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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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Konz

July 1, 2019

Konz, Trier-Saarburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

I am no longer a liar.  The many times I have been asked how old I am on this journey, I have responded 75.  Today that becomes the truth.  
I have been riding the Saar river in Germany for a couple of days and  thought it had come time to turn toward Luxemburg.  Heading for Brussels for the Tour I needed to cut across the mountains and get to Brussels in about 4 days.  
Looking over the electronic maps and the profiles I found what looked like a good route with a little climbing at the start but then rolling to a fall after that.  As the morning light broke onto the familiar flat, paved river path I entered it for the last few kilometers.  Rolling along at a nice 23 or so kph with a light wind at my back, felt great.  Then I came to the westerly turn and the first climb.  The profile at the bottom of my map screen indicated this was steep but not very long.  If it helped avoid the big long climbs of the alternate route, great.
I headed up a narrow paved road as it wound its way through the heavy forest.  This very nice road kept following the up slope of the mountain side, at points becoming almost one lane.  A switch back and a little less grade. Maybe, I am nearing the top?  Yes, it so appears. It is almost flat and I can see valleys in all but one direction.  An intersection and the directions say go straight.  Straight?  That is a dirt road and the only one going up?  Well, ok, just keep following the map.
A sign tells me I am entering a national park.  This is a well maintained dirt road and is very good riding, with the dark green forest closing in a little.  Up it winds with a sign every now and then that I assume tells of the flora and fauna.  I do wish I was not German illiterate, I would like to know more of this park.  
Now over an hour of climbing trying to avoid the “big” climbs.  Sometimes I do wonder about my choices.  On and on, up and up, not seeing anyone or signs that this road is used very much.  Starting to feel a little trepidation about where I am going and when this climb is going to end, I stop at one of the information signs.  Not a great choice.  It has a picture of a wolf!  I have read that the wolf population has been growing in this area.  Just what I needed.  I ride away maybe a little faster.  
Coming to what I know is the top, I release a sigh of success. I should know better.  Beginning the down the phone tells me to make a U turn.  A U turn? Why, I have not passed any intersections or alternative paths since I crested.  I think it is just a momentary lapse in the coverage and continue on.  Again, “Make a U turn.”  Stopping to expand the map I see that the road I am on, goes to a cliff and an overlook.  I also see where it wanted me to turn.  OK, I begin to retrace my path back up, following my own solitary tire tracks on the dusty road.   
“Left turn” it tells me.  Left turn?  Where, there is no road or even a real path.  I am looing down what 30 or 40 years ago was most likely a logging road, but no longer is much of anything but  little shorter thorny weeds indicating a break in the closely spaced trees.  This cannot be right.  
After some debate I begin to tentavliy roll onto the almost path.  Cannot see the ground through the tall thorns and hit a large rock knocking the front wheel to the left.  I correct and the weeds grab the right pannier and pull the correction harder the right than I want.  Another large rock and large bush grabs the front pannier.  Going down much faster than I like but cannot ride the brakes, have to pump them to scrub off  as much speed as possible and deal with the excess as I can.  If they overheat I will lose all braking.  
Suddenly the bike stops standing upright.  What the heck?  I dismount with difficulty as the standing bike is so tall and the ground is low.  Looking I see the kickstand has caught a large log and drug it into a very large rock.  With great effort I drag the log out through the weeds and move the rock.  Taking a drink, I look down the steep mountain side trying to see where this route is leading.  My concern is that it will reach an impasse like a cliff.  With the angle and obstacles I know that a return up  with the bike is not an option.“
What the heck am I doing?”   

My legs are bleeding in many places from the thrones, my hands hurt from gripping the handle bars, and my head throbs  from the concentration required to find the best route.  I stop again to eat a little and take another drink.  Have to stay alert and at my best.  
Down and down I fall toward, what I know is a river, which according to the map, has a path on its bank.  Cannot see it or any indication it is there except that I am going down fast.  More rocks and bag grabbing trees and bushes.  The forest is dictating the path more then I am.  The bike keeps jerking back and forth and up and down.  
Finally I see 30 or so feet below, the river.  Now all I have to do is get to it. Switch back after switch back the bike descends.  Much closer to the river I see a biker go by on the bank.  Yes, maybe I will get out of this yet.  Finally the last switch back and onto to the river bank.  I wonder which river until I see a lock and find I am on a branch of the Saar.  As I enter the town I find that I am only about 10 km from where I began this morning.  I have no idea, nor do I care how far I rode to get here and have made up my mind I will stay on the river and ride the big climbs when they come.  No more “short” cuts.    
It has been a memorable birthday.

—Bill H.

