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The End

July 18, 2019

Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon, USA

This morning I got up and made coffee.  Standing in the center of the front window of 647 Siskiyou enjoying the steaming cup, I viewed a doe, a fawn and a buck, an unusual site to see such a family.  But the viewing from my favorite morning place was also unusual for me.  It has been over 3 months since I last stood in this place.  A very good 3 ½ month journey has ended and another chapter has begun.

All my journeys have chosen their own paths and their own times.  I seem to have little say in the matter.  When I found myself in the very small Greek village with a broken bike I had no desire to return to the island of Evia, but the trip had its own idea of where I was to go.  After the repair and a stop in a cell phone store to talk with island born young man, I spent another, almost 2 weeks on the island. 
My original trip plan was to try to find a way to cycle to Norkapp in Norway but the road would not have that plan.  Brussels and the Tour de France became the destination.  A wonderful hostess in Brussels, a friend in Prague, a meeting with a family from Tanzania at the Tour, all combined to show me the end of this journey. 

As I sit here at my home computer talking with you, flashes of this journey come into my vision.  The first days with John visiting an old touring friend in Phoenix, cycling to Bisbee, AZ through the Sonora desert and camping on Lake Pleasant for a farewell to John and the US. 
The first days of cycling, out of Athens in heavy traffic and up the steep hills to find a campground that had burned down in their version of the fires of our west, comes to my eyes.  The long, yet short ride to Thessaloniki that I thought would mark the end of Greece but again the road had other ideas.  A night with a wine producer added another day to my stay in the country before the final crossing into North Macedonia and the bringing of a new country to my tires.   
The meeting of a missionary family in the Skopje, the capital, a food tour and enjoying the old bazaar, where my hotel was located added 3 days to my stay in Macedonia.  Then Serbia, a country I had heard a lot of negative about, most of which turned out to be untrue.  The wonderful mountains with their great climbs, the friendly people and good food left me with a whole new picture of what is Serbia.
An unplanned short stay in Croatia because I followed the river the wrong way did not give me enough time to really appreciate what I was finding to be amazing people.  Leaving Mitrovica I followed the Ibar NW instead of NE, forcing me to turn north into Hungary much earlier than planned, producing another example of the road leading the journey. 

Budapest brought the beginning of the end.  Now I was headed to Brussels and the Tour. 
Next, Munich instead of Passau due to a train mix up.  I wonderful mix up as I met a Spaniard living in Munich, Mixx.  How more appropriate could that have been.  We spent 2 great days together enjoying Munich and its beer gardens.  It is always great when what appears to be a problem shows itself to be a wonderful opportunity. 

Then Karlsruhe, the home of a long ago friend I could not find and back to cycling.  Up the Rhine to the Saar and then the Mossell and into Luxemburg, trying to be in Brussels by the 5th of July.  Good riding along the rivers with paved bikeways, no climbs or motor vehicles. Soon the bikeways became a little boring, just pedaling along though the little changing scenery.  Not really why I tour but great for making time.  One hundred kilometer plus days are easy.  I finally pedaled off the rivers into Luxemburg, back into the mountains and their ever changing views. 
My hostess in Brussels and I had been talking using What’s App and she suggested that I find my way to Wiltx, Luxemburg and pick up a ravel (pronounced havel) a rails to trails facility and follow it to Bastogne. Then another ravel to Libramont-Chevigny, Belgium to catch a train to Brussels as my time had run out.  No matter how tight my schedule I cannot miss the opportunities of meeting the locals and learning about their lives. So, extra delays always appear on my agenda. 

Marilyn is a great hostess.  She met me at the Brussels train station and we cycled to her narrow 5 story, 100 year old downtown home.  From then on we toured Brussels, watched the Wimbledon finals, ate good meals, worked on her 8 bikes, her son’s commuter and enjoyed each other’s company. 

