Trailing Behind

The only bright spot on the "trail" linking Podmoráň and Řež were these wildflowers.

Four beers, two bowls of soup, one flat tire, and four mud-caked calves, plus giant patches of skin burning from nettle stings, and trails so rough we had to carry our bikes.

Yes, that can mean only one thing. Stewart and I are back on the bikes.

Believe it or not, Stewart and I hadn't ridden together for almost a year, since he and I and David and Mark paid a visit to the menhir last September. I still can't quite believe that. We used to go out in snow and ice and rain and sun, all year long.

Not sure what my excuse is, frankly. A busy schedule and general laziness, I suppose.

We met up in Roztoky at the site of our beloved Koliba, which burned to the ground a few years ago. For the first time since the fire, we noticed signs of activity at the site, as if someone has begun to clean it up in preparation for rebuilding. The small pond has been drained and much of the debris removed from around the site.

We're keeping our fingers crossed that a new owner will come in and restore at least a touch of Koliba's former glory. Although it will never be what it once was.

It was heartening to see that work appears to be starting at the site of the old Koliba. The pond has been drained and debris collected and removed. Anyone know the status of this site?

Then, with a cry of "It's been too long!" Stewart and I set out.

While it was a gorgeous, sunny day, the trails were still wet from recent rain, and our legs were soon speckled with mud and dripping with the juice of berries squashed along the way. It looked like we were bleeding.

Cycling along the west side of the Vltava near Roztoky.

We headed north along the west side of the Vltava, along the lovely paved path that I've written about here many times before. It's one of the nicest paths on which to cycle in Prague (the other being the paved path just north of the Prague Zoo on the east side of the river, but that trail peters out into some rough riding after just a few kilometers).

On the west side, things stay civilized until the village of Podmoráň. And then the trail turns ugly. Not to resort to hyberbole, but to call the route from Podmoráň to Řež a trail is like referring to a summitting of Everest as a hike.

Especially in the dead of summer, when the faint path is overgrown with stinging plants of various sorts and big rocks and roots mean that carrying your bike is the only means forward (we call it bhiking). Rob and I once came across a huge dead boar along this trail, but that was in the spring, when you could actually see what's hidden along the route.

It's an unpleasant stretch.

Once you reach the train station at Řež, however, a real path presents itself, and from there to Kralupy, it's smooth sailing. There are a few twists and turns that won't necessarily be apparent to the inexperienced, and unfortunately I did not map this ride with my Garmin GPS (next time I promise!), but I do recommend tackling this route if you're feeling the least bit adventurous. It has many things to recommend it, not least of which is that it is car-free for most of the way.

In Libčice nad Vltavou, Stewart and I tried to stop in an old pub where we'd enjoyed an early morning beer a few years ago, but the startled waitress said it was closed. Yes, it was only 9:45 a.m., but still. They had served us before.

From there we passed through Dolany before heading into Kralupy and then continuing north on one of our all-time favorite trails, the stretch from Kralupy to Nelahozeves, the trail soft under our tires, the curvaceous sandstone cliffs hugging the trail to the left, until we come out of the forest at the lovely Marina Vltava.

"Dvě piva, prosím."

The first of three beers each at the lovely Marina Vltava, a cyclists' oasis in the village of Nelahozeves. Yes, that's Stewart behind me. Sorry. Didn't mean to hog the photo.

By the time we left, we'd sucked back three Pilsners and lukewarm bowls of soup (not the kitchen's finest hour).

From there, well, I'm hard-pressed to describe our meandering route, which I'm not sure I could replicate if Stewart weren't with me. Basically, we took backwoods trails that wound their way from Kralupy to Otvovice to Zakolany, up the streep path to Budeč, and then down a lovely path to the road near Kovary, and then the back route into Okoř. I've done this route at least once before with Stewart. It's a lovely, largely car-free ride over hill and dale.

Stewart ended up with a puncture somewhere near Otvovice, caused by a large piece of old wire that had embedded itself in his rear tire. My spare tube also had a leak in it (that's a long story), so Stoo patched his tube with a handy repair kit and we were on our way in a relative jiffy.

Stewart -- the fastest puncture man in the business -- changes a flat in the wilds somewhere between Kralupy and Otvovice, I believe.

We ended up, as we often do, at the Family Hotel Okoř, where we had another bowl of soup (chicken noodle, and much, much better) and another glass of Pilsner.

