Archive for the ‘Road Rants’ Category

Just some signs from Europe

Posted: September 18, 2015 in Road Rants
Basque Country

This is true, but the good news is that you don’t need a special visa!

bikeway in Lisboa

Bike path markers in Lisboa – tough city for cycling but they are at least trying!

Fish Stories

Yeah right!

From the cradle to the grave

From the cradle almost to the grave –

Gain weight and you can park here too

Gain weight and you can park here too

Goat Cheese

Only in France!

Hate when that happens!

Hate when that happens!

I wish

Yeah, don’t you wish!

in France no less!

In France no less!

No OGM

One of the things I truly love about France is that they advertise and promote cities that have flowers, are organic, forbid fracking – pretty amazing really. Spain did a bit of this too but only in the Basque region as far as I know.

pickpockets

Where’s the pocket?

Save Monsanto

Explanation – Monsanto Park is Lisboa’s equivalent to NY Central Park. You have to love the irony on the other hand!

That's what you get

This is what happens when you love a Portuguesa! One of my favorite signs in Portugal. Funny thing is, we only saw this in the north of the country – could be McDonalds figured out the faux pas by the time we hit the south.

Truth in Advertizing

Finally! Truth in advertising!!!!!

New Skin

Posted: July 20, 2015 in Re-Roads, Road Rants

sunrise camping

Wow!  It’s only been 2 weeks and I can already feel myself shedding some of my old skin, while turning the stuff I still have into darkened snake leather.  I’m learning to give up my expectations of what I think the day should be like.  The more I give up expecting the perfect, the more perfect everything has become.  The weather gods have been on our side ever since we left Paris, partly to mostly cloudy skies, warm but not hot and not too much wind.  The camping has been mostly good with an occasional superb and one mutant, expensive campground but as it was the only one available we checked in and spent an interesting night.   The roads and the rides on the other hand have been nothing but amazing.  Riding through medieval history one day and double tracking on the La Loire a Velo route the next has been nothing but ear to ear grin fun.  I’ve spent a part of everyday making up stories for our granddaughters and taking photos to convince them I’m telling the truth about the dragon cave we rode through, the castles of Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella that we’ve ridden by, the tree tunnels that are full of fairies and forests full of elves that we’ve heard laughing at us.

We’ve almost but not quite ridden off the earth a few times.  And we have thought we were lost, but were in fact just where we were.  In this new skin our goals throughout the day are to find enough food to sustain us and a place to set up our tent by evening.  Lost is a relative term.

I’m relearning how to cook on one burner from ingredients procured at the tiniest of groceries.  We’ve been reminded that we need to have all of our food for Sunday evening by Sunday noon or go hungry.  And we’ve rediscovered the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities offered, that when we find the perfect picnic spot even if it’s only 11:15 to take it.

Our days as well as our diets are simple.  We sleep long and hard and wake early.  Curt, as always makes the coffee, our moods determine how many tiny cups we drink.  While he’s brewing I stuff sleeping bags, sheets and get the tent ready to take down.  After our coffee and breakfast we divide and conquer, Curt rolls the Therma Rests while I take down and stuff the tent.  He then loads the bike while I load the trailer.  We almost always do a double check to make sure we have not left anything important like the clothes line (only lost one so far).  We then begin to ride in the direction our compass says is the right one in hopes that we find the road our map suggests we should be on.  And so our day begins, us on our tandem carrying/pulling 75 or so pounds of home.  It’s usually pretty straight forward, ride until it’s time  to buy lunch supplies or find the perfect picnic place, and it is, except when we need to take 10 roads before lunch and some have new numbers or names.   And then 6 to 8 hours after we began, the riding part of the day is over. We used to plan our ride by going from tent symbol to tent symbol on our Michelin map or until 4 O’clock or 80 kilometers and start looking for a campground.  However after just 2 weeks we have been reminded that we are 60 years old and France has changed in 17 years.  We now start looking for camping signs shortly after lunch and try to check in by three instead of looking at four.  We now know that 80 to 90 kilometers pulling the weight we have is plenty of riding at least for right now.  We also have learned that finding a campground, checking in, setting up, taking a shower, washing clothes and finding dinner can take up to 2 hours.  We try to reserve enough energy after cooking, eating and cleaning up to write in our journals, go through our photos and give each other massages.  Despite the task list we are usually doing dishes when everyone else in the campground is getting ready to go out to eat or beginning to cook and we’re in bed sleeping when they are either returning from dinner or doing their dishes.  We are however up, packed and gone before most have stepped out of their tents or campers.

