#8 Peloponnese (available 5/31/03)
A heartfelt “thank you” to those of you who shared your experiences with our website: the good news and bad news was equally helpful. We appreciated the prompt follow-up and especially from people trying the alternate approach to accessing our site when the link didn’t work for them.
To date, 100% of our friends using hotmail.com are unable to access our site using the link. We expect that everyone will be able to access our site by keying in www.velofun.us from their web browser but perhaps not from their email provider. (We made our site name relatively short and easy to key just in case there were problems….) Oh, and you won’t find us using a search engine like Google or Yahoo—we haven’t been ‘discovered’ yet and entered into their systems.
And a word to the wise from our webmaster who learned the hard way: make sure you key in “.us” and not the ever-familiar “.com”. We wonder if some systems don’t yet acknowledge the “.us” extension as friends on 5 other systems besides hotmail are also unable to use the link. If the link doesn’t work for you we’d like to hear from you.
One friend suggests that if you aren’t able to use the link you can cut and paste the site name one time and bookmark it so you don’t have to key in the site name each time you access it.
We expected that switching to the website format would create some problems but we are very pleased with the over all results despite the glitches with the link. Our improvements to the site will come slowly but we are excited about the opportunities it offers us. We will send you an announcement each time we load a travel journal update onto the site and will also note what other embellishments we have made to the site. For example…
What is new on the site this time is a “Contact Us” option intended for strangers who happen across our website. That website email address gives us a way of communicating with those folks without putting our current email address at risk for abuse. So, we would like you, our friends, to keep replying to our aol email address as we will check it more often than the website mail box. But if you enjoy the ease of using the website e-address to reply you certainly may do so. You may also notice that Bill has also just loaded another old file and its accompanying picture onto the site.
Let us know if you have trouble accessing the site in the future. If you do have problems, keep in mind that it isn't likely that our site is down as the internet hosting service has a better than 99% up-time rating.
Now, Back to Greece….
The rules seemed to be on holiday when we were on Crete: the air often got colder instead of warmer when we dropped down to lower elevations; the fierce winds could as easily arrive before, during or after the stormy downpours; and the temperatures in Crete were often well below those of northern Europe on any given day—not the way it is supposed to be!
Our first day on the Peloponnese (the large, roundish Greek peninsula west of Athens) also got off to a counter-intuitive start: in heading north the temperature shot up about 20˚F—we went from shivering to sweltering on the half day ferry ride between Crete and the mainland. And in most areas ‘the tree line’ means that the trees disappear but on the Peloponnese the ‘tree line’ that jumped out at us was the conifers appearing instead of disappearing as we rode to higher elevations.
Our first full day on the Peloponnese was Easter for the Orthodox Christians, and there was no missing that this is a very special time in Greece. Like in Croatia on Christmas Eve, on Easter Eve in the Greek seaside town of Githios we were awakened (perhaps at midnight) to the sound of an endless stream of firecrackers and a parade of too much merrymaking for our sleepy heads. The next morning the shops were buttoned up tighter than usual for a Sunday, with only a few gas stations and Tavernas open and firecracker wrappers littered the cobblestone streets and passageways. There wasn’t much going on around the churches but that may go on when we are off the streets in the evenings.
As we pedaled our way up a steady 5% grade into the mountains on Easter Sunday morning we were passed by car after car packed with grinning families. Shiny new cars or beater class, all were filled to the brim with 2 or 3 generations.
And it wasn’t long ‘til we knew where they were headed, which was to festive backyard picnics in the country. These weren’t glamorous, lifestyle-magazine picnics, but more makeshift affairs. Some folks had hung plastic sheeting under a tree to provide shade for the feast, others were gathered around large tables under a farm building awning, while other families piled onto a covered balcony, pushing the laundry racks aside. But regardless of the trappings, spirits were clearly high as extended families gathered for a merry mid-day meal that had the feel of a 4th of July picnic in the US.
