Buzzzzzz…A 5:15 am alarm woke me from a deep sleep. I didn’t know where I was or, for that matter, why I’d set the alarm. I slowly slide the quilt off my face, forced my eyes open and looked around the room. It was still dark except for the faint glow from the screen of my phone.
After reaching over to my night stand, grabbing my cell phone and swiping the screen to shut off the alarm, I closed my eyes, pulled the quilt back over my head and dozed off.
All of a sudden, the reason for the alarm came to me. I sat up. I checked my phone to see how long I’d overslept. I stumbled out of bed.
Bike ride…helping friend train…need coffee…I’m so tired…I promised…could text and cancel…if I hurry I can gulp one cup….that Saturday ride wiped me out…my bike shorts are dirty…18 minutes to departure…you can do this…sleep…need more sleep….fill water bottles…is the coffee ready…cancel…no, don’t….
I did eventually get myself on my bike, clip into my pedals and start pedaling. My joints and muscles rejoiced with the slow spinning and stretching almost like warming up the pistons of a car on a cold day. The beam of my headlight on the pavement reminded me of Eric and my 4:45 am rides in Malaysia two years ago. It’s been a long time since I’ve needed an alarm.
Another few minutes of pedaling and the shroud of sleep lifted, my senses awakened to the predawn beauty of The Colorado National Monument. White-tailed bunnies hopped across the road in early morning playfulness, ravens called in laughter to wake the desert, emerging sunshine cast blue, pink, and red shadows on the sandstone rock formations.
Thanks goodness, mind won over my sleepy, achy body. The early ride was great start to a morning…to a Monday….to a week.
Day 3 – Nafphlio to Epidavros (31.9 miles, 2361 ft.)
Saying goodbye to Nafphlio was hard because it was such a fun place to be. Luckily, better road conditions with less traffic, a larger shoulder, and new pavement plus stunning scenery with cobblestone paths on the edge of the seaside, rolling hills speckled with olive groves, pinkish, rocky cliffs, and were our rewards for pushing on.
By noon we were baking hot and looking for shade. A road sign advertising a hotel 200 meters off the main highway was our excuse to take a detour for shade and water. This “detour’ as, we’ve found many to be during our travels, ended up being the bonus for the day. After sipping Coke and chugging waters in the breeze-filled, cool shade of the grape arbor at the hotel, we then cyclied a few more kilometers down the road to Ligourio where we had a choice of cafes for lunch and a cool place for Eric to “hang out” while I made the extra 4 kilometer ride to see the world famous Epidavros Theater, surrounding archeological site, and museum. I’m so glad I did and, as a result, seeing a Greek play performed at Epidavros is now on my bucket list.
This ancient theater, built in 300 BC, is still in excellent condition . With seating for over 13,000 people, excellent natural acoustics, and a full program of excellent summer plays, I’m only sorry that we were not going to be in Greece over the weekend. After seeing Epidavros with my own eyes and hearing the acoustics from traveling student groups clapping on stage to their friends high up in the stands, I am impressed and it awe of those ancient Greek builders.
After visiting Epidavros, I cycled back uphill to the town of Ligourio to meet up with Eric. We found a old, less traveled, mostly downhill road to the town Ancient Epidavros, our stop of the night.
Our destination was the Mouria Pansion situated directly on the beach in a peaceful, secluded cove. From the road, this hotel did not look very promising, but once we entered the lobby and passed through the dated restaurant, we found ourselves separated from the world with lush palms, oleanders, bougainvillea, manicured grass, clean beach and blue water. It was like a hidden paradise…
If ever there were a beachside bar at which to order a coctail, this is it. The bartender uses freshly squeezed oranges, lemons, and limes plus freshly grated ginger and other spices to make his drinks. I’m not usually a mixed drink fan but this marguerita was fresh, tart, and strong.
