Sunday, March 13, 2016

Status Report

Disappointed that U Lasiku was closed. Too early in the season.

When last we spoke, two months ago, I was pledging to lose weight, get in shape, get my mojo back, and ride and blog more in this space.

I can report progress on almost all of those fronts.

Since January 4, I've lost more than 9 kilos (20 pounds). I've gained muscle mass, according to my nutritionist, and my visceral body fat percentage has plummeted. I'm taking the stairs whenever I can. I feel good. I wore a concert T-shirt yesterday that I had been embarrassed to wear for years, for fear of looking like Will Ferrell in the famous "More Cowbell" sketch.

I'm wearing my Fitbit all the time, and walking regularly -- an average of 10,000 steps a day. Last week, I walked 35 miles (56 kilometers) and climbed 216 floors.

And I'm pleased to report that I went out on my first ride of the year on March 7 -- a bracing 22.5-kilometer jaunt from my apartment in Prague 6 to the village of Unetice. I had intended to grab a drink and maybe something to eat at the charming U Lasiku, but it was, sadly, shuttered, and there were no outdoor tables set up yet at the pivovar (and I'm not drinking beer at the moment anyway), so I just came back home.

It was a cold, windy, muddy ride, like I used to do so often, so I feel as if I finally, truly broke my new bike in, a year after buying it.

I've got about 5 pounds (2.5 kilos) to go to reach my interim goal of losing 25 pounds by my birthday on April 24. I've told myself that I'd reward myself with a new tattoo (subject matter to be determined). After that, I'll set another weight goal timed to when we head to Croatia again, in late July.

Keep reading, and keep riding.

Length of ride: 22.5 kilometers
Max speed: 33.5 kph
Average speed: 15.0 kph
Time on the bike: 1:29:16
Distance ridden so far in 2016: 22.5 kilometers

I had the trails all to myself.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A New Year, A Renewed Effort

Like almost everyone else in the galaxy, I've resolved to lose some weight and get in shape in 2016. I'm on Weight Watchers (which has worked successfully for me in the past), I've ordered a Fitbit Charge HR wristband, and I've got a weight goal tied to my birthday on April 24 and a reward for myself if I reach my goal (a new tattoo).

And as part of this effort, I hope to ride more in 2016 and blog more about it. (And I hope to post more on my other blog, Gusto, too.) Even though I bought a new bike early last year, I hardly rode at all last year. Pitiful, really.

It's been cold and snowy and now gray and rainy for the past week or so here in Prague. So in the meantime, before I get back on the bike again, here are some photos from a ride I took in October or November of last year. I rode around Stromovka park and along the Vltava River and down toward Liben. That's always a great ride.

Thanks for reading. I hope to post more rides and photos here soon. I hope the new year is a good one for you and your family.

Some black-and-white shots of the new bridge over the Vltava between Troja and Liben.


A little video of some kayakers negotiating the slalom between Troja and Liben.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Prague Joy Riding

The suspension bridge near the Prague Zoo.

I wanted to share some quick memories from four rides I took recently.

-- I rode to work one morning from my flat in Prague 6 to my office in Prague 10, a ride of around 40 kilometers, if I remember correctly. (I somehow lost my notes on the trip.) I took the bike path on the east side of the river to Libeň, then across to Karlin, up the pedestrian tunnel to Žižkov, and then winding my way on some back streets to my job near the Želivského metro station. I was pleased to make this trip mostly on bike paths, although the last few kilometers were on busy roads, which was no fun.

-- I took a 34-kilometer ride with my pal Stewart and his two boy, Jules and Ronan,  on the east side of the Vltava to one of our favorite haunts, Marina Vltava in Nelahozeves, just past Kralupy, for lunch. I ended up hopping on a train crowded with dozens of other cyclists and their bikes in Kralupy for the ride home.

-- A solo ride of 25 kilometers along that same path but not nearly as far. I rode a few kilometers past Klecany and then turned around. It was more of an exercise ride than anything.

-- And a second solo exercise ride of 21 kilometers along the same path.

As always in Prague, each of these rides was filled with interesting sights, a few surprises, and a couple of cold beers.

Another view of the suspension bridge near the Prague Zoo.

This is part of the path on the east side of the Vltava toward Kralupy. For most of the trip, it's quite a nice, paved path. But then it turns slightly nasty -- and exciting -- for a few kilometers when it skirts the top of a wall with the Vltava far below. You can't tell it from this photo, but it's probably a six or seven meter drop to the river below, and as you can see, there's no guard rail to keep you from falling. In fact, two cycling pals have fallen into the river around this spot. One suffered some broken ribs and had to be evacuated by emergency medical boat. It's a dangerous strip, but I like it, perhaps for the adrenaline rush. But you do have to be careful, especially if you're riding with kids. (READ MORE ABOUT ONE OF THOSE FAMOUS FALLS HERE.)

I've long admired these reliefs above apartment-building doors on a block of Malešická in Prague 10. Usually, I'm in a car. This time, I was on my bike, and decided to stop and take some photos. I don't know the story behind them. Perhaps someone out there does.

On my way home from work, I met up with Andy (left) and Mike, two friends and work colleagues, for a couple of beers at Camp and Hostel Žižkov Prague, a very cool campground, beer garden, concert venue, and playground all wrapped up in one. Great place. And they even had live music on a Wednesday night. Thanks to Mike for the find.

At Camp and Hostel Žižkov Prague.

There's some sort of endangered snake that lives along the bike path near the Prague Zoo.

Heading north toward Klecany.

Ronan and Jules wanted to check out a big quarry along the path toward Kralupy.

