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Out of Order

The Countryside Outside of Villa Tuscana
The Countryside Outside of Villa Tuscana

January 15, 2020

Villa Tuscana, Colombia

Wow, the last couple of days have been about climbing up to Villa Tuscana to visit Dave and Maria Luz. He is a retired postman from Medford and Ashland she is a Columbian accountant.  
Mostly uphill from Zipaquiera, this deep valley is spectacular.  Wait a minute, up hill to a deep valley, No.  Yes!  
After the flat ride to Zipaquiera,  I found, good word, a road to take me back to the Autopista and north.  The road had a small, 524 meters high hill, in just under 3 km.  Then a down on a dirt road, with lots of sharp curves, deep holes and big rocks.  
At the autopista, the highway opened up to 4 lanes and a nice shoulder of smooth pavement.  But of course it had to have some challenge or why would I do it?  It began a climb that would continue for the next 2 days.  
As you know I like to climb as I like the rewards of great views and ever changing landscape.  In Columbia that is very true.  This country is right out of a fantastic novel.  It is just not possible for the landscape to be real.  I do not have the capability to share with you in words what I am seeing.  As you know my eyes have witnessed many countries on this world. Every continent has felt my tires and Columbia stands out as spectacular!  

Dave had told me to go to Terra Negara and turn right at the sign for Villa Tuscana, well there was no sign but only one right turn so I took it.  I did ask and was told it did go to Janesano which I knew was close to David’s place.  
Ok, he said there was a climb and a rough road I had to negotiate.  Ha!  Yes, a climb of about 5 km with short grades in excess of 20%!  Rough road, yes.  But not too bad.  Much better than the dirt road of yesterday.  
But what awaited me was harder.  A big downhill.  A crazy stretch of 12 km of extremely steep down with no pavement in places, speed bumps, trucks on my side of the road, and all of this awaiting around very sharp curves.  Do not know how steep, but my nose was sore from rubbing on the road as I fell of the mountain.  The down was harder than the up.
Am now staying in Jenasano for a few days to get some dental work done.  Just think about travel to such a great place and dental work done for a great price.  A cleaning and 3 caps for $140.  Lida, the dentist has been in practice since 1999.  Lots of good experience and very busy.  She cleaned my teeth today and will finish the rest on Sunday and Monday. I had heard that prices here were low, but wow.

A Bicyclist Sculpture
Discovered a Bicyclist Sculpture!

Dave and Maria Luz have been great hosts.  They live in a small closed village with tennis courts, a large pool, several weekend restaurants, a bowling alley and a movie theater.  All tucked into this beautiful valley. 
Moved into town for a couple of days as Dave and Maria Luz left for Bogota.  Sunday Lida finished my work and I left for parts unknown Monday.  I have some towns in mind but overall do not know where this trip will take me.
You may notice this story is a little out of order, but then again so I am.  
I am writing this from the Altiplano where it is raining hard in the desert.  I guess the rain falls hard here because we are so close to the sky it does not have far to fall.
You may notice this story is a little out of order, but then again so I am.  
I am writing this from the Altiplano where it is raining hard in the desert.  I guess the rain falls hard here because we are so close to the sky it does not have far to fall.

—Bill H.

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It is hard when you cannot remember…

