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,


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cycling Explained

Last night in Bulgaria

The trip today was a short ride, just about 80 km bringing us just short of the Turkey border. Just 8 km from the start we turned on to a quite road that lasted until lunch at the 48 km point. The road was fairly neglected but for our bikes that was just fine. Take a look at the elevation plot by click on "view details" of the Garmin plot to view the ups and downs of the day. The accumulated climb for the day was over 4000 feet.

The border crossing into Turkey is only 7 km away and we'll be making it tomorrow morning. The border is heavily patrolled in this area of the county since it's the frontier with the European Union. It seems that lots of folks have been trying to cross illegally from Turkey to Bulgaria and therefor into the EU.

Some of our riders were stopped today by the border petrol today even though we were over 40 km from the Turkey border at that point.

That's about it for now.

Happy Biking,


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Miles and miles of Sunflowers

Days like today are the reason I enjoy these bike trips. This morning started with a steep climb from the Hotel to the main road. A short distance, then a jog to a small road and that's all we saw of the busy roads today. For the majority of the ride we were on small secondary farm roads passing grazing live stock and miles and miles of agricultural. Some corn but mostly sunflowers. Miles and miles of sunflowers. They had all passed their prime and the huge seed heads were hanging limply on the stalks because of their sheer weight. I don't know anything about sunflowers, but my guess is that the farmers are allowing the seeds to dry a bit before harvesting them.

  The roads climbed and dropped quite a bit and we accumulated over 1500 meters (~5000 feet) during the course of the day.

There was one point of the day where after a rest stop, the road started a long downhill and on either side was sunflower fields stretching as far as the eye could see. We were coasting with the warm wind wrapping around  our arms and legs as we went. The wind wicked away all sweat keeping us dry as we went even though if we were to stop of a couple of minutes, you would be drenching in sweat.

We were just out of town when we came upon an unexpectedly large hill, take a look at the Garmin plot below.  Up and up we went. The hill was pretty steep and being at the end of the ride, it took a lot out of us. But he rewarding downhill into town was really enjoyable and as we entered the town we discovered very large castle walls with a castle high upon a mountain peak.

After that, it was one more hill into town and we quickly found the hotel.

We're planning on exploring the town and the castle tomorrow.

Happy Biking,


Friday, August 16, 2013

Goodbye Romania, Hello Bulgaria!

How can you have any concerns in the world when you are lounging in a lovely hotel that would serve as a ideal location for a corporate retreat? The informal hotel is located in a middle of a forest on the edge of the
Danube River. We diverged from the Danube weeks ago and now in Bulgaria we have reconverted in the wonderful environment.

The day started off with the day gray and overcast as we got on our bikes. Bucharest is a big city that does not have any accommodations for bikes and we had to convoy out together for the first 10 kilometers or so. The group needed to stop and regroup an number of times as traffic and traffic lights separated the riders.

Finally we left the street cars and buses behind and the traffic began to thin out. The tension of riding through the traffic and riding in tight formation required one thing, go fast. The road was pretty much a major road connecting to Bulgaria, but the surface was largely smooth and the shoulder was wide. Plus there was a "rabbit" in the distance.

When you're biking sometime you can see a rabbit ( another biker ). Like a greyhound chasing a little bunny around a race track, you feel a need to catch up to the rabbit. The rabbit was moving at a nice clip and after maybe 30 minutes or so, we caught up and passed the rabbit just to see another rabbit further ahead. I was a lot of fun and got use to the Bulgaria border in no time.

A quick stop for coffee then a lunch stop then the border crossing resulted in entering Bulgaria pretty early. I'm guessing 11:30 or so. The town on the Bulgaria is called Ruse and our hotel is just on the far side of the town. A stop for exchange of Romanian money for Bulgaria money was needed as was a trip to the ATM for additional cash. Please don't ask about the exchange rate, after a while it's all just monopoly money anyway.

A stop for coffee and soft drinks was in the game plan followed by stop at a market for some fruit and cookies for the hotel. We then traveled on to the hotel, only a couple more kilometers.

A quick turn followed by a couple of steep drops deposited us on the steps of the hotel.

That's it for now. Our ride tomorrow is likely to be more adventurous, but today was just plain fun.

Happy Biking,


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

into Bucharest

Fairly short day today, only ~85 km (~ 53 miles). The roads into Bucharest are very busy so our tour leader, Shanny, found some quiet alternate roads which we appreciated.  The updated route took us through several small villages that we would never have seen and experienced had we been on the busy thoroughfare.

Oh we also left the mountains behind us. The ride was mostly downhill with the wind occasionally to our backs. The Garmin recorded only 95 meters (~310 feet) all day long. All in all a very easy day.

I'm very happy with how well our bikes are holding up on the ride. Except for being very dusty, the bikes are in good shape. If I can find a high pressure hose during tomorrow's rest day, I'll clean the bike.

Chet and I have gotten in the habit of taking a quick spin around town early in the morning on our days off. Usually it's only a couple of miles, but it gives us a chance to survey the town before it wakes up.

