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May 14, 2019

The beach!

A wonderful little non tourist beach.  Most of the businesses are still closed from the winter.  I am mostly alone in the campground.  I found one restaurant open last evening of the many here.  But what a find!

I walked down the shore line road to find this open air, patio style bar and eatery.  When I entered there were no other customers, just the staff setting up and arranging things.  I sat down and waited.  They appeared not to see me, although I knew they did.  Finally a woman came over and asked if I was going to just drink or if I might have something to eat.  A strange way to open the conversation.  She continued not giving me a chance to answer.  Maybe a small plate of something to eat with my beer.  I had not yet ordered a beer.  She continued on talking offering options but not stopping to give me the opportunity to choose.  Finally she stopped and just looked at me.  I looked back and said nothing.  I could see this was a game of sorts.

After a while she named some beers and walked off.  She reappeared a little later with a plate of food and a beer.  The food as you can see was a topess type of plate.  I could not tell for sure what most of it was.  I did recognize the spinach with feta cheese, but others were new to me.  As it turned out the white things were chicken in a  cream and onion sauce and a meat ball.  Still not sure what type of meat.

As I ate, yes for those that know I do not eat chicken I did eat it,  I began watching a man building a driftwood sculpture.  He was very good at seeing what should be placed where and when.  I looked around the room and saw many, many uses of driftwood.   Some amazing pieces just placed here and there and others assembled in various  ways.  I walked over to watch more closely and asked if he spoke English.  This is the standard opening for all my conversations in Greece.  He did not or maybe a little. 

I had been watching for a while when who I thought was the bar tender asked me where I was from.  Then he asked why I was here on this a local’s beach in off season. Soon we were moving to the music that he was playing from his lap top over the bar’s speaker system and in a deep conversation.  We were joined by the waitress and the cook.  They were interested in how I came to be in this place.

I discovered the he was not the bar tender and she was not the waitress.  He, Dimitris was the real sculpturer and she the owner.  Although she described herself as the wife of the owner.  When I told them I had bicycled here the interest grew and the owner got on the phone telling her husband to come to the bar.  I was asked where I was going and when I said Norkapp the interest excelerated.  Turns out Norkapp is a big goal of Greek motorcyclists of which she and her husband are.  They have this goal, as she said.

Now more people arrived and it was time for me to go as I wanted to be on the road a little early in the morning.  I had a 80 kms day planned through some small mountains on the way to Delphi.  But no, I could not leave until the husband arrived.  He did very shortly and we talked a little.  Saying I must go he invited me to breakfast in the morning at 10 so we could talk a little more.  That would too late for me to leave so I decided to stay another day.

Breakfast was excellent!  Not for the food, but the company.  Reina and Tasos, the wife and husband both came along with the apprentice sculpturer and several others.  The conversation was a mix of Greek, English, pleasure and business. 

I had my first cappuccino, along with a toasted ham, tomato and cheese sandwich and a loquat.  What is a loquat?  Sort of like a smaller cumquat but different tasting.  Helpful, right?  You can look it up.  

I had a few errands to run and excused myself but not before Tasos gave the name and address of a friend in a town I was going to pass through.  He told me to please stop and meet his friend.  I will if possible.

Tonight I will stop by the bar for a little while.  Tomorrow I must get moving early.

Meeting others is such a large part of travel for me.   

–Bill H.

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Cheese and a Mistake

May 10

Nea Marki

Big cities are always a challenge to enter or leave and Athens did not find itself to be an exception.  In addition to the traffic, learning how they drive and that 2 wheeled vehicles pay little attention to traffic control devices like traffic lights there were the hills.  Just little ones, like a ½ mile and gentle like 13 to 15%.  But the good thing was there were not many like 20 or 30 or maybe more, I lost track.  Just up and up and up. 

Down, you ask?  Not that I found, just up.

How can that be, you ask?  Why do you have so many questions?

At the end there was one down.  It went on and on.  Not a good hill as the road was in very serious need of repair, had many intersections, and many twists and turns. 

Complain, complain that’s all you do.  First about the ups and then the downs. Don’t you like cycling? 

Ok, actually I did enjoy the leaving of Athens on a bike.  It gave me confidence that I was getting strong again and that hills were not going to be a problem.  Also that I could still find my way around.  Good things, but if there is no conflict there is no story.  So, if I have to suffer so do you.

Last night I stopped at the local cheese and wine store that also had fresh fruit and some other small store items.  I asked the ladies to help me prepare a small meal of cheese, meat, bread and wine for my last meal in Athena.  They took over, running around the store selecting this and that.  Cutting cheeses and meats, picking the right bread but when came to the wine the little one took me by the hand and pulled me to the wine rack.  She had no idea which wine.  I told her a dry red Greek would do fine.  After much discussion we came to an agreement.  She insisted that I stop at the store in the morning before leaving Athena to tell her how I liked the wine. 

–Bill H.

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Athens (Still)

May 8th 2019

More Flight

The gentleman sitting next to me on the Phoenix to Frankford had a GoPro and another camera out and was filming when I sat down.  Wow, I will bet his friends and family never ask him about his trip, I thought.  Turns out he runs a blog on air travel.  Not about the hotels, taxis or any other part, just the airline.  Apparently he is well know by airline crews as we received great service from the moment we sat down until we left the plane.  We were in the back of business class but were always served first.  When we were asked which main course we wanted filet, vegetarian or fish they neglected to ask which of the 3 starters we wanted.  They did not ask because they gave us all three.  Our glasses were never empty and our needs were anticipated. 

It was interesting watching him film the food, the personale, the seats, which were great. They fully reclined and were very comfortable in every position. I slept very well, unlike other long flights. He continued to film and record comments on all the features of the flight.  He told me he would send me the video when it was released.  Hope he does.

I only had an hour layover scheduled in Frankfort, which I knew was too short.  We left Phoenix about 10 mins late and arrived in Frankfort about 35 mins late.  Then I had to go through immigration.  Never even got the gate for my Athens flight before beginning my search for Condor customer service.  Frankford is a very large airport and it took a while.  When I arrived they had my name on a list for the next Lufthansa flight to Athens leaving in 2 1/5 hours.  Very good service as I have always experienced with Condor.   I have never, hard word to use here, dealt with a Condor representative without seeing them smile and show real joy at doing their job.

As I write this I am drinking typical Greek coffee that I made this morning.  I will not make it tomorrow morning, that is certain. 

The flight to Athens was on time and only a couple of hours in length.  The flight was made even shorter by a father and adult son who were returning from a trade show.  They are owners of a package manufacturing company that is 3 generations old.  Very interesting talking with them. I arrived to find my bike in great condition and took a limousine for the long drive to the city center where I am staying.  It was after all about 2 am. 

A little note on getting into my apartment.  The owner sent me a link to a web page with 2 grey buttons on it.  I hit the top button on my phone screen and it opened the lobby door.  When I got to my apartment door the second screen button opened the apartment door.  After I used them the went away so I had to use the remote keys that were in the apartment there after.  Pretty neat.    

Took a 7 or so mile orientation walk around Athens, doing a little shopping for supplies, getting to know my neighborhood, acquiring a sim card for my phone and generally relaxing.  Tomorrow I will take an Athens tour, contact a couple of cyclists I know here and get a general idea of how to get out of the city by bike.   

The road is calling.

— Bill H.

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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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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.