January 17, 2020

Terra Tuscana-Jenesano, Colombia

It is hard when you cannot remember the name of the place you are staying.  I had to stop for a while to remember.  Maybe I can blame it on the Spanish.  Yea, that’s it, couldn’t be old age…
Today was interesting?  Took David, my host to the cell store to help him with changing phones and upgrading his sim card.  His iPhone would not let him download any apps until he updated the operating system.  But it would not let update the system.  Great!  
He had an older Android and we changed the sim card….do you really care about all this?  I know I don’t care about discussing it.  We got that done and then he had to go to get his shoulder worked on.  
While that was happening, I walked around, went to the bank to get efectivo because the dentist would not accept credit cards, only cash.  I had a beer and an arepa.  They are lightly fried corn cake with cheese in them sometimes.  Very good.  
The ATM did not work.  More on that later.  “Really, now he is going to go on about a ATM , why?  Think I will just delete this story.”
Sometimes traveling is just day to day activities.  I found a dentist yesterday who would see me right away.  Lida examined my teeth and told me what problems I had and asked what I wanted to do.  We agreed on a cleaning and 3 caps.  Then we negotiated the cost.  The price came to be 3,400,000 COP. COP is Columbian Pesos.  In American that is $140.00!  So, she cleaned them and I have go back on SUNDAY, imagine and Monday to complete the work.  Now I must add in the extra cost of my hotel room.  For 4 days that comes to $40.00.  Very nice, lots of windows, clean room with on-suite in the center of town. Better than going to a dentist locally and just a little cheaper.
With more day to day stuff we finished the day by going to another town and bank to get the cash.  See I got the arm discussion in before you deleted the story. 
Returning to our casa Maria Luz called and asked us to join her at a friend’s apartment for hot chocolate and dulce pan.  The sweet rolls and cheese were good, but not as good as the Mexican detective comedy we watched with the family of older adults.  We had so much fun with the 1950’s slapstick movie.  
I have been losing weight.  Not so much from cycling but from Columbian eating habits.  In the morning breakfast, sometimes with a good hot soup, sometimes a normal American breakfast.
Lunch is the main meal.   A starter, soup, main plate with rice, a couple of small potatoes, a 3 bite salad, a drink and whatever main you choose.  I took my host to lunch and the total was around $5 for both of us.  Lunch can last 2 or 3 hours.  It the time the to share with others.   Eating local not only provides the local food, a learning experience, but is most enjoyable. 
Then in the evening the dinner is maybe an arepa or some fruit and a beverage. BTW very fresh fruits are severed with almost every meal and for snacks.  Very nice.
Even day to day can be fun and interesting.  
Question.  What picture should I have used for this story?  Maybe one  of me in the dentist chair with an open…never mind, No pic with this story.  And no hills!

—Bill H.

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An Interesting Climbing Companion

January 15, 2020

Terra Negara, Colombia

The Road near Terra Negara
The Road near Terra Negara

Had my first bad interpersonal encounter in all my years of travel. I mean where my life could have been in danger.  Such a contrast to all my Columbian travels.
I was climbing very slowly up as I had been yesterday and most of the day today.  I was very tired.  When out of a side road came a man, moving fast.  He was dressed as a field worker and very dirty.  I have learned that Columbians take a shower every day no matter their economic status.  It is very important to them.  
The man ran up alongside of me and began yelling in a Spanish that I had not heard.  Running very close as I weaved up the hill, making me nervous about colliding with him.  He kept yelling and yelling. I have learned that it is best to pretend not to speak the language in such circumstances.  In my case that was very easy.
As he continued to run close by and yell, I told him to go away in English, several times.  He did not and the more he yelled the more difficult it was for me to continue to maintain on this difficult climb. Finally, I stopped and looked directly at him and told him to go away in Spanish.  He then took out his machete and waved it in the air while making cutting motions.  
OK, I am standing over my bike, holding it from moving back downhill.  No way to defend myself.  I was tired from climbing for 2 days and not in the mood for this action.  By now he was very irritated and telling me to give him money for food.  I again looked directly at him and said I was not giving him anything, that I did not have money enough for him and he should go away.  He pointed at my bike saying how much it costs and I could give him some money.  He was still yelling.
I had had enough!  I told him I was an old man and did not care what he did to me.  What I had was mine and he was getting none of it.  Then I told him to go away again, in a command Spanish.  He brought his machete a little closer, then put it away.  Finally, he waved to me and walked up the hill, stopping a couple of times to see what I was doing.  After a little while I rode on up and saw him turn off on another dirt road.
As I thought about this, I realized the man was most likely Venezuelan.  The dirty clothes and body, the strange Spanish and the aggressive nature, none of which I have seen since arriving in Columbia. 
Please know that is a refugee experience and not Columbian.  I have learned to like Columbianos and to some degree understand them and their history. I understand why some many Americans and Ashlanders have brought their lives here. That is except for all the big hills that one has to climb on a bicycle.

—Bill H.