Luckily there was no need to worry about cycling under the influence because Mouria Pansion also has a restaurant. There is no menu and the waiter strongly suggests their “local cuisine” (it’s possible that’s all they had in the kitchen) but the food, like the cocktail, was tasty.
We went to bed early so we could rise early for a before-breakfast swim.
Day 4 – Epidavros to Poros ( 30.5 mi, 3182 ft.)
Today was my FAVORITE day of cycling in Greece! Hills, a good road with little traffic, beautiful views of the ocean, and a ferry ride across a beautiful bay to our final destination made this ride a joy!
As planned, we started the day with a swim in the calm waters of the bay in front of our hotel at the Mouria Panison. I loved the smooth-pebbled beach and prefer the small pebbles over fine sand because it is gentle on my feet and doesn’t leave grit between my toes.
I could have relaxed on the beach all day but it was time to move on. Leaving the town of Ancient Epidavros is a very steep, long uphill. It was so steep (or we were so out of shape) that we stopped every 100 meters or so to wipe sweat from our brows and catch our breaths.
I’m convinced, however, that hills are worth it for the spectacular views and the thrill of the downhill. This leg of our journey did not disappoint. We were rewarded with azure waters, whitewashed Greek villages dotting the hillsides, and vistas of Greek islands just off the main coastline.
A great half-way stop for lunch was at Kalloni Royal Resort. The dining area on a breeze-filled patio overlooking a sparkling swimming pool filled with children’s laughter made for a refreshing place to rest and refuel with fresh grilled pork souvlaki and Greek salad.
We continued on towards the town of Galatas where we caught a short ferry across the bay to the tiny island of Poros. If ever there were an idyllic tourist picture of Greece, the view of Poros from the ferry is just that – a clock tower at the high point, white houses with red-slate roofs crowded together on the hills facing the sea connected by hidden narrow paths and stairways, and turquoise blue bay dotted with sailboats and yachts, and sandy beaches nestled in coves along the coastline – was the view from the ferry.
After cycling to our hotel, the Xenia Poros Image Hotel, we enjoyed late afternoon adult beverages, dips in the water, and several naps. We then showered, dressed for dinner, and cycled to a fish restaurant with tables strategically placed at the water’s edge for excellent views of the sunset. We enjoyed a romantic dinner, and toasted each other for this beautiful cycling experience.
Day 4 – Poros to Athens (10ish km – Hotel to ferry to train to bike shop)
We awoke early to catch the much-too-early 8:00 am ferry, the only ferry that would take our bikes during the busy summer tourist season, and slept on the short one-hour ride to Piraeus. We then cycled bikes to the Piraeus metro stop , rode until Theisse, retraced our ride around the Acropolis and returned our rental bikes to Athens by Bike.
This four-day add-on was a lovely compliment to our trip in Greece.
As always, there are some lessons learned and important notes about this trip.
1.It’s a little tricky to get to Corinth from Athens. The bicycle did NOT recommend cycling because of the traffic and drivers. Thus, the commute requires a transfer from the metro to the suburban trains and the transfer is not clearly marked and involves lots of stairs because of broken elevators.
2. There is a lot of truck traffic leaving Corinth and the road is narrow and/or overgrown with weeds, oleanders, and weeds. It’s rideable but not necessarily enjoyable.
3. The roads are hilly and can be steep and not for beginner riders. The rental bikes were adequate but geared more for local, city sightseeing, not really for long tours.
4. July is hot! May or October might be better months for a Greek tour.
5. We saw only four bicycles during our entire trip. 2 were farm workers and 1 was a cycle tourist from Albania who had just gotten chewed out for riding on the expressway (not allowed). In other words, it does not seem like drivers are accustomed to cyclists although this might be improving..hard to tell.
After spending a lovely week driving, hiking, and walking on the Greek Islands of Crete and Santorini, Eric and I were excited to hop back on bicycles and continue our tradition of integrating cycling into every vacation. We found a local bicycle shop, Athens By Bike, who rented us bikes and panniers and even suggested an itinerary for a 4-day cycle tour of the Peloponnese.