But they weren’t serving hamburgers and hot dogs: most every outdoor gathering was sited close to a rotating spit with a whole lamb pivoting over coals in a metal, half barrel cooker on spindly legs. Equally unusual as the lamb was the sight of so many men at home. In Greece, like other Mediterranean countries we have visited, men spend their days ‘out,’ usually drinking tea, coffee or stronger brews in meager cafes in the company of other men. But on this one day we were seeing young and old men lounging around the yard with the rest of the family like we’ve never seen before in the south.
The robust cheer of the day radiated around these homesteads and spilled out on to the road in the form of waves and cheers to us as we pedaled by in the heat. More than once we half expected to be invited inside the gate to share in the feast. Though the social experience would have been a kick I was grateful that the offer didn’t come as we had some rough hill climbing ahead of us (both more miles and elevation gain than we knew at the time) and I didn’t really want to take the time or risk eating heavy food on this riding day.
The mountain-top village of Kosmas was our “on again, off again” destination for Easter Sunday night. It was our original first choice for the night but both of the 2 pensions were full when Bill called for a reservation. At first disappointed, we came to enjoy the thought of the shorter and easier day we would have by stopping at an intermediate village. But when we arrived at 2 in the afternoon there was no lodging despite reassurances from several people (including the police) that there would be something for us at the village. Bill called a Kosmas pension one more time to see if there was an opening before descending almost to our starting town to repeat the climb again the next day. Inexplicably, there was a room now available for us at Kosmas.
We ate another lunch out of the “chuck wagon” bag on my rear rack and headed back out into the heat to double our mileage and gain for the day. Though we lamented the hard work ahead of us after being convinced we were done for the day we were pleased to be moving forwards instead of backwards on our route.
The steady grade and shadeless road made for a taxing afternoon and predictably we were stopping more and more often to cool down and to rest. The wildflowers were beautiful, though not quite as plentiful as on Crete and we had the wide road mostly to ourselves--both of which helped us in managing the physical and psychological challenges of the long hot afternoon. After struggling for hours in the heat it was hard to believe we were seeing snow near the top of the mountain. Bill took a moment out to make a snowman tribute to the seemingly sudden change in the world around us.
Kosmas was higher, farther away and smaller than we expected but it was a charmingly rustic little mountain-top village than couldn’t have been more different that the tourist beach town we had departed from in the morning. The couple dozen college kids from Athens that had congregated on the town square’s outdoor café added a lively energy to this tiny town when we arrived at dinner time. Kosmas is apparently a fashionably quaint place for a day’s outing and Easter made it an especially attractive stop for many Greeks. A couple of students finally came over to chat as I minded our bikes and Bill checked-in with the pension. They inspected our usual eye-catching accessories: the rear view mirrors; our biking sandals; our almost unknown-in-Europe pedal system (Speedplay ‘Frogs’); my aerobars on the handlebars; and our large, black MSR dromedary bags strapped on our back panniers with extra long drink tubes snaking forward to our handlebars. Chatting with a few of the many people who had stared long and hard at us was so much more welcoming than those silent, distant stares that had first greeted us.
“Trees”, I finally realized that it was those tall conifers that appeared somewhere around the 3000’ level that made Kosmas feel like we were in the Alps. Bill had mentioned them when they appeared but the huffing and puffing of our 5000’ gain day (which also was reminiscent of an Alps crossing) had relegated the trees far into the recesses of my mind at the time. But as I walked up and down the incredibly steep, narrow streets of Kosmas I could once again feel that I am much more at home in the tree-covered hills and mountains than the more barren land and beaches that are so typical of Greece. This more mountainous region finally created a deeper sense of peace in me and it felt like a place to linger--something I had been missing elsewhere in Greece.