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Manizales (again still)

Manizales, the Approach

January 8 (still), 2020

Manizales, Colombia

Manizales, Colombia

The ride from Irra to Manizales was up a lot, hard and not very fun.  Heavy traffic, dusty and hot.  It took until after dark to arrive.  
I do like this city. It is worth the effort.  Not sure why, it just feels comfortable. The people are giving, smile a lot and offer a closeness.  It is cooler here, just enough to ask you to go out and enjoy the air.  
It is Feria.  Fireworks, street booths, dancing, bands and lots of people. I stopped a taxi and asked him to take me to El Centro and la feria.  He told me to take the cable, it was much cheaper.  Think about a taxi driver telling anyone that.  
Following the taxi drivers advice,  I took the cable car to the main part of town, which is much higher than my motel.  It seems that many cities in Columbia have cable car systems as part of their metro.  With all of the large hills and mountains, It is how people get around.  
On that subject of honesty of the taxi driver, honesty is a real thing in Columbia.  The other day, while standing on a corner, fishing around in my pockets I dropped my credit card.  I man tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to it, asking if it was mine.  Wow, can you imagine that happening in any city?  When I shared this story with my friend in Bogota he had a similar one!  Not the image that we have of Columbia via our media.

Manizales, Colombia
Manizales, Colombia

Called Steve in Bogota and arranged for him to meet me at the bus station when I arrived.  An 8 hour bus ride is not something to look forward to but I wanted to spend a little time with Steve and Mary in Bogota before he went to Ashland for business.
Walk to the bus station, compro me boleta for 8 AM tomorrow and back to my motel to write a little before dinner.  Did I say I like this city?  The motel staff has been super friendly, giving me a bigger room for my bicycle and stuff on the first floor.  They tell me not to order this or that because it is too much or it is a local dish that might take getting used to.  Just so giving.
Show up at the bus station an hour early and again the people are great.  A young man comes out from behind the glass enclosed counter to help me with the bicycle.  No, I do not have to disarm my bicycle it can be put on the bus with the bags on it, he tells me. Disarm in this case means to disassmble.  In a few minuets I am sitting at a table in the food court eating my breakfast and drinking coffee in complete comfort and peace. 

The bus arrives and the driver loads my bike, standing up in the basement of the bus.  We are given a headset for the music and movies shown on the seat back screens.  The seats are wide and comfortable.  Off we go, in airconditoned comfort.
The terrain of Columbia is wonderful.  As the bus climbs out of Manizales the mountains and valleys are revealed. I almost wish I had ridden.  Almost as the bus takes over a half hour to crest the first climb.  That would be over half a day on the bike and we have a few more climbs to get over this chain of the Andes. The wish goes away as I take a sip of my cold orange juice and turn on a children’s movie.  I watch these to learn Spanish.
We go on and on as the scenery gets better and better.  Soon I realize that am watching a Disney movie out the bus window, as this just cannot be the real Columbia.  And if it is, it not possible for the next lush green mountains to be better than the last, but they are.  

Manizales Gondolas
Manizales Gondolas

We stop for lunch in a town just on the other side of a large river.  I learn that the pedestrian bridge that I see just down river was the original bridge and was build in the US and emailed here.  Well, maybe not emailed, shipped here, maybe with Amazon Prime.  
Back to the ever changing road.  Now about 3 hrs left.  Bogota is about 8000 feet and Manizales about 7000, not much difference except when you know how much you gain and loose along the way.  Up and down, up and down, up and down, dizzy yet?  No, up and down, up and down, up oh well you understand. 

Soon Steve is standing at the door of the bus welcoming me to Bogota and their hospitality.

—Bill H.

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Another Spanish School…

December 30, 2020


Another Spanish school but this one is very different.  The students are mostly in their 20’s and 30’s, European and travel extensively.  They also like to party.

Another Spanish School in Medellin
Another Kind of Spanish School…in Medellin

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.  