Day 1 – Athens to Loutraki (5 km of cycling plus metro, train and lots of waiting)
We rode the metro to Acropolis and took a short 10 minute walk to Athen By Bike, the local bike store where we’d reserved two rental bikes for our 4 day tour. Two workers, Dimitrias and Costas, met us at the shop at the appointed time. They were enthusiastic about cycling in Greece and eager to share their knowledge and ideas with us. They made sure our Orient bikes (more hybrid than touring) were equipped with panniers, a tool pouch, and some low intensity lights to be seen but not to actually see with.
After reviewing the bike basics, Dimitrias walked to the computer and prepared a route for us using and Costas made a route for us using Ride With GPS. He also made suggestions of towns to stay in, places to eat delicious ice creams, and tourist sites to visit.
We loaded a few items of clothing, toiletries and a bathing suit into the Tour de France panniers (That’s really what they are called) and left the rest of our luggage at the bike shop. Dimitrias handed us a paper map with directions to the Thissio metro station by way of cycling around the Acropolis.
Per Dimitrias’ instructions, we rode the metro to Nerantziotissa where we were supposed to transfer to the suburban train and ride to Corinth. (Korinthos). Unfortunately, the suburban trains were on strike and said to open after 4:00 pm (4 hours laters) so we killed time by cycling to a park, taking a nap on a park bench, buying an ice cream at the Mall of Athens and waiting another hour and a half because the 4:07 pm train arrived so full of passengers that we could not squeeze on.
Boarding the second train to Corinth ended up being better than expected. A fellow, local Greek cyclist boarded the train with us and directed us where to put our bicycles. He also helped pave a way through the crowds of commuters.
As we settled in to the 1 hour train ride, I became acquainted with the 96 year old man sitting next to me. We struck up a conversation and I learned his wife had passed away 3 days before, he was traveling with his live-in caregiver from Georgia (the country, not the state), he supported the BREXIT because he loves the proud British people and he thinks they did the right thing. He apologized that he could not host us at his home near Corinth, he’s disgusted with Greece – (“it used to be proud even though it was poor”) and the leadership is corrupt. He said we “must” visit the live theater at Epidavros (which I would have loved but, according to the lady on my right, the theater only runs on the weekend.)
Before we knew it, the discomfort and inconvenience of the train strike was over, we arrived in Corinths, rolled our bikes off the train, and cycled the easy 5 kilometers along the beautiful bay towards our night’s destination of Loutriaki. We found acceptable lodging at Hotel Bakos where we discovered Eric’s wallet has been stolen somewhere between the bicycle shop and Loutraki (let’s blame it on the rail strike and the ridiculously crowded trains) and then spent the next 2 hours canceling credit cards and making sure we had enough cash to finish our trip. Pizza, a bottle of wine at a restaurant on the beach put us in better moods and helped us sleep for the night.
Day 2 – Loutraki to Nafplio (48.5 miles, 2506 ft climb)
Our plans for an early (before the heat of the day) start were thwarted when we both overslept. The heat and stress of the day before really knocked us out. I have to admit, I was contemplating bagging the entire ride and cutting our trip shop because the first day of riding got off to such a bad start. Thank goodness, Eric woke refreshed and ready to ride.
As always for me on a bicycle, as soon as my legs start pedaling and I feel the breeze on my face, all cares blow away. Yesterday’s train strike and wallet theft no longer matter. The beauty of the Mediterranean and the fact that we were in Greece together on bicycles made everything else seem unimportant.
Even so, after a few kilometers on our rental bikes it quickly became apparent that the bikes are geared for leisurely riding. From the git-go we knew riding was going to be slow, hard, and hot…not SE Asia, humid and hot..but Greece, hot, dry …windy…exposed hot…
And, my beaming smile was gradually fading as the first 20 kilometers leaving Corinth towards Mycene (Mykine) were filled with large industrial truck traffic Although there is a shoulder on the road, it is often overgrown with olive tree branches, oleanders, and thorny weeds. Luckily, after we passed a large rock quarry (Eric jokingly suggested the quarry had been in use since the building of the Parthenon) , the truck traffic subsided and the scenery improved: large olive orchards and orange groves were interspersed with vegetable gardens and peach trees as we climbed in elevation.
