Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Betsy is a Bit Frisky" I Warned You 29/3/09 Day 255

Day 255 (Slide show)
(Video 1) (Video 2) (Video 3) (Video 4)

This week has been the best week so far for riding. I'm sure glad to because I'm getting a bad case of cabin fever. The week started with a forecast I saw on Monday showing that the temperature was going to get to 16C by Saturday. That is double the current temperature. This means I have to get busy and decide on my first road tour. I have three places in mind but haven't committed yet. Also Renee needs a check up. Thanks to my friend Rob I was able to repair the front brake problem incured during shipping.
Special Note: A few weeks ago my camera sling that holds the camera around my shoulder had a malfunction. I sent an email to the company and they sent me a new one here in Prague for free. I want to give this company some much deserved space on my blog.
Check out the link. "PacsafePacsafe Anti-Theft Bags & Travel Security"
I have gone half way around the world taking over 4000 pictures so far and this nice piece of camera security has saved my camera from getting lost or damaged so many times. Also it has allowed me to take a lot more pictures then if I had to take it out of a pack every time. This is what I have. The phone and camera strap.
These folks shipped me a new one which cost 15.50 USD. The price of the strap is only 9.99USD.
Now that's customer service. I have several other items from these folks with me right now on this adventure. This is a great company.
As I mentioned last week, Betsy has had a shifting problem. I did my best down on my special bike stand. The one on the tire, but I need better tools and I found a place this week. A small Czech bike shop Eurobike . The owner Pavel doesn't speak very much English but we managed and he saw right away what I show him. He had the right tools to get the derailleur adjusted and then he gave the whole bike a tuneup. Betsy was feeling real good. This only cost me 300CZK. (15.00USD) So this has been a good day and the weather is getting warmer.
On Friday I had the best day for riding yet. I toured all over the city. Wow, the cobblestones and curbs really suck. Another funky thing is the steps that come out of nowhere. It seems I'm always stopping to lift the bike up a curb or carry Betsy down some steps.
But it is nice to get out and check out the city. The traffic here isn't much different then California. Drivers all over the world want to kill you I guess. All day riding around the city I saw a lot of young tourists. I guess it is the discount time because of the weather. The pre-season crowd.
It seems like I'm riding everyday this week which is nice. I need to get used to the traffic and the bike path signs. It is easy to get lost if you don't watch for them. These signs are missing or posted in crazy spots a lot. I happen to bring a spare set of tires that are a bit wider and softer. I can tell already the I going to have to put them on Renee. The narrow 90psi tires on her now would be alright but not as nice as these others that are 70psi and wider. I bought them on the last day to, what a good move.
On Sunday I told a friend of mine from Moscow to go riding with me. His name is Pavel and I thought I would let him ride Betsy and I would take Renee out together. I warned him right off the bat the Betsy was a bit frisky. "Be careful" I said. Of course she threw him, right over the top too. He was alright but it spooked him I think. Everything was alright and there wasn't any damage.
I for one crashed too. I was waring my clip shoes and got caught in an intersection where the traffic stopped. I was going to cross over and a car got in front of me and down I went. No damage though. I have learned to fall correctly. Lots of good pictures here and some wacky videos for you.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Finally Spring in Prague 21/3/09 Day 247

Day 247 (Slide show)

This week started out with a boring winter Monday. I needed a few groceries but I ended up having to go to three stores. It’s a typical thing around here. Even the large markets don’t stock quality produce. It seems the small Vietnamese shops have better quality. But on Tuesday it turned out nice, about 10c, so Betsy and I went for a spin around the city. I found a tire hanging from a tree to use as a stand. Betsy seems to have been injured on the way over here. It was probably a forklift trying to make advances on her. She was having some shifting problems and I couldn’t see the cause until I got her in the tire stand. Her derailleur was bent. I did my best to straighten it out but I need a professional shop.

I have her purring like a kitten now though. Not long after I stopped at the tree the weather turned a bit cold so I had to get back to my flat. Good to be riding again though.

I want to say something about the streets of Prague. This isn’t anything like riding back home. I remember complaining to fellow rode warriors in Huntington Beach about the trash in the bike lanes. (nuts, bolts, nails and such) It was an appalling to think we had to ride in trash. Where were the city street sweepers? Well, I wish that was the only problem over here. Prague has crazy 5 way intersections with limited lights and curbs to get over. There is the cobblestone problem where you can break a tooth if you don’t keep you jaw loose. Then the worst is the steeps. Here you constantly have to carry your bike up and down steps that come out of nowhere. I’m never going to complain about trash again.

