Friday, June 10, 2011
Taking My Friends For A Spin
Karen (left), Steve, and Daisy pause on the farmer's road above Malé Číčovice.
Regular readers of this blog will recall that I almost died while cycling a few years ago. No, it wasn't due to an idiotic Czech driver, as you might expect.
The thing is, I was actually riding a stationary bicycle at World Class Fitness on Wenceslas Square. I was taking a spinning class run by drill sergeant Michael Sommer, at the urging of my friends, world-famous artist Karen LaMonte and her husband, Steve Polaner. At least, I had thought they were my friends, until I started the class and realized that I -- the supposedly fit and micro-famous bike blog author -- had been lured into some sort of sanctioned torture session.
I barely survived. I'm not kidding. (You can read about my experiences in a previous blog post here.)
Between Malé Číčovice and Okoř.
At the time, Steve and Karen (who themselves had no problem surviving the spinning; indeed, they thrived on the exertion) would feign fear as I talked of what it was like to actually ride a bike outdoors. While spinning, they said, they could always turn down the knob that controls the resistance on the bike, while riding up a real hill was another thing entirely. (Of course, I'd witnessed their spinning prowess and knew they'd kick my ass on a real hill.)
We'd promised one another that we'd go on a ride sometime. They wanted to see some of the sights that regularly crop up on this blog.
Well, almost two-and-a-half years later, we finally succeeded in doing just that.
Karen and Daisy heading into Malé Číčovice.
It was a beautiful spring day, and Steve and Karen drove with their bikes over to our house in Černý Vůl, west of Prague, from where the four of us, including my wife, Daisy, set off.
We cycled along the cool, leafy country road to Statenice to the village of Tuchoměřice, where the first of the day's harder climbs awaited us. Of course, neither Steve nor Karen had any trouble whatsoever getting to the top. If anything, I'm the one who was struggling. I hate hills.
From Tuchoměřice, we took the road heading toward Středokluky, but turned off on a little road that leads into the hamlet of Černovický. From there, it's a wonderful ride on a farmer's dirt road down into the neighboring hamlet of Malé Číčovice, home to the charming restaurant and pension called V Polích.
It was recently voted one of the best restaurants in the Czech Republic and sadly, considering how close it is to our house, we've yet to dine there. Soon, but not on this day, because we wanted to take Steve and Karen to the Family Hotel Okoř, in the neighboring village of Okoř, which is also home to the picturesque ruin of a 14th-century castle.
At the Okoř castle ruins.
The hotel is one of our favorite cycling stops for a beer, and one of our top spots for dinner. I maintain that the restaurant serves the best steak you'll find in these parts. (I wrote about the steak on my other blog, Gusto. You can find that post here.)
We stopped for a lazy, well-lubricated lunch, sitting outside at one of their cozy outdoor tables.
The best steak in Prague. Damn good French fries, too.
From Okoř, we cycled through Velké Přílepy to Úholičky. They wanted to see the famous Smallest Pub In The World, which only opens at 5 p.m., so we stopped at the pub across the street and had another beer. (By the way, I was able to confirm that this pub does not serve the cheapest half-liter of beer I've found this year. As I wrote last week, I thought that they charged 17 CZK for a half-liter, but I was wrong; it's 21 CZK ($1.25) for a Gambrinus. Still, not bad!)
WATCH: Among his many talents, Steve is a budding filmmaker and, using his iPhone 4, shot and edited an intricately plotted -- and totally improvisational -- movie as we were cycling. I'm including an excerpt of "Team Armageddon" below:
From Úholičky, it was another steep climb up to the Roztoky highway, which we took for a bit until we turned off for Únětice. We wanted to show Steve and Karen our New Favorite Place, the wine bar/cafe known as U Lasiku, which I also wrote about last week.
Table service courtesy of Karen, at the pub in Úholičky that I must remember to find out the name of the next time we're there.
We ordered a pitcher of rose wine and soda water for a refreshing spritzer, as well as an assortment of delicious tarts, homemade by the owner, Michaela. (By the way, I learned that U Lasiku is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, for those of you contemplating a visit.)
From Únětice, it was back to our place for an impromptu Russian-inspired dinner of smoked fish and eel (which Steve and Karen had picked up at a farmer's market at Anděl earlier that same day), washed down with some icy cold Stolichnaya.
To say that it was a good day is to belabor understatement. Let's do it again soon.
Length of ride: 27 kilometers
Average speed: 14.5 kph
Maximum speed: 49.2 kph
Time on the bike: 1.49.32
Pivo Index: 5 (plus a few glasses of rose spritzer and, oh yeah, some vodka)
Distance ridden so far in 2011: 171 kilometers
This is a panorama photo of the Czech countryside taken by Steve using the Photosynth app on his iPhone 4. Very cool. Click to enlarge to get the full effect.
Check out this accidentally weird shot Steve made of me, also using the Photosynth app. The invisible man.
Some of the homemade tarts and sour pickles on offer at U Lasiku (above and below).
Daisy, on the road again.
Pit stop in Úholičky (above and below).
On the road between Okoř and Velké Přílepy.