Monday, September 21, 2009

CRW Fall Metric Century + (9/20/09)

CRW Fall Metric Century +

Trip: CRW’s 100k + ride home
Distance: 90 miles
Difficulty: 9 (out of 10)
Scenery: 7 (out of 10)

I awoke: 6:18, shit

I missed when I was supposed to be ready to go for the century ride. Fortunately, I still had time to make it to the half century. After a ride to Andrew’s house to pick up his mountain bike and then out to Acton-Boxboro High, I was ready to go.

The rolling terrain through the Boston exurbs and further out was beautiful. The ride was mapped out great with only a few stretches on busy roads.

35 miles into the ride was the water stop. It is here that three things were pointed out to me:

Number of people on a mountain bike: 1
Number of people not wearing cycling clothes: 1
Number of people smoking: 1

The Charles River Wheelmen put on a good ride and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Afterwards, I realized I missed the 2:30 train to Boston and would have to wait hours for the next. So, I hopped on the bike and rode another 26 miles back into the city.

Great to be back on the long roads with my bike.

Madskillz in the Catskillz (9/5-9/6/09)

From Catskills

Trip One: Kaaterskill Falls
Distance: ½ mile hike
Difficulty: 2 (out of 10)
View: 8 (out of 10)
Sights: Kaaterskill Falls

From Catskills

(Over the Falls)

From Catskills

(Nelly, Carl and Seth Behind the Falls)

From Catskills

Trip Two: Overlook Mtn
Distance: 5 miles
Difficulty: 4 (out of 10)
View: 6.5 (out of 10)
Sights: Catskills Hotel, Fire Tower, Overlook

From Catskills

Andrew in the Ruins

From Catskills

(At the Tower)

From Catskills

(All of us at the overlook)

From Catskills

(Nellie; a bit tired after the hike)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Highland Ride (8/16/09)

View Highland Ride in a larger map

Trip: Loop through the Central Highlands of Maine
Distance: 54.5 miles
Difficulty: Medium - Hard (One tough hill from the Kennebec up Rte. 16)
Sights: Kennebec River, Withee Pond

After 9 holes of golf with my dad at Dexter Municipal, we returned to the Otter Forest. I determined to go on a long ride, as I hadn't been on the road since I was in Croatia.

I looked into the map. Found a good loop and was off.

While the hill out of the Kennebec was tough it was worth it for the views of wilderness and especially Withee Pond near the top.

No misadventures.

In Search of . . . Little Wilson Falls (8/15/09)

Earlier in the summer my mother and her friend had tried to locate "Little Wilson Falls." It appeared an easy hike in my moms 50 Maine Hikes book.

Well, maybe it was once you found the trailhead. As they crossed and recrossed the stream trying to find the trailhead, they found way more water and rapids than they had anticipated on a land hike. They did find the trail eventually, but by then were tired and went into town and had a beer.

So, mom and I determined to find the Falls on this hike. She knew where to cross the stream and start on the trail.

We successfully navigated the slippery rocks and found the trail. Unfortunately, the map was not as helpful as it could have been and the sign for the left turn onto the AT did not exist.

However, we found the right turn onto the AT and instead hiked up for about 1.5 hours into the Maine woods.

No Little Wilson Falls, but we still had fun.

On our return, we were shown by a man from Bristol, TN how to get to Wilson Falls - next time.

Hedgehog Mountain (8/8/09)

View Mt. Hedgehog Hike in a larger map

Trip: Hiking the UNH Loop Trail
Distance: 5 miles
Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Sights: Eastern Ledges,

Upon return from the Balkans, I worried about slipping into the lethargic decadence that Edward Gibbon would have warned us off from.

So on Saturday, my mom and I headed out to the White Mountains. Over the Kancamagus Pass across from the Passaconaway Campground is the parking for the trail head.

In about one hour we had hiked up to the Eastern Ledges with fantastic views of the White Mountains. Another 45 minutes and you have summited Hedgehog Mountain. Then the loop continues down the mountain and back to the parking at the trailhead.

Nothing terribly exciting; but it’s a good hike.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bikespedition – 2009 (April 23 – August 5)

Miles: 1501
Countries on Bike: Greece, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia
Countries on Foot/Train/Plane: Serbia, Switzerland, Liechtenstein (Sweden and Iceland)

From April to August I visited Europe in a wild trip

Part 1 – Greece A: TEFL Shuffle (April 23 – May 23)

In Greece, Section A, I visited the ruins of Athens and my lifelong goals of seeing the Akropolis and Mycenae. I also got my certificate to teach English as a Foreign Language at TEFL-Corinth. At the Corinth Canal, I bungee jumped from the bridge.

Part 2 – Greece B: Across the Peninsula (May 23 – May 31)

In this week I cycled across the Peloponnesian Peninsula. From Corinth I visited Akrata, Patra and Ancient Olympia. Then I cycled to the Killini port to catch a ferry to Kefalonia.

Part 3 – Greece C: Rolling with the Turtles (June 1 – July 7)

For one month I volunteered with the Mediterranean Loggerhead Sea Turtle. I spent nights walking beaches and marking their nests while tagging sea turtles that had come onto the Kefalonian beaches to nest. Days were spent working in the environmental center in Katelios and visiting hidden beaches that were only seen by turtles and volunteers.

