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Athens, Almost…

May 8th 2019

 

A long flight,  just about 24 hours.  Aren’t they so much fun.  Who wouldn’t want to have such a day?  It was interesting however. Let’s start with the middle.

Dinner was served.  Ok, at least that was the middle of the time spent getting to Frankfurt.

After a nice lunch with John Burt he dropped me at Phoenix International.  Leaving me at the curb with my bike and bags to deal with Condor Airlines, as he should have.  He did mention once that he might park the car and come in to listen and watch me negotiate their accepting of the unboxed, fully loaded bike.  But in the end he did not want to deal with rush hour traffic.  I was going to charge him for the show anyway.

The counter was closed and would not open for another hour or so.  Off to roam around the airport.  Nothing like pushing a touring bike around an airport.  Many are interested and want to talk.  A flight attendant stopped to compliment the fully matching set up and my clothes that she said demonstrated a professional traveler.  A big boast to my ego.

At 4:30 back to the check-in.  I was now 3rd in line and still the counter was not open.  A representative came over and asked about the bike.  Was this my only baggage, nothing else to check in?   Had I flown with Condor  before with a  bike?  Ok and she moved on.  The staff arrived and a man lowered the stantion ribbon and  told us to go to the scales to weight our baggage.  As I wheeled the bike forward he asked if I had any other baggage.  No, and he told me to go to the counter, weighing was not required at this time.   OK, one big hurdle passed.  Condor had told me that I was limited to 35 kilos, just over 70 pounds.  My bike with all the gear is around 45 kilos.  Could have been an expensive experience.

As the agent was processing my ticket and passport a supervisor approached and asked why I had not boxed the bike.  I said I had spoken with Condor baggage and they told me, “It was recommended that I package the bike but not required.  She said she would check that information and be back.  Meanwhile the check in process continued.  I asked about an upgrade to business class.  Yes, they could do that for $325.  The bike charge was going to be about $175 and if when the supervisor returned and asked to weigh the bike it would be another $150 most likely.  On Condor when flying business class bikes are free and the allowed weigh goes to  50 kilos.  I quickly agreed to upgrade as I had also gotten a very good price on the basic ticket, although I did not know then just how good.

The supervisor returned saying ok but I had to sign a release of airline responsibility.  Bike accepted, upgrade done, off I walked with my handlebar bag and helmet in hand to the business class lounge to while away the 2 plus hours with great service, free food and drink.  There I found out that a one way business class ticket to Frankford was about $1100.  In all I had paid just under  $900 with the bike!   By the way they never asked me to sign the waiver.

Frankfort, next.

–Bill H.