The Tour de France was exciting and fun.  We walked around the Fan Zone buying once in a life time items, seeing the riders, talking with the sponsors and soaking up the atmosphere on Friday.  Then on Saturday during the Grand Depart I stood on the starting line.  While seeing the wonderful backs of all the taller folks in front of me I watched the start on the big screen in the Royal Plaz.  Sunday brought the Team Time Trial, with a great viewing place within touchable distance of the teams as they flashed by.  It also gave me the opportunity to meet a wonderful family from Tanzania there for the race.  The son is studying architecture in China, the daughter is studying in a Brussels high school and the mother and father work and live in Tanzania.   It was fun sharing with them how the race worked and learning about their very unusual lives. 
Oh, you are talking to an international bike mechanic.  I went to visit a friend in Prague, leaving Marilyn with some instructions on getting parts for her son’s bike.  While in Prague she texted me asking what had to be done with the parts.  After a couple of texts back and forth we got the problem solved.  Think about that process, an American bike mechanic in Prague working on a bike in Brussels. 

The trip to Prague was very nice.  To meet an old traveling friend, share a wonderful city with a food tour and learn about the culture while staying with a local, how much more can I say? 

The road brought me to all I have seen and experienced on this journey.  Over many years letting it decide and direct my travels has always been my way.  I say that like I have a choice, I do not.  I hope the road continues to guide me the rest of my life and maybe beyond

—Bill H.

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Brussels–The Tour de France!

The Tour de France, the Grand Depart

July 10, 2019

Brussels, Belgium

The Tour de France!  At the start line of the Grand Depart!  How much better could it be.  After so much effort and changes I am here to watch the boys take that first of thousands of pedal strokes that will carry them to Paris over the next 3, very hard weeks.  
Well, at least I am right on the start line.  Maybe all I can really see is the backs of those in front of me and the large tv screen on the Royal Plaz.  Still, I am here.  
Yesterday I went to the Fan Zone, saw some of the riders, picked up some free and some not so free souvenirs, and got into the atmosphere of the event.  Today the race.  Did see a few of the interviews and got up close to the team buses and support caravan.  Yes, I am here.
The next morning I found a great place to watch the team time trails.  I was so close I really could have touched the riders as they went by.  Wow, how fast they go!  I could feel the wind of their movement.  Such a wonderful rainbow of colors flying down the road.  First the police motorcycles, then the rainbow of riders followed by the support cars, all passing at over 35 mph.  Worth every mountain climbed and every obstacle overcome.

Tanzanian Family in Brussels

Met a very interesting family.  I overheard a young man trying to explain the race to a younger girl.  He really had no idea what was going on, so I asked if I could help.  We talked and I shared what I knew.  I asked where they were from.  Tanzanian they answered.  He was studying architecture and she was in high was in high school.  What university, I inquired.  Well, he said it was in China.  They looked up and waved at a man and woman across the street and said that was their mother and father.  Soon we were joined by them and the conversation continued.  I learned so much from this wonderful family.  Their hopes and dreams and about their lives.  

The race ended and we said our goodbyes with photos for all.

—Bill H.

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Belgrade Twice

June 18, 2019

Sremski Karlovci, Vojvodina, Serbia

Interesting village. The birth of the Serbian Orthodox church was here. During WWII the Germans occupied and made it part of Croatia. It has the first high school in Serbia and it is still an open high school. It is the heart of the northern wine region of Serbia. It also contains the first Serbian Orthodox seminary in Serbia. Such a nice, walkable town and a great plaza. To sit and watch the people here is a very nice experience. Just could not resist stopping.