Part 3a – Boat Rides (July 7 – 9)

I had to take three boats through three countries to transport Schwarzfahrer and myself from Sami, Greece to Split, Croatia.

Part 4 – Croatia (July 9 – July 25)

I road from Split to Zagreb while visiting three national parks – Krka, Plitvicka Jezera and Paklinica. I saw the old cities of Split, Trogir, Sibenik and Zagreb (highly underrated) and bungee jumped for the second time – off the Sibenik Bridge.

Part 5 – Train Rides and Proverbial Rides (July 25 – July 28)

Took a train from Zagreb to Sofia. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to Sofia, since my passport was stolen in Serbia. Then spent the next 3 days in Belgrade.

Part 6 – Alps, Falls and Home (July 28 – August 5)

I traveled by plane to Zurich. Where I visited Liechtenstein and the Rheinfall and visited my friend Raphael. Then by plane traveled home through Sweden and Iceland.

A complete review can be found in my special bikespedition-2009 blog. But highlights can be found below.

In 1501 miles cycling, 14 boat rides, 15 tram/subway trips, 8 train rides, 2 international bus trips I visited 9 countries: Greece, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Sweden and Iceland.

I slept in 22 places: 2 hostels, one apartment, 11 campgrounds, 2 hotels, a cottage, on the deck of 2 boats, a room over a tavern, on a train and in one friend’s apartment.

I also did countless hours of hiking – both for the turtles and my own edification. I kayaked over 50km, rowed and used a Croatian wooden boat each for a hour. I swam in 4 seas and 2 rivers. I also took 11 rides hitch hiking.

The highest point I attained (other than aboard planes):
1. Mt. Enos, Greece 1628 meters (5,341 feet)
2. Gaflei, Leichtenstein 1509 meters (4,950 feet)

Highest point I reached on bicycle
1. Lubovo Pass, Croatia 975 meters (3,198 feet)
2. Boske Ostanje Pass, Croatia 925 meters(3,035 feet)

Longest Day Cycling
Patra – Olympia 85 miles (137 km)

Worst Day Cycling
Duga Resa – Zagreb

Toughest Day Cycling
Paklenica National Park – Outside Gospic (Including the Boske Ostanje Pass)

Best Trip
1. Plitvicka Jezera National Park, Croatia
2. Argoloid (Mycenae, Nemea, Nafplio and Argos)

Toughest Climb
1. Boske Ostanje Pass, Croatia 925 meters
2. Akrokorinthos, Greece 609 meters

Best Campground
Camp Cikada, near Plivicka Jezera,

Worst Campground
Worst – Argostoli Beach, Greece
Worst for the Money – Camp Jezera, Murtar

Best Bike Mechanic
Pantelis -

Top Speed
38 mph (61km/h) on the Krka Loop Ride

Silliest Thing I did
Flip over a turtle

Most Frightening Moment
1. Sliding down the cliff while trying to climb Mt. Enos
3. Bungee jumping the first time
100+ km days

5 things I’d do again
1. Plitvicka Jezera National Park
2. Krka National Park
3. Bungee jump over the Corinth Canal
4. Kayak in the Ionian Sea
5. The whole idea

5 Things I’d do if I could do it over again
1. Not get my passport stolen
2. Not reschedule parts of my dream trip
3. Learn psi vs bar
4. Ship 50lbs back to the US
5. Bring a better tent

5 favorite views from the trip
1. Anywhere in Plitvicka Jezera, Croatia
2. Overlooking Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia, Greece
3. Sitting in the park at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
4. The stars in Mreznicki Brig, Croatia
5. The gorge we went through on the train ride back to Belgrade, Serbia

5 most annoying people (or groups)
5. The French people sitting on the stairs at Perahora who got pissed when I wanted to walk down the only way to the site.
4. Family who made me walk the speed of their 5 year old most of the way down from Manta Pec in Paklenica.
3. Serbian Guy at the Information booth in Belgrade Train Station who told me there were no ATMs or Bankomats in Belgrade.
2. The guy who stole my passport.
1. The American woman who had to be talked into the 3 more euros to go to the museum at Olympia. Site – 6 euros; Site+Museum – 9 euros. She didn’t want to waste 3 euros to see the best collection of marble statues in Greece. And, she probably wonders why Europeans think Americans are idiots.

Money I made it home with
7 CHF - $6.56
180 ISK - $1.43
30 SEK - $4.19
10.45 HRK - $2.04
15 euro cents - $0.21
167 SRD - $2.89
Total - $17.32

Best Picture:
Akrata Beach Sunset
From Vrachati - Akrata

Best Pic of Me:
1. Boske Ostanje Pass, Croatia
From mmm...maybe not

2. Bungee Jump at the Sibenik Bridge, Croatia
From One Short Ride

Silliest Pic
Monkey Men
From Katelios

Best Group Picture
From Argoloid 2

Alas, I have now returned from the trip and look to the next step in life.

Tino Pai,


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rheinfall and Hike (8/4/09)

Distance: 7 miles
Trip: Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall – Andelfingen
Sites: Rheinfall, Rhine River, Sunflower and corn fields
Difficulty: Easy

So I really wanted to climb a mountain pass in Switzerland. But, I was convinced to go see the Rheinfall. And, they were right, it was incredible!