I’m enjoying the loss of my old skin and am excited to see what I grow into.

I wish I was shedding weight as easily as I seem to be shedding my old skin, but some things are not meant to be.

sunflowers

curt questing

When we were just beginning to think about this journey we entertained the idea of riding the Camino de Santiago with our friend Topher. But as fate would have it that didn’t happen for a LOT of reasons and so we entertained other ideas, flying back to Asia, flying to Madrid, flying to Croatia and finally what we really wanted to do – fly into Paris. We had grand ideas and headed out with pounds of maps and with a spirit of rediscovering the world.

And then there we were, only a days ride out of Paris, on our faithful tandem, O, pulling our trusty friend Noma (a Burley trailer), collectively carrying 75 pounds of home. We were wallowing in our new found freedom. The adventure had begun. And then, Curt, the love of my life, confesses that he’s on a quest. I spit out the 98 degree water I had just chugged from my water bottle and quietly cursed. What happened to our journey I mused? I thought of all the quests I had read about. Quests are a dangerous business that often include serious injury. I started thinking about The Holy Grail, The Ark, killing dragons, rescuing and swords, challenging gods, and on and on. I became a little obsessed upon hearing that we were now questing instead of just having an old age crisis.

But then Curt explained he was questing for his lost sense of humor which made me laugh and so I relaxed and the quest continued. {Here is a warning for those of you who have not been out on the road, be careful, be very, very careful what you wish for because it just might come true and there are those unexpected consequences.} As soon as Curt put his quest out into the universe we found ourselves riding on the “La Loire a Velo” with hundreds of fellow touring cyclist of all nationalities, ages, sizes, some in groups, some day tripping and others in for the long haul, some alone and others in groups, we were in the middle of a bike pilgrimage. Every night the campground would fill with bikes and their riders. We all had the same basic routine we’d set up our tents, wash our clothes, cook our meal and drink some wine while we told tales of our day’s adventures. We exaggerated the trails we were on, signs missed, flats encountered, castles passed and people we encountered. It was an enchanting pilgrim route as we followed signs that led us to cobblestoned paths, double track, single track, through vineyards, villages, cities and a cave system. Curt was learning that the only way to survive the route was with a sense of humorous adventure and loving kindness to everyone on a bike.

And just when I was beginning to think his quest was successful, Curt spilt, poured or OMG dumped most of pan of boiling water on his leg. I watched the whole affair.

He didn’t even know that he’d done it until he was standing and realized that most of the pasta water was gone. We had no ice, no cold water and Curt thought it had run off his leg fast enough to not have caused a major burn. However as fate would have it the entire front of his calf started to blister, first a small round open wound appeared and then a wound the shape of South America showed up, and finally, 4 days after it happened, he was finally convinced that he needed to go to a pharmacist. In those 4 days whatever sense of humor he had found had disappeared into a deep dark crevasse. It was going to take a miracle to bring him back to an almost smiling state. Thankfully the day he agreed he needed professional help we found an open pharmacy. Curt and his burn went in while O and I waited. I could almost hear the poor pharmacist gasp from across the busy intersection. Once the poor man recovered his ability to speak after seeing the size of Curt’s burn, the open festering part, the still blistered and the just bright red that was waiting to ooze, he told Curt he wouldn’t sell him anything for his burn, that Curt needed to go see a doctor. The nice pharmacist gave Curt the name of a clinic not far away and sent him on his way. Curt being Curt came out of the pharmacy looking pale, scared and swearing at the gods. We started riding toward the campground we hoped to stay at that night, and thank the gods he was swearing at, ended up riding by the clinic he was told to go to.

