Hard Traveling- Bicycle Journey Day 3
“I’ve been having some hard travelin’, I thought you’d know. I’ve been having some hard travelin’ way down the road.”
Rode out of Komeriz comfortably at 8AM on a newly fixed up bicycle. I had the rear wheel, tire, and sprocket all replaced with new parts, and we were riding high now. Going good, going good through the beautiful countryside of the Czech Republic. This was no indication of what was to come.
Beautiful path through the Czech Republic countryside.
I pumped pedals like this for around 10 hours through beautiful field, orchard, and village; passed lakes and flew along river banks under a big blue sky. Then it got hard going. I hit a stretch where the bike trail skirted a highway and the trail signs did not match up with my map. One modern highway town gave way to another and another. There were not many places worth stopping to take a rest.
My map showed a campsite a few towns south so I just kept on riding. My perception grew wobbly and my vision shaky. I was entering the first stages of exhaustion. But I kept going. There was nothing else that I could do other than kneel down on the side of the highway and prolong the purgatory. I then made a perilous wrong turn – I missed a bike route sign completely – and I ended up following a canal way out into real nowhere. The fishermen on the canal looked at me like I was a booger stuck to the moustache of their doctor while he perilously hovered over them during an examination, and I, in turn, felt like a misplaced booger. I simply did not belong where I was. My bicycle packed with gear going out into what the fishermen knew as a nowhere route was sort of odd looking, I am sure. But I rode on anyway, ignorantly watching the interplay of cloud, sky, and water.
Czech church on the long road south.
I was slightly delirious from over-exposure, days worth of ungratifying meals, and pure, basic overwork, but I soon realized that the quickly petering out canal path into the nether regions of Moravia was not the way to Slovakia. So I turned around, rode back by the fishermen – they still looked at me like I was a booger – and returned all the way to the point where I turned off onto the canal. I then noticed a little hidden yellow bike route sign that had 47 written on it pointing in a different direction that I went. It was my route south.
So I jumped back onto the glorious 47 trail and was pleased that I at least now had the comfort of knowing that I was on the long southern Road once again. The affection with which a traveler can feel towards a path is astonishing. I was beginning to fall in love with this 47 bicycle route and the little yellow signs that showed me its shapes, figure, and curves. Her ups and downs and her turns and changes were looking real beautiful to me after three days of riding. A Path can become animate to those who travel it.
I was feeling these great feelings of well place love now as I gave up resistance and just relied on the Path to show me the Way. I no longer checked map or compass, I just rode from little yellow sign to little yellow sign, blowing them sweet kisses as I passed. I was becoming seriously exhausted.
Soon I rode out of a field and right into the complete converse of anything I could have expected:A Czech folk festival was in full swing at the terminus of where the bike trail led into the town of Straznice. Men were adorned in lavish costumes and the women were not to be outdone. They were singing folk songs of old and everybody was drinking beer. Lots of beer.
I pushed my bike through the crowd as if in a dream. Czechs from centuries ago danced to and fro singing and basking in all out merriment. I found a quiet place to lay down in to try to make some sense of this scene. For more than ten hours I was pushing pedals through the blue emptiness of day with only my own thoughts to keep me company, and now I was flung into the throng of thousands of people smiling, yelling, and intoxicating themselves in celebration.
The search for your bearings – your marbles – is one of the greatest experiences of traveling. I knew that this abrupt change in my surroundings could not ever be made sense of, so I just laid down in a grassy area, let the music flow into my ears, and watched the festivities with a satisfied smile. As I had unloaded my burden to the ground, I felt the all encompassing joy of severe physical exertion coming to an abrupt halt. I breathed in deeply and let all of my muscles settle into the good and restful earth.
I watched the festivities carry on and scribbled a few notes into my Moleskine:
“Laughing, joking, yelling, the Czech man is a friendly drunk.”
“Czech men in traditional clothing for festival. I think they wish that they could dress like this all the time.”
“Even through the costumes, I can tell that culture is very thick here.”
Route south to Slovakia.
