We are now in Bucharest. Our 4 days of riding from Baile Herculane (where I made my last blog post) have been interesting, to say the least. Ten miles out of Baile Herculane one of our riders hit a cow at 20 mph (she was moving, the cow was not). I was the first to come upon her (this is becomming repetitive, see prior post about our tour leader hitting the pavement). I saw her sitting by the side of the rode with her front wheel in her hands and assumed she had a flat. I slowed down to help her and, as I rounded a turn, I saw the true culprits — a herd of cows now milling chaotically across the road with the small, old lady shepardess shouting at them, or me, or the rider who hit them. When I got to the rider she told me she had hit a cow. The impact completely severed the carbon forks attaching the front wheel to the bike, and also severed the front brake cable. Amazingly, she was barely injured with just a few bruises and scrapes. As best as we can figure, the carbon forks and front wheel (mangled) absorbed most of the impact, and she did a shoulder block into the startled cow, thus having a relatively soft impact. We had no cell phone signal we sent a rider ahead to tell our ride support people of the incident. The rest of the ride that day was spectacular. We were climbing out of a narrow canyon with steep rock walls on both sides. By the time we got to the top of the climb (our lunch spot) we had climbed over 2000 feet in about 15 miles. After lunch we had a great 12 mile descent, but due to the irregular pavement (the norm in Romania) it was not as exhilarating as it might have been. The rest of the day we rode through a beautiful broad valley on flat roads. Day 2 on the way to Bucharest was the hardest biking day I’ve ever had. To avoid a major highway, we took small roads throught the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. The road conditions were TERRIBLE, with short but very steep hills (10% + grades for you bike techies) followed by short but equally steep descents. Because the road conditions were so bad, you could not relax and recover on the down hills. By lunch, we had ridden 36 miles and climbed 3,500 feet. Everyone was fatigued, but we still had another 35 miles to ride to our destination. Fortunately, that was on the highway which had relatively good pavement and was relatively flat. But, the traffic was definitely frightening. Amazingly, I felt very strong that afternoon and even pulled a pace line of younger riders the last 15 miles to our camp! We camped that night at a pension, and witnessed a Romanian wedding. The bride and groom brought us a bottle of champagne and pinned flowers on several of our riders. Little did we know that his was a payoff for tolerating the live music that went on until 4:00 a.m. The Romanian villages are very third world. Livestock (cows, sheep, goats, geese, ducks and chickens) are common on and around all of the roads. Horse drawn wagons giant loads of hay or anything else that can be hauled. There are lots of “old” people, who generally are doing manual labor in the fields with hoes and scythes (if they are not pushing or pulling heavily laden wooden carts). I suspect that these old people may be not so old, they just look that way. Even on major highways (think two lane roads with major traffic) livestock and wooden carts are not uncommon. Our third day to Bucharest was a fine ride. We were on the highway, but it was Sunday and the traffic was tame. Decent road surface with great rolling hill and fun riding. On our fourth day into Bucharest we met for lunch in a suburb and did a caravaned ride into a camp site. One of our vans in front (with lights flashing), riders closely following two-by-two, and a our other van following. At major intersections, designated riders (traffic monitors) went in front of the lead van and stopped traffic until the entire caravan passed, regardless of pesky annoyances like red lights. This worked fine until we came to a major rotary that had more access roads than we had traffic monitors. I peeled off and held back several lanes, then caught up with the group. At the next major intersection, the light turned red against as after the lead van and only about 1/3 of the riders had made it accross. Our instructions were to stay together at all cost, so we did – against the red light. (Barbara, I know you are shuddering when you read this). One of our bike monitors is a big, atheletic guy from Cape Town. He virtually physically stopped a car that was intent on breaking through our caravan by pounding the windshield with is fist. The male in the car clearly felt he had to defend the honor of the female rider, so he jumped out of passenger side and started shouting in Romanian. Our South African hero responded with “Hey dude, we’ve got bike riders ahead!” He then escaped futher encouter by joining the caravan as the last rider made it through the intersection. The ride is now taking its toll on riders. Several have spent full or partial days riding in our van due to various aches, pains and ailments (sore wrists, “tummy” problems for those who insist it is ok to drink tap water and eat raw vegies”, numb hands from ulnar nerve compression, fatigue, etc., etc, etc.). Amazingly, the cow girl (see first paragraph) actually rode two days after her encounter on the almost repaired bike of our fallen leader. It wasn’t pretty, but she did get back in the saddle, as they say. Tomorrow we ride to Bulgaria. Four days until we reach or rest day in the sea front town of Varna, where I will post again.
(please excuse typos and other errors, I’m not proofing these posts)
posted Tuesday July 2007