Except for the 3 days in Belgrade, I have been riding more.  Well, it was really 5 days depending on how you count.
“What the heck does that mean? Pretty easy to count days.”
The ride from my “kissing of the Danube at Smderevo to Belgrade was very difficult.  Many  steep climbs of 2 to 5 km, where 10% was just a little bump.  Two 12 foot lanes on a very busy highway for 75 km.   Temps in the mid 90’s and humidity about the same.  I could keep my elbow bent and touch the trucks as they passed.  Did not do it but was tempted at times.  Took this road to save 20 km, not the best choice.  By the time I arrived in Belgrade I was happy for the city traffic, blowing horns, being cut off, normal speeds and passing distances.
After arriving in Belgrade it was time to look for my apartment. Had the address plugged into the phone, so no big deal.  But Serbia has it own gps directions I have discovered.  The addresses are really not the addresses.  They can be off by half a block and on another block! After searching for about an hour and texting the owner on a regular basis I found it!  Well,  even though it had the same name and a very similar address it was not where I had booked. The lady said “Why don’t you have a look while you’re here and then decided.  You can always cancel your other reservation.”
She showed me 2 rooms, a single and then a double that had a kitchen, separate bedroom was away from the street and she priced it below what my reserved apartment was priced at.  I texted and canceled the other room and stayed.  While we were filling out the paper work a cold beer appeared.  Now I knew I would stay.  Did I say it included breakfast at a local restaurant?  I am now drinking cappuccino on a regular basis.  Not like the Serbs, but some.
Saw the city, got my cell phone screen replaced (dropped it) and stocked up on food items from the “supermarket.”  More like a large convenience store.  Packed up on the 3rd morning and rode out.  I like to enter or leave big cities on a Sunday.  Even if it is not a Christian city Sundays are still good traffic days.
Good riding day to restart.  Major destinations always seem like an end. So, when I leave that place it is like starting again.  It was about 70, wind at my back and just enough sun to make me happy. Rode about 30 km when I saw a packed bike at a biker bar.  Ok, I know, a biker bar and a touring bike?  Well, the bar was named Route 77, a Harley was parked out front and the staff were in black biker shirts?
I stopped to talk.  The touring cyclist was from Belgrade on the last day of a 5 day tour.  Milos was a new tourer but really was enjoying the experience.  We talked a while and he asked me to look something up on my phone.  I could not get it to work.  We checked the time and data finding out I had no credit left.  OK, he said that is easy.  Every little store sells time.  Right next to the bar was such a store.  Guess what?  Their internet was down.  OK, the next store.  No, problem what is you telephone number?  I took my phone case off to look at the sim card holder for the number.  I always put my US sim card and the foreign card holder in the case so I have easy access.  The case was empty!  Great!  Now I had a problem.  In the case had been my Verizon sim, my Vodaphone sim for the EU and the number of the Serbian sim card.
We called Milos’ phone to get my Serbian number and updated the minuets.  OK, now I have service back.  But, I really needed the Verizon card.  Sometimes I have to call my bank or credit card company and they use my home cell number to verify that it is me calling.  So, I will switch the cards from time to time.  I knew where they were.  The store that had replaced the screen had not put them back in the case.  They were in Belgrade!  Damn, a trip back.
Milos said I could stay with him and we loaded up and headed back to the city.  The trip should have been around 2 and half hours but Milos was not a strong cyclist and he had to stop every hour to have a smoke.  Everyone in Serbia is born with a cigarette in their mouth.  It is very hard for me to go in a hotel room or a café or anywhere.  Anyway, got to his house by about 7:30, long day.
He said he would sleep at his sister’s place and I could have his bed.  No, thanks.  I said I would set up my tent in his very nice garden and sleep there.  No, he insisted, his bed.  I let it go for a while and then told him I had slept indoors too much lately, it was going to rain that night and I liked sleeping in my tent in the rain.  A little more work and before we went to dinner I set up my fabric home.
The next day we went to the cell store and picked up my cards.  They had all but the Vodaphone which was not that important.  I will buy a new one when I reenter the EU for about $3.00.
Milos then showed me Belgrade.  I learned a lot and saw many parts I never would have known about.  He is a great guide and host.  It is amazing how events occur.  Stopping to talk led to the discovery that my sim card was missing, learning how to update my cell credits, seeing a city I thought I knew a little, in a new way, a great night’s sleep to the sound of rain on my tent and meeting a very nice person.
Today, again I found myslef riding to Novi Sad, trying to get in my required 100 ks every day to be in Brussels by the night of the 5th of July.  Rode into this little village and could not continue. Wineries, c 1700 churches, an Orodox seminary, just a cute town.  I still had done my 100 plus but had not completed my planned day.  If necessary there is always the train or..
I am sitting on the banks of the Danube river as I write this, watching the river traffic.  I have seen 3 river cruise boats go by.  I wonder if they would allow me to take my bike?  Maybe I will see what kind of a deal I can make. A cruise to Vienna would be nice.  I am not an EFI kind of guy.  You will have to ask me directly what EFI means.  I will say that the “I” represents inch and the “E” every.

—Bill H.

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Climbing again

June 3, 2019

Negatino, Macedonia, Greece

Just a short note on an interesting feeling.