I took the train out to Schloss Laufen (which, of course, was being repaired). Then down to the docks where you can catch a boat to the falls and stand on an outcropping amidst them. They are like a short Niagara Falls – anybody traveling to Northern Switzerland is implored to see them.

After seeing the falls, I set out on my hike. I walked down the Rhine for the first hour and then broke off following a path through the corn and sunflower fields.

Nothing terribly exciting and definitely I’d do it next time in the other direction so that the falls are the end rather than beginning of the trip.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hiking the Mouse that Roared (8/1/09)

Gaflei, Liechtenstein
Trip: Vaduz – Gaflei – Vaduz
Starting Altitude: 450 meters
Highest Point: 1509 meters

When I was about 8, I remember reading this book called “Europe of Yesterday and Today.” It was from the 1960s (being an American school library book). Each country in Western Europe was individually profiled. It led me to read further books in the series: “Germany of Yesterday and Today” and “France of Yesterday and Today.”

But what really interested me was the nation of Liechtenstein. It was a tiny principality that had fewer people than my neighborhood in Atlanta. Its entire army was made up of 14 policemen. Its major connection with the world outside was its postage stamps. My father had me watch the movie The Mouse that Roared because of my interest.

I decided that day I was going to see Liechtenstein one day. It was one of those things that would always be on my lifelong list.

Raphael kept telling me I was crazy: “Liechtenstein sucks.” But, I was going to do it damn it. And when I was in Zurich the first time, we had planned to make a side trip. That hadn’t worked out, but now I was doing it.

I took the train from Zurich to Sargans (near the border). From there I took a “Liechtenstein Bus” into Vaduz.

Admittedly, there really isn’t anything to do in Liechtenstein. So, I figured I’d hike up into the Alps.


I made my way from Vaduz and past the Vaduz Castle. And then up and up and up until the village of Gaflei – 1509 meters. So the net gain was over 1000 meters. And, I did it carrying all my camping equipment. Of course I regretted carrying all the equipment once I couldn’t get a camp site on the Walensee.

The views of the Alps – Swiss, Austrian and Liechtenstein(ian?) were absolutely amazing. If I had more time I would have hiked even higher, but alas I had to get to those campgrounds to not get a site.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Almost a Canoe (7/21/09)

From Karlovac


They apparently don’t have another name but “wooden boats.” But, they rent them here at Kamp Slapic. So I rented one for an hour. They are kind of like Adirondack Guide Boats – just without the rowing part that makes the Adirondack Guide Boat awesome. So you sit in the back and paddle. It,s like trying to steer a truck by pushing the sides.

I saw the river here. And I got to run one small rapid – Jesse Bear was knocked from his chair (not into the water though)!

Well for self propelled boats I now have:

Dragon Boat;
Rowboat; and,
Croatian Wooden Boat.

From Karlovac


Chasing Waterfalls - not sticking to rivers or lakes that I'm used to (7/19/09)

Plitvicka Jezera National Park

From Plitvicka Jezera

Plitvicka Jezera National Park, Croatia
Trip: AutoCamp Korana – Plitvicka Jezera National Park
Cycling: 8 miles
Hiking: 4 hours
Rowboat: 1 hour
Cycling in Croatia: 392 miles
Cycling on Bikespedition-2009: 1302 miles

As I took the tourist boat along the largest lake in the park, all I could think was “Wow this would be cool to travel on kayak.” Along the edges of the lake there were a great many waterfalls, as the water from the higher lakes came down to this one. However, the tourist boat didn’t get real close to them.

When I got to the other side of the lake, I saw that they did rent boats. They were rowboats! Now, if you have seen the guys in the shells on the Charles, rowing looks like hard work but it doesn’t look like the actual process is hard. Well, you’d be wrong. I got an hour on the rowboat for 50 kuna (€7, $10). What I really got was about 40 minutes as it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to begin to do it. (kept going in circles and almost dropping the oars). Once I did get it, it was great. Now, I won’t be trading in the UNS Aral Sea for a rowboat anytime soon, but still.

Plitvicka Jezera is a series of 14 or so lakes in the mountains of Croatia. The Korana River runs into these lakes at around 550 meters above sea level and then drops over beautiful waterfalls into the next, until you get to the last lake which is like 300 meters above sea level. These waterfalls create travertine build ups as the limestone and dolomite react with water and carbon dioxide. This means that the waterfalls are dynamic, constantly drying up and creating new falls. I’m a waterfall fanatic; Plitvicka is to that what Hawaii is to surfers.

I got out of Camp Korana by 9:30, as I had planned and a short bike ride took me to Ulaz 1 (entrance 1). I got in line to get into the park at 10:15. I got into the park at 11:05. Now, I’m pretty sure what took so long was people’s stupidity. There were two signs while we were in line that boiled down to: “Kuna only, no Euros” in four languages Croatian, English, Italian and German. The French in front of me apparently ignored the signs or couldn’t make out the Italian well enough. Because they kept trying to pay in euros! It took the Italian family behind me 2 or 3 minutes of yelling at the French family in Italio-franglais to move out of the way for those of us who had brought Kuna while the husband was going to the exchange counter.