I suggested we stop and to my surprise Curt agreed. While he was in getting treated I was waiting with O in the outdoor area. It was over an hour before one of the nurses came out and told me that they were soaking his leg in water and the good news was they were going to let him leave the hospital. He came out 2 hours later having convinced the doctor that riding was good for a burn, he also had a prescription and a small smile. His leg is wrapped, he’s on antibiotics and he’s laughing despite the fact he has to return to the clinic in 3 days and have the bandage removed. We’re staying in a way too expensive campground, in a very busy beach town until the doctor gives him permission to leave. I’ll bet before we’re out of here he returns to his wonderful grumpy self and the quest will continue.

urgency

On A Quest

Posted: July 20, 2015 in Road Rants
Tags: , ,

Bop seachingEvery journey needs a quest.

Cathy and I and O and Noma are taking a long trip.

Destinations are fluid with us, they change with the weather, with the terrain, with politics, with our budget. But a quest – that’s something different. A quest isn’t about where you’re going – it’s about what you’re about.

We’re all on a quest. It doesn’t matter if we’re living in our home town, in our parent’s house working the family farm – we all have a quest.

When we left on this trip I wasn’t entirely sure what my quest was. I had so many to things to choose from. I want to begin another project that has the potential to be as successful as Thirst-Aid. I mean really – Thirst-Aid rocked and it’s been a tough act to follow. Probably half of the reason Thirst-Aid worked is because Cathy and I were just blind, ignorant and determined to make a change – oh, and young enough to be willing to work our asses off for absolutely zero pay. So even though I want to start another Thirst-Aid, this old guy inside of me keeps putting up “yield” signs. But yes – this quest is always on my mind.

Then there was the thought of being the oldest tandem couple to bicycle around the world. Ha, I think we’re already the weirdest tandem couple to bicycle around the world so that one just seemed a bit foolish.

There were other considerations like some sort of charity ride to raise money for Nepalese earthquake victims or to fund a program to help offset carbon emissions, or a million other worthwhile causes – but again the old guy in me put up “yield” signs.

So it was just in the first few days of the trip that I really learned about what my quest would be – because that’s how quests happen – you don’t chose them, they reveal themselves to you when the time is right.

We were biking down the Loire Valley. A beautiful place in France. I mean cycling paradise. 800 kilometers of cycling paths and quiet roads – breathtaking views, a castle or some old ruin every few kilometers – good food, great wines and some of the most polite, kind, and generous people on the planet – at least during tourist season. And then it hit me!

I was taking all of this too seriously. Everyone on this route was just here to have fun. They weren’t worried about climate change in the least. They were totally unaware of a bunch of impoverished refugees on the Thai-Burma border, or the oppressed in Uganda, or the forgotten in Kenya. They were just bicycling and having fun – and I realized that I’d actually lost that ability – to just have fun without running a full spreadsheet to make sure that my fun wasn’t impugning on other’s rights.

I think I lost my sense of humor completely in 2008. It was when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar and killed 150,000 plus people and we were sort of stuck in the middle of it – which was not long after the tsunami hit southern Thailand and stole the lives of thousands of others and we were part of the clean-up crew. I think it was during this back-to-back shock of darkness that my sense of humor slipped away. Or maybe it ran away – though god knows it may have been useful there!

But no matter! I had a sense of humor once and I’ll have one once again! I come from a long line of humorists – it’s in my DNA and I can’t let a couple of tragedies and the thought of the planet being incinerated cloud my vision! So stay tuned and place your bets on when and where I’ll find it!

 

Biking Without Bling

Posted: May 8, 2015 in Road Buddies, Road Rants

As a little warm up to the extended tour we have planned I did some biking with an old friend from Germany, who we met on our first European Bike Tour in 1989.