For the first month of this tour I climbed almost everyday.  Up some pretty big mountains.  Grades above 14%.  For those who know the Ashland area, Green Springs climb averages around 6%.  I got used to getting up in the morning knowing the whole day was up or at the best level.  Not sure how it worked but I don’t remember many downs.  Of course there were, they just do not stick in one’s mind.

For the last 4 days the road presented itself as a rolling path.  Sometimes rolling to down and sometimes rolling to an up, but no big climbs.  I have riding through the plains of Greece and now Macedonia.  All the features including the winds.  Yesterday the wind blew in my face all day at around 15 gusting to 25 mph.

Back to the feeling.  After riding through the plains for 4 days today I face the Macedonian mountains.  It is interesting that I have a small feeling of trepidation. Can I make the climbs.  Will I be able to keep going?  How steep will it get?  Are my legs strong enough?  Silly, right?

This guy has climbed some of the toughest mountains in the world.  What is he worried about?  Yes, it is a crazy feeling, but it is the kind of thing that occurs while adventure traveling.  One only concerns their self with today.  Yesterday is gone and cannot be relied on. Tomorrow, well who the heck knows that word even mean?

So, be with me as I learn how to climb big mountains, again.

–Bill H.

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Thessaloniki

June 1, 2019

Thessaloniki, Greece

It has now been 6 weeks since leaving Ashland. Two weeks getting to and cycling in Arizona and now 4 weeks in Greece.  Still think another 2 or 3 days in Greece before North Macedonia or as the Greeks call it Skopje.  
On the Red bus tour yesterday the commentary often referred to this area of Greece as Macedonia.  That is why the other country is named North Macedonia. There is a long story here about how it is believed that Czechoslovakia took most of Macedonia from Greece which many Greeks like to share.  
As you know by now I seem to keep running into opportunities to meet and enjoy the locals.  As I was cresting a hill in the first, on the road rain there was a group of wheel chair bound elders, a large bus and a 2 vans parked on the side of the narrow road.  At first I thought the bus had broken down but soon learned they were touring a ruin.  
Pedaling into the ruin I was approached by a Dutchman who I learned was a Reformed minister. The group was being sponsored and guided by his congregation on a tour of Macedonia (Greece) Bisenteen ruins.  We talked for a while about the  Bisenteen history and it role in today’s church. He pointed out the site docent saying the docent would talk with me after the group departed.
I walked over the hill top, well maintained site reading the information posts.  Soon the docent and Freddy came over and Freddy asked what language I spoke.  English and maybe little Spanish.  Together they thought I could understand enough of their English to learn the site’s history. Asking me to follow they walked off at a fast pace.  
The site was at first a Bisenteen church, later a Ottoman moask and then a castle. The Blue moask in Istanbul was mentioned as a comparison.   After walking the entire site the docent and Freddy asked me to come to the office to sign the guest book.  We sat and began talking about my time in Greece and their lives.  Freddy is an expat German carpenter who has lived here since 1985.  I do wish I could remember the docent’s name, but no. He moved to the local village about 10 years. 

It has now been 6 weeks since leaving Ashland. Two weeks getting to and cycling in Arizona and now 4 weeks in Greece.  Still think another 2 or 3 days in Greece before North Macedonia or as the Greeks call it Skopje.  
On the Red bus tour yesterday the commentary often referred to this area of Greece as Macedonia.  That is why the other country is named North Macedonia. There is a long story here about how it is believed that Czechoslovakia took most of Macedonia from Greece which many Greeks like to share.  
As you know by now I seem to keep running into opportunities to meet and enjoy the locals.  As I was cresting a hill in the first, on the road rain there was a group of wheel chair bound elders, a large bus and a 2 vans parked on the side of the narrow road.  At first I thought the bus had broken down but soon learned they were touring a ruin.  
Pedaling into the ruin I was approached by a Dutchman who I learned was a Reformed minister. The group was being sponsored and guided by his congregation on a tour of Macedonia (Greece) Bisenteen ruins.  We talked for a while about the  Bisenteen history and it role in today’s church. He pointed out the site docent saying the docent would talk with me after the group departed.
I walked over the hill top, well maintained site reading the information posts.  Soon the docent and Freddy came over and Freddy asked what language I spoke.  English and maybe little Spanish.  Together they thought I could understand enough of their English to learn the site’s history. Asking me to follow they walked off at a fast pace.  
The site was at first a Bisenteen church, later a Ottoman moask and then a castle. The Blue moask in Istanbul was mentioned as a comparison.   After walking the entire site the docent and Freddy asked me to come to the office to sign the guest book.  We sat and began talking about my time in Greece and their lives.  Freddy is an expat German carpenter who has lived here since 1985.  I do wish I could remember the docent’s name, but no. He moved to the local village about 10 years. 