Being in Kosmas also reinforced that the traditions of mountainous regions are more similar to each other than they are to those of their lower elevation countrymen: the mountain villages in Germany, Italy or Greece all have a similar look and feel and nothing in Kosmas shouted “Greece.” Here, as in parts of the Alps, some of the old buildings have inch-thick, coarse slate slab roofs, with some slate pieces being the size of the top of an end table. Pairs of large rocks are wired together and placed over the 2 sides of the roof ridge like saddle bags to hold the crowning slate pieces in place. Knotty-pine type wooden doors and paneling, the better-fitting windows and doors, and the homes generally looking tighter and snugger all reflect the higher elevation sensibility, regardless of the nationality. The crisp mountain air that somehow sounds and feels different and the pile of snow in the town square at the end of April completed the “you are in the mountains” picture for me.
I had thought the little towns we’d been rolling through for the last couple of weeks on Crete with their Christmas street lighting still out probably just left them up year round but once on the Peloponnese it became clearer that these were Easter decorations. We started seeing chicks popping out of eggs; candlesticks; painted eggs; and bunnies out in the form of string lights, banners, painted signs, small lighted displays on telephone poles and greeting banners across main streets spelled out with light bulbs. And now that Easter had arrived the display lights were being turned on each night.
The Easter street lighting was unexpected fun when it was finally turned on at night but in general national holidays are the bane of the tourist. This last week has been an especially challenging one for holidays. I loaded us down with food anticipating everything would be closed on Good Friday, a national holiday, and the stores were open and we rode with a bulging food bag for a day and a half. I also planned for closures on Easter Sunday and indeed everything was buttoned up tighter than usual on Sunday. But “Easter Monday” caught me by surprise. Our guide book doesn’t mention it as a holiday but it is almost as daunting as Easter Sunday for shopping and we were caught off-guard but fortunately not with an empty chuck wagon.
On May 1 we were standing near the parking area for Tiryns, a coastal area archeological site, coming up with our Plan B after discovering that the staff was taking the day off. We had ridden there knowing it was a 50-50 chance of getting in so, though disappointed, weren’t totally surprised. We were the messengers with the bad news as we told other approaching tourists about the closure. My disappointment was moderated a bit by seeing that we weren’t the only frustrated sightseers, and not by far the most annoyed. One disgruntled tourist muttered that Russia didn’t even celebrate the traditional May 1 worker’s day any more, so why was Greece celebrating it.
In Greece May 1 is either Spring Festival or Labor Day depending on your biases. The flower garlands in the hair of a few mothers and daughters and the colorful wildflower bouquets on a number of car windshields suggested that at least those folks were celebrating Spring Festival.
In addition to having others to commiserate with, the additional benefit of being the unofficial door people for a few minutes at Tiryns was to discover that despite being inconvenienced by 3 closure days in the last 5 days that we had by chance missed 2 recent strike days. Apparently a group of people that includes museum staff had scheduled 2 strike days in the last week, also shutting things down. By chance, those were sight-seeing-from-the-saddle days for us so we had been completely unaware of the strike. For tourists who only have a few days scheduled to see this area of Greece that is especially rich in historical sites the string of closures has made for an aggravating week. But according to the holiday list in our guide book we should be able to wrap up our remaining week or so in Greece without any more national holidays.
Just like hot air rises and cold air sinks, our hot weather clothing has suddenly floated to the top of our panniers and the cold weather gear is sinking to the bottom. Up comes the light colored, wide-brimmed sun hat; down to the bottom of the bag goes the black Gore-Tex baseball cap with fuzzy-lined ear flaps. Up comes the pale sun shirts with mesh venting panels in the back and arm pits and down sinks the black long johns. The heavy wool socks look absurd now and are only useful as padding around the cook pot in the pannier. No more assessing the probability of clothes drying by morning before deciding to wash clothes at night as now they dry in a flash if we get the day’s laundry hung before dinner.