I remained stuck like this for a long time, just writing little notes and enjoying the happiness that was flowing in waves all around me. When I finally rose again to try to find a place to sleep, it was getting near nighttime.
I initially just figured that I would find the campground that was drawn on my map and drop a $5 bill for a restful night of sleep with running water facilities. But when the campground did not present itself to be where my map said it should, I took to the trails that crossed through the fields around the festival area. It was twilight now, and the fields were not accommodating for the prospective camper. Corn, swamp, corn, wetland was how they progressed. No place seemed very inviting or even campable. I then spotted a nice little raised up clearing ahead on the trail and rode to meet it with a smile. But when I arrived, to my fallow despair, I realized that this perfect little camping place was already occupied. Yes, a nice big tent with two legs sticking out of it was placed right where I wanted to sleep out the night. So I kept on searching for a sleeping place. Nowhere proved accommodating. The entire area was either scrubland, wetland, or cornfield, none of which I wanted to sleep in. So I kept on.
I returned back to the festival area, spotted an orchard, and made a break for it. Just as I had committed to the trespass I noticed two lights coming towards me. It was just a couple people with flashlights on the nearby trail, and I was not overtly concerned, but I still retreated from the orchard anyway. Good thing. The flashlights were held by police officers making the rounds of the nearby fields because of the large influx of people that the festival brought to this small city. I walked by the cops as if I had a direction to be going in, and gave up sleeping in this area.
It was fully dark now, and I rode into Straznice to try to find the bike trail that lead to the other side. It proved to be very difficult to locate in the dark, but I saw a sign for a campground and went to it. I was very tired. When I arrived I ordered up what I thought was a site from the sleazy campground attendent. He tried to charge me twice the amount to camp there. No, I do not speak Czech, but I can read the numbers on a sign. But I was in no position to argue, as my fatigue by now overrode my monetary senses. I agreed to take the site at the inflated price and went out to find it. To my great despair the campground was just a small field that had tents butted end to end against each other. It was packed with people, and hardly a sliver of space remained. I also did not have a self supporting tent, and I needed at least a tree or a fence to set my poncho up as a sort of mock shelter. No such supports were present, and I thought for a minute how ridiculous I would look just sleeping out amongst the stars in a field full of a hundred campers with nice tents and camping gear. This would not do.
I got into the orchard quickly, made a little camp for myself, and laid back and relaxed as I looked up at the stars. But just as I began breathing restful breathes, I heard a car coming my way on the path. I looked up and noticed with a start that the car had a big spotlight attached to it that was slowly moving side to side. It was the police, and they were looking for someone- probably me. I then made a mad dash to cover up the reflector on the backend of my bicycle with my black Carhartt jacket, and with my Kelty backpack and North Face messenger bag in my arms I quickly rolled backwards down a hill full of brambles and shrubs that I was previously perched on the apex of. I watched as the police spotlight flittered above my head, as I was on the lee side of a little hill completely tangled up in a mass of weeds. I held my breathe and only released it when I was sure that the spotlight was pointed elsewhere. I had not been spotted.
I then peaked up and noticed that the police were inspecting another area of the orchard and realized that I had to make a quick break for it. This orchard was obviously not a good place to sleep. I then cursed and scoffed as I was routed out of a comfortable sleeping place for the second time this night by the police. I ran away while pushing my bicycle to the far side of the orchard. I made it to the bike trail and just rode far, far out of town in the direction that I had come into it. It was now passed midnight, and I realized that I had been going with little rest for the passed 16 hours. I was shaking with exhaustion. Soon I made it to the village to the north of Straznice, and set off to get far out into the countryside. I did so, but people were very much awake on this night partying, drinking, and having an all out good time. I found far too many seemingly empty fields occupied with partiers or weirdoes. This was getting really hard.
I finally peddled hard to the far, far countryside until I could not go anymore, and just collapsed behind a tree in a ditch on the side of a farm road. I could not move anymore, and I just wrapped myself up in my Carhartt jacket and a sleeping bag and, with a satirical little laugh and a quick look up to the beautiful star-speckled sky, fell off to vagabond dreams with my head in the dirt.
I think the crickets were even laughing at me on this night.