–Bill H.

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Larissa

May 26, 2019

Larissa, Greece

Rode around Mt Olympus today.  Well, not in a circle but around the area.  I can see its classic shape from my camp site.  Followed a path that has been used since before 1000bc.  Stopped at an archeological site that I had to myself.  Had to get around a locked gate and over a small creek, but worth the effort. It was a small manufacturing and hospitality facility.  The inn was first in use around 1100bc.  Imagine having a glass of wine after a hard day of travel in those times.  
As I was cycling along a highway safety truck kept passing in one direction or the other honking and waving each time.  I wondered if he knew my friend and fellow safety truck driver from yesterday.  
Sorry my dinner just arrived.  Be back later.

Ok, back from dinner.  
Yesterday, I rode the national highway (interstate) for a while.  I have ridden many interstates in the US.  I find them easy, comfortable and safe.  The scenery sometimes is lacking but riding the Greek plains there is a big benefit to the small roads.  The national takes a lot of the hills out of the ride.  Sometimes that is good thing.  
I was moving along at 20 to 25 kms per hour with ease.  The constant tail wind generated by the traffic and the fairly constant surface was very nice.  I saw a sign that reminded drivers that there were cameras along the roadway for their safety.  It sparked a feeling.  Something was happening.  Shortly after that I saw a safety truck going the other way and he honked as we passed.  Now I knew something was up.
I rode past and exit thinking I should get off this road.  I suspected it was not legal but had seen no signs making that statement.  I looked in my mirror to see the safety truck on the shoulder and waving at me.  I pulled over and walked back to the truck.   
“You know it is forbidden for you to ride this road.”  
“No, I saw no signs.”
“You must get off now!” he said but in a pleasant voice tone.
Where I asked.  The exit was a couple of miles back and there was the typical freeway fence.  
“I will help you.”  This should be interesting.
He got out and we walked up to a place where the fence was on a section of old pavement that was no longer used but connected to the old road. He looked it over and took out a pair of metal cutting pliers.  No, he really is not going to do this.  But, yes he began cutting the fence down.  Who would believe this was happening?
As he cut we talked about his job and life.  He liked what he did and said it was a very good job.  He saw his life as good and enjoyed his family and living in his town, Larissa.  The national highway center had been watching me on their monitors for a while and had dispatched him to handle the situation, he said.  So I guess I am a national star.  He continued to cut and then realized that he was cutting in the wrong place and we moved down a little.  Now he really could cut down the fence.
After about a half hour we pulled the fence mostly out of the way and then lifted my bike over the remaining part.  Now I was on one side and he the other.  He told me the road would take me all the way to Larassia.  Well, he was partly right.  There were interruptions in the road, but not hard to get around.
It is amazing that he thought that a 2 lane road with almost the same speeds as the national but no shoulders and limited sight distances was safer somehow.
OK, enough safety lecture.  What an amazing experience!  Think about a state trooper or a highway safety working doing anything like that in the US.  A truly Greek time.

–Bill H.

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County Change

May 24, 2019

Sikia, Greece

Day off at the beach.  Saying at the beach in Greece is like saying I am having a glass of wine in the Willamette valley.  Although this is a very nice beach.  It is also Germany.  At least most of the people here are German.

Took a day off because this is such a nice place and I realized after I got here that I must go back the same road for 25 kms to go north out of this country. Yes, I am getting within a week of being in Macedonia.  Must begin to think of all the things that will mean.

When I come into a new country of course the language change is important but there are many other items that I must learn.

Today I walked into the village to buy some bread, peanut butter, wine for dinner and find a pharmacy. I have not had much trouble with allergies in my life but the olive trees are in heavy flower, the ground is covered in yellow as is the bike and the tent.  Very bad for me.  I purchased something they recommended and it is already taking effect.  I must find such places in the next country.