Well, once in it was worth the long wait. The park has set up “itineraries” for the park. So from Ulaz 1 if you take Itinerary C you can see all the lakes and most of the waterfalls. I hiked along “C” from the Ulaz to the port from the Electric tourist boat that takes you across the largest lake. Then, I went up a smaller trail above the falls from some great views down into the canyon.

I then retraced my steps to the port. There I got a beer and some French fries to go with one of the sandwiches I’d brought. At the next table, I ran into the German family, with whom I’d toured Barac’s Caves two days before. They too had stayed an extra day when it rained on the day between.

Then it was time for my trip across the lake. It’s quite odd; I haven’t been on a boat that wasn’t a kayak in years – other than that ferry over Lake Konstantz, but I come to Europe and I’ve taken the ferry from Killini to Kefalonia, Argostoli-Luxori and back, Kefalonia to Patra, Patra to Ancona, Ancona to Split and Skradin to Skradinski Buk; and now number 8 (“There is now a ferry involved.”). When I saw people in rowboats I took a ninth across to Ulaz 2 where they rented the rowboats and a tenth to get back on Itinerary C.

While the whole park is absolutely beautiful, it is the winding boardwalk trail through this middle section that takes the cake. Amongst old trees, waterfalls that look like something on a Hollywood soundstage appear. Each one you think is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, until you see the next one.

The itinerary winds up with a trip through the woods on the panoramic train/bus. It’s a bus with little cars like a train and 360 degrees of windows. Unfortunately, it’s similar to taking the Greyhound through the hills of Western Pennsylvania – just trees. How can you keep them on the farm, when they’ve seen Paris?

I hopped on to Schwarzfahrer and went back to the AutoCamp. I then planned to upload pictures at the internet café, only to run into some Croatians who wanted to discuss America and Iraq. The beers flowed for a while, then there was the rakia – but that’s a whole other story.

Tino Pai!


From Plitvicka Jezera

From Plitvicka Jezera

Krka Loop (7/10/09)

From Krka

Location: Krka National Park, Croatia
Distance: 38.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate/Hard
Sights: Krka National Park

Upon return, I called it the most beautiful place, I’d ever seen in my life. From Cikada Camp it is an easy ride to Skradin. Just a few miles down the road. But just before Skradin, the road drops into the canyon. In the next one mile you lose about 200 meters down a hair-raising hair-pinned cutback road.

Now in Skradin there are two ways to the first set of waterfalls – Skradinski Buk. The first way is a beautiful 3 km bike trail that follows the canyon up to the falls. The other is the free boat. While a pure bikespeditioner maybe should have taken the former, I chose the latter. The boat is a peaceful churning up the Krka River. While it was packed and some of them what can best be described as drunk shirtless Croatian white-hats (I believe the Brits call them chaves) complete with the one fat friend who should have worn his shirt, it was still gorges!

From Krka

The boat lets you off in Skradinski Buk (really fun to say: just like it’s spelled). You walk through some beautiful pines and open onto the falls. And, as Paula from Cikada described, you can swim in the wash of the falls. On one end of the swimming area are smaller falls where you can stand.

From Krka

Afterwards, I took the “educational trail” around the falls. It leads you past the original hydro-electric station (started only 2 days after Tesla’s at Niagara). This station made Sibenik one of the first electrified cities in Europe. There is also a working mill – unfortunately they didn’t hand out axes like the guy at Palmer State Forest did.

After the trail, I walked back to Skradin along the bike trail. Then it was off to the upper falls – Roski Slap (equally fun to say). These falls were not as big, but I think there was a larger drop in its largest falls.

From Krka

I then continued along the roads shown to me by the Polish guy at Cikada Kamp. The road down into Kljucica is especially exciting. It is one mile of 10% grade. I reached the top speed of 37.5 mph (the fastest Schwarzfahrer has ever gone), only to have to slow to 13 to make a hair-pin turn. Unfortunately, now you have to do the same up!

On my return trip I topped 1000 miles for Bikespedition-2009!

Josko and Paula and those who are in the apartments at Cikada met me on my return. (I was the only camper). Josko had a special order for me – Croatian stuffed peppers. I don’t know what’s in the spices but… mmm…mmm…mmm!

Tino Pai!


Sami Hiking Trail (7/6/09)

Location: Sami, Kefalonia, Greece

From Sami

I had an excellent idea to get up early and go on the Ithaca Ferry to find out more about the archeology around Odysseus.

I slept through the boat.

So I rode out through the port of Sami to the edge of town to take the hiking trail. The trail led out through from the town and up into the hills outside. At the top there was a beautiful old monastery that was built in the 15th Century and had survived the Venetians, the Turks, the Italians and the Nazis only to be completely destroyed by the 1953 earthquake.

Further down is the ruins of the old chapel to Saint Nicholas and the old fountain used by the monastery. The chapel is cool.

From Sami

I then rode back to the campground and rested for my long cruise to Croatia.

Tino Pai!


Independence Day Ride (7-4-09)

Krani Walls

Ride: Argostoli Beach – Krani
Distance: 13 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Sights: Cute towns, Cyclopedean Walls of Krani

From Krani and Enos

As I filled my water at the bubbler in the small town, I realized I might not actually be on the Argostoli – Sami road. Fortunately, the guy who was helping his son build a new house spoke great English. It turned out that after the Earthquake of ’53, he moved to Albany, NY and had lived in Albany and Brooklyn until 5 years ago. He gave me great directions back to Razata and the Walls.