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Preparation

5/6/2019

What is it like preparing oneself for a journey of unknown duration, route or difficulty?  Even something as simple as the already booked air flight can offer unknown challenges.  How do you resist becoming worried about the cost?  What about lodging, food and unknown dangers?  
One way is not to plan very much.  Don’t try to predict where you will be on a certain day.  Just let each day bring itself to you.  After so many years of finding each day, not planning is what I do.  Recently when traveling with another person this became an area of difficulty.  They expected to know where we were going and what we would encounter when we arrived there.  For me that concept is hard to understand.  
I know what you are thinking.  How is it possible to just strike out and not know the destination?  Sometimes I will plan to stay the night in the next city north when I mount up  in the morning but will never make it to that city.  Something will distract me and my original destination will be completely forgotten.  So, what?  What does it matter?  Many say that it is about the journey and not the destination, but are incapable of living out that philosophy.  
I have told you that I am cycling from Athens, Greece to Norkapp, Norway.  That however is just to give somewhere to start and an idea of what could happen.   The road is far too unknown for me to have any real idea of what I will find as a route or destination.  The path will be decided each day.  In fact EuroVelo 11 is still in early development.  It is not clearly defined, so it fits me perfectly! For many years I would declare  a “Wind Day” before I crawled into my tent for the night.  When I arose on that next day I would ride out of camp with the wind at my back.  The only directional criteria was the wind.  I used to say it prevented me from being tied to having to be in Tucson on Tuesday.  My interest is not where I am going but rather how I get there.    
So, how do I prepare myself for such traveling?  A travel list helps.  Each and every item packed is on that list.  It is a list that has taken many years to develop and provides for the right clothing, bike equipment, camping gear, meal preparation facilities and all needed for a month or a year on the road.  The list prepares me for almost any problem.  Sunny days, storms, snow, broken bike parts or a broken bike itself.  No, hotels, no campground, no store or restaurant, no problem, the list provides for my backup.  What about theft?  How does the list help with that?  On the list and hidden away is $200 dollars.  On the internet is a copy of all my credit cards and the main page of my passport.  All things that the list tells me to do.  How about injury?  The list reminds me to have a first aide kit, my medical cards and emergency evacuation insurance.  What does the list say about routes?  It tells me to have a map.
With the list carefully prepared and following it precisely when gathering and packing my needs a big area of worry is eliminated.  It provides self confidence and restful sleeping.  Yes, many years of doing this helps but remember there was that first trip and that was when the list began.  
As for the unexpected problems.  Remember you are on vacation, don’t let happenstance stress you to the point of acting in such a manner as to increase the problem.  Yelling at the person causing your problem seldom accomplishes your goal of finding a solution.  Many, many times I arrive at the ticket counter and the agent has difficulties checking in my bike.  Even though I have spoken with the airline and gotten permission to fly it the agent is the final word.  I smile and talk with them as a friend.  I explain that I have done this many times, flying around the world to all but the Antarctic continent .  After a while they come to my point of view.  If I started telling them they were wrong and acting in an aggressive manner.  I would only be hurting myself.   
To answer the initial question of how does one prepare for such a journey as the one I have before me?  Confidence generated by being prepared and knowing a journey is about pleasure reduces worry.  Approaching the challenge with the anticipation of learning and meeting new people works well for me. 

–Bill H.

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Bisbee and Other Interests

The End Continues

May 3rd, Phoenix

John and I through a series of cars and trucks have moved to our wonderful lake  front home.  A complicated, involved, convoluted connection.  

First we cycled to Bisbee, AZ and stayed in a nice 3 bedroom, 3 bath home in the Warren district.  More on Bisbee later.  Upon arrival our hostess, Kim informed us that our scheduled and arranged with difficultly, transportation option had changed.  Gordy, a tourist trolley driver in Tucson had agreed to pick us up in Bisbee and drive us to Tucson.  Kim and her husband Ken would take us to Tucson instead.  Confused yet?  
 
Gordy had arranged our stay with Kim at her Airb&b for a total of $50.00.  We each an on suite bath, a split unit a/c, a great massage chair in the living room provided wonderful relief from the big climbing that riding to Bisbee entailed.  A fantastic stay but on with the story.
 
Our now goal was to retrieve John’s truck from John Burt’s driveway.  Our original plan had been to ride a big loop from Phoenix through Tucson, then to Tombstone, ending the south bound portion in Bisbee.  >From Bisbee we would head a little east and then turn north toward Miami, Globe and back to Apache Junction to Phoenix.  After the difficult ride south we decided to just find our way back to Phoenix and Lake Pleasant.     
 
So, a tour of Bisbee with a wonderful 19 year old in a golf cart.  Facillcia, a recent graduate of Bisbee high provided an excellent introduction to this old copper mining town. Bisbee is a town built in a very steep valley.  The streets climb away from Tombstone Canyon at a very severe angle providing road edge drops offs that maintain your attention when rounding curves on their 1 ½ lanes.  The open sided golf cart provides little reassurance against a good rolling return to the center of town.  At the end of the tour  a sarsaparilla was not sufficient to calm our nerves.  Something a little stronger was required. 

Ken and I worked on an old  rusted receiver hitch bike rack trying to get in a condition that would provide the bicycles security for the trip to Tucson.  By the way, that is pronounced Toosoan.  Removing the rusted bolts, lubricating the pivot points and cleaning the contract places, the rack became usable again after many years of loneliness sitting in the barn.  
 
At 8am we departed to retrieve the rental car from the Tucson airport.  By 1pm we were loading the bikes on John’s truck and were headed to 3 nights at Lake Pleasant.  Not an easy couple of days, but interesting.  We met several very good people, saw a lot of western history and learned a little more of how touring can provide its own challenges.
 