Just buying bread can be interesting.  What time do the bakeries run out of fresh bread?  What stories carry what products.  One super market, loosely used term, had a complete room dedicated to Greek wines.   One had peanut butter the other did not.  One had packaged bread, one did not.  I cannot find knifes in hardware store but find camping gas for my stove in the super market.  These things I must know and many others.

I am not going to learn the language but to know certain words is important.  How to say thank you and you are welcome.  Hello, goodbye and to count.  Numbers are so important, everything you do involves them.   Of course Greek numbers are pretty familiar.  We do use them more than you think.  How many sides does a pentagon (Greek word) have?  Well 5 of course. So, what is five in Greek, pende. Eight, is pronounced och to.  Remember the octagon(another Greek word)?

How the roads are identified and which can I use?  The names on the maps, what must I learn about translating those to the ones on the signs?  Greece uses 3 iterations of the language.  Ancient, middle and modern. Many signs carry all 3 but the maps normally only 2.   In Greece this is something very difficult apply.  Sort of wish I had Gree fraternities in my college.  Just have to learn the pattern of the name.

Roads are something else that changes with each country.  Here the national (interstate) roads have nice service roads that run almost their entire length. Will that be true in Macedonia?   What are the foods like? What cultural taboos should I know?

You just cannot imagine how nice it is here. Bright blue skies, around 73 degrees, a light balmy breeze on a bay with white sand beaches framed by mountains.  Just could not help sharing that.  Back to the subject.

As to driving.  In every country I have ever cycled the people say “watch out for the drivers here, they are crazy.”  I take my time and watch just how they drive. What the real rules are.  Do they stop for traffic lights. Do the turn right from the left lane?  Do they respect each other?  The laws are often not the rules.  In Ashland drivers will stop when someone is waiting on the sidewalk. That is not the law but it is the rule.  To be safer I learn the rules and drive my bicycle under those rules.  Another thing that must be learned in Macedonia.

When you travel at the level I do you must know so much more.  Must be very aware of how business is conducted.  Greeks like to argue and negotiate.   Here one almost never pays the asked price without discussion.  My favorite word is “Really?” when quoted a price.

 So, much to learn again and again.  So much to look forward to.  Accepting the challenge and the resulting education is one of the reasons I travel.

–Bill H.

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No One of Consequence

May 22, 2019

Volos, Greece

It is still Greece.  A word hodgepodge.  Or maybe a happening hodgepodge.
Today was the longest distance day of this journey, around 75 kms.  Around because I had backtrack some as the Greek Air Force guard with a big gun would not let me use the best road, just because it ran across the runway.  What a little mind.  

Elena & Juan

The last 2 days I have spent with a wonderful German woman cyclist I met while saying goodbye to Yannis, the owner of the bicycle rental store where we repaired my bike.   Yannis and  I had a couple of meals with and a lot conversation together as you read earlier.  Elena has been cycling Greece for almost a month and is just a couple of weeks away from returning to Germany.  We did not cycle together but met 2 nights for an evening together.  Before you get some other impression her road boy friend Juan was also present.   

A little note about Juan.  He walked from Barcelona to Athens as the first part of his journey.  He is planning to walk from Athens to Sidney across the China, Russia, you get the idea.  
The first night we met at a closed camping ground.  The second at a thermal bath town.  The first I made the meal and she the salad.  We enjoyed them at a table and chairs I barrowed from a nearby site.  It is wonderful to have a table and chair for dinner.
As we identified the north star and the big dipper from the beach we toasted each other as 3 freak travelers while watching the true travelers.   The second we prepared a joint meal in the city park where the thermal waters flowed into the sea.  

After spending $8 for 2 nights camping and zero for a third I spent $30 for a hotel room in a spa hotel with thermal baths.  Last night I spent $30 also for a great small apartment right on the shore.  Tonight the same $30 for a small room in an ok hotel.  
Greece is not flat but today I did find a big valley of almost all flat roads.  The wind has been at my back for the entire time in Greece, but I have always been climbing.  Today the wind was in my face.  Not sure how to explain that.