About 10 kilometers before the ancient ruins of Mycene we found a wonderful bakery where drank (the spoons were too small and dainty to satisfy our hunger) two cups of traditional, warm rice pudding with cinnamon. Hard to believe that hot pudding on a hot day could taste so yummy. We also bought a large piece of spinach pie and what looked like a sesame covered bagel (or a simit in Turkey) filled with ricotta cheese for a picnic later.
Visiting the ruins at Mycene is a short but very steep detour of about 2 kilometers off the main road. Luckily there is an air-conditioned museum at the site and a refreshment stand with homemade orange juice for rehydration.
The final 20 kilometers to Nafplio is generally downhill towards the sea. It’s also very exposed and hot making so what we made up for in easy riding we taken away with the heat.
Nafplio is a really cute town with a fantastic fort at the top of the hill, a lovely walk along the seashore, a great little beach, and wonderful shops lining the cobblestone pedestrian paths in the center of town.
Our hotel, the Athena Hotel was lovely and centrally located. If you have the time, spending an extra day here would be fun.
While sitting at the Table Mesa bus stop in Boulder, Colorado waiting for a bus to the Denver Airport, I was amazed and delighted at the number and variety of cyclists participating in Colorado Bike to Work Day on June 22nd. From the serious weekend road bikers wearing tight spandex and cycling jerseys advertising rides from bye-gone eras before their protruding beer bellies stretched the shirt to it’s limits, to the one-time wanna-be-a-good-sport type riders wearing gauzy, white linen pants, and light cotton blouses, with their helmut strapped to their designer leather laptop totes rather than placed on their heads, the participants I saw seemed to be enjoying their morning commute.
I was wondering if the regular cycle commuters pour themselves an extra dose of patience with today’s morning coffee knowing they must be prepared to circumnavigate the challenges of inexperienced cyclists. Things like stopping mid-trail to answer a text, riding in a slow group making it impossible to pass, weaving back and forth like a snake, using the wrong gears, stopping in the middle of the path with the bike perpendicular to the trail to snap a selfie with the mountains in the background can be annoying and dangerous to the speedy every day cycle commuters on auto-pilot. I was also hoping that many of the regular commuters would be welcoming, helpful and friendly to the one-time riders.
I was wondering if the one-time Bike to Work participants had a fitful sleep last night worrying about their route, getting to work on time, solving mechanical problems, getting lost, or feeling sweaty all day.
I was remembering all the times and places I’ve cycled to work BEFORE it was an “event”. In the late 70s and early 80s I always cycled to work. In summers, I cycled to the pool where I was a lifeguard. During my college days at the University of Colorado, I cycled everywhere. Boulder was, in fact, a bit of a leader in developing cycling paths and promoting the cycling culture in Colorado. The fact that it was so easy to ride everywhere and cycling was so common probably impacted my love of cycling more than I’d realized until watching this morning’s commute.
Marriage, having children and working at jobs in cities with no cycling infrastructure or jobs too far from home put cycling to work on hold for the next 18 years. Interestingly enough, my cycling to work was resurrected in the most unlikely of places – Turkey.
My first year teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) was in eastern Turkey in a town called Malatya. After 4 months of being confined to the inflexibility of the daily, school-provided van transport for all teachers that arrived and departed at the same time as the students, I was motivated to find a more freedom-producing and flexible solution. I knew that riding my bicycle would actually be faster than riding in the hot, crowded, noisy van that zigzagged and bounced through town for an hour each way.