Wednesday I woke to snow. You can tell spring is close though this snow melted quickly. I’ve got to start planning for my tours. I have some ideas and it seems I can start to work on my conditioning now. I’ve gotten a bit soft sitting around so much. During my few rides this week I discovered a few new sites and some cool buildings. I really want to get out for an overnight trip soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Group Headquarters of the Soviet Central Group of Forces Base 15/3/09 Day 241

Day 241 (Slide show)

I had just got back from skiing in Switzerland when I received an email from my friend Ricardo here in Prague. He wanted to know if I was interested in a day trip to an old Soviet Air Force Base outside of Prague. The weather didn’t look very good but I thought this would be a lot of fun. It’s a Sunday morning and I headed to this old train station here in Prague. I had been by it several times but never inside the place. It is called Masarykova. Their doing a small remodel in the place but it has a real old funky fell to it. There is always a plethora of local color hanging out around the place.

Anyway after boarding the train for a short 40 min ride then we switched to another single rural train that was only one car. This was a fun 15 min ride and then we were in the village of Milovice which is northeast of Prague. Then there was a short walk in the rain to the Group Headquarters of the Soviet Central Group of Forces. About the time we walked onto the old tarmac the rain stopped. The place is very large with many old building that have been left to rot. As I’m walking through I thought of Greece and all the ruins I had seen there. Of course it isn’t the same but the feel of history was a bit overwhelming. The place was decommissioned in the mid eighties and when you think about it that’s only 20 years. Who would have thought back in the late 70’s that a Yankee from California would be walking around the place today. Because this was the Group Headquarters I’m sure there were many high ranking officers floating in and out of here. Check out the pictures and Ricardo even found a bullet slug that someone had fired into a wall. I’m sure it is just some local guy playing around but it still interesting. I have it and I'm going to give it to my Dad when I see him.

He likes things like this.

The site now is used for many things. I saw a weekend warrior training area with some clerks dressed up in fatigues doing some mock assaults. There was an area where auto enthusiasts have a garage set up to modify thier cars to race on the tarmac. Then on one end of the base there is a movie set. This looked like a POW camp or a small encampment used to film in. It was very cool.

There were about 10 of us and we had a nice day even though the weather gave us rain and cold wind. I still enjoyed it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

“Flims/Laax, Switzerland” A Great Week of Skiing 13/3/09 Day 239

Day 239 (Slide show) (Video)

The way the ski passes work here in Laax/Flims is like most resorts. I bought a six day pass but I have seven days to use it. This is very convenient when your plans are changing all the time. Yesterday Andrew wanted to use that day as our down day. This was so we could buy a day pass to ski on Saturday. I wasn’t that excited with this plan for a few reasons. One was that I was hoping to return my ski equipment a day early and maybe get a refund. This was probably a pipe dream but I was hopeful. Also we had no accommodations for tonight so we have to figure that out. Another reason that I almost forgot about was who wants to ski on Saturday. These were some good reasons I thought but he wasn’t listening so we took yesterday off. This is Friday and I was going to ski today. His plan was for me to buy another pass for tomorrow. I wasn’t going to do this. I figured I would wait around at a restaurant and work on this blog while he snowboarded.

I caught the first tram and the day was very nice until around noon when it got very warm. It was like skiing on a glacier in the summer. The weather was good though so it was fun. I stayed at the higher elevations for the most part and found a new restaurant with a great salad and wine for lunch. This place was called Stella. I have a few pictures of the place with a mounted Cow on the wall. This is very strange to me. Where I’m from the animals that are unfortunate enough to be stuffed are Bears, Elk, Buffalo and the like. I guess around here there aren’t any mighty wild animals left. Or more likely it is to support the cheese industry.

I’m ready to get back to Prague though, I am sure that the good weather is near and I will be bike touring soon. I find myself always thinking about where I’m going to go and what the Czech trails are like. I’m skiing now so I will try my best to enjoy my last day skiing. I’m sure I won’t get another chance anytime soon.

Around 4:30 I skied my way down to the bottom of the Flims Village. It was like water skiing.

As I was turning in my equipment Andrew showed up. I was surprised because I was to meet him at another location. It turns out that his bad tooth was really hurting him and he wanted to get back to Prague as soon as possible. I was quite happy about this but I did fill badly for him. He ended up loosing a day on the mountain and he was in a lot of pain. I like Andrew and I really appreciate all the friendship he offered me during the bad time I had during this winter in Prague. With his help I was able to ski three times and that really helped me from going crazy. Thanks Andrew.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Powder and High Winds 11/3/09 Day 237

Day 237 (Slide show) (Video 1) (Video 2)