That's it for today, Happy Biking,


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

up, down, up, down, up, down, down, down

Today was a day to put some miles between the start and the finish. We started off in the cool morning air (about 68 degrees F) and headed north through the busy morning traffic. It was a relief to get on to a road with less traffic. The many trucks and cars were a feature of today's ride almost constantly however.

If you click he Garmin information ("view details") you will note that we had many ups and downs in the first half of the ride. It turns out that each of the downhills were into a small town located near a small river. The ups were climbs to a plateau before repeating the process again.

The climbs were complete as we reached the lunch stop at about 70 km. After lunch it was mostly downhill and often had the help of a tail-wind. If you take the traffic and the bumpy roads out of the equation, it was a very nice ride today.

Happy Biking,


Monday, August 12, 2013

What goes up, must come down

We spent the night at the top of the Transfaragasan Pass last night. As we were finishing dinner the skies opened up and it just started to pour, then the fog moved in and it continued to pour. I didn't know that it was possible to have it rain so hard and be foggy at the same time.

However this morning we woke to blue skies and absolutely calm air, but pretty chilly at the upper 40's. Yesterday we came up the northern face of the pass and today we went through a almost 1 km long tunnel to pop out on the southern face of the pass. The roads on this side were almost as crazy as the northern side.

We flew down the winding strips of road in the cool air. Like yesterday, the upper 10 km was above treeline and we continued to drop as through the forest. We were almost 17 km from the top before we were required to start peddling again. The cool air had chilled our legs so much it was difficult to start climbing even the most modest incline, but on we went.

The morning coffee was at a small cafe buried in the forest on the edge of a lake. A very nice stop that called for two cups of coffee and cookies before continuing the ride.

The rest of the ride was descending for the rest of the day and went fairly quickly.

We're coming to the realization that the ride is starting to come to an end. The total trip is 40 riding days. After today, we have 10 days remaining. Still time to have fun, but it's a reminder to take our time and enjoy each mile/kilometer because we may never pass this way again.

Gotta finish this blog up, 'cause tomorrow if going to be a long ride and I need my rest.

Happy Biking,


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Crank, Crank, Crank, up the mountain we go!!

We woke today with the skies clearing from a downpour last night. As I was slipping off to sleep last night you could hear the thunder in the distance and through the tent, see occasional flashes of lightening.

The storm must have been a weather front coming through because this morning the air was cool and fresh. A nice change from the past weeks.

The ride today is to the top of the Transfagarasan Highway. A crazy set of switchback that climb over 5,300 feet in less that 30 kilometers (~20 miles). We’re staying on the peak tonight in a hotel.

To get to the base of the climb we left the campground and peddled about 10 kilometers (~6 miles) through fields with the range of mountains growing higher with each peddle revolution. We tried to pick out the road as we got closer, but the dense forest hide it from us.

The forested road started to bend up slowly before the switchbacks started to appear. We must have been in the forest for several kilometers as we gained attitude because at one point and opening appered in the trees and you could view a valley below that went all the way down to the plains where we had started the climb.

At 20 kilometers (1/2 way) we came upon a tourist trap at the bend of the road that had nick-nacks, hats, coffee and sandwiches. We just had to stop. Within 10-15 minutes we had a gathering of 7 or 8 riders all drinking coffee and snacking on bread-like concoction that is rapped on a cylinder and roasted over coals and then covered in cinnamon and sugar.  Then after a while it was time to continue up the hill. There was no need to hurry. The distance wasn't too long and we wouldn't be passing this way again, so just spin the peddles and make it to the top at a comfortable rate.

As we climbed you could look up and see where the next set of switchback would bring you to and the difference in height seemed incredible!! But with time you would be at the point that you had seen 20 minutes previous and be amazed at the progress!!

With about 10 kilometers to go, we popped about treeline and could see the final 10 km of switchbacks laid out in front of us.  I would be lying if I told you that I wasn't intimidated by the sight. But I kept in mind that the pitch of the road was likely to be similar to what we had already done and it wasn't going to be much worst. Also the weather had been on our side as well. The temperature was a perfect 60-65 degrees F and the sky was still overcast keeping the sun from beating down on us, which was fortunate because from not to the top we were exposed without any tree cover or shade.

I don’t think that the photos can capture the beauty of the vista as we completed the climb but as we got higher and higher, the road below started to remind me of slot car tracks that we had as children with the road winding up the mountain like discarded Christmas ribbon after the presents are opened.

Messages painted on the road started to count down as we approached the top; 3 km, 2 km, 1 km, 300 meters as our stops to take photos increased. There was no need to hurry. It was close to noon and lunch awaited us at the top. Finally 100 meters message rolled under our tires, a quick turn and we found ourselves in the middle of a completely unexpected set of tourist trap stands and the roadway blocked with cars all of them blocking our progress. Shirley was mixed in with the crowd directing us to the lunch stop. We had to dismount and walk our way through the combination of cars and people to find our way to the end of the ride.

Well gotta go, tomorrow will be a longer day and I need to get to bed.