Story is below:

Biking Without Bling

Always Smiling

Always Smiling

Bling and No Bling

Bling and No Bling

Years ago my wife and I were thinking about buying a sailboat and trying to sail around the world – we thought it would be a great adventure until we realized that we’d go absolutely stir crazy spending weeks confined to a deck and a berth surrounded by water.  We decided bicycling around the world would be much more fun – which by the way, it was.

Meanwhile however, the concept did cause us to spend some time on boats and that’s sort of where this story begins – because it was while standing on the deck of a friend’s boat that I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life.

There we were surrounded by chrome and teak and super high tech guidance systems.  We had champagne and caviar below deck. Fully stocked, we could cross the ocean in this vessel in complete comfort and without support – not to mention sell it, purchase a third world country, and have change left over.  A guy couldn’t help but feel smug just being privileged enough to afford the sailing attire required to enter the yacht club.

After a day of sailing, which I do have to say was a bit boring despite the champagne, we were returning to harbor when we got passed by a group of kids all sailing small skiffs. Lean and tan, clad in minimal clothing that wouldn’t get them entry into anything but a Laundromat, these guys were having fun.  The action was intense as they tried to steal the others wind and cut each other off and as they whooped and hollered it dawned on me that they were having way more fun than we were – and that a 35 foot yacht was more anchor than boat – at least for me.

So now it becomes a bicycling story.

I was recently contacted by an old friend from Germany, Manfred – a cyclist among other things, and learned that a cycling trip he’d planned for the east coast of the USA this April wasn’t going to work out due to this year’s rather extended winter in that region.  Being a good friend and thinking Colorado might be just warm enough for a quick bike tour I invited him to ride with me from Grand Junction to the Denver area – 5 days, more or less 60 miles a day, plenty of climb, especially with crossing the continental divide.

Manfred arrived at our house a couple of days early so that I could fit a borrowed bike to his needs and so that we could discuss the route.  I was a bit surprised when I learned that he preferred just plain old platform pedals over clip-ins or even toe clips.  I was further surprised when he chose an upright riding position over drop handlebars or even bar-ends laid out flat. And of course then there was the choice of saddle – rather large and soft over narrow and firm.  But hey, we’ve all got our own styles and preferences right?

So then I quizzed him about gear.  He’d brought some great panniers, and a helmet. So far so good.  But what about shoes?

He’d brought two choices – heavy boots for the cold, and street shoes – loafers to be exact for the warm days.  And for clothing?  Blue jeans of course!  What else would you ride in?

So now I started getting worried that I’d goofed up.  Initially I was a bit concerned about a 62 year old from Ludwigshafen, Germany – elevation 318 ft, cycling 300 miles and 6 passes at Colorado elevations but now I was really concerned.

Using my best diplomacy I offered cycling attire and was at least able to convince Manfred to leave the boots behind in favor of some neoprene booties.

On the first day we met friends in Grand Junction for breakfast.  Hardcore cyclists themselves their eyes grew quite large when they realized Manfred didn’t just show up to eat in blue jeans – that he actually intended on cycling in them.  Polite comments were made – “Hey, we’ve got some bike shorts and tights you can borrow.” Politely refused as well.

Bets were made that he’d be standing up to cycle by the second day – that we’d be stopping in the bike shop in Montrose so that he could buy some proper clothing – that I’d be calling the paramedics from Monarch Pass.  Manfred just smiled and put on his bright orange vest over his flannel shirt, swung a leg over his bike and started pedaling.

And so it went.  Every day Manfred would wake up with a smile, put on his blue jeans and start riding.  It was 24 degrees when we left Gunnison.  It snowed on top of Monarch pass (elevation 11,312’).  We biked through rain on the way down.  We woke up to an inch of fresh snow in Fairplay (elevation 9,953’) and still Manfred just smiled and pedaled on.