WOW! There’s about 15in/38cm of new snow today. It’s very heavy but still a lot of fun. I caught the second gondola at 8:30. The clouds make it a pretty bad white out, can’t see a thing this morning. I got in 3 to 4 good runs and then went in for an Irish coffee. I was like a snowman. My beard was frozen and melted all over my muffin. The Tram opened at 10:40 and I was on it. There were a lot of areas untouched up on top and I caught them all. My boots are sloppy and I wish I had some good equipment but that is the way of it when you have to rent. After about 1PM the best pistes were skied out. I went in for a beer at the top and the wind was very strong. I don’t think they can keep this open very much longer. I made a short run to a chair and they had closed it. Four people were caught on it and I saw three evacuated off. A girl was still on when I stopped watching because she wouldn’t go down the rope. She wasn’t that high and could have jumped like here friend did. I left though, I wanted to get back to the top and the gondola was the only thing open now. At about 3pm I was in the restaurant at the top and an announcement come over a speaker in German that the place was closing. I talked to some ski patrol and they said I should go down. By this time no one was there except me and the patrol. I started off the summit and once over the ridge it was nice and pretty much out of the wind. I had a great run. There was no one the whole way. It reminded me of my younger days skiing until the last possible moment. It has been a great day and I don’t want to spoil it by skiing on the lower mountain. I’m heading back to Nico’s place a bit early.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I’m Searching for Powder 10/3/09 Day 236

Day 236 (Slide show)

It’s a beautiful morning. I walked right out the door to some new snow and skied right to the gondola. It’s another white snowy day on the mountain. I skied by myself all day which works out fine. It lets me enjoy the day at my pace. I was hoping for several good powder runs but the snow cats have groomed the mountain everywhere. Their grooming technique is different then I’m used to. Where I’m from the resort will groom the center of the piste and leave the edges for the powder hounds but here their grooming all the way to the edges. It’s very hard to find any powder and if you do find any it is tracked fast. This place is so big I’m very impressed with this cat crew. They must be drinking a lot of coffee to groom this place in one night. The Tram didn’t open until late which was a bummer. There would have been some good powder up there early all bet.

This was a good day but I’m getting tired. After the powder was gone I sat at this nice bar on the mountain for most of the afternoon. A couple of beautiful French ladies sat with me for a while. We talked and had a drink together which was a lot of fun. But it was short lived; I must have been drooling and mumbling too much I guess I can’t remember. I told a friend about this later and she said “You’re not exotic enough.” What does that mean? It kind of hurt, like a knife in the back. O’ well.

It was a relaxing day today anyway.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Laax, Switzerland Skiing in the Alps 9/3/09 Day 235

Day 235 (Slide show)

Actually after sleeping in this attic room last night I feel better today. I think it is because I turned in early though. It couldn’t have been the room. I mean my feet hung out over the bed and I hit my head on the wooden eve’s above the bed two or three times through out the night but I do feel better today. Go figure.

There are about 6 in/15cm of new snow on top but it’s a little wet. The clouds are covering the mountain which makes for some interesting moments. In conditions like this you have to be quick to miss the unseen objects that appear out of nowhere.

I made two god runs early but realized I forgot to lock the car so I had to take the bus back to where it was parked. This didn’t take long but I lost a few runs. It was a good day of skiing. I stayed on the Laax, Switzerland side for most of the day and found a few new places to explore. My usual routine is to ski about two hours then take a break at one of the refuges for a beer. I like to try to stop at most of them at least once to check out the local color. If I find a nice one I will stay a while but then get out and ski a few more hours. Also I always like to stop for a snack around 11 to 11:30 this way I’m skiing when everyone else is eating.

I ran into a local guy today at one of these nice pubs and I asked him how many people he thought were on the mountain yesterday. He had spoken to a resort manager and he was told 12,000. I was quite surprise at this number because it sure didn’t seem like it. Then he really surprised me when he said the record was set last year at 90,000 on a Saturday, holiday weekend. I said it was a sea of humanity. This was on the whole mountain which is 4 resorts. I’ve only been on two of them but still that’s crazy.

Andrew and I are staying with a Couchsurfer tonight named Nico who has a place right at the base of the tram here in Laax. He is a very nice guy and his place is very comfortable. He is a snowboarder which gives Andrew someone to hang with. It’s been snowing all day today and getting harder. I’m looking forward to a bit of powder tomorrow.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunny Day Skiing in Flims, Switzerland 8/3/09 Day 234

Day 234 (Slide show) (Video)

There is still a storm coming but it seems to be running late. Maybe it will show tonight. I woke up to sunny skies and cold temperatures. It’s Sunday and the crowds are larger but it really doesn’t feel like it. The place is so big that it can handle a lot of folks.

When I walked out and saw the sun and the beautiful village I forgot all about my headache and sore ankle. Yes it is true, I have another sore ankle. I can’t seem to find a good pair of boots. What I need is my own pair but I’m sure this will be my last time skiing so I will just suffer through it.

Skiing was good today even though I was tired. I made 7 to 8 runs every couple of hours. There are virtual no lines so when I got tired I would find a nice rest stop for a beer then hit it again. I stopped in at the supper market for some snacks before getting on the Tram which makes it nice. The prices are quite high here in Switzerland.

