hills

Cycling Europe Day 44: When Hope Returns

I didn’t get killer hills today!!

Turnov, Czech Republic

Turnov, Czech Republic

I got thunder, lightening, intense rain showers, and absolutely soaking wet.

BUT I DIDN’T GET KILLER HILLS TODAY!

You have no idea how happy I am. I cycled 95km today. In the best of conditions that is a lot for me. The terrain was not flat by any means. It was mildly undulating. For most of the ride it was raining really hard. I had to be extra careful so I wouldn’t slip. I got splashed on countless times by trucks and cars. I had to change my upper body clothes twice because I got so wet I was shivering. I had to pee more times than normal probably because I was feeling cold. But did any of that matter to me? Not one bit as long as I did not get the killer hills!

Everything is so relative. If I had a ride like today just some time last week, I’d have been miserable. But now that I’ve seen TRULY miserable, almost anything is better in comparison.

I’ve been thinking about my visit to Prague and other large cities and why they don’t impress me much anymore. The advantage to doing the kind of trip I’m doing is that you get to see so much more of a country than you would by taking planes or driving a car on motorways. You see the backroads and the small towns and villages. You stop and eat in the tiniest of roadside restaurants. You see how people live across the country and the differences in standards of living. You stop in towns where tourists rarely, if ever, go.

I wouldn’t say that you get to see the REAL country and people. The capital city, with its inhabitants, usually smarter lifestyle, tourists, and tourist attractions are all part of what makes a certain country what it is. But it’s only a part.

That made me reflect on Egypt. Cairenes tend to think of Cairo as being Egypt. Not only that, Egyptians who live outside of Cairo, when traveling to Cairo, will say they are going to Masr, the Arabic word for Egypt. When I think about all the horrible things I dislike about living in Egypt, most of them are related only to living in Cairo: such as the awful traffic. I’ve always said that the second one sets foot outside of Cairo, one sees how beautiful Egypt actually is. (more…)

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Cycling Europe Day 42: When the Roads Get Tough, The Tough Get Pumping

Where do I start?

I didn't take any pictures today so you get to see this one again from three days ago when I crossed the border from Austria to the Czech Republic.

I didn’t take any pictures today so you get to see this one again from three days ago when I crossed the border from Austria to the Czech Republic.

I’ll start with the best part of today, which might possibly be one of the best parts of this whole trip.

I was coasting very fast down a big hill. I cycled for most of today on very quiet back roads surrounded largely on both sides by small forests with a few small lakes interspersed. Suddenly, something jumped straight ahead of me over a guardrail and into the road. For a millisecond, I thought it was a big fox. But in the milliseconds that followed and as I almost smashed into it, I realized it was a deer. We almost crashed! It continued to sprint to the other side of the road and into the trees. It was just me and the deer for a very brief period of time on that road. I let out a “Oooooo!” The first two O’s were frightened O’s and the rest were excited O’s. Then I laughed out loud. What an amazing experience! What an absolutely amazing experience.

This wasn’t the first time on this trip for me to see a deer leap across the road. Once, in Spain, while I was standing on a parking shoulder on a semi-busy road eating a banana, I suddenly saw a deer cross the train tracks below me, leap upward onto the road, and then across. That one was further away though than the one I saw today.

Other than that, today was really really rough. I cycled for 131km, most of which were steep, rolling hills. I was actually a pretty good sport about it until it was all over. Every time I came up to the next hill, I just put my head down and pedaled. What else could I do? What choices did I have? None. If I wanted to get anywhere today I would have to cycle on those hills, so I did.

I broke down crying when I spoke to my husband, though. I was a good sport, yes. But it was really really hard.

To put things into perspective, (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 41: True to Myself

When God created what is now the Czech Republic, He made the earth roll like endless

This picture and the ones below are in Jihlava, Czech Republic.

This picture and the ones below are in Jihlava, Czech Republic.

waves in a stormy ocean.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. So ridiculous I’m not even going to complain. What’s the use? I’ll just have to suck it up, grit my teeth, and deal.

And so I’m really tired. That’s not complaining – it’s statement of fact. Every time I saw a hill today (which was every five minutes) I’d give a little sob and decide I was going to get off my bike and walk up that hill. Then I’d roll my eyes at myself and pedal my way up just this last one. That went on for 90km.

Yesterday’s cycle was actually worse because it was 130km of hills. When I got to 75km yesterday I stopped for a burger and complained to my husband. “Just take it ten kilometers at a time, darling,” he said.

That’s actually a great strategy that I’ve used on and off with various distances. Today I

Jihlava is a small town with a big McDonalds smack in its center.

Jihlava is a small town with a big McDonalds smack in its center.

used the ten kilometer strategy. I started off and told myself that 80km was actually just eight ten-kilometers. Ten kilometers is EASY for me to do; so surely I could do eight of them just as easily! I knew my total distance was actually nearer to 90km but I decided not to count the extra distance.”When you have 5-15km left in a ride, you’re basically done. So you don’t need to count the last few kilometers,” I convinced myself.

So I cycled ten kilometers and gave myself a pat on the back. “Now all you have to do, Nadia, is get to 20km,” I’d tell myself. It sounded very reasonable to me so I worked on that. And so on. I was dead tired for most of the way. But as a mental strategy it does help. I used a similar strategy while climbing Kilimanjaro a few short years ago. “Can you put your left foot down in front of you? Yes. Can you now put your right foot down in front of you? Yes.” And I just climbed, literally one small step at a time.

I don’t know how I would have managed to get this far without my husband’s support. Every single day he tells me how great I’m doing. He makes me feel like a super hero. He wasn’t always supportive when this was still in the idea stage, mind you. And I tell you this not to publicly put down my husband but to mainly ward off the evil eye from my marriage. It’s also important for people to understand that everything requires some give and take. Colin was very worried about me going on a trip like this on my own. I think it was when he realized how determined I was to go through with this and when he saw how meticulously I worked on the details that he really stepped up to pull through for me. Colin is the only person who I can show my miserable face to on our nightly Skype calls and not expect him to negatively judge me, put me down, or tell me to do anything less than I had originally planned to. He always tells me to keep going. He always tells me that I can do this. And I end up believing him.

A few people have interjected here and there when I’ve expressed exhaustion in my posts. “Slow down and enjoy yourself,” was the message. When I was at my absolute most miserable today, I briefly decided I wouldn’t write about it. “It’s not what people want to hear,” I heard myself think. I stopped myself right there. I don’t write what people want to hear. I write was IS. If people don’t like it that’s their problem.

Enjoyment is not everybody’s everyday goal. (more…)