Some days we are now carrying close to a gallon of water each instead of less than a quart as we do in cooler weather and we now seek out the shade and a good breeze when we pause rather than seeking shelter from the winds. Now our recovery stops are most often prompted by the need to drop our body temperatures rather than the need to rest our legs. No more getting out of bed at 7:30 and being on the road in the mid morning when it starts warming up: now we aim to be pedaling towards our next destination by 7:30. In cooler weather we would just be getting started at 9:30 but now we are already needing cool-down stops on our climb by then. It’s been a shock after being chilly in Greece for almost 2 months for it suddenly to be so hot.
Cultural Differences: Other Tourists
Travel provides a large mirror which constantly reminds of our own quirky regional and national cultural values and how they occasionally clash with those of other nations. One hot afternoon we lounged on one of the 3 benches under a shade tree at the Mycenae archeological site and watched the parade of tour groups filing up and down to the ruins. We aren’t often at the “must see” tourist sites and so being in the throng of so many different groups was entertaining as we tried to guess their nationalities. Glasses frames, shoe styles, wardrobe choices and group dynamics give us strong clues as to the nationality of the groups. After making a preliminary guess as to their country of origin we would then eaves-dropping on their speech: the French, German, Spanish and Italian speakers are the only ones we can be sure of and after listening to some folks we still have no idea at all as to where they are from.
A bit earlier while inspecting the ruins near the highest point of the ancient site we thought that we were surely in the presence of some Czech’s: the women were taking turns posing for photos by standing on the top of the wall in kind of a porn-queen’s arched and thrusted posture, with one young woman provocatively supporting her breasts with her hands as they discussed the last photo taken. Only in the big cities of the Czech Republic have we seen such prostitute-like mannerisms as one of the accepted standards of behavior among the young women. The disco-wear look for daytime attire with large see-through mesh inserts in the thighs of one woman’s pants; sequined, low-cut tops; and hot pink underwear showing through filmy white Capri pants is something we only saw in the Czech Republic. We don’t know if this group was from the Czech Republic or not but we are suspicious as one member was holding a guide book with “Greece’ spelled with a “j” in it and the Slavic languages are very liberal with their use of “j’s”.
The French are probably the tourist group we are encountering most frequently in Greece and the few times we have seen a man indiscreetly peeing on the roadside we are quick to assume he is French: only in France have we seen such a matter-of-factness about road side urinating. Unlike other nationality’s, a surprising number of French men make no attempt to be unseen while peeing.
Cultural Differences: The Greeks
We are jarred by the culture clashes with the Greeks as well as with other tourists. In Greece it is the heartlessness of their cultural approach to guard and stray dogs and lack of care for the environment that constantly grates on our value set. When we left our high-mountain village of Kosmas and descended down a beautiful and renowned scenic gorge we were once again revolted by the Greek fondness for countryside garbage dumping. One of several dumps into the stunningly beautiful gorge was institutionalized by a low concrete wall erected to help the garbage trucks avoid backing too far over the edge when discharging their debris into the river. More than once we have stopped to have lunch on a bit of roadside only to move on because the stench of the garbage pile in the river or on the bank below was too strong. And when we take photos we often find ourselves composing our shot around a chunk of garbage or moving smaller pieces out of the way.
One of the other cultural values that we struggle with abroad is what appears to us to be a lower standard of integrity in hotel transactions, perhaps a variant on the lower level of customer service in Europe. Our most recent experience was when we decided to “buy up” in touristy Olympos (of Olympic fame) and get a cushier hotel room with air conditioning to give us a break from the oppressive heat; to watch a little English TV news; and to have a crack at a telephone suitable for internet connecting. We found the perfect place and happily settled in for a 2 night stay.
But we couldn’t get the air conditioning to work despite all of our travel-learned tricks with European electronics. Bill took his turn at being in confrontation mode and discussed the matter with the front desk. They were quick to reassure him it would be resolved soon. On his second trip to the front desk he was told the air conditioning was being repaired and it should be on at 7 or 8 pm, which were still several hours away. Disappointed, we continuing keeping our movement in the room to a minimum to avoid sweating too heavily and focused on catching up on the news.