Often Manfred would just stop mid-ride – and pull out his camera, which by the way he kept in the pocket of his blue jeans for the entire trip, and take pictures.  At times I have to admit I was a bit annoyed – “Like really Manfred!  It’s a prairie dog for god’s sake – I’ll buy you postcards with pictures of them”.  But at other times I have to admit, Manfred made me stop and take notice of the place that I often just take for granted.

Left to my own devices I would never have taken the bike trip – I’ve ridden the route before – parts of it many times, but Manfred gave me a good reason to do it again, and to see it through a different lens.  And left to my own devices, even if I had chosen to repeat this ride, me and my lycra clad, bad-ass self would have blazed along oblivious to much of the beauty that abounds in this region.

So it all comes back to the lesson I learned on that day of sailing – that you don’t need a lot of bling to have fun and that all so often, less is more.

Which brings it round full circle as to why we all bike tour!

You probably won’t catch me doing a 300 mile ride in blue jeans, but you will find me looking forward to another tour with Manfred.

DSC06706

It began with a dream. Dreams like bread and water sustain us, here is the recipe we used to make our dream into our reality. To keep the dream alive and our taste buds salivating we hung a 6′ x 10′ world map from our living room ceiling. To keep our palate engaged as we’d lay on the floor staring at the possibilities, we’d share a bottle of wine from a country we hoped to visit. Once we had the vision cemented we started making lists of essential ingredients that we didn’t already own but would need for an extended tour.

Remember this is in the days before internet commerce, we had to shop the old fashioned way, we had to physically go to stores and touch the equipment and gear we needed/wanted. We already owned the tandem, Burley cargo trailer and a lot of what we considered as condiments. We had toured France with our daughters and again on our own so we had a pretty good idea what we’d need. However 5 weeks is different than a couple of years. I can do almost anything for a few weeks, but over the long haul, I want to be comfortable.

So we began to assemble the ingredients. We went tent, sleeping bag and pad shopping. We researched by asking everyone we knew what they thought and reading product review in print magazines. We went shopping for tools, stoves and rain gear. We wanted durable and able to use or repair anywhere on the planet. Our Gary Fischer tandem was made of cro-moly and we used pedals with toe clips. Our stove would burn anything and our tent was supposed to be Everett strong.
Touring is like cooking when you get the right mix it’s a beautiful thing but when it fails it’s epic. And if you’ve ever cooked with or for a chef you know if you don’t do it the prescribed way no matter how well you did you’ll hear about it. So when we brought a 4 person, 4 season 10 pound tent and bought and packed luxury ingredients like an espresso pot, cutting board, journals and books we heard about it. We explained that adding a little spice and mixing things up would add a distinctive flavor to our tour.
Our plans simmered throughout the fall and almost boiled over as the date of our March departure grew closer.

All the things that mattered.

Oh the things we carried.

Here’s a list of the ingredients we carried.
We began with a dream and a world map, from their we assembled: 1 Gary Fischer tandem, 1 Burley cargo trailer, 1 Marmot tent with vestibule for cooking and parking Burley, 2 front panniers and 1 rear, 2 Thermarests and lounge chairs, 2 sleeping bags, 2 fuel bottles and a Whisperlite international stove, pots, plates, cups, kitchen and bath bags and supplies, a mini espresso pot, maps, journals, books, flashlights, business cards, rain gear, Chacos and riding shoes (we use toe clips instead of clip in pedals as we often ride in our sandals), helmets, clothes (for layering), tools, spare parts, flag, water bottles.

The recipe worked so well the first time (planned a two year tour and were gone more or less 15 years) that we plan to bring almost the same ingredients when we leave in July. The tandem has changed from a Gary Fischer to a Co-Motion and the Burley cargo trailer has shrunk, but the tent is still with us as are the panniers and the rest of the condiments.

saflower field

Monet Landscapes

Oh those enviable days of bicycle touring.  There are the days that we wake up to beautiful blue sky and brew a pot of coffee overlooking a lake or gazing at the Alps or some other such marvel.  Church bells chime in the background and roosters crow and we pack up all of our worldly possessions into our bike panniers and hit the road for another day of wonder biking.  We ride Monet landscapes, past rolling fields of bright red poppies, yellow safflower and waving wheat.  Our bodies are tan and we are the pictures of carefree health, ageless and prime, divisible by no equation, no roots, no ties.