John left today to return home and I moved in with John Burt to await my flight.   Maybe a local ride or 2 with John B. 

–Bill H.

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No Deserts

4/29/2019

LAST DAY OF RIDING

Today was the last day of our tour.  We made it to Bisbee, Arizona.  Bisbee was our goal, so I guess that’s it!  It has proven to be a hard trip and a trip that provided a great lesson for John and I.  
 
A couple of years ago we rode  from Ashland up through Keno and out into the California desert.  It was late summer and very hot.  We struggled against the heat and the desert.  The riding was hard and the  sleeping just as hard.  Services were far apart, the campgrounds located even further from any, very needed cold evening drinks.  We finally decided the reward was nor commensurate with the effort,  threw in the very dry towel and returned to Ashland.  
 
Now here we are again desert touring.  Hot, dry and few services.  Just dry desert, hard sand to put our fabric homes on and few to no trees to shade us from the hot afternoon sun.  Stores that charge for water and ice and shelves filled mostly with sugar products.   Campgrounds are funny distances for us.  Sometimes 50+ miles and then only 20.  Days hard to plan.  Does all this bring forth the question, why?  
John and I have planned and ridden a spring or summer  2 to 3 week trip for many years.  It provides an opportunity to enjoy a longer trip on new roads and ride each other’s company, things we both enjoy.  As I plan to be away for most, if not all of this summer we had to go early.  I looked around for cheap fares to Athens and found one from Phoenix.  I like the desert and knew it would be warmer and drier than  Seattle or Denver, the other 2 options.  So, the desert became the best option.  Did I really just say BEST?  
 
What was the lesson?   We rediscovered that touring in desert lands is not a good fit for our rides.  We like the easier big mountains, steeply rolling hills of river valleys, or the high plains.  Give us a 10 mile, 6 percent  Cascades climb any day over the 20 mile 2 percent grade in a hot windy dessert.  No more desert tours for our vacation rides.
 
 “By the way.  What’s this end of the trip thing?  You don’t leave the US until May 5th, right? “  Well, since we don’t like the desert we decided to go to a lake for a few days and do some day riding.  Where is this lake?  Why Phoenix, of course!  

Bill H

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Cramps

The beginning.  April 27,   AZ


We have been riding for 4 days.  Hard days, easy days, but great days all. The first day an old touring friend led us out of Phoenix to a wonderful brunch. A good ride through pleasant  residential neighborhoods, easy streets, a reintroduction for me to Phoenix.  After John Burt left us we continued on to Apache Junction.  More than we could handle.
The heat was intense for 2 cyclists coming from 40 degrees and 70% humity, the 90 degrees and 10%, was beyond our capacity.  At 5 miles to go I began cramping in a way I have never experienced.  The cramps on both legs were up into my abdominal muscles.  I tried walking, but that did not work.  The cramps were so bad that I had to stop in the middle of traffic lanes and wait for them to subside.  People were stopping to help me.   John went on, reluctantly,  as I wished, to the campground.  
I decided that it was time for me to get my act together and get on with this business of pedaling.  I got on the bike and stood up to pedal.  Still hurt, but was manageable.  Many times I have had cramps, but never to this degree.  I went on, only 2.5 miles left, then 2, then 1.5, then 1, almost there, still standing.  Both legs crying for me to stop, it was not possible.  I had to get to the campground.  Finally, a right turn and then a left into the KOA.  I wanted a cold drink,  but the office was closed!  Life is just not fair.  Rolling into the campsite, seeing John gives me hope that my life is not over.  
Soon I am setting up my tent, taking a shower and thinking about cooking dinner. John has cheese and summer sausage which we eat instead of cooking.  He rides off to a store to get us some cold beers and we settle in for the night.
This touring stuff in sometimes not all fun, but it is always interesting, as you never know what the day will provide.     

.           

— Bill H.

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Evening Walk in Tucson

April 24, 2019

 

Day off!  Always a good thing.  No need to pack up and move out.  Walk around town, relax and see the sights.  