Before attempting my first Malatya Ride to Work Day, I had to overcome several obstacles. I had to notify the van driver who spoke no English that I would not be at the bus stop. I solved this problem by texting a Turkish teacher who could explain to the driver than I wouldn’t not be on the van. (I did NOT tell her I would be riding my bicycle because that would be met with all kinds of “nos”) Next, I had to find a route. The roads in Malatya are notoriously dangerous. Traffic signals are suggestions but not often followed. Having been threatened buy a local man that I would be the, “First and last woman to ride a bike in Turkey” meant that I needed to disguise my femininity. Choosing less busy farm roads and donkey paths took me away from the danger of high-speed traffic, but put me more in the path of conservative men not happy to see a woman on a bike.
I chose to wear nondescript black pants, a black Adidas hoodie, dark glasses, gloves, and a helmut to protect myself from the stares of unwelcoming men. I chose slightly busier roads with more people and less chance for cat-calls and angry stares. Finally, I planned enough time to arrive at school before the other teachers, find a place to lock my bicycle, use an isolated bathroom to change into my professional attire and heels, and re-enter the school building at the same time as the teachers and students. I was very self-conscious about cycling and my solution was to leave no evidence of my transportation choice.
Cycling in Malatya became the highlight of my life there. While cycling each day, a farm girl whose job it was to walk the family cow up and down hills each day to find small patches of grass and clover for the cow to eat, waved to me and ran along beside me beating her cow with a stick and shouting a joyful “Merhaha” (hello). After several weeks of running beside me, she invited me to her family’s mud home for tea, coffee and cheese from their cow. The house was a primitive mud hut, the floors covered with Turkish carpets, the chipped coffee cup filled with steaming Turkish coffee a symbol of hospitality. Within minutes the tiny room was crowded with neighbors, family and friends who had popped in to stare at this strange lady with a bicycle. Someone produced an ancient flip-phone and started taking photos which gave me the go-ahead to snap a few of my own.
My cycling to work in Malatya was an inspiration to one of my colleagues and her mother who lived in an apartment overlooking my route. Each morning and afternoon unbeknownst to me, this mother would watch me from her fourth story apartment window. After several weeks her daughter Zeynep told me her mom wanted me to come for Turkish coffee and delicious homemade snacks. Through her daughter’s translations, the mom communicated how much she admired the freedom my bicycle represented and wished she could do the same.
My cycling to work in Malatya was also an invitation for several miscreant male students to puncture my tires and laugh at my face anger and dismay. Because this was a gated and locked school campus I could NOT accept the headmaster’s suggestion that some vagabonds had caused the damage. In order to save face of the school, I did not name the culprits but I did gratefully accept a car ride to a bicycle shop and school-paid repairs to the bicycle.
The following year I took a job in Izmir, Turkey on the Aegean Sea. I chose Izmir over Istanbul because of the better cycling environment. During a week of van rides to teacher orientation, I scouted a safe route to work, delighted to discover a cycle path most of the way. On my first weekend off, I cycled the16 kilometers from my neighborhood in Mavesehir to Cigli, the location of the school. I carried several spare tubes and lots patches because the ride was very remote and the quality of tubes substandard.
On my first Izmir Ride to Work day, I left extra early so I would have time to change a flat, if needed, and still arrive before the school vans. Even after a year of living in Turkey, I was still very self-conscious about cycling and leaving the “group mentality” of the van. I arrived very early to school with no problems, locked my bike near the shelter for motorcycles and walked to the school gate. Because I had not arrived with a large pack of teachers, it took some convincing of the guards to let me in.
After the school day ended and the the last bell rang, I walked to the girl’s bathroom to change. I carefully rolled up my white teacher’s lab coat so it wouldn’t wrinkle and stuffed it into my purple backpack. I changed back into my cycling still damp cycling attire, waited until most of the students and teachers had left campus, exited the school gates and retrieved my bicycle.
I cycled the 32 kilometers (18 miles) roundtrip for most of the school year in Izmir. I cycled through large downpours, was chased daily by a pack of wild dogs, admired the graceful flamingos standing on one leg, and grinned at daily walkers along the path. I cycled almost every weekend to beautiful places.