I know that on days like these people pass us on their way to their daily jobs and are forced to summon all of their will power to prevent themselves from quitting work, turning their cars around, going home, packing up their belongings and hitting the road themselves.  Young children smush their faces against car windows as they pass by, eyes wide in fascination, minds reeling as they imagine themselves freewheeling on their own bikes through the country side.  Farmers give hearty waves as we blow past their chugging tractors, semi drivers give us the thumbs up and motorist shout encouragement as we labor up long climbs or weave through stalled traffic in congested streets.say what

And then there are those other days, days of which we always seem to have an abundance of in Europe.  Sometime in the night it starts to rain so we pull all of our belongings into the tent and make little islands keeping the most valuable items on top in case the tent starts to sink.  If we are lucky, it stops raining long enough in the morning that we can pack up a few things dry and make some coffee.  If we’re not lucky we pack up everything wet which adds about 5 kilos (12lbs.) to our load. We stuff a handful of nuts in our mouths and start riding.  These are unenviable days.

Waiting for the sun...

Waiting for the sun…

Our shoes fill with water.  Raingear helps to keep us warm but nothing keeps us dry as the rain continues.  We splash through puddles and the spray from cars makes it hard to see.  The temperature drops low enough that we can see our breath, our hands go numb and I have trouble shifting.  We’re actually pleased when our feet finally go numb, and yet beneath our layers of rain gear our legs and torsos sweat.  Anyone driving past us on days like these whispers a prayer of thanks to their favorite deity and cranks up the heat in their car.  When we enter grocery stores to get a few supplies for lunch our feet squeak and slosh on the waxed floors and the grocery has to call for a cleanup in aisle five because we stood still too long looking at cookies and left a puddle.  Small children grasp their mother’s hand tightly as we pass by and we get a checkout lane to ourselves because we smell like wet dogs.  On days like these, no one wants to be us; no one even wants to be near us.  If we’re lucky, we can find an awning to eat lunch under and if we’re not… we stuff a handful of nuts in our mouth and keep riding.

In Europe this can go on for days.  If the sun comes out we immediately stop pedaling and lay out all of our gear garage sale fashion in hopes that some of it will dry while the feeling comes back in our toes and hands and we stuff handfuls of nuts in our mouths.  When the sun doesn’t come out, after 3 or 4 days, suicide becomes an option.  We start leaving our bike unlocked in front of train stations in hopes that someone will steal it.  Exhausted, cold and out of nuts, we finally give in and try to rent a room for the night only to be turned away because we are too pathetic looking and no one wants that much wet baggage in their room.

On days like these we get back on the bike and ride and we just know that tomorrow will be better.  When it is, and everything is back to being dry and we’ve finally had a good meal, it’s amazing how quickly the memories of those rainy days fade.  On days like these, we can’t imagine why we ever even considered stopping the trip, or why life shouldn’t just go on like this forever…on days like these.

Somewhere in Myanmar

Somewhere in Myanmar

Curt cathy bradner tandem corsica portugal spain

Somewhere near the end of the earth either in Corsica or Portugal

We’re starting this blog by sharing the highlights of our 1998 Seatofourpants tour.  When we began we hoped for one good year.  By the year 2000 we had ridden 29,501 kilometers, visited 24 countries, had 61 flats, wore through 16 tires, rode 33 ferries, taken 8 flights, 3 trains and… set the way back machine, took 43 rolls of film creating over 1500 slides.  In 2012 we settled down in Colorado where we have lived for the last 3 years.  We’re in the process of planning our reunion tour.  Our intention is to take another go at finding the end of the earth, to go where no tandem has gone before and to revisit some of our favorite places on the planet.  I hope you’ll join us,  by either following us in spirit or riding with us at some point during our journey.