Big city tonight.  Not my favorite thing.  Needed to get some gear from places only big cities have.  Did find a brewery.  As I sit talking with you I am drinking a “Strong Ale” from them.  I am also watching from my balcony, the sunset over the bay on a balmy evening.  
Did not meet a soul of any consequence for me today.

–Bill H.

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Failed

May 15, 2019

Chalkida, Euboea, Greece

I failed today. I failed big time. I just could not do it. It was too much.  

The day started well enough. A very nice, cool morning, good ride along the sea.         After such a wonderful time with the restaurant owners and their friends I was ready for a long day in the saddle. I had planned 127 kms with some serious climbing.        

I rode the coast road for about 20kms with a few ups and downs before a long climb began. It went up steeply about 3 miles. I could see a snow covered peak in the distance from the top. As I looked down into the valley ahead and at the map I could see that there was no paved road out from the very small village on the cove.

Normally I like to use Google Maps for bicycle route finding. In Greece Google maps will not find bicycle routes, only car and walking. I had been using walking but with some problems, like one way streets and narrow paths but nothing serious until today. I stood for a while at the top looking into the valley and then at the map knowing in my mind that I most likely was facing a dirt road out. A pickup stopped and asked if I needed help. I asked about the way out and they confirmed it was a dirt road climb. I have done these before and was not too worried.

“Go to the church and turn left. Stay to right as you come to forks.” OK, with additional information from others I knew it was only about 13 kms to the paved road. What I did not know was the angle of the climb. I started up.

After about a ¼ km the road became paved. The angle increased from about 10% to around 15%, then it got steep. I was in my lowest gear and working very hard. I looked ahead and saw that it was really going to go up. It was more than I had in me. I am not sure about how steep but it was beyond my capabilities.         Already at my maximum the road was soon to be dirt again and the angle increasing. I knew I could not do this for 10 miles.

I turned and headed back down the hill thinking I will climb back the way I came and go the longer way. As I began the big paved road climb I shifted down again to my lowest gear. The chain made its way to the big cog and continued into the rear wheel. All stopped. I knew better than to peddled and got off the bike. But it was too late. With all the force on the pedals the chain was completely locked onto the rear hub.

After about 30 mins I had the cassette loose and the chain off. Now I could assess the damage. The rear derailleur was bent as was the part of the frame that held it on. In addition other parts of the rear shifter were damaged. The last car I had seen was about an hour ago. This was a very remote and small village. The only solution was to fix what I could and ride out.

Then a pick up passed by and gestured to ask if I needed help. Yes, I did.         They stopped and in broken English said they would be back in 1 hour. In about 20 mins another pickup stopped and I recognized the driver as the man who had spoken with me at the top before I descended into his town. As it turned out it was “his” town.

Bill, is the police, town maintenance chief, water supplier and general everything. He asked what he could do. I needed a bench vice and some other tools. We loaded the bike on top of the wood with exposed nails that filled his pickup.         To his house we went. There we accomplished as much repair as possible.         I realized that sufficient repair to get over the mountain was not possible. Bill offered to take me to Chalkida where he knew there was a bike shop. I had come from Chalkida the day before. I hate U turns.

We loaded the bike into his car and then he suggested a cup of coffee. We talked a long time. Then Bill asked if I had eaten. No, so he asked his wife to prepare a meal. A nice meal of a cheese covered pasta, fried sardines, feta cheese blocks and a chick pea dish. All was very good served with a bread type I have never tasted.

We talked more with his wife and children.         He seemed to be at a crossroads in his life.         The town demanded a lot from him and provided his house. He felt a little trapped in this remote village. So many I meet seemed to have lost their planned life path. I think it is my way of life that brings out such feelings. I do wonder if it is not just a temporary longing generated by their perception of what the life of a traveler is.

After dinner we proceeded to Chalkida. Bill’s business partner in a shooting range owned a hotel and arranged a room for me in case it took time to order the parts.         As soon as possible we went to the shop, which was across the street from the hotel. They had the right part and would repair the bike within the hour!         As it was already after 6 Bill and I sat in the restaurant and talked for a while. He returned to his family and obligation and I went to retrieve my bike.

Tomorrow I will take a different route to go north.         I hope success is found on that route.

–Bill H.