My thighs felt like slabs of dead meat. I hadn't done any serious riding (OK, any riding at all) since early June. My legs and arms still burned from the nettles. By this time, I really didn't want to be riding anymore, but I had another six or seven kilometers to go to make it home.

I quite liked this little storage shed somewhere near Libčice nad Vltavou.

Stewart and I cycled to Černý Vůl, where I live. I felt bad for him, as he had another six or seven kilometers to go before he himself made it home (although largely a pleasant downhill through the forest to Roztoky, but still).

I would describe myself as limping home, if you can limp on a mountain bike

Sometimes I feel like a cycling pretender, a pretentious bike blogger. I've rarely been on my bike this year. And when I have ridden, it's been a painful experience due to my lack of time in the saddle. You would be forgiven for questioning my commitment.

Perhaps it's time to shut down the blog. A bike blogger needs to do two things to succeed, and I'm not really doing either one of them. Or not very often, anyway.

Length of ride: 52 kilometers
Average speed: 14.4
Maximum speed: 51.4
Time on the bike: 3.36.04
Pivo Index: 4
Distance ridden so far in 2011: 223 kilometers (pathetic, I know)

This park in Zakolany honors Antonín Zápotocký, a communist prezident of Czechoslovakia from 1953-57, who was born in the village. This park has also been recently been renovated, including a cool little pavilion with these stylish signs (below) pointing the way toward local landmarks and cities.

A ramshackle but very promising villa just next to the castle in Okor is also being renovated. It'd make a great hotel/restaurant or conference center. Anyone know what the plans are for this place?

Anyone know what this machine does, exactly? We were fascinated by this work on some railway lines. Looked like it was scooping up rocks and soil along the rails.

An old tractor on display beside the trail near Libcice.


Anonymous said…
The machine in your picture is a Track tamping machine: Generally, a locomotive used in track maintenance and equipped with track lifting facilities, and paddles enabling ballast to be pushed beneath a rail track so as to assure its level and cant.

(courtesy of Wikipedia)
Karen said…
Wow, as a regular reader of your blog it IS hard to believe you and your pal Stewart haven't been out in a year. My favorite post of your adventures though wasn't a bike ride, but the Robbie Burns dinner.

Could that statue by T.G. Masaryk? The stance makes me think so.
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks for the train info. Very interesting machine, indeed. And thanks, Karen, for the Masaryk guess. Let's see what others say. There were no markings on the statue itself.
Ole said…
Grant, please do not shut down this blog. I really enjoy the sights and insights into the Czech Republic as you have provided these years.
Grant Podelco said…
Ole, You're very kind. Thank you. I hope I can ride enough to justify this blog. Your comments keep me going.
Anonymous said…
Sat at the same Marina table last month. I was doing the geocaches on that section of trail. Crazy to see trains fly past from the side tunnels.

Isn't the building near Okor an old mill? I remember that building being next to a small dammed place on the creek.

This is Random Traveler but I forgot my password as usual.
Grant Podelco said…
You're probably right about that being an old mill. I've seen the old pictures of Okor with a small pond/lake right in front of the castle.
Anonymous said…
It´s the statue of Antonín Zápotocký - communist prezident of Czechoslovakia from 1953 to 1957. He was born in Zakolany.
I wouldn´t praised him, because a lot of people were executed on political grounds during his reign.
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks for the info. I will amend my blog post accordingly. Interesting fact about Zakolany.
Anonymous said…
Grant, I echo Ole's comments... I'd be sad to see you shut the blog down. Not only is it entertaining, but it's a great resource for people wanting to ride in and around Prague. I always look forward to reading your latest post. I am sure it can be a bit of work to keep up, but it's really appreciated by your readers. Keep it up as long as you can. And thanks! Andy F.
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks, Andy. I do appreciate your comment. I'm going to keep the blog going, for now. It's really nice to get such comments.
Antonín Zápotocký!...Anon, Thanks for clearing this up, I don't recall any name or explanation on or near the statue. It surprises me the statue stands to this day considering the subjects role in this dark time in Czech history.

Great post Grant, I didn't know you'd posted this ride- until a chance encounter with one of your readers told me! kidding.

I just learned there is a move from Murphy for a Melnik ride this Sunday Grant...if you have time? for the blog?
Grant Podelco said…
There is no name on the statue, at least at the moment. Perhaps a work in progress. Sorry, Stoo, I thought for sure you'd seen it posted on FB and Twitter. I have readers??!!! I'm seriously hoping to ride along to Melnik, my friend. Let's stay in touch.

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