Beautiful country house and ruin along the path toward Kralupy.

Modern industrial chic.

Ancient industrial chic.

A classic Czech lunch at Marina Vltava -- fried Hermelín or Edam cheese with tartar sauce.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A View From The Bridge

It was always a bridge too far. Too far into the urban jungle of Prague's Prague 3 district. Too far from  my house. Too far from where we usually wanted to ride.

But I loved that bridge. I passed underneath it many times on my way to work, watching as runners and cyclists and walkers quickly crossed and then disappeared and I'd always wonder, "Where does that path begin, and where does it lead? And what's the view from up there?"

My usual view of The Bridge, from below, taken from my car on a rainy afternoon

I celebrated my 54th birthday a few weeks back and, just by chance, I had the day off. I asked Stewart if he was up for a ride of urban exploration, instead of our usual off-road hijinks. The ride would certainly involve cars and traffic lights and busy streets, but hopefully it would make up for that by throwing a few pleasant surprises into our path.

The Bridge, from up-top, at last

Stewart met me at my flat in Prague 6, like a true gentleman a bottle of Grant's in his hand for my big day, and we set off.

First stop: the beer garden at Letna for a quick morning tipple, before crossing Štefánikův Most and winding our way through the streets of Old Town to where I thought the path likely began: somewhere near the confluence of Husitská and Seifertova streets, not far from the main train station, Hlavní nádraží.

The rather unassuming start of the paved city trail, at the top of the stairs

We did find it, a decidedly unassuming start to what is actually a cool, paved cycling path that winds its way along what used to be an old train track beneath Vitkov Hill that runs parallel to Husitská and Konevova streets. (My cycling buddy David Murphy wrote in detail about this new path when it first opened in 2010. You can read that post here.)

The bridge crossing comes pretty quickly, and it felt great to finally be up there, looking down for once, from what must have once held the weight of locomotives.

(UPDATE: Thanks to reader Jakub Cikhart, I've discovered that the bridge is called Velká Hrabovka. Read more about it here, in Czech.)

We passed through a cool tunnel (the first of two on this trip) and discovered a fanciful pub, sadly not yet open, named U Vystřeleného oka (The Shot-Out Eye) (Note to Self: Make a return visit soon); stopped at Zahrádky Žižkov, a huge beer garden full of dozens and dozens of tents that seems as if it was built on an old abandoned lot, all overgrown and kinda shabby but also kinda cool, with a children's playground smack dab in the middle (only in Prague!); and then headed toward Vitkov Hill and the huge statue of the celebrated, one-eyed (hence the name of the aforementioned pub) Hussite General Jan Žižka atop a giant steed, at 22-meters high one of the largest equestrian statues in the world. It's an impressive bit of bronze, to say the least, and the site offers sweeping views across much of Prague.

The bronze statue was unveiled in 1950 and was designed by Bohumil Kafka. The total weight of the statue is said to be 16.5 tons.

(Read more about Žižka here, including how it's said he had a drum fashioned from his own flesh so that he could lead his troops into battle even after he was dead.)

From there, we took the Žižkov-Karlín pedestrian tunnel down into Karlín, discovering (or should I say, rediscovering, since Stewart and I had had a beer here back in 2001 or so, as I remember) a wonderful pub called U Tunelu situated just at the bottom of the tunnel. Step inside and step back in time. The place is a dream of a pub, with Art Deco cabinetry above the bar and all sort of antique knick-knacks scattered about the interior. They even served our beer in mugs that had been chilling in an ice bath. Fantastic place.

And two doors down is Peter's Burger Pub, where we sat outside and wolfed down a couple of tasty burgers (not the best in town, but pretty decent) and another beer or two.

At the Forgotten Sculpture Garden

From there, our goal was to find the bike path that we knew existed that would connect us to Prague 8 and Libeň. We found it pretty quickly, a dusty trail on the other side of Rohanské nábřeží that took us past the Forgotten Sculpture Garden, after which we connected with the trails that took us back down the Vltava toward the Prague Zoo, Troja, Stromovka, another beer, and home to Prague 6.

Thanks to Stewart for braving the streets with me. I actually find it quite exhilarating to ride in the city for some reason. There are few bike lanes in the city center, and the drivers here are notoriously hostile to cyclists, but I still like it. It's the sense of freedom, I guess, when everyone else is closed up in their cars, waiting at stop lights. And a declaration of sorts, I guess, that we have every right to share the road (as long as we obey the rules!). 

Anyway, what a great trip. Happy birthday to me!


Length of ride: 26 kilometers
Average speed: 12.8 kph
Maximum speed: 29.5 kph
Time on the bike: 1:58:51
Pivo Index: 6 (4.9 ppk)

The start of the Žižkov-Karlín pedestrian tunnel

I've had a lot of beers in Prague, but this was the first pub I can remember visiting where they kept the mugs cool in a bath of ice water.

U Tunelu's interior

Peter's Burger Pub

The new bridge over the Vltava, between the zoo and Liben 

 Zahrádky Žižkov, a charming dump of a place

Some amazing bas-reliefs on a giant door at the Vitkov monument

Near the top of Vitkov Hill

Inside the Žižkov-Karlín pedestrian tunnel

The Shot-Out Eye

At the Shot-Out Eye

Inside the train tunnel

Sharing the path with a skateboarder

In Letna, overlooking the city, with the first beers of the day

Thanks, Stewart!

A closeup of one of the bas-reliefs at Vitkov

Karlin has really experienced a renaissance since the disastrous floods of 2002. Forum Karlin is a cool place to see a concert. I saw Jack White there last year.