Happy Biking,


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Supported / Unsupported Rides

There are many ways to tour with a bike. Some folks add saddlebags to their bikes, grab a map and head off on a trip. This type of touring is called unsupported. If anything happens on the road, you’re on your own. Most people that tour unsupported enjoys the flexibility and price that this type of tour allows.

I prefer a supported ride where a company carries your bags, provides your meals and handles the routing of the trip. The trips can be reasonable on a day to day basis, but the reason I like this type of touring is that all you have to do is get on the bike and ride. Everything else is pretty much taken care of. Today, my trusty bike developed a small ticking sound down in the pedal assembly called the bottom bracket. I had it rebuilt last summer (about 5000 miles ago). A bad bearing in the bottom bracket could pretty much leave you stuck on the side of the road. I brought it into camp and had our bike mechanic Peter look at it. He dissembled the assembly and re-tightened everything, fixing the problem.

That’s what I mean by support. If I was on a self supported tour, I would have to find a bike shop and visit them when they are open (I wonder how many shops are open on a Saturday evening?) and hope that they had a qualified mechanic that could fix it right then.

Well that it for now, Happy Biking,


Fortified Church

We left the campground and retracted the path that we took yesterday, which meant an immediate climb of 4 km before descending into Medias then catching the road to Agnita. Generally it was a pleasant ride with nice views.

The local attractions were limited today. We did stop at a “fortified church” in Biertan. These facilities were built in the 1300’s by imported labor from Germany, called “Saxons”. The church is undergoing renovation, but at a very slow pace.

We stopped in the town of Agnita before lunch. Where in countries like Germany and Austria, it seemed that each village was quaint with cobble stone town centers, this is not the case with Romania. The towns reminded me of run down villages that you might find in Mexico with many improvement projects (water, sewers, roads, etc.) started but no oblivious signs of completion in the near future. Most of the projects look abandoned ½ through. We grabbed a pasty and coke before heading on to lunch.

Following lunch the asphalt road turned to gravel for about 12 km, it was the first time on this trip that I wish that I had a mountain bike with fat tires rather than my road bike with skinny tires. But we trundled on bouncing over the gravel and trying to avoid the pot holes.

With a couple of miles to before the campsite, the Carpathian mountain range came into view. Tomorrow we’re going to climb them and we’re all looking forward to the challenge.

That’s it for now, Happy Riding


Friday, August 9, 2013

A wonderful day

Wonderful day, but busy traffic leaving town for the first 9 km. Felt like we were caught in the early morning rush hour traffic. After 9 km we turned off on a more quiet secondary road where we still encountered trucks and cars, but at least with less frequency.

The scenery while we were on the secondary roads was pretty nice with fields laid out in front of us and rolling mountains in the background. The small cities were difficult to navigate with traffic darting out in front of us and cutting us off every which way.

We also hit a lot of road construction that was very dicey for the us on the bikes. We found a picturesque town square ringed with cafes where we had coffee and Cokes.

We arrived at the campground about 2PM where we found most of the other riders in the swimming pool cooling off from the hot day. The rest of the day was spent in and out of the pool and lounging in the shade by the trees and napping in the hammock. Just a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

That’s it for now,



Thursday, August 8, 2013


I've been getting some questions regrading the type of tires that I'm running on the bike and how many flats I've gotten so far.

As you may know, we've been traveling over some rough roads and many times on gravel for long distances. The tour company recommended a minimum of 35 mm tires. 35 mm refers to the width of the tire. The configuration of my bike limits me to 25 mm maximum, so it was either buy a new bike or take a risk and run it with the widest tires possible. I chose to risk it.

My bike shop recommenced Maxxis RE-FUSE 700x25C so I bought 3 tires. The rear tire needed to be replaced any way, so installed it and that was 1,800 miles ago. Despite the rough riding, the tires still are in pretty good shape. I think that they will complete the tour.

On the front I have a 700x23 Continental GatorSkin tire. I installed it while touring last summer. Despite having about 2,500 miles at the time, the tire still looked great so I didn't replace it, but I threw the two remaining Maxxis RE-FUSE tires into my bags just in case I need them while on tour.

My guess is that I'll be returning home without needing to change the tires, but we'll see. I need to complete 8 more days in Romania, 7 days in Bulgaria and 3 in Turkey (about 750 miles).

Happy Biking,


There is much anticipation about a ride in a couple of days (Sunday Aug 11th). The ride will be up winding road called the "Transfagarasan Highway" which Top Gear has dubbed; "The Best Road in the World".

Of course they drove on the road with super sports cars and we'll be peddling up it with our bikes, but it will be a challenge and possibly the most difficult road that I have ever biked. I just can't wait.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where in the heck is Alba Iulia?

Today was a day to start getting back into climbing shape. Wonderful cool start. About 60 degrees F to begin with and staying below 70 until 2 1/2 hours into the ride. Almost all the climbing was done under perfect conditions. The total feet gained was almost 4000 feet. The midpoint of the ride was also the top of the climb and where the lunch stop was.

After lunch it was a great swooping downhill with hairpin switchbacks in tree covered roads. The road surface varied greatly from smooth, almost new asphalt, to bone shaking pothole pitted beat up road.