Predictably, the air conditioning never came on that night and we were faced with the difficult choice between having the 1 window open for some fresh air but with blaring music and traffic noise or closing the window for less noise but struggling with the hot and stuffy air. I wasn’t at all surprised in the morning when I complained and I was told by the same receptionist that there was no need for the air conditioning last night, that she had been too cool in her village during the night. We moved to another hotel for our second and last night in town but we were still left with the familiar cultural friction—our need to be reasonable and patient resulting in us feeling like we are being taken advantage of.
It is equally easy for me to believe that the hotel left the central air conditioning off to economize as it is to believe that they are really having difficulty with the equipment. We have had such discrepancies between “advertised and delivered” a number of times in Europe regarding heat, air conditioning, hot water and even running water in the room. I am shocked at how much more often in the Europe than in the US that I find myself saying to Bill “I think they are lying to us” after talking to service industry personnel. Of course, a certain amount of confusion we attribute to translation problems but that’s not the case in these hotel services glitches.
“Is it Turkey or is it Greece?”
|Is he Greek or Turkish?|
|(He's a Greek war hero)|
That’s a question we often find ourselves asking as the look of the 2 countries is similar in many ways, especially in the villages (in the modern cities the look and activities are more like any other western country). Being in a similar climatic and geographical region, the 2 lands have a lot in common. And of course, the Ottomans occupied Greece for about 400 years so there was plenty of time for cultural exchange. We often shake our heads at the irony of the intense hatred between these two countries that often seem indistinguishable to us.
It’s the similar, almost invisible position of women in the non-urban areas of both societies that I find to be startling given the passionate religious divide, with the Turks being Muslim and the Greeks being Orthodox Christians. In both countries, women only scamper about on the streets to do the daily shopping and then are mostly homebound. In contrast, in both countries the men are highly conspicuous in their public socializing in the tea and coffee houses. We get the impression that the men of these countries sit on their rear-ends all day sipping and socializing while the women do all the work. It’s mostly the women we see laboring in the fields, hauling the leafy twigs for the goats and the firewood on their backs, and doing the physical work at the homestead. (Map Man says he’ll sign up for reincarnation as a Mediterranean male any day.)
In both countries, despite the different religions, women are quite subdued in their attire. Middle aged and older Greek women in the villages and small towns invariably are dressed in black from head to toe. Black head scarves seem to be favored more by the elderly women than the middle aged, but most all are wearing black skirts, black tops, black sweaters, black stockings and black shoes. I wear a lot of black too and appreciate the simplicity and dirt-hiding properties but as soon as the temperature spikes up, I quickly switch to lighter colors. In contrast, these Greek women stick to their black uniforms regardless of the temperature. I presume it is a sign of piety as is the more concealing garb of many Turkish women. We are guessing that the repression of women in both cultures has more to do with the fundamentalist slant of their religions and less to do with the details of the belief systems.
One aspect that is startlingly different between the 2 cultures is “who is the ‘keeper’ of day to day religion”. In Turkey as other Muslim countries, men are the keepers of the faith. They are the ones called to prayer and women, if allowed in a mosque at all, are often relegated to a back row position behind a curtain. Women Muslims are expected to pray at home. In Greece, it is the women who are keepers of the faith (but of course, the priests are all male). It’s the women we most often see crossing themselves at every church and shrine, which is sometimes every few blocks. It is the women we see ducking into the church between services to say a prayer and light a candle. And at formal services there is often a collection of men socializing on the periphery of the church grounds while the women are inside attending the service—an interesting reversal from what goes on in Turkey.
