beer. That alone would add a whole bucket of intensity to any of my rides. Like eating at McDonnalds, either one makes me sluggish.
Grant Podelco said…
Actually, I always feel energized after a few beers. I find I have a lot more energy and also tend to attack the hills with renewed gusto. Go figure. McDonald's would be another story, however!

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