As we descended into Alba Iulia the temperature had heated up and we were facing headwinds, but after awhile we were to our hotel. A very nice place. Tomorrow we'll explore the town a bit.

Happy Biking,


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bopping into Brad

With entry into Romanian the timezone changed by an hour so we needed wake up an hour earlier. It was nice and cool this morning with many of the riders wearing jackets. After the past several days of fighting the traffic and the winds, the quiet winding roads with ascending rolling grades was invigorating.

Thirty km was the coffee stop before lunch. A small cafe with a general store attached. We lingered a bit longer that usual, having a second cup as other riders joins us and we devoured snacks from the general store.

As you can tell from reading this blog, we have a pretty simple daily routine; get up and have breakfast; bike some and have coffee and snacks; bike to lunch; have more afternoon snacks; arrive in camp; shower up and look for ice cream and something cold to drink. Not a bad way of spending a vacation as we travel through wonderful communities and experience wonderful views and interact on a personal basis with the local folks.  I think that biking really allows us to be a bit closer to experiencing a country more than just about any other way short of walking.

Well gotta go. It's getting late and we have one more day of riding before a rest day on the 8th.

Happy Biking,


Hungary to Romaina

It was a short hop from our campgrounds to the Hungary boarder with Romaina. It was the first time on this trip that we had a boarder crossing that guards were present. We needed out passports to enter.

Once past the crossing we were placed on a very busy two lane road that had large trucks rushing past us at 60 MPH+ only inches away. The slipstream had us alternately sucked toward the trucks, then pushed away as they sped by us. If the trucks weren't pushing us around, the head and crosswinds were. So you can say that our introduction to Romania was not the most welcoming.

About 30 Km into the ride we pulled into a small town that was able to change the Hungarian money into Romanian money and also had an ATM to get fresh Romanian money. We also had a cup of coffee before heading off on a more quiet road to lunch which was at the 61 Km mark.

Since the day was less than 100 Km, that placed us at past the ½ way mark.

As the day progressed we ran into many small towns, some with small cafes some without. We also came across several horse drawn farm carts as you will see in the photos below. Kinda surprising to see horses still being used in this fashion.

We pulled into a cafe about 12 km from the end for some cokes just to cool off before finishing up the ride. It had started to get pretty warm and the cool drinks went down pretty quickly.

Tonight's stop is at a motel where we're camping on the back lawn near the brook and not too far away from the chickens and pigs. A pretty nice setup anyway.

That's about it for today. Happy Biking,


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hot with Head Winds

The temperature has been creeping up the past couple of days. Check the Garmin plot below to see the temperature over the course of the day. The winds that have been so friendly the past couple of days has turned a bit unfriendly today with headwinds and crosswinds much of the day, slowing our cruising speed down to 15 MPH from 17-18 MPH that we were were traveling recently.

The road conditions were mixed as well. With some wonderful smooth conditions and some roads terribly broken up with the bikes jumping from pot hole to pot hole.

But we arrived OK, and the campground has WiFi, showers and shade, very nice.

We'll gotta go, Happy Biking,


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Out of Budapest

We reluctantly left Budapest today. More days in this grand city would have been great. We took the evening boat cruise the first evening there and toured city on foot Friday.

The morning exit from the city along the busy city streets. We departed convoy style all 25 or so in one group all wearing out our safety vests for the first 20 kilometers or so. Not since Paris have we seen such a huge expanse of suburbia from a major city with the same lousy road that I described in my last blog (link).

As we moved out into the more rural areas, the traffic decreased and the roads improved and the fun really began. We started to move along at a nice steady clip of 17-18 Miles per hour through some very beautiful flat country with farms on each side and many fields of sunflowers.

I'm biking with two sets of computer on my handle bars. On the left hand side I have my Garmin set up to readout in kilometers to match the map directions and on the right hand side, my cycle computer set up in as miles to match the setting that I used to prepare for this ride.

We'll it's time for dinner, gotta go, Happy Biking,


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Into Budapest...

Today we left the Danube River behind for the day. As you can see in the map below, we followed the river at the start. Mostly on busy city streets shared with trucks and cars zipping all around us. As we started to head south and up into the hills the roads became more quiet, less traffic. It was really nice to start climbing again. The river has been very nice, but it fun to mix in some hills as well.

The road surface was not well maintained. The roads were old, patched and had many pot holes. In reminded me of California and much of the roads in the US, not as nice as the other European roads that we've been riding on. You know what that means, the United States has roads as bad as a former soviet satellite state. That's not much to say. Click on my friend Philppe's blog on see his comment on American infrastructure (link).

Were in Budapest for two nights and a day at a very nice hotel (Budapest Metropol Hotel) and hope to do some fun sightseeing. Any suggestions?

That's it for now, Happy Biking,


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Slovakia to Hungrary

Today was a fast ride from Bratislava Slovakia to  Komarom Hungary. Like yesterday we had a wonderful breeze pushing us along the levee while we followed the river. I'll upload the photos when I get a chance.