 
 
Last evening we set off for an Italian restaurant, about a mile walk.  Never made it. Instead, Tucson’s 4th street drew us down its interesting corridor.  Unique stores and shops with art nuevo neon signs, lots of bicycle traffic and pedestrians roaming around, offering a welcoming environment.  We could not resist changing our destination on this pleasantly warm evening.  Looking in a barber shop, we spied the owner sitting at a desk closing out the day.  
 
“Would you recommend an eatery to us?”  
 
 “Sure.  Next door is the Box Yard, a collection of small cookery offerings like burritos, barbeque and oriental, all made in container kitchens, surrounding a bar.”
 
Off we went.  Wow, a very pleasant courtyard of a fabric roofed court yard allowing the warm breezes and setting sun to filter the dinning,  Ever had a bacon wrapped burrito?  Neither had I until last night.  This deep fried concoction of ground beef, peppers, onions and sauces in a torilla was completely wrapped with bacon and then deep fried to a crisp outside and prefect inside texture.  Along with a good Double Knot double IPA  brewed in Phoenix, what could be better?  
 
While sipping on our drinks waiting for the wonderful meal we saw the barber at the bar.  We invited him to join us.  A long conversation about Tucson and his life here took us to California, through a bad and expensive marriage, developing a business and not calling himself an Arizonian.  A couple of nights ago we heard the story of an Army helicopter pilot who after 10 years was discharged and had opened a KOA with his wife, just under a year ago and was not sure he had done the right thing.  When people know that you are just passing through they often share the most closely held feelings, dreams and regrets with ease.  I think many of us have had that same experience sitting next to someone on an airplane or at a bar.
  
The walk home was just as amazing.  We discovered a wall.  “You discovered a wall?  So, what?”  Just look at this street art…

Bill H

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Late…

It’s Jan 30th, the first of the New Year has long passed and I am late.
When I settle on a new journey one of the things that makes it real is assigning a departure date.  Without a date journeys are only dreams.  They are not real.  When I pick a date I write 0 on the calendar on that day.  Then I continue back 100 days writing 1, 2 and so forth until I reach the 100th day. I often perform this process well in advance. We set the date for the round the world trip almost a year ahead.  It is amazing later when I turn the page on the calendar and see 100 I know I had better get my life in gear, it is time to prepare for the leaving.  The leaving is real and almost upon me.
Wednesday during my marking I noted that I only have 77 days remaining.  I wonder if I will have to serve detention for being tardy.  I very much dislike being late.  If it is leaving the house for Spin classes or coming to your house for dinner, I want to be on time.  Now, I am on edge because I have not given sufficient time to this leaving.  Well, I will just have to find a new calendar, one with more days on it.  I am sure they have them at the office supply store.
“What trip is he talking about?  I hadn’t heard he was going anywhere.”
Annette is going to the Balkans with the Siskiyou Singers in June. She will fly into Helsinki June 18th returning from Vilnius on the 28.  Ten days of singing her way through Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  Nice thought.


So, how is this relevant to Bill’s trip?
A couple of years ago an English friend thought about cycling from Nordkap, Norway just inside the Arctic circle, the end of the northernmost public road in Europe to Cape Town, South Africa the end of the southernmost road in Africa.  A ride named Cape to Cape by those crazy enough to try it.  He wrote me asking if I would like to join him on the ride.  We talked about it, opened a Facebook page, and started planning the year to year and a half cycle adventure.  Then he fell ill and was told not to attempt the trip until he recovered.  He still has not recovered.
When Annette started talking about her singing tour I looked at the map and noticed that there is a EuroVelo Route 11, which runs from Athens, Greece to Nordkap, Norway, the European portion of the Cape to Cape.  Following the route would take one through the cities that Annette was going to visit.  Well, why not?  After all it is only 6000 kilo about the same distance as a bicycle ride across the U.S., so not really a big deal.  I also might get to see Annette.  A good thing, right?

Map source EuroVelo

Back to being late.  So, on the 78th day I met with Chet a web site friend and finished getting my website ready for my journal of the journey and wrote this beginning article.
“Wait, how did you begin writing this before knowing you were late?”
I told you I was going to get a calendar with more days on it, didn’t I?

— Bill