Leaving the Peloponnese and Greece
|Greek Amphitheater at Epidaurus|
Map Man took us to some great ‘must see’ sights on the Peloponnese and though not as grand as the Greek ruins we saw in Turkey we were pleased to visit them. We paid our respects at the massive, classical Greek ruins of Epidaurus and Olympos and the lesser known hilltop Temple of Vassas. And we poked around at the thousand-years-older Mycenaean civilization sites of Mycenae and Tiryns and stood inside their humbling, beehive-shaped tombs. Plus we saw some nifty finds in small museums, including what is thought to be one of the earliest roof tiles from the Mycenaen contemporary Lerna about 2000 bce and a 1500 bce armor vest made of wide, overlapping metal bands. (The roof tile looked like an unglazed square floor tile made from terra cotta.)
As we prepare to leave Greece I’ve been recalling the typical scenes that will drop away from our days, like the men riding sidesaddle on donkeys; the unkempt little roadside shrines; the ubiquitous Orthodox churches; fragmented roads and all of those amazing wildflowers. And I am still stunned at the ‘outdoor geology museums’ on the roadsides of Crete and Santorini.
|Fallen columns at the Temple of Zeus in Olympos|
Unfortunately the roadside garbage and those nasty backyard slash and tire fires will both waiting for us in Italy as in Greece. There will be fewer but still some sweet-scented orange and lemon trees plus occasional jasmine plants to make us smile. There should be some vibrant poppies to greet us in Italy and swans and their little gray cygnets will appear at some point on the rivers. And I wonder if the geology in Italy will be more exciting after the magnificent formations on Crete trained my eye.
The level of prosperity in Italy is higher than Greece (Greece is the second poorest EU country after Portugal) and that in itself will make a shift in our experiences. We are looking forward to being back in Italy with its bigger product line in the food markets and especially the canned garbanzo and other beans to expand our roadside lunch cuisine choices; all of those inexpensive and tasty, fizzy mineral waters will encourage us to stay hydrated; and the cheap bittersweet chocolate bars will give our hill climbing a boost. The Italian language is infinitely easier for us than Greek and it will let us a little farther ‘out of the box’ that we live in as tourists. Ah yes, and it will be nice to again deposit toilet paper in the toilet and not a little waste basket off somewhere in the bathroom.
There is so much to see in Italy, both in the sheer volume of historical sites and in the number of dramatically different geographical regions in the country. Quite by chance we have fallen into the pattern of seeing a different slice (or two) of Italy each year which seems to be the perfect way to enjoy it. As a result, Italy is becoming a crossroads country for us and it feels like a mini-home coming when we are there. It is always the final chapter in the Mediterranean part of our tour and the last stop in ‘the south’ before moving into the more northern countries of eastern and central Europe.
A Little Bit of Nerd-Like News
New This Year: A Lighter Load
Though we moaned and groaned as we pedaled up and down the steep hills and mountains of Crete we were well aware that it is usually worse for us this time of year--the 2 previous years we were also lugging our camping gear with us. This year we left the 2 front panniers for each bike and their contents back in Portland. We have that gear boxed up and ready to be sent to us AFTER we cross the Alps this June. That way we will be hauling around an estimated 45-50 pounds each until then, rather than the closer to 75-80 pounds each.
Receiving packages overseas without a semi-permanent mailing address is very difficult. General Delivery can only be used for letters and not oversized envelopes or boxes, as we learned the hard way. Our plan is to shop for a hotel in Austria that will receive our boxes and then have them mailed to the hotel. (That means finding an affordable hotel where they: speak English, have space to stash our boxes for a few days, aren’t paranoid, and are willing to be helpful.) We’ll stay in phone contact with the hotel and spend a couple of nights there before and after our boxes arrive to show our appreciation. In addition to our camping gear, we also have postponed riding with a couple more guide books, spare bike parts, and extra inventory of nutritional supplements and medications until June. It will be sobering to again ride with all that extra weight but at least we will be over the Alps and we will be well conditioned by then. But we will send it all back at the end of the summer camping season to again lighten our load for the fall and winter.