We're starting to move out of the fairly wealthy part of Europe (France, Germany and Austria) and into the countries that were formally part of the USSR. It's a bit early to judge, but buildings and infrastructure looks worn and tired. We have a rider from Germany who traveled here in the mid 80's and has stated that it's much improved since then. We'll see what develops as the ride progress.

That's it for now, Happy Biking,


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

oh... This is what a tail wind feels like...

We're back on the road after a very nice stop in Vienna Austria. We spent 3 nights and 2 days there. Besides the typical housekeeping tasks (updating blog, washing clothes, cleaning bikes and some shopping) we had the chance to explore the city a bit. By far, this has been my favorite city among many great cities that we've passed through.

Today we left Austria and entered Bratislava Slovakia. The ride was only 57 kilometers that is just over 35 miles. In addition we had a very nice tail wind that helped speed us along. We arrived early enough to check into our Botel (stationary river barge) and held into town for sightseeing and refreshments.

To me, this is where the adventure begins. As a group, we're really not sure how the traveling will be different in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria will be from France, Germany and Austria. We're looking forward to exploring and learning more as we travel.

That's it for today, Happy Biking,


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 17; Emmersdof to Vienna

Day 17; Emmersdof to Vienna

We were looking forward to today's ride. Reason? 3 nights in a Vienna hotel.

The ride itself was mostly following the Donau (Danube), mostly flat and occasionally tail winds. Our average speed for the day was over 17 MPH (27 KPH) so we were moving at a nice rate. The temperature is starting to rise in the past couple of days with today being in the lower to mid 90's. As long as you keep moving and can find a shady path, you're doing OK, but if you stop you'll feel the heat quickly. Day's like today it very important to be drinking from your water bottles often,

The past several days have left our bikes very dirty and dusty and in need of chain lubrication We're planing on finding a self service car wash tomorrow and clean up our bikes as well as wash our clothes in preparation for the next leg of the trip.

That's it for now, Happy Biking,

Brian Cox

Friday, July 26, 2013

Day 16, Linz to Emmersdof

Today started with a solemn visit to the Mauthausen concentration camp which was off the route today. I’m just not equipped with the words to describe the feelings that I experienced while I was at the memorial to the victims the Nazis from WWII.

 I took many pictures while I was there but there were many areas that I felt it wasn't appropriate to photograph. It was a location that requires much more time to absorb and reflect than we had time to devote because we still had a schedule to keep and it was going to be a long hot day.

The roads to the lunch stop were mostly up on the levee that protects the countryside when the Danube rises. This year, it breached the levee and washed out the roads in several places as you will see in my pictures from today.

 The day was longer than most today, 109 km and the day was warmer that past days, but we were able to squeeze in an ice cream stop. I have to say, the Austrians know how to make coffee and ice sundaes.

 If you find the blog interesting, pleas feel free to leave a comment of two.

 That's about all for now, happy biking,


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 15, Passau to Linz

Day 15, Passau to Linz

As I was writing the blog last night storm clouds were gathering. You could see them down the valley and as I got back to the tent it started to fall in buckets!! As the rain pounded my tent I checked it for leaks. Satisfied that the tent was sound I inflated my air mattress and laid out my sleeping bag and set my alarm clock for 5:45 AM. I was only 8:30. Soon the lightening and thunder came and I put in my ear plugs and went to sleep.

The morning was foggy and cool, but you could tell that the storm had past.

We departed Passau in the morning commute traffic. Busy streets and bridges to cross and finally some small winding streets flowing with cars zipping by us. But pretty soon we were on our way with more quiet roads and increasingly breathtaking views. Riding a bike seems to make the views more impressive for some reason. Perhaps because you feel as if you deserved them or perhaps you are not enclosed in a shell with windows zooming at 60 MPH. But with bikes you feel the road, smell the plants and even feel small temperature differences as you pop in and out of shade. Either way the gentle climbs, view of the Donau with the barges and ferries and the steep heavily forested slops to river made for a ride not be forgotten.

We did our best not rush through the day. The distance was 102 kilometers, about 67 miles and we stopped 4 times during the day. First for coffee and pastry, second for Lunch, third for more coffee and pastry and finally fourth for and ice cream cone.

We achieved our personal best, we managed to be the last ones into camp. For the past couple of days the husband and wife team of Helmit and Pat, from San Diego, foiled our goal of being the last one into camp, but today we stretched our day out long enough  that it took us until almost 4 PM util we reached the campground. Enough time to dry out our tents from last nights deluge and set them up. I’m charging up the Garmin for tomorrow and I guess it’s time for a beer before dinner.

Just a wonderful day, Happy Biking,


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 14; Straubing to Passau

With wonderful weather so far, it’s bound to rain sometime. We woke to overcast skies and the air heavy. Got up packed up the tent and sat down for breakfast and the sky started to spit a bit. Everyone ran for their rain gear but it really didn't get much past the spitting stage and after several kilometers the rain gear came off. Slowly through out the day the dark clouds turned less dark and finally patches of blue sky started to appear.