Andrew and I are leaving or hosts today and we aren’t sure where were going to stay. It seems Andrew is going to just wing it. I asked several times what the plan was but he was vague about it, I would have been happy to look around yesterday afternoon for a place but whatever.

We got lucky at a hostel we found around 7PM they had two rooms in the attic unclean that we got for 10CHF each. The only problem is I have to walk bent over. The place is defiantly built for kids.

Tomorrow night we have a place lined up in LAAX which will be a lot better.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Skiing in the Swiss Alps 7/3/09 Day 233

Day 233 (Slide show) (Video)

We woke to about 10cm of new snow this morning. I made my way to the ski shop early and was the first one there. Andrew still wasn’t feeling very good but nothing was stopping him from getting up to the slopes.

At the ski shop I scored some Atomic powder skies and some pretty decent Lowa boots. The prices were a bit high though compared to Austria. For a week it was 252.00 CHF. When you do the conversion it’s about 20% higher. What can I do at this point except get to the mountain? That’s where I was really gouged. The ski pass for 6 days was 368.00 CHF. Ouch. It sure is a good thing we are not paying for the lodging. Andrew did a good job there.

This place is huge but the upper part was closed early due to wind which was ok I found a nice section to ski at and just stayed there for the day. Andrew took off to find some good board areas. In Austria I started to fell like I was getting some type of old form back so I just spent the day working on turning and working the crud on the edges of the piste’s.

I ran into Andrew after lunch and he was a bit irritable. I think his tooth was bothering him. We split up and meet at the end of the day. I was fine with that. It was a lot of fun but the top area never opened due to the wind. I can see why too it is strong on the ridges. Also there are some strange things going on with the clouds up here. Check out the pictures.

Were supposed to get some more new snow tonight, I hope so.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Skiing Switzerland, Flims/LAAX 6/3/09 Day 232

Day 232 (Slide show)

Well I’m off to Switzerland. This whole trip came together very fast. My friend Andrew contacted me a couple of days ago and asked if I wanted to go but he wasn’t sure when. The timing wasn’t looking good, he said. Then last night he sent me a message saying to meet him at the metro station at 7:00 AM. It took me about an hour to get ready.

The place is called Flims/LAAX which is in East/Central Switzerland. As I found out later it is just south of Liechtenstein even though we only drove by the country it was kind of cool. We are planning on a week of skiing and I don’t know much about the plan, Andrew seems to have it worked out.

He showed up about 45 min late which left me in the cold but when I found out what happened I wasn’t so upset. It seems he was eating his breakfast and somehow broke a back tooth. He was in some pain when he arrived. I felt bad for him as he tried to keep me from seeing how much it hurt. We drove all day with a couple of stops for gas and just when he was starting to feel better he bought some bread with some kind of seeds on it. You know the rest I’m sure. Yes, he took two bites and a seed lodged in the broken tooth. It took an hour to dig it out with a toothpick. Not a good start to our trip.

We made it around 7PM to the home of some friends of Andrew’s. These folks had let Andrew stay at their home the year before. This was a very nice couple, older then I, which is amazing. I thought I was the oldest person on the planet but I guess not. After a nice dinner and conversation I crashed early. I plan to get to the slope early to rent some equipment and see what this mountain has to offer. Andrew tells me it is a great place.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

“Brad Huff Bluesman” at the Saint Nicholas Café, Prague 5/3/09 Day 231

Day 231 (Slide show)

A couple of nights ago I was told that a good Bluesman named Brad Huff was going to play at this club down in the city. This is a guy I had run into several weeks ago and I really wanted to find the right night to see him. He plays several gigs around the city each week but this place the Saint Nicholas Café is suppose to be the best. He is only there on Tuesdays. I received some good information because he was very good and the St. Nicholas has great pizza with good prices. The place is owned by a Yankee named Kevin and he told me a great story about how he was here in Prague as an exchange student the day the soviet army came to town in 1968. But I wanted to tell you about Brad Huff and the Saint Nicholas Cafe. Maybe someday later I will tell you about Kevin.

Today was the best day for riding I’ve had. It is about 9c and I rode about 4 hours. There are several new pictures of the river and some of the bike path to the city. I can tell right know that I’m going to have to change the tires on Renee. Her rubber is a bit to narrow for these rough trails. The weight I will be having on the Randonee I will need something a bit wider and softer. I brought an extra set of tires which I bought at the last minute. I’m sure glad.

My skiing friend Andrew sent me an email yesterday and said he was putting together a trip to Switzerland. He didn’t give me much information other then I would need a sleeping bag and pad. It looks like we will be Couchsurfing to save some money. It’s a good thing because it’s expensive there I hear. He has been very busy with school so I didn’t get very many details. Were going to a place named Films/Laxx. I’m leaving tomorrow.