I followed his terrific directions down the dirt roads of Kefalonian back-country to find the ancient Mycenaean structures over the ridge line. The walls were made of giant slabs of the local hard rock. The Classical era City-State of Krani had built these walls. They were amazing. They definitely would have kept me out.

Into the Clouds
Mount Ainos (Enos) 1628m (5324 ft)

Trip: cycle- Krani to the Enos Turnoff; hitchhike- to the National Park; hike- up the Mountain; hitch- back to my bike; cycle- back to Argostoli
Distance: Cycling – 15 miles , hiking – 5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Sites: Not much, cloudy

From Krani and Enos

After Ariel Damien and I had failed so miserably at climbing to the top of the Mountain, it became a mission for me.

So, I left the walls at Krani and cycled my way up the Argostoli-Sami Road. A woman at the Mini-Mart told me, “you have a long way to go.” Sure enough there were two excruciatingly long hills of more than two miles to get to the turn off to the Enos national Park.

I locked my bike to the sign for Argostoli and started hitching toward the National Park. I got a ride to the turn off for Poros and then another from a Athenian family who was vacationing on the island. I started on the main park road from the ranger station (1130 meters). After an hour, I found the summit trail. The summit trail was quite quick from the road (20 minutes). But it took you through the black pines that used to cover the island.

Then I cleared the tree line. There was little view and it was hard to make out the summit as the clouds had descended upon the summit. Through the rockiness of the top I scrambled to the top of the mountain.

I let out a huge roar of “JAMMING ON THE ONE!” that echoed through the mists and clouds. Only to hear “Ya sas (hello)” returned from the peak next me. Then, the mists cleared a minute: “oh, you are higher!” the other peak said. And I watched as two young Greek kids descended their peak and climbed mine.

After some fist pumps for making the peak, we each went our separate ways. I walked back down to the Ranger station. I then got a lift almost all the way back to my bike from a Czech family that was on vacation.

Additionally, I did almost no pedaling all the way back to Argostoli as I got to go down those two long hills.

On the Trail of Odysseus (6/28/09)

Ride: Mavarata – Poros – Skala – Mavrata, Kefalonia, Greece
Distance: 27 miles
Difficulty: Medium (three large hills)
Sights: Tholos Tombs in Tzanata, Hercules Statue in Agia Irini, Memorial to the HMS Prometheus in Poros, Ancient Temple and Roman Villa in Skala

From On the Trail of Odysseus

Homer describes Ithaca as “mountainous” and “rugged.”

In the Odyssey, Telemachus tells Menelaus, “Horses I will not take to Ithaca. . . [I]n Ithaca there is no room for horses to run, nor any meadows at all. It is a pasture land for goats and more attractive to my eyes than the sort of land where horses thrive.” The modern island Ithaki, which is a stones throw from Kefalonia, indeed fits this description.

When Odysseus is returned to Ithaca by the Phaeacians, Homer describes the harbor onto which they landed on the island. “Now in that island there is a cove named after Forcys, the Old Man of the Sea, with two projecting headlands sheer to seaward but sloping down towards the side on the harbor.” Up from the cove there is a cave that the Nymphs enjoyed.

On Ithaki, you can find a Bay of Forcys that closely resembles Homer’s description. Additionally, there is a cave known as the Cave of Nymphs that overlooks the bay. As my friend Manu said, it would seem to make sense that modern Ithaki is Homer’s Ithaca.

Yet, there is a problem with this assumption - there is no archeological evidence of a centralized Mycenaean era state on Ithaki. Schliemann thought it to be on Ithaki at the hill of Alalkomenes. However, he found nothing in the way of Mycenaean era settlement.

Some have argued that the Lixouri peninsula is Homer’s Ithaca. And, that the peninsula was once an island and now joined with the rest of Kefalonia. (This argument comes mostly from Lixourians.) People from Lefkada argue that their island is Homer’s Ithaca.

Yet, there is archaeological evidence that gives some credence to the idea that “Ithaca” is actually Kefalonia. In Mazarakata, there is a cemetery from the Mycenaean era. It easily fits a place where rich commoners or some noblemen may have been buried. However, it does not match the “Treasury of Atreus” at Mycenae. So it does not appear that it would be a place where the wanax, or king, would be buried. In Krani there are Cyclopedean walls that are said to echo the huge stones of Mycenae and Tyrins. (I have yet to see these walls for myself.)

Recently, there has been another find. They have found a tholos tomb – like that of the Treasury of Atreus (not a treasury, at all – stupid Pausinas). The tholos is in Tzanata, about 4 km up the hill from the port town of Poros. On my off day from turtle tracking, I decided to ride to Poros and see it for myself.

At 1:30 I left Mavrata along the Argostoli Road. Then I made the right to ride along the Argostoli – Poros Road. The Carpenter Man (the one who helped us with the “Honey Man”) told Damien that this was the prettiest road on Kefalonia. And for 12 miles I wound my way along the ridge to through picturesque villages that were perched on the edge that they may tumble down toward Katelios and the sea. At Markopoulo I saw the bell tower where the snakes come (like the swallows of Capistrano) around the feast day of St. Gerasimos – the patron saint of Kefalonia. And, at Agia Irini, I stopped for a minute to look at the new statue of Heracles fighting the lion.