It really turned out to be a wonderful day. Some unpaved roads but many more paved roads. We were starting to travel in the sections of the river that had experienced flooding only weeks ago, but really couldn't really spot any differences from the bike path. Perhaps the damage will be more visible as we progress down stream toward Vienna.

We stopped several times today with a final stop at a food/beer/ice cream shop adjacent to the bike path about 14 kilometers from the end. We swept though the town at the end, but shortly we zipped up the hill to the campsite. Check out the photos, the site is situated on a flat grassy strip of land with river running along it. The prettiest campsite so far. From the internet point of view, it’s the second night of no internet connection, so I’m typing the blog text into my Chrome computer and will upload it to the blog with the photos and Garmin trip information the next time I get a connection.

Well that's all for now, Happy Biking!!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 13; Regensburg to Straubing

Day 13; Regensburg to Straubing

We've been staying in some nice hotels on this trip, mostly on our break days. The hotel this time was a smaller European type located right in the center of the old town, just a half block from a main square. The hotel was originally built in the 12th century but has been updated just recently

Today’s ride was pretty short, about 52 km. The route was mostly along the bike paths, both paved and unpaved. The paths twisted and turned as it followed the river. We were into camp by 11:30 and put up our tents and heading off to town for coffee, pastry and finally lunch.

We found a bike shop on our way back to the camp and popped in to see what they had. We find ourselves drawn to bike shops even if we don’t need anything in particular, but just to look around. We then head back to the camp to wash up and relax a bit.

It’s nice to have these short days to relax a bit, but I wouldn't mind it if the short days were a bit longer or perhaps have alternate routes for riders that would like to put some additional miles on the bikes. Either way, it was a pretty nice day. Sunny with some clouds later in the afternoon and pretty warm. I’m guessing about 90 degrees at the peak of the day.

As I’m writing this, it’s about 8:50 PM and has turned into a beautiful warm summer evening. This has been a wonderful ride so far. We were told by the bike shop owner that we would soon see signs of where the rivers flooded earlier this summer because of the rain that Europe had received.

We’re counting ourselves lucky that we've has such wonderful weather so far on this trip.

That’s all for now, Happy biking,


Sunday, July 21, 2013

More Bike Trails Today

Wonderful day on the ride today. Almost all 66 miles was on bike trails that shadowed the river. The temperature was a bit warmer that in the past week, but overall very nice.

The bike trails have mostly been unpaved with a hard packed surface but with a layer of fine gray dust on the surface that has left the bikes and their riders with a layer of dust at the end of each day.

The elevation gain for each day has been very low since we’ve been hugging the river so much of the time. We’ve also been very thankful for the wonderful rain free weather that we been having. Just a month ago rivers were swollen and running over their banks because of the amount of rain that the area was receiving.

That’s it for now. Happy Biking,


Saturday, July 20, 2013

I'm at an internet site that is charging 3 euros per hour!

Great ride today, but I'll update with info tomorrow. I'm at an internet site that is charging 3 euros per hour!! crazy I tell you!!

Happy Biking,


Friday, July 19, 2013

Out of Ulm

We slipped out from Ulm today on the bike path this morning. The air was still and the temperature warmer that it has been since the beginning of the ride. The tree lined trail twisted and turned as we worked our way out of town.

We soon found ourselves on unpaved trails again and we soon we rumbling along the trail with the tiny stone popping to the left and right as we trundled along.

There was even a Roman ruin temple that we visited along the way. The ride was about 100 km and at about 45 we found an open bakery with great pastry and cappuccino. We overloaded the small shop when about 20 riders piled into the shop at the same time.

We missed the lunch van somehow today. but we found a supermarket in the town of Eggelstetten where we grabbed some sandwiches and fruit and had a picnick lunch under a shade tree before heading in to the campsite.

That’s about it for today, happy biking,


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Follow the Bike Paths

Today we made an attempt to get on the bike path (cycle way) and for the most part succeeded in staying on the path. It was pretty nice. Some paved roads and some up unpaved roads. The unpaved roads did no harm to the bikes except for leaving them very dusty.

Happy Trails,

Brian Cox

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trust the Garmin.... I think...

The route sheet for today was simple, get on the bike path to Sigmaringen, ride on the bike path all the way to Sigmaringen and end up at the campsite. Sounds easy, Hun?

Well, we started off on the bike path and it was very nice in the still morning air. We just glided along the bike path enjoying the view from the bike seat. However after several kilometers we noticed the bike path signs did not match the same signs that we has followed earlier in the ride. Relying in the Garmin we decided to follow the directions that it was providing even though it wasn't routing on us back to the bike path. It turned out to be a wonderful decision, taking us up over several hills were we had some wonderful views. We were likely to be traveling faster that the group on the river bike path.

Pretty soon we were in the picturesque town of Sigmaringen that has it's own castle with family roots that goes back a 1000 years.

We stopped in town for cool drinks and pastry before taking a tour of the castle. I think that this was the first authentic castle I've been in, though I have toured the Hearst Castle in California.

That's it for now, Happy Biking,


Monday, July 15, 2013

Source of the Danube

What can I say about today? Weather perfect; blue skies, temperatures upper 60's to mid 70's and road surface great. The roads in California are getting pretty rough to ride on. California generally has not resurfaced their roads in years, however in both France and Germany, generally the roads (including the rural ones) have been pretty nice.

Take a look at the Garmin plot below and you will see that we had a climb to about the 32 km mark and then generally down hill from there. The climb was pretty challenging, with some spots hitting 13 and 12 percent grade, but most of the time it was about 11 percent. It's during these long challenging climbs that you just need to find your pace. It will take time to reach the top and other riders may be faster or slower than you, but you need to ride your own rate. Go too fast and you might "burn out your legs" for the rest of the ride, ride too slowly and you'll just use too much energy.

I hope the photos from today capture the beauty of the ride, the green forest, the mountain stream, the blue sky.

We hit the lunch spot at the 42 km mark, and after some sandwiches and bananas, we were off to the final stop 18 km away.  The four of us; Jim, Steve, Lori and myself zoomed into town after following a bike path for about 10 km and decided to head to the "source of the Dambue", a spring in the center of town. Well, the GPS headed us in the correct direction, but when we got there, it was undergoing restoration and we couldn't get close because of the construction.

We then headed back toward the center of town, found an outdoor cafe and parked ourselves there for about 2 hours or so, waving down other riders as they went past.  We must of generated a lot of business for the cafe today!!

It was only a couple more kilometers to the campground along some bike paths where we set up our tents and had a couple of cool ones.

Tomorrow promises to be really fun as we start to follow the Dambue along the bike paths. They say the we'll be on the  path all the way to Vienna.

Well that's all for today, Happy Biking,


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Into Germany

Early day today, only 40 miles or so from Munster France to Freiburg Germany.

We got in pretty early after a gorgeous ride, with much of it along bike paths. Lots of vineyard before crossing into Germany, more that we had seen previously.

It’s nice to be in early since it gives us some time get the clothes washed. We have the day off tomorrow, but it will be Sunday and we suspect that all the stores will be closed. So anything we need washed, or to buy will need to be done today. I writing this blog while watching the my clothes go ‘round at the laundromat. By the time we’re done, we’ll be able to check into the hotel.

TDA has really booked us into an nice hotel, not just a motel but a nice Hotel. Much more than I had been expecting.

Plans are already being made to head out to the beer garden this evening and just walking the streets looks like some nice places to eat, so we’ll see what happens.

That’s it for now, I’m hoping enough internet time to upload the photos from the past couple of days and to upload the Garmin plots from today’s ride.

That’s it for now, Happy Biking,


Friday, July 12, 2013

Day 5, Up and Over

Another wonderful day on the bike. The distance was pretty short just over 90 km. We started in the chill of the morning with most everyone wearing jackets. When I get a chance to upload the photos you’ll see some shots that I took as we left. Normally we ride in small groups of 2 to 4, but this morning for some reason about half the group left at the same time.

The first part of the ride was a lot of up and down as we made our way off the ridge we were camping on, then it was a very nice downhill swoosh as were rolled into a large town at about 25 km, just the right time for coffee and pastries.

It was a nice flat ride after that for about 20 more kilometers. By this time we had picked up a nice little group of 5 riders and set up an informal pace line that really makes the ride go fast.

At about the 45 km mark we started the highlight of the day a 1000 meter (about 3000 foot) climb over a mountain before dropping into Munster. The climb was about 25 km long and sometimes the road pitch was more than 11 percent, but the road was shady and the temperature cool at 20 degrees c (68 degrees F). I hate to compare the climb with others but the pitch and shade was similar to Old la Honda that I've ridden in the Bay Area and to total from bottom to top reminded me of parts of Angela Crest in Southern California, both wonderful rides.

The road topped out at a ski resort at 75 km and our lunch was waiting for us. We hung out for a while at the top until we couldn't delay any longer. the remaining 18 km into Munster was a zooming switchback downhill into town. We stopped several times to take photos, I’ll upload them when I can. The views were stunning.

As we reached Muster, we were ready for something to drink and stopped at a bar that was already filled with riders from out group. After a drink, it was a short ride to the campsite where we arrived at about 3PM.

I gotta say that the Garmin GPS has really been useful on this trip. I takes me some time to enter the route into the unit the night before, but the unit has provided us a level of confidence that allows us deviate from the route and find our way back on to the course with no problem.

It has also alerted us to turns that we would have missed, but it beeping and messages on the screen has kept us from going off track.

Well that’s ride from today, Happy Biking,


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 4; Recovery Ride

After the long ride yesterday, today's was fairly short at 87 km (54 miles). We stopped for coffee and pastry about the 25 km mark. The town was just what you might have expected from a french town with cobble stone streets shops and a open air market.

We were lead to the pastry shop by our noses, no kidding. The day was cooler overall that yesterday and the views were gorgeous!! I've biked in many places, but the views were as pretty as I have seen anywhere.

Click on the map below, "View Details", to view more details of our ride, but since the ride was pretty short today, I was able to catch up on the blog a bit and upload the Garmin GPS data to the internet. I also tried to upload photos for both yesterday and today, but for some reason the photos would not upload. I'll try uploading them at a later time.

