Friday, September 23, 2016

No Broken Legs

Looking out from inside a tunnel that leads to train tracks near Nelahozeves.

Cottages along the Vltava.

"I'm not worried about things that will injure me. Only stuff that can kill me." -- Scott Bellefeuille

I took an actor friend of mine on a bike ride the other day.

Scott Bellefeuille came to Prague for the first time back in the early 1990s. He began performing on various Prague stages pretty much right from the get-go. At least until a few years ago, when he moved with his wife, Eva, to Arizona, where he runs his own business.

But he was enticed to return to the boards to play the smooth-talking Lord Buckingham in Prague Shakespeare Company’s production of “Richard III” -- part of the Summer Shakespeare Festival outdoors at Prague Castle and for a one-night-only show at the historic Estates Theatre.

At some eerily carved sandstone cliffs near Nelahozeves.

I had a small role as Richard III’s biker-gang thug Ratcliffe, which is how I first ran into Scott. Turns out he is an avid mountain biker and a regular reader of my blog. Of course, we had to go out for a ride.

The problem was, should I show Scott show of my favorite trails around Prague or vice versa? We opted for the former. The latter will come on Scott’s next trip here.

I decided to take him on the route we call Baker’s Falls, one of my all-time favorite rides, named in honor of our infrequent cycling buddy Mark Baker, who had the distinct displeasure, in 2009, of falling backwards with his bike into the Vltava River from the top of a high wall that the trail runs atop. He was, miraculously, unhurt. (Read all about it in one of my most popular posts here.) Another cycling friend of ours also fell from the wall, but he was unlucky enough to have broken a few ribs in the process and had to be evacuated by river ambulance. Awful day, that was, and I wasn't even there.

We call it the iron bridge. Not sure if it's really iron, but it is no longer open to car traffic and is a very cool way to get from the west side of the river to the east, just above Nelahozeves.

It’s a thrilling ride. I really love the tiny whiff of danger that comes with his trail now, after these mishaps. Scott wasn’t intimidated. He says he’s used to riding on trails in Arizona where rattlesnakes are a frequent hazard and on some hair-raising clifftop paths in Moab, Utah.

Scott and I had a great day. The weather was hot and sunny, the beer was cold and wet, and, since it was a weekday, the trails were empty.

I hadn’t ridden in quite some time (as you can tell from the pitiful posting that's happened on this blog as of late), and this was not a quickie (57 kilometers/35 miles). I was really dragging for the last 10 kilometers or so. And I slept like a stone that night and could barely get out of bed the next morning. My butt hurt real bad.

But I’m looking forward to hitting some new trails with Scott on his next trip back, and riding more in general and posting here more. In fact, I’ve been meaning to write about an epic trip that I took with Stewart and Brian back in April. Yes, April.

As usual, no excuses. Just busy, I guess. Stay tuned.

Length of ride: 57 kilometers (35 miles)
Average speed: 16.2 kph
Maximum speed: 35.1 kph
Time on the bike: 3:30:42
Pivo Index: 4

Road block on the trail to Klecany.

Serious tire chains.

Never get tired of these undulating sandstone cliffs.

Nelahozeves Castle, owned by the Lobkowicz family. The village also features the birth home of Antonin Dvorak.

No caption needed. Those delicious Pilsners were about $1.50 each, for those of you keeping score at home.

We came across this old Cadillac in the village of Klecany. You never know what you're going to find when you head out on the trails in this country.

I wonder if she runs.


A small tunnel through a sandstone cliff near Nelahozeves leads to a train tunnel. It's always a thrill when you time it right and a speeding train whizzes past just a few meters away.

I picked up a few passengers along the way.


Scott and his bike and a weeping willow along the Vltava.

We paused at the place where I believe Mark took his tumble into the river.

Trail riding doesn't get much prettier than this.

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.