Of course, one has to wonder if camping is really worth the trouble and weight. I can imagine that the time will come when our answer is “No” but that time isn’t here yet. Camping allows us to save thousands of dollars in lodging costs in the much more expensive northern European countries, it gives us more lodging options during high season, and it is easier to have extended conversations with Europeans (or tourists) in campgrounds than in hotels. Several times we have had hours-long conversations with fellow campground guests—something that has never happened with fellow hotel guests.
….And Flexible Stems
Flexible stems on our bikes are another new approach this year—sort of a poor biker’s suspension system. The cobbles and rough roads in some countries, like Turkey and especially Poland, all but made mush out of my brain by banging it against my skull last year. And Crete’s roads would have done the same had it not been for our new stems. The stem is the metal clamp that connects the handlebars to the bike frame and our new $50 stems have little elastomer shock absorbers in them, which actually work.
Bill developed chronic tendonitis in one hand last year from all the banging and the new stem has been a major factor in his hand finally healing. And my head is oh-so-happy not to be my shock absorption system anymore. Of course, most people solve these problems with suspension forks, which in our case would require new bikes. Suspension forks may be superior, but that would be thousands of dollars more than these stems. But Bill is considering using these suspension stems instead of suspension forks on the new bikes that he is building and road testing in his mind because of the maintenance challenges the suspension forks would present.
The downside of the flexible stems is that mine made a mess out the carefully crafted fit of my bike. The stem puts my hands about 4” higher than my former riding position and initially put them several inches farther forward than they had been. I really wanted the stem to work out and Bill re-cabled my bike and tweaked the position over and over again to make it more comfortable. (We were both motivated as we had already mailed my old stem back home.) Though I ride much higher than before I am hoping that in giving up the more aerodynamic position I will also reduce the neck and shoulder muscle problems I have had in the past. But the more upright riding position also takes some weight off my hands and puts in on my seat, which still isn’t entirely happy about the redistribution. Bill’s riding position was unchanged, so he was happy from the get-go with his new stem.
The Eclectic Look
And the new, much higher stem has made my funny looking bike look even funnier. Bill has dubbed it the “giraffe” as the high stem gives it a long neck and the upward pointing hand grips of the aero bars look like giraffe horns. The yellow and read spotted hand bar tape completes the look.
|Barb's Eclectic Console|
We were told years ago that cyclotourists were an
eclectic bunch (to put it nicely) and that every funny little thing on their
bikes is carefully chosen and we now realize our bikes are getting that look.
Twice this year after people have inspected our bikes they’ve said “It looks
like you’ve been doing this a while.” “Yup, we have” is our response. For
example, we have taped to our frames: an old plastic bottle to hold chain lube,
a folded spare tire and extra tire pump, an old water bottle filled with tools
and supplies for changing a flat tire, and thick hand grips on the handlebars.
Then there is the plastic bottle filled with olive oil in one of my bottle cages
and a U-lock and a cable lock lashed on my frame.
I have cell phone pouch on my top tube for my pepper spray and Bill has a larger accessory bag for miscellaneous items hanging off his top tube. And on my handlebar “console” I have aero bars for headwinds, a small compass dangling of to one side, the altimeter to measure elevation gain held in place with a mountaineer’s clip, the new inclinometer to measure grade, a standard cycling computer to monitor speed and distance and a very small homemade bag. And I am sure that when people see us hunker down to slurp on our drink tube hoses coming up off the bike frame between our legs that they must take a second look…
Well, yes, I am just a little bit behind…. Here we are in the Italian Alps and I’ve just got you caught up to leaving Greece for Italy. We are now in Bolzano and are tired but purring to be climbing in the Alps again. And the several ancient rock art sites we just visited south of the Alps has prompted Bill to write his first journal entry for the website—now we are both hoping to get caught up on our writing soon.