That's all for now, Happy Biking,


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day 3, A Wonderful Day

I just love it when a biking day goes so well. We left the hotel in a convoy fashion for the first 6 km this morning to insure that everyone found the bike path. The bike path lasted miles and miles mostly following a set of canals. The paths were asphalt and the canals were on one side and farm fields on the other. The paths wound up to a set of lakes. We had hoped to find a place for coffee overlooking the lakes, but we were too early and pushed onwards until we found a small town where we got some pastries and espresso.

I just gotta say that this was one of the most pleasant day on the bike. the morning was cool the scenery was wide open vistas that reminded me very much parts of the US that I've had a chance to ride, lush green rolling hills, with many crops such as wheat, corn and grapes. I just did not want the day to end. At about the halfway point we found the lunch stop and refueled for the rest of the ride.

The Garmin GPS was really handy. The night before I loaded in each turn off the tour provided cue sheet and as we rolled along, the map with the turns are displayed on the unit mounted on my handle bars. We didn't miss a turn and always knew our distance from the end of the ride.

Many of miles after lunch we left our quiet country road and turn on a busy main road that we would follow to our destination. The shade that we enjoyed in the morning disappeared as the temperature increased. We finally found an open cafe where six of us piled in and had espresso and ice cream (two of the most important biking food groups). The the road was pretty busy at this point with many trucks passing by us without much room to spare. The road also began to climb and dip only sapping our strength and slowing our progress. We also came upon What seemed like a short ride to the end became more and more difficult.

We almost reached our destination when we came upon a small farmer's market. Though dinner was only an hour away, we stopped and ate some fruit and figs before heading the last km to the campground.

Currently I'm charging my GPS and laptop while sitting outside the men's bathroom with my extension cords winding their way into the outlets above the wash basins. I'll upload this post, photos and GPS map as soon as I get a WiFi connection.

 Until then, Happy biking,


Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 2, Nuclear power plants and wind turbines

Today as we left our campground that is located on an active farm, we passed the ponies, ducks, geese and lambs and hit the cool road. Bright blue sky called us down the road.

Just a couple of miles down the road we passed a castle with a drawbridge and moat. I knocked on the castle door to talk to the king, but only an angry dog answered from the other side for the door.

About and hour into the day, we pulled into a small town and found one open bakery. Had a pastry and a cup of coffee before heading off again.

We didn't really push the day very hard and even side tracked a bit through a small town and some back-roads. With the Garmin GPS it was pretty easy to track where we actually were, vs. the planned route, so we never felt lost. We were just exploring our options!!

Lunch came up at the 50km point, which was more that 50% of the way to destination of Troyes. As the day  rolled on the crosswinds and headwinds picked up a bit and slowed down our pace a bit. But the road became more quiet while we passed fields of barley, poppies and hemp.

We also passed a nuclear power plant puffing clouds of white smoke and fields of wind turbines.

The last 10 km into town was along a very busy highway, but we just kept moving and were in town in just a short time. This evening we're staying in a very nice hotel and will have tomorrow off to explore our surroundings a bit.

Happy Riding,


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 1; Out of Paris

At last!! We're off.

Road through Paris as a part of our first day. Pass many of the famous sites. After 20km we were out on the more rural roads, though the speeding trucks zipping by us sometimes came a bit too close for comfort.

The wind started to pick up a bit in the afternoon, too bad it wasn't a tail wind, mostly a cross to head wind, but not too bad. The day was fairly short, only about 60 miles. I arrived in the campground at about 2 or so.

The campground is part of a working farm and as you can see in the following photos, we had plenty of shade for lounging and getting to know each other.

I also had a chance to test out my garmin today. The resulting map and ride statistics are shown below:

Happy Biking


Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Adventure Begins

Well the adventure begins today. I'm at airport waiting for my flight Toronto with a connection to Paris. I've taken bike trips previously but this will certainly be the most adventurous so far. Weeks of preparation we completed by midnight with the final item going into the bag before heading off to bed.

Over the years I developed a checklist that I use for these trips, sometimes adding sometimes subtracting. It always seems while I'm packing that I need to add to the list, but after each trip I find stuff at the bottom of my bags that I never used and should have left home. Oh well, cross the extra items off the list for next trip.


Every trip the technology changes and there are new gadgets to experiment with. 2002 wast the first trip with a website, 2003 trip to Great Britain (End to End) was the first digital camera.

This year I'm traveling with a Garmin 800 GPS that I hope will keep me from getting lost. It also electronically keeps all the biking statistics and plots the trip map. We'll see how well the web interface works as I will be trying to link the blog to the maps.... We'll see how well it works.  I also picked up a new computer for the trip as well, it a Samsung Chromebook. I was a beta user for the original Google CR-48 Chromebook and have really enjoyed using it for the past couple of years, but the new faster, sleeker and lighter seemed to be ideal for this trip. Like the Garmin GPS, we'll see how well it works out.

I hear my flight being called, so it's off to the adventure!!! Wish me well.

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