As the year progressed, I become more bold with my cycling and less concerned about hiding my mode of transport. I quit starching and ironing my white lab coats because they wrinkled as soon as I put them in my backpack anyway. I left home later often arriving at the same time as the school vans.
During the rainy season – November to February – I had my share of flat tires. There is something about the heavy rain that floats the slivers of glass, pieces of steel belts, or rusty nails to the trail surface. Luckily the flats always happened on my way home from school.
By May, many students had noticed a solo cyclist riding the bike path each day and asked if it was me. They thought my cycling looked fun and began to wonder if they could do it. One male teenager even asked if he could ride with me. Because the school did not allow students to cycle to school, I told the 16 year old, we couldn’t make it an “official” ride together but there was nothing stopping his parents from allowing him to ride and the two of us just happening to see each other on the path. One glorious early June morning I had the pleasure of witnessing his pride, satisfaction and glory at having completed his first ride along the Aegean Sea, through the wetlands filled with pink flamingos blue herons, and through the pine forest close to school.
Although I was unable to participate in this year’s Bike to Work Day, I do believe that my commitment to cycling to work in Turkey, made a small impact on the cycling culture there. From the Turkish women who saw my cycling as a symbol of freedom to the students at my school who saw the cycling as a beautiful, healthy mode of transportation. Cycling was, and continues to be, my favorite way to commute.Colo
I’ve been having a lot of fun mountain biking near Fruita, Colorado. It’s a very different type of fun from road cycling and cycle touring, but mountain biking has definitely earned its place in my free-time activities list.
Here are the things I’m enjoying:
The scenery. Painted petroglyphs, red sandstone arches, cliffs carved from ancient rivers, slick rock ledges, river valleys, stunning vistas, the beauty of desert cactus and yucca in bloom, the bright green of collared lizards, herds of big-horn sheep grazing at sunset, snakes slithering across hot trails in search of shade, barren moon-scape-like fields, and the smell of desert cedar and sage brush in bloom are examples of the beauty near our front door.
The mental challenge. Mountain biking forces me to be mindful and present. I have to work hard to concentrate and not let my mind wander. Tiny rock obstacles, hidden tree roots, or a shift from hard-packed dirt to soft flour-like soil can cause a fall. I will jump off my bike at the first sign of steep, rocky sandy descents, narrow tire-grabbing gaps between rocks, and trails at cliff edges or across steep slopes where one mistake would mean death by falling off the cliff.
The variety. I’ve ridden four different areas near our house and each one provides a very different experience. The Road 18 Trails remind me of a day of skiing. There is fairly gradual uphill with many different downhill options graded from easy to difficult just like a ski hill. We took Kessler’s Run which rewards us with a long, flowing, roller-coaster-like downhill. The Western Rim Trail near the Kokopelli Trail is a beautiful loop with great views overlooking the Colorado River and some awe-inspiring cliffs and rock formations. The Water Tower Trails, inside the Grand Junction City limits offer some family-friendly fun with easier trails and whimsical art carvings hidden among the tress making the rides perfect for an afternoon scavenger hunt. The Lunch Loop Trails and the Tabaguache are future aspirations. They are too hard, rocky, hilly, and technical for me to enjoy at my present beginner-intermediate ability level.
For all the fun things about mountain biking, there is one thing that made me kind of sad. I had to replace the Schwable Marathon Plus tires that had carried me across 11 countries and over 9000 miles with some very knobby, heavy duty Continental Trail King mountain bike tires. It’s true that my BMC was born to be a hard-tail, mountain bike and it’s working well on the trails described above. But we had such a fantastic touring history together that changing the tires and removing the Old Man Mountain Racks was the symbolic end to our cycle touring journey. I felt like I was betraying my friend.
Not to worry, though. The tires and rack are hanging in the garage and ready for a fall tour with Eric.