Last night I was having dinner in a sidewalk restaurant when a student came up and asked if I wanted to join the rest of the group on the patio at the school.    I had the waitress put my meal in a box and headed the one block to the school.   There sat about 10 students drinking rum or wine.  Quite lively with singing, a little chair dancing, animated conversation and texting.   Yes, they text during everything.   There’s an app that I discovered is used almost everywhere in the world except the US, What’s App.   The school has an address and I am constantly being updated on what the others are doing.   Not sure I am that interested but does show me a new way of being.   
Last night a large guy from Balitome was teaching a English man how move his hips without moving other parts of his body.  It was fun watching.   A girl was holding Oscar’s hips trying to help or maybe something else as she had her head very close in.   The non music continued along with the frolicking as I bid ado and walked by to my apartment in the rain.   
Spanish is very hard for me.   I have studied it in at least four  countries and continue to study at home but have not mastered it.  In fact not even close.   From the classes I take I know that my vocabulary is more than sufficient and often my grammar,  at least in the present tense is acceptable,  but hearing Spanish eludes me.   Not sure if I will take another week here or move on to see the country.  Will decide on Saturday.   
Looking at the route from here to Tonya where I have a contact from Ashland who has been emailing me with helpful information, David.  Then another friend from Ashland lives in Bogota and has invited me to visit him.   Steve says is leaving for Ashland at the end of Jan so time is short as it will take at least I  weeks to pedal to Bogota.   If possible,  I will not pass up an opportunity to stay with a local or at least, semi local.
It has rained every afternoon.   Something I must keep in mind when I begin my journey.   It only rains for an hour or so.   That means I will be forced to take break from the mountains for a time each day.   Darn I hoping to beat myself up with a non stop 8 hour climb every day.   Please feel sorry for me.   

—Bill H.

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December 20, 2019

Ashland, Oregon Ashland, Oregon Ashland, Oregon

Bill Heimann's Bicycle Workshop at his home in Ashland, Oregon
Bill Heimann’s Bicycle Workshop at his home in Ashland, Oregon

This journey does not want to start. It keeps distracting me with other things. First, there is the city’s form of government that I want to see changed. I have been working on a change to our city charter for about a year now and the work is just ending the first major phase, taking a lot of my time.

Then my daughter came from Atlanta for a visit. Doesn’t she know better than to interrupt her father at this time? Children, just no thought for their parents. Well, I did, as always have a wonderful time with her. We get along very well and enjoy each other as adults. It was a good time, but will I ever prepare for this leaving?

I believe that as we reach true adulthood we can make a choice. We can decide if relatives are going to be friends. It is not written in stone that we must spend time with a sister, aunt or any other relative just because of a one night stand by another relative.

The house, oh for Pete’s sake the house; nothing like living in a 110 year old house. It is just like living with an old man. Always complaining about something and demanding you fix it. So, I must go around looking and listening, trying to figure out what this place is asking me to do. That hinge, drip, leaking door seal and on and on, stopping me from the real task of preparing to ride Columbia.

Oh, I guess I have not said where I am going. Yes, Columbia. I am flying to Medellin on December 27th and as per normal don’t have much of a clue where after that. It is interesting that friends keep giving me information they think I will use to plan my stay. I do thank them and may find the information useful but as to planning….

Yesterday I finally began to prepare. I had put the panniers on the bike last week but then had to stop to help John referb his bike. I like working with John on his bike or anything. We find joy in sharing time.

See, even talking about starting gets interrupted.

I have a travel list that I have been using with small modifications for many years.  Using the list I find each item and check it off as “have.”  Then as I pack it I check “packed.”  As I went through the list I could not find my stove.  Last summer returning from Brussels the airline lost a pannier.  Not the one in which I keep, oh well talking too much. 



H             P                                                                              H             P

____        ____ DRESS PANTS                            ____        ____ SANDALS

____        ____ BELT                                             ____        ____ HELMET

____        ____ 2 RIDING SHIRTS                       ____       ____ LONG SLEEVE SHIRT

____        ____ DRESS SHORTS                          ____        ____2 MIRRORS

____        ____ RIDING GLOVES                        ____        ____ DRESS SOCKS     

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Anyway I thought the stove was gone.  I went to the store to look for another as it was too late to order one from my pro deal with MSR. 

Ran into someone who has been working with me on the charter change; see again, interruptions!

Returned home without a new stove, but looking again I found it, right where it should have been!  Sometimes distractions can bring fortune. 

Got most of the items on my workbench, some packed.  Maybe, just maybe I will finish on time.  Wait, isn’t there some big event next week?  Most likely have to take a few minutes to celebrate my first Christmas home in several years.  Just have to be patient with yet another interruption!

–Bill H.

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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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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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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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