Da Plane! Da Plane!
Stewart got off his great shot on his iPhone, of the banner in Libčice nad Vltavou and the mystery plane itself as it passed over.
(I just returned from three weeks in the U.S. The following ride occurred at the end of March. Just getting around to posting it now. Apologies. Stay tuned for more rides very soon!)
The Hills of Unending Incline.
A perfect description, newly coined by Stewart, for a ride that I've developed a love-hate relationship with. I love going there. I hate coming back.
I've written about it here before.
We usually take off from Úholičky, up the hill to Tursko, along a lovely (and usually deserted) country road called K Tesine, down a fantastic windy lane called Kralupska, and into the village of Libčice nad Vltavou.
From there, it's along a path hugging the Vltava River to Dolany and then along to Kralupy. From there, we keep hugging the river path to one of our favorite spots to grab a beverage of two -- the Marina Vltava in Nelehozeves.
Which is exactly what we did on this day. I met Stewart at the SPITW (Smallest Pub In The World) in Úholičky, and we set off under what was by turns cloudy and dark and threatening, and then sunny with blue sky and clouds.
And the wind. All the time the damn wind. Why is it always behind us when we're heading down, and always against us when we were ascending? Never fails, that.
Our route on this day. Click to enlarge.
Heading down into the village of Libčice, Stewart and I noticed (couldn't help but notice, actually) a large passenger-type airplane flying quite low and doing all sorts of odd maneuvers above the treeline on the other side of the river. Both of us live near the usual approach that planes take when landing at Prague's airport, so we know when an airplane is doing something unusual in the skies.
And this was definitely unusual.
The plane would turn sharply, flying low to the ground, and you could hear the engines thrusting or pulling back or whatever jet engines do when the plane is climbing and then it would disappear into the clouds. Only to reappear moving slowly along the top of the treeline across the river, and then it would vanish, only to climb sharply up, up and away.
Stewart on one of our favorite country roads, between Tursko and Libčice.
We also saw a homemade banner in Libčice that said "Ne Letisti," or "No Airport."
At the time, Stewart and I weren't quite sure what airport they were talking about, or what these planes were doing flying so low. It appeared to be some sort of training flight. Stewart reckons he spotted the Lufthansa logo and that the plane was an Airbus A380, although we're not really sure.
Our biking buddy Dave Murphy told us later that "there is an airport just past Maslovice and Vodochody. I saw the same thing about two years ago. Up and down, up and down. They are planning to build a new one somewhere near Odolana Voda. I've seen the same signs against the airport."
It certainly was a surreal sight, seeing such a large plane flying so low and turning so sharply and hearing those engines really kick into gear like that. I can see why the locals might be a little upset about the whole thing.
If you know anything more about this situation, please do leave a comment. I'd love to know the whole story. (Editor's Note: Someone has just done that. See comments below. Mystery solved!)
Wolfenstein says hello.
Anyway, Stewart and I continued along the river on one of our favorite paths, passing as we do on this route the dog we call Wolfenstein. He's a big one, and not fond of bikers. Fortunately, he's behind a fence. But he always gives me pause when I pass.
From Libčice nad Vltavou to Dolany, and then we decided to take Grant's Pass to just under the bridge in Kralupy nad Vltavou, a narrow twisting path along the river that is too overgrown to ride in the summer, but which is just passable in the spring. It cuts out a bit of city riding in Kralupy, which is always welcome.
Then it was a sprint to Marina Vltava, for the obligatory soup and a couple of cold ones.
And then the part I dislike intensely: returning home from Kralupy. All those lovely downhills turn into uphills on the way back, and on this day, it was all against the wind. Man, it was tough riding. Up and up and up out of Libčice to just above Úholičky. And just when you've expended all the energy and muscle power you think you possess, there's always a little bit more hill to climb.
It leaves me spent every time.
Stewart and I parted ways in Úholičky.
Country scene near Tursko.
Just a few hundred meters later, on my way to Velké Přílepy, I noticed my bike acting kind of weird. I looked down and noticed that my rear tire was flat as Kansas. (Which was funny, because a few days before I had replaced the tube after discovering a flat rear tire on my bike in the garage a few days after my last ride. I had pumped the punctured tube up to see where the hole was, only to discover that it seemed to be holding air just fine. In face, the tube is still inflated and hanging in my garage.)
So I was more than a little pissed off to discover another flat. (I guess I hadn't check the tire itself closely enough. Must be a thorn or something still stuck in there somewhere.)
A small pond and ancient building in Tursko, taken with my iPhone.
I was fairly close to home and didn't relish the idea of changing a rear tire there by the side of the road, so I pumped up the tube and hoped it would last me home. It didn't. I had to walk about half the way there, to the top of the hill above Velké Přílepy, where I pumped it up one last time. I was able to coast home, in the rain.
An ignominious end to an exhausting ride, the longest of the year so far for me. Sad, but true.
Length of ride: 42.5 kilometers
Time on the bike: 3.10.35
Average speed: 13.4 kph
Maximum speed: 49 kph
Pivo Index: 2
Distance ridden so far in 2010: 95 kilometers