Monday, September 30, 2013

Ride Wrap-up

I've been delaying this final ride entry. I'm not sure why exactly why it's taken so long, the final day of the ride was Aug 25 and I arrived home Aug 28th. That makes it a month since the end of the ride. I figure that writing this last post is me admitting that the summer adventure is over and it's time to complete the re-entry into my real life.

I'll tell you, returning after such an adventure takes a bit of time to reorient yourself when you get home. I'm not sure if I'm really ready to say that I'm even back at this point, but I need to do a final trip entry.

When I got home, I had my bike reassembled and ready to ride, but I couldn't bring myself to clean the bike, washing off dirt and mud that had accumulated since Vienna. The layers of dirt contain a brief history of countries that we had ridden through. Last week I needed to bring the bike into the shop to have the chain replaced and to have a post-ride inspection, so I reluctantly took out the hose, gathered the cleaning soap and brushes and gave the bike a good scrubbing. In the end, the bike was sparking clean with gears shining in the sunlight, but the accumulated road dirt, the history of the ride, was running down the driveway into the drain.

One the goals for this trip was to push the boundaries of my concept of "foreign". To me, foreign is just some place that you haven't been or don't understand. I guess I've been using my bicycle to push back the what is foreign for a while now. When I first started to travel via bicycle, even many of the states in the US were foreign to me. When traveling from coast to coast in the US, many of the states were what are commonly called fly-over states. States that you fly over when traveling from the East coast to the West. Each time you travel, especially by bike, the places you travel, becomes more familiar and less foreign.

This trip we biked 8 countries, only one (France) that I had been in before. So each new kilometer and new country, my concept of foreign was pushed back.  Maybe that is one of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling by bike. Push back the boundaries that are unfamiliar and possibly foreign, test what you are capable of and perhaps become a bit healthier for it.

Was as so fortunate to be able to share the experience with such a great group of folks. Thank you everyone.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tour Summary Video

Click on the video below is view a summary of the Tour:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

One last ride

Last riding day of the tour, what can I say? After riding with almost 30 people on a daily basis for the past 50 days, it will be hard to say goodbye. The ride was pretty short, just over 50 kilometers. At that point we boarded a ferry for an hour long ride into Istanbul and to the Hotel where TDA is putting us up for an evening at the Princess Hotel.

The trip itself was a continuation of the highway that we were on yesterday with more ups and downs. A real treat was in the town of Gokturk where we found the first Starbucks since Vienna! Oh a Granda Latte never tasted so good. Strange, we've been in Turkey for 4 days now and have not found the famed Turkish coffee. Every place we stop for coffee serves us instant Nescafe.

After Gokturk, it is ride through a busy town of Kemerburgaz and through a forest road that climbed and climbed until we dropped down to the ferry was to pick us up and take us to the hotel. The entire group got there before the ferry arrived and we had a chance to celebrate the completion of the ride with dunking of tires and pictures, pictures and more pictures.

The ferry arrived and the riders and staff enjoyed a leisurely ride to about a block from the hotel. We've since packed up our bikes and the group will have one final dinner this evening and that will complete the ride.

It's been wonderful, it's been an adventure and it's expanded my horizons. Calling it a trip of a lifetime would not be an overstatement.

I'm likely to have a couple more posts and when I get home, I'll figure out how to post the photos that I've been having issues with posting. So until then, Happy Biking,


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Last full day of riding

I was figuring that since we were moving south from the mountains and along the Black Sea that the amount of feet climbed would be pretty low. I was wrong. Though the maximum elevation never exceeded ~1400 feet, the accumulated elevation gained was greater than 4650 feet. Though we had some very nice downhill descents.

Though we departed Vuze with a lot of commercial traffic on pretty rough surface, the courtesy shown by the drivers was not a one time event. Generally traffic passing us gave us warning beeps and room as they passed. The on coming traffic also acknowledged us by beeping and waving to us. A very nice biking experience.

After the town of Saray the traffic thinned and the road began is have protective trees on either side, that helped to protect us from the cross winds.  All day long we had the wind. Sometimes headwinds, sometimes crosswinds and even tail winds on some occasions.

We arrived on at the hotel, which is a very nice resort, after working our way through a lot of road construction. Turkey is creating a huge 6 line highway, 3 lanes in each direction, and we need to work our away amount the construction signs. Being Saturday, there was no construction.

Tonight is the last night of the tour with tomorrow being the last ride, about 51km then a ferry ride into Istanbul. The destination that seemed so far distant 7 weeks ago, will be under our wheels.  8 countries in 7 weeks, that's quite an adventure. I've learned from past bike rides, that it will some time to "process" the trip.

Well that's it for now, Happy Biking,


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Up over the border we go....

I guess borders are drawn between counties base on several different factors, but today we found that the border between Turkey and Bulgaria was drawn based on a mountain range. So we climbed at the beginning of the ride over a mountain to get to the border where we got a visa to enter Turkey (15 euros) and after having it stamped and inspected at the entrance gate, we were in.

Each country that is entered, I don't have a clue what to expect and try not to have any expectations. I want to experience the country for what it has to offer, not what I want it to offer.

Upon entering Turkey, we had a quick down hill followed by another climb. The roads were the best that we've seen in a very long time. Newly paved, wide shoulders and beautiful views.

The first town wasn't until about 40 km into the ride. It was called Kirklareli. We pulled into town and as it turned out, it was a pretty good sized town. A couple of kilometers into the town center and shops, bakeries and lots of traffic. Several shops were selling gold jewelry and I guess we'll see more of that as the trip progresses. The bakery was a treat. The first fresh pastries that we had in several weeks. We also looking forward to tasting "Turkish Delight" that everyone has been talking about.

With the first pastry stop out of the way, it was time to push on to lunch about 20 more kilometers (a bit over 12 miles). By this time, the wind was picking up and it wasn't in our favor. Sometimes a headwind, sometimes a cross wind, but never a tail wind. Our pace dropped off rapidly.

After lunch it was more of the same but with some uphills and downhills to add some variety to the day all the way to the town of Vize.

The most striking thing about Turkey so far is the people. We saw the most curious and friendly folks on the road today. Sometimes you will be riding and occasionally a drive will give you a quick beep of his horn to let you know that he's behind you and well be passing shortly. But most of the time drivers will step on the gas and go blasting pass you and not give you any room on the road at all!!

Today drivers behind us not only gave us some breathing room, but drivers of cars and trucks would often give us friendly toots and blink their lights and wave as they passed. All very nice. I hope that it continues.

We also had two drivers in particular go above and beyond the call of duty. At one point a dog started to bark and chase me (not the first time on this trip), and much to my surprise, a car behind me pulled his car off the road and on to the shoulder effectively putting a block between the dog and me. When he saw that I had peddled out of danger, he pulled back on to the road and gave me a toot as continued to drive down the road. Wow I have never had that experience before.

A second driver pulled off to the side of the road to ask if he could help when one our riders had a flat. Maybe the courtesies that we saw today won't be repeated in the future, but it sure was a very nice introduction to a country that I hope to enjoy visiting.

That all for today, Happy Biking,