What I Hope I Look Like 25 Years From Now

Marlo and me at Okoř castle on a beautiful late Indian summer afternoon.

I got a glimpse into my future the other day.

Or what I hope will be my future, if I’m lucky.

Let me explain.

I received an e-mail a few weeks ago from a guy out in California:

I've been reading your blog for the last few months since my wife and I decided to spend a couple weeks in Prague this fall. I ride a mountain bike (K2 hardtail) in the Berkeley hills and Marin county with some side trips to the Sierras up around Lake Tahoe in the summer. I'm thinking of renting a bike and taking a ride near Prague in a couple weeks, and will probably rely on your descriptions of trails and pubs... I like your style of riding, punctuated with a beer or two along the way (we don't have those kinds of nice outdoor pubs out here though). Your current blog reminds me of the T-shirt that says "Beer... So much more than just another breakfast drink!"

I liked the guy already. His name was Marlo Martin, and he was from Berkeley, California.

He said he’d been riding in the hills for the past eight years since having to give up trail running because of knee problems.

My normal training rides start with about a 1000 foot climb and are in the 20-30 km range. I'm also happy with smaller ups and downs and would really like to see some of the Czech countryside that you describe. I can't really get much of an idea of what the verticals are in your rides. Are the hills on the scale of 1000 feet or 200 feet or what? Less grueling climbs let me tolerate longer total distances than mentioned above. I really want to stay off busy roads as much as possible, but some of the ones you showed in photos look very appealing. Obviously, trails are most desirable, especially if they take me through interesting surroundings.

Now, regular readers of this blog know that I’m no fan of hills. I do them because around here there’s no other choice. They often get in the way of me and the nearest pub, so I do what I have to do.

So I asked for some advice on the local hills from my riding buddy Rob, who’s a masochist like Marlo and who’s studied the local terrain far more scientifically than I have:

As for riding around Prague, he won't have any trouble with our hills. The countryside around Prague is generally rolling with lots of ups and downs, but no really big climbs. Some of the very toughest hills here give you about 300 meters of climbing over 1-3 kilometers, I'd say. (There's a tough climb near a village called Klecany on the Vltava River that is something like that).

Rob and Marlo at the Roztoky overlook, with the Vltava River far below.

Marlo proposed that we ride together while he was in town:

I'm not very eager to sign up for a tourist bike ride at a bike shop, and most of my rides are solo anyway...

Oh, did I mention that Marlo is 73 years old?

“If you are planning a trip during the time I'm in Prague and would like to see how you'll be humping up the hills 25 years from now it could be a glimpse into your own future!”

We finally had a chance to link up earlier this week.

The video of the little carnival at Okoř castle.

Marlo met Rob at Dejvická metro station in Prague 6, and the both of them then rode over to my house in Černý Vůl, northwest of Prague.

They cycled up the bike path on Evropska, then headed into the park known as Divoká Šárka, which is criss-crossed by some lovely cycling and hiking paths.

I wanted Rob to take Marlo up the notorious Hill of Doom on the way, but he was too much of a gentleman.

Fifteen kilometers later, Marlo and Rob were at my house.

Let me just state the obvious. I hope to hell I look half as good as Marlo does when I’m 73. It cheered my soul to think that I possibly/maybe could look like that if I keep active.

Nice guy, to boot.

We headed from my house to Unetice on the wooded trail, then headed up the steep hill out of the village toward Roztoky. We were heading over to Stewart’s house. He’d invited us over to help him empty a bottle of burčák.

It was a lovely day, so we sat outside at Stewart’s and introduced Marlo to the joys of burčák, the young wine – the very young wine – that I’ve written about in this blog before. (Marlo at one point called it "grapeshot," which is a pretty accurate description, actually!)

It was a great chance to talk to find out more about Marlo, whom we found out runs a company that does foreign-language translation work. He also used to work as a physicist earlier in this career. He’s a smart guy.

Stewart decided to join us for the rest of our ride, so we headed down the hill from Roztoky to the fantastic cycling path that runs along the west side of the Vltava River toward Podmoran. In Podmoran, we climbed another, even tougher, hill up to Úholičky.

The Smallest Pub In The World in Úholičky was closed, and we were running out of time, and I wanted to show Marlo the cool castle at Okoř, so we skipped another uphill climb to Tursko and instead headed to Velké Přílepy and then Noutonice.

In Noutonice, we took one of our favorite routes into Okoř -- down a steep, partly paved, partly dirt path that leads into the valley behind the castle.

We had to slow up a bit, unfortunately, near the end of the downhill because of a horse on the trail, and we didn't want a repeat of a previous episode last December when our presence spooked a horse and threw the rider to the ground.

We also had a chance to show Marlo one of the most beautiful homes in the Czech Republic, which apparently belongs to the mayor of the nearby village of Lichoceves. As I've said before, it's like a vision from the Lake District of England.

In Okoř, we checked out the castle and the sad little kiddie carnival that seems to be in permanent residence in the field below the ramparts. The carnival both gives me the willies, and is also somehow oddly compelling.

And Rob pointed out a large model of what the castle once looked like, tucked away in a neighboring garden, which we had never noticed before, despite having visited Okoř about 234 times previously.

We sucked down some Pilsner at the amazing Family Hotel Okoř, lounging around in the grass in the golden glow of the setting sun.

If only we'd had time for two.

But Marlo had to get his rental bike back to the shop, I had to go pick up Emma, Stewart had a family barbecue to get cooking, and Rob had a going-away party to attend.

Stewart, Marlo and Rob kick back with a cold one in Okoř.

We saddled up and headed back to Velké Přílepy, where Stewart said his goodbyes. A few kilometers later, I said goodbye to Marlo and Rob as they headed back into the city.

A tip of my cycling helmet to Marlo, for being such an inspiration.

All the best, my friend. I hope we can link up during my upcoming business trip to San Francisco. Not sure if I'll have time to ride while I'm there, but I'll let you buy me a microbrew. Or two.

Length of ride: 30 kilometers
Average speed: 15.1 kph
Maximum speed: 42.5 kph
Time on the bike: 1.56.06
Pivo Index: 1
Burcak Index: 3 glasses
Distance ridden so far in 2009: 564.5 kilometers

The 14th-century castle ruin at Okor is one of our favorite cycling destinations, as regular readers no doubt already know.

Each of us has fallen in love with this house behind Okor castle. Beautiful house. Well-tended gardens. Whimsical sculptures.

The path from Roztoky to Podmoran along the river. It's a beauteous ride.


Karen said…
The loveliest thing about blogging is the people it brings into our life. He is an inspiration!
Anonymous said…
In my eyes, old-aged health and longevity seems to be a bit of a crap shoot. You reminded me of this article from the New Yorker that I read the other day. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/04/07/080407fa_fact_kinsley]
Gio said…
Earlier this summer my wife, 30, and me 41, did a 3 day 28 mile backpacking trip in the Indian Peaks region of Colorado. On our way up to Pawnee Pass, 12,400ft, we met two guys hiking up. We passed them but stopped to talk. We found out they were both 73. One looked in his 50s the other looked barely over 60. I hope I am that lucky.
Anonymous said…
I'm always surprised by your blog. I've been to a lot of these places (Hrad Okor, that house with the sculptures next to the railroad viaduct (did you notice the snail shells glued to the tree?)) and at the time felt like I was the only foreigner who has ever been there. Now you're guiding others.
Grant Podelco said…
I'm always surprised by my blog, too! No matter how many times I've ridden the same trails and roads, I always find something interesting and new. I did not see the snails on the tree. I'll check them out next time I'm out there. Thanks to everyone for reading! All the best.

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