Category: Europe

Bratislava Sounds

Spoking tiled lane old part of the city, intersecting trolley rails, flickering leaves fronting domed building spire backdrop. Its own hilltop castle, we’ll tomorrow visit via steep streets curling ’round and affording better and better […]

Hungary Postcard

Three border region with Austria and Slovakia, yellow and dark and bright green grasses vanishing eachward, crooked crosshatched with dirt double track, old main routes, current farm machinery avenues, hunters’ alleys to favorite glades. So […]

The Gloßglockner Hochalpenstraßen

Pitch subsides, marginally. It’s a sign of my disconnected from reality full AM sunshine twilight that the fact that the Garmin shows 11%, down from the last nearly two kilometers of 14, is a relief. Breathing feels far away and in the past the way it does after over an hour of climbing. Green and churched valley: ramps and distance and memory too now, to snow fields, matte grey veins where the frost has broken free, blacktop mostly dry flowing lift.

Austria’s Glossglockner Alpine Mountain Road, from Heiligenblut to its dual high points, then down to Fusch. Eponymous javelin tip in front of a collage of sharp hulks. Didn’t intend for this to be a great climbs of Europe trip, but. Accidentally back and forth with a pilgriming club from French speaking Switzerland, in their midsts pretending that I’m not in trail walking shoes and ankle socks, receive nods or grim smiles when they go by, when I go by, when our hubs are almost level against the tiny surges and shakes. Before the first tunnel they angle off to a box van for cut in half bananas, full bottles, vests. I carry on into the short yellow bulb lit span, ice stalagtites at regular ticks, cold shock and the amplified roar, cars entering the opposite side.


Italy Postcard

June valleys practicing for brazen summer heat, MC stops to climb a tree to pick cherries. Bristle brush dark greens top unambitious foothills over irregularly shaped fields yellow to lime, then Dolomite grey holding up […]

Dolomites Bike Day

20130624-101742.jpg We’d seen signs in towns and at turns off to passes featuring cheery cartoon figures made of hearts in a chain that might have been worms but might not have, European event advertising is funny that way. They announced “Bike Day.” At our refugio MC looked it up, “Oh, obviously you have to do it. It’s an omen that bike day is tomorrow.”

See, Bike Day in the Dolomites isn’t like bike day in other places. Dolomites bike day is where the relevant municipalities close down the roads linking four incredible mountain passes from 8am to 3pm to create a loop open only to cyclists. The organizers chime in with the helpful suggestion that one ride anti-clockwise. That’s it. There’s no registration or fee, you show up whatever time you like, you ride as much or as little as you care to (or, um, can), no one keeps time and no one cares the slightest what kind of bicycle you are on. My back of the envelope calculation was that there would be ten thousand feet of climbing in 75k from where I was starting. I’d been sick for a week, had done no hill work for months, and only had a polo shirt, baggies, and hiking shoes. For the inevitable thunderstorms there was Margaret’s sized extra tiny parka. I’d been operating according to the principle that, while on honeymoon, there’d be no death pedals or days in a row without, you know, food or water or washing. We’d made it three in this lovely part of Italy. It wasn’t obvious that Bike Day would fit with the program, therefore it was absolutely going to be a good day.

Cycling Letters

[This is a letter from Nathan Dahlberg, former professional road racer with 7-11, Motorola, and Spago, among others, and veteran of two Tours de France. Nathan still races bicycles, but is also a keen adventure cyclist. We’ve traveled together in Pakistan, China, and in his native New Zealand. Posted with permission.]

Dear All,

Yes, had a great time in Belgium and Holland over a period of 3 1/2 weeks, the highlights being, of course, meeting my old friends and also a certain amount of nostalgia over being back in familiar places (even watching a Pro Kermess in Sinaii bought back some good memories). Training from Mens house in Munster Geleen deep into the Ardennes alone and with Chris Macic reminded me of what a great (and very underrated) area that is to ride a bike, particularly around Stavelot, always hard even to return for home after training down there. I also got the great chance to race 11 more times in just under 3 weeks, and though cycling has slipped into being a relatively minor sport in the last 28 years since I first went to Europe (although the TDF thrives as always) there are still enough races and enough good riders to make it a 3 week period well worth the effort.

Racing hasn’t changed, it’s still very individualist and pure as sport goes although the roads are far different. Long gone are the cobbled lanes and even rough roads, now it’s all fast asphalt and racing is more a high speed dash like track racing than some of the grinds of years gone. The basics are the same (including the prize money or lack)…