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Munich

June 27, 2019

Munich, Bavaria, Germany

“Munich?  What the heck are you doing in Munich?  Last I heard you were in Budapest.”
Just running out of time to make the Tour de France.  So, yesterday I took a train from Budapest to Nuremberg.  Well, that was the plan. Missed the train.  Could not find the correct platform.  Had to find another way.  The agent was very helpful and found a train with space for the bicycle to Munich.  The thought being that from here I could get a train anywhere.  That was the thought.
I boarded the direct train after making a contact for a Warm Showers stay in Munich.  There was a couple with their bikes and we helped each other get all in order.  Smooth ride…..until.  At the last stop in Hungary the engine broke down.  No problem they told us.  Another engine would be along in a half hour.  By the way it was about 90 degrees and no a/c.  Twenty minuets later and they announced that a new train was coming in 10 minuets.  It arrived but only had 4 cars while ours had 10.  Oh, no bicycle car.
We all tried to pack our self’s on when a very officious lady came up and demanded, not asked, that those with large bags, baby carriages and of course bicycles get off.  We did as she had 3 Austrian police standing with her.  It would be at least an hour before the next train, we were told.  Not it will be an hour, but at least an hour.
I got on my bike and went for a ride to check out the tiny village.  Found there were two places to rent a room, a small sandwich shop and a historic church.  All churches in this part of the world are historic, right?  Anyway stopped for a cold beer and then rode back to the platform, no station here.  Saw 2 men dressed in black pants, white shirts with various belt attachments.  I stopped them and asked if they spoke English and were they with the train company.  Yes, to both.  In fact one, Elvis, yes that was his name, was the train chief.  
Could you tell me what the plan is, I asked.  He informed me that a train was coming in about 13 minuets.  “Will it have a bicycle car?  “Sure will.”   
Ok, I went to find the German couple and let them know what I had discovered.  The train arrived and all was put right.  We were back on our way Munich with the bikes safely hooked up.  Well……
We stopped in Vienna and there were about 10 people with bikes and only 1 slot open.  They did not seem to care and all tried to get on. Pushing and shoving, trying to unhook our bikes to put theirs on.  Not a nice experience.   Elvis showed up and stopped the whole procedure.  He told the couple to move their bikes to a bike car at the rear of the train, me to stay where I was and 3 of the new arrivals to hook up their bikes.  The other 7 would just had to wait for the next train.
Ok, off again.  Soon I got a email from the German couple to ask the 3 newbies if they were going on to Munich.  Turns out the train was splitting a the rear cars were not going to Munich!  

Sharing a cold one with Elvis
Sharing a Cold One with Elvis

What the heck is going on?  I thought Austrian trains were reliable.  Not true I now know.  They often break down in the summer and are not on time as I had imagined.  Anyway, the kids did get on the train but not on the bike car.  Elvis came to their rescue again.
Did I say he and  I had a nice conversation about his family and job?  He is a very happy guy with 2 kids, 13 and 21, likes his job and is just an all around nice guy.  He gave the couple and I a form to fill out, a note to attach and filed a report so we could apply for a refund,  
Finally, almost 3 hours late we arrive in Munich just before night fall.  I mount up and ride across town to my Warm Showers (Couch Surfing for cyclists) host’s apartment.   A great guy with a wonderful apartment.  He had waited to eat dinner with me.  He prepared a nice picnic of cheese, fruit, home cured meat and bread.  Walked out into the wonderful night, across the river to a beer garden where we sat with many others and talked away until 1 am.  
It really was a very good day!  Lemons, anyone?

—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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Paracin, Serbia

June 10, 2019

Paracin, Serbia

Entered Serbia after saying goodbye to Macedonia by staying at a winery/hotel.  The Kokino winery is mostly a bulk producer.  The wines are all produced in very large stainless steel tanks. Most of the wine is sold to be bottled by others.  
Kokino produces chardonnays, pinot noirs and vranecs. 
The owner Milos and I toured the winery but mostly we talked wine and sampled from the tanks.  He discussed his problem of exporting to other countries.  As Macedonia is not part of the EU and he has very limited resources his prospects for much expansion are very limited.  Milos is selling his large tanks and converting to a higher level wine  trying to become a boutique hotel and winery.  If he can continue with the type of service and add food service beyond the excellent breakfast that they now serve, I think he has a opportunity.  
I did sample a bottle of his pinot with a pasta dish I prepared and it was very drinkable.  Not much complexity.  As a medium dry and a typical pinot light body along with a wonderful nose it was very identifiable as a pinot.  It was neat to park my  bike among the large tanks.  
The stay at the winery, including a full breakfast was  $16.  for a very nice, large brand new room.  The bottle of wine was $2.00.  Serbia is very inexpensive.  
Yesterday my host in Nis invited me to lunch.  Lunch here is a big deal.  We talked drank and ate for 4 ½ hours.  It was wonderful.  Lunch normally begins after 3 pm, I have no idea when dinner is served.

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Paracin, Serbia

 Igor, is a 29 year old who with his brother are trying to become hoteliers.  They have 1 apartment so far.  When I checked in he helped port my panniers to the 5th floor and find a safe place for my bike with a café owner.  He then went to find 2 beers which we shared during our 2 hour talk about Nis (pronounce Neech)  It is so good to really learn about place from the natives. Hope to find the Danube tomorrow afternoon and begin the leg to Brussels.  Booked a room for 4 people (larger) for $14.00.  No breakfast however.   Camping is $22.  Weird?

My pizza, which I am abandoning you for, has a fried egg on top.  

–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.