My next stop was Tzanata and the main point of my trip my trip. As, you walk up the small hill upon which the tholos is located, a visitor to Mycenae would quickly see the resemblance. There is a cylindrical building of large stones built into the hillside. About 20 feet above the grave line the walls begin to curve up into its lintel. The majority of the lintel and its possible supporting triangle are lost. However, it is without a doubt tholoi tombs of wanaxes.

After leaving the tomb, I got back onto the road to Poros as it led through the gorge into the town. To the right was the road to the currently closed off Cave of Drakena. A quick look at the harbor shows a calm area surrounded by two large hills that are nearly shear seaward but more gently sloping into the town.

Perhaps the Cave of Drakena is the Nymphs’ cave where Odysseus hid the gifts of the Phaeacians? Perhaps Poros is Forcys? A man from Pastra from whom I received a hitch earlier in the week told me that archeologists from the University of Vancouver are returning this summer to do more digging in the hills above Poros. Maybe they will find the Mycenaean palace of Odysseus there . . . hmmm.

After Poros, I rode into Skala and saw the remains of the Ancient temple – to whom nobody seems to know. It is little more than the foundation of the temple – next to a modern Orthodox Church. I tried to make the Roman Villa, but it had already closed. I saw a bit climbing on top of the fence; alas, another time.

From On the Trail of Odysseus

To the Western Beaches (6/27/09)

Trip – Koroni Beach-Stella’s Vineyard Beach, Kefalonia, Greece
Distance – 10 km
Difficulty – Medium

From Western Beaches

Every morning two volunteers from Team Turtle ride to the old road to Koroni. They then kayak to Lefkas – checking each beach for turtle nests. Saturday, however, Manu (director of the volunteer program here at Katelios) and I were assigned to the Koroni run – of course, Manu makes the schedule.

Manu said he wanted to check out more of the beaches to the west for possible turtle nests. So our kayaking was 4 times the distance that it normally is, but we didn’t have to bike or hike the old Koroni Road.

We found no nests or tracks (the storm that had settled on the Ionians for the past week could easily have erased any sign of nesting turtles). But we did have a good day where I explored near reaches of Kefalonia through the unexpectedly choppy waves.

Three Saints and a Cemetery (6/22/09)

Trip: Mavrata – Kastro – Mavrata
Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Sights: St. George’s Castle, St. Theodore’s Church, Mycenaean Cemetery and Ecclesiastical Museum (St. Andrew’s Church)

The road to St. George’s Castle and the town of Kastro, Kefalonia was not as hard as Akrokorinthos or even the road to Mavrata. But, I still would have liked to avoid it – if I’d known that Agios Georgios Castle was closed until July. I mean people had been there from my group and not mentioned it to me.

Alas, had I not gotten up that hill, I would never have seen the old church of St. Theodore’s. The outside walls and a stone piece from the original altar was all that survived other than the belfry with old bells that hung from it.

I rode down the hill back to the Argostoli-Poros road and across it toward Mazarakata. Mazarakata has a surviving Mycenaean era cemetery. While near Poros they have found the tholos type of the wanax or king, this cemetery is made of the pit graves of the commoners. This gives credence to the belief that it wasn’t modern Ithaki, but Kefalonia, that was Odysseus’ Ithaca.

My final stop was at the Milapidia Monastery. The Monastery houses both the church of St. Andrew and an Ecclesiastical Museum. The church is a lovely stone chapel, rebuilt since the earthquake. The museum housed a large number of wooden icons and wooden screens that can be found at the altar of orthodox churches. Some of the icons date from the 15th and 16th Centuries. Upstairs the museum housed the furnishings from the Bishop’s residence at Agios Georgios.

After my trip through Kefalonia’s ecclesiastic history, I returned to Mavrata and Base-station Turtle.

In Search of the Ponies – Mt. Ainos (6/9/09)

From Mt. Ainos

According to the badly written description at the Katelios Environmental Center, the Mt. Ainos ponies are a breed of wee ponies who are wild on the Mountain that dominates the island of Kefalonia. They stand only 12 hands tall and there are only 10 or 14 of them still alive (depending on which part of the badly written description you believe).

After three fruitless night shifts (no turtles, although we had one “false crawl”) Ariel, Damien and I were determined to set out into the mountain in search of the summit and these supposed ponies.

Unfortunately we failed on both counts. My tourist map I bought in Poros, gave us questionable – if not false information to the summit.

Yet, it was still a great day. About an hour and a half into the hike, Damien and I convinced Ariel that it would be better if we climbed one of the gorges to the top.

At first it was rather simple. We hiked up the wide gorge until we got to a small cliff. The small cliff was easy to scale. Atop that we saw another 50 meters to the next cliff and so on.

Unfortunately, it got harder and harder and harder as we went. Several cliffs were in rapid succession. As the legs and arms wearied, the cliffs were even harder. Ariel worried we wouldn’t find the road again. I reassured her that I was positive we would. (Unfortunately, I could not reassure myself.) At one point I did almost slide off the hardest of the cliffs. I went a good 10 feet before catching myself).

Ainos is 1627 meters. At about 1200 meters we found the road again. This was the hardest part of the trip I found. It wasn’t simply a cliff to rock climb (without ropes, anchors or helmets) but a slight incline (slight as in 60 degrees) covered in gravel from the gorge to the road. I got to a place where I could not go any further and the way down was only a 30 meter slide to certain broken bones!

With the help of cooler heads (Damien and Ariel) I was able to scramble the remaining part of the way.

In retrospect I thought Ariel was probably right that we shouldn’t have done that. But, I also agreed with Damien, “It was better to do that 600 meters in altitude than walk the long twisty road that MAY have gotten us to the summit.”

Still no ponies!

Mission: ZAKYNTHOS – training 1 (6/4/09)

Damien questioned the trip more than I did. “So are there any currents out there?”

Manu’s answer was “I don’t know. I didn’t see any from the ferry; and it is a small ferry.”

The mission, should we chose to accept it is to kayak from Katelios Harbor on Kefalonia to Agios Nikolas (St. Nick) on Zakynthos. It is a distance of 18 km over the open Ionian Sea.

Manu and his friend Markus have been quasi-planning this trip for years now. So, it was to come to fruition this year. When I heard about it, I wanted in. This is the perfect excursion for Bikespedition ’09!

Manu has been training for a few weeks for the mission. Thursday was thus the day Damien and I began our training. We met Manu on the beach; he took us out across the Mounda Beach to Mounda Point and around to the rocks that divide Mounda from Skala.

This beautiful early morning trip took us over the beautiful sea and past one of the world’s top beaches – Kamina. We got a good look at the caves around Mounda Point and the beach there.

Total trip was 11km.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Break on Through to the Otherside

Date: 5/16/09
Distance: 50 miles
Sights: Loutraki, Nea Perachora, Lighthouse and ancient temple

When standing on the sight of the Ancient temple at Perachora (after you've waded through the waves of French tourists blocking everything), you see how it got its name "The Other Side." Modern, Ancient and Akro Korinthos are a mere 5 miles across the Gulf of Corinth from you. Here was a two storied temple that the Korinthians boated to (lacking the technological know-how to make it the 20 miles longer trip cycling).

About noon Saturday, I set out to find the other side. With Jim Morrison running through my head, I fought down the Coast Road to Korinthos. From there I got to the Posedieon Bridge. It is one of the 2 drawbridges on teh Canal. both of which actually sink into the canal when they are "drawn." I had to wait there 25 minutes.

But this gave me ample time to get pictures of the Dioklos. The Dioklos was the ancient road over which the Corinthians dragged boats over the Isthmus (for a neat fee, of course). Then I sailed into Loutraki. I stopped by the beach for a coffee and sandwich. (Grilled ham and cheese referred to in Greece as "Toast"). Then I left Loutraki for a tough 10 km up hill ride into New Perachora. Then back down to the ancient site.

It must be beautiful and peaceful where there arnen't two busloads of French tourists who are offended when you try to walk down the only steps to the site - I mean they are just sitting there!

I slowly made my way back to Vrachati. The hill up from the lighthouse isn't as hard. But I still desperately needed fruit. The fruit guy spoke no English. Fortunately for me a Jamaican cab driver arrived and playing interpreter. I made it back in time for dinner on the pebbles at Edem in Vrachati.

Down the Coast Road

Προβολή Down the Coast Ride σε χάρτη μεγαλύτερου μεγέθους

Date: 5/15/09
Trip: Vrachati - Xilocastro
Distance: 25 miles
Sights: Gulf of Corinth, Goats

I sat in rush hour traffic in Kaito. The road is too small for the number of people trying to fit into it. Driving me crazy as I sat at the edge. That's when I felt something nudge up against me. I looked over and there was goat, mouth open trying to bite me.

With a "Annngh!" and throw from me, the other two goats who were in the back of this pickup started neighing? Chalk that up to number 14 of things you don't see in the States.

I had heard about this nature trail in Xilocastro. It was only 12 miles from Vrachati. So on a lazy Friday that we left early, I went off. In an easy ride, I hugged the Gulf til I got to Xilocastro. Well, the trail wasn't great but it was something.

I took the trail up and back. Then back to Vrachati.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Up to the Ruins (4/26/09): Akrokorinthos

Ancient Corinth
Ride: Vrachati – Akrokorinthos – Vrachati
Distance: about 25 miles (with my cycling around looking for food)
Difficulty: Hard
Sights: Ancient Corinth, Akrokorinthos, Gulf of Corinth
The guide book clearly said “Acrocorinth is a s
hort trip from Ancient Corinth.” About 15 minutes up to Akrokorinthos, I realized “Maybe the guidebook handed planned to have someone cycle up.” But I figured I was almost to the top but then I saw the car that had passed me on what I thought was another hill. “Shit!” I thought. I wasn’t going to make it without stopping. I found a safe place to stop on the shoulder and drank a whole bottle of water. I took a breath and pushed my way up to the top of the hill.
My first day in Corinthia, I needed to see Ancient Corinth. I got onto Schwarzfahrer and made my way out. I rode out east from Vrachati down the National Road for a good 5 or six miles. There is a turn off to the town of Archea Korinthos. The small r
oad that leads to the town heads straight toward Akrokorinthos. If you follow the signs to Akrokorinthos you come across the archaeological site of Korinthos with the remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo..

For six euros you get entrance into the old city. The main piece to the site is the Temple of Apollo. There are 5 or 6 columns remaining from the temple. What is weird is that the columns are not Corinthian. They have the Doric capitals, not the flowery, leafy ones which are named for the city. There are Corinthian capitals remaining from “Temple E” in the back part of the site.
The site is beautiful with ancient trees growing amongst the crumbling ruins. As earthquake after earthquake knocked down the city, the sites that have remained the best include the colonnades of shops and the one temple. Everywhere I went I kept running into masses. There were three going on all around the site. One was in Latin, one in German, and one in maybe Italian or Portuguese.
After a couple of hours wandering the old city, I left for my “short trip” to Akrokorinthos. I followed the first sign which then merely took me to an unmarked fork in the road. I had to decide which left or right. I had a fifty-fifty shot so I went right. That only lasted about 30 feet over the crest of a small hill when I was stopped by sheep crossing the road.
There were two Roma people fixing their car. I asked “Akrokorinthos?” They both shrugged. The shepherd then pointed his stick (not staff) back behind me. “Shit, I should have gone left!”
From Archea Korinthos
I turned around got back to the fork. I went left! That’s when my “short trip” to Akrokorinthos really began – up 600 meters in 3 kilometers. That makes an average grade of 20% - more steep than any hill on the Tour this year (but considerably shorter).
I finally fought my way up 3km of hell. At an average of 5 mph, it took me nearly half an hour to reach the top. Strangely enough, it was well worth it. There is an old Frankish/Venetian fortress at the top. It was remarkably well preserved and took up a huge acreage. I spent about 2 hours climbing around the walls and ramparts. Some parts of the fortress were right up against the cliffs of the hill. There is no way they would let you traipse around it so freely in the States.
From Archea Korinthos
I made it back down the mountain and cycled along the back roads and beach back to Vrachati.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good Friday; Good RideDay

View Good Friday Ride in a larger map

April 10, 2009
Distance: 30 miles
Location: Somerville, Arlington, Lexington, Bedford and Billerica, MA
Sights: Minuteman and Narrow Gauge Rail-Trails
Difficulty: Easy except sandy bits at the end of Narrow Gauge

It was obvious where the town line into Billerica (or as my 11th Grade Computer always called it: "Beautiful Downtown Billerica"). The Narrow-Gauge trail had been carrying me over crushed gravel and dirt along a quiet wooded route like the fire woods in the Fells. Then, WHAM! sand five inches deep. It was like hitting the cobblestones in L'Enfer du Nord without expecting it! I slid and skidded for a few feet. Fortunately the trail is only another 100 yards or so after the town line.

Good Friday was one of those rare days in New England - Spring. It was 55 F and sunny; At about 2pm I decided that the call for rain by the weathermen was not happening. Thus out onto the roads I went to find this Narrow Gauge trail I'd read about. I took the Minuteman all the way up. After a brief rest I continued on and found the next trail. The Narrow Gauge is paved for about a block and a half. Then after crossing the Great Road it turns to crushed gravel. It's not good for a road bike (at least not those who concern themselves with the safety of the bike). But on Schwarzfahrer, my commuter/hybrid, it was fine.

Those who get to the end of the the Minuteman and are looking to ride just a little bit more, should check it out. Links to all three rail-trails at Bedford Depot can be found here:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mt. Gilboa: Shoulda Brought my Snowshoes (And some climbing gear)

Mt. Gilboa

February 8, 2009

Distance: 13 miles
Location: Somerville & Arlington, MA
Sights: Minuteman, Puddles, & Mt. Gilboa Conservation Area
Difficulty: Easy (except climbing the cliff

It seemed odd that it was dangerous since I had brought my proper climbing gear – Reebok running shoes and my bike gloves. About halfway up the icy cliff I realized this might have been a bad idea. The foothold above me was sketchy, at best; and, there was no way down. I had no choice but to scramble to the top from here.

The cliff I was climbing was Mt. Gilboa, in Arlington, MA. Its namesake is a hill in the Jezreel Valley of Israel. It was here (in Israel not Arlington) that Saul lost his battle with the Philistines, and, “therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it” (1 Samuel 31:5). Gilboa is also known for its distinctive irises, which grow only on its ridge.

Once I had struggled to the top, there were no irises in the winter snow (and, fortunately found no Philistine heavy infantry). I did find two things though. First, there was a great view of downtown. Then I looked over and found an easy path up the side of the hill. Apparently, I risked my life for nothing.

Easy Trail up Gilboa

Sunday was a brief Indian Summer – 45 F and sunny. It was a perfect excuse to take out my new bike, Schwarzfahrer on its first long ride. Literally “Schwarzfahrer” means “black-rider in German. The color of the Trek FX 7.1 is black; therefore, it makes sense. But, idiomatically, it means a person who rides the subway without paying his fare. Thus, when I commute to work with it – I’m a “Schwarzfahrer.”

So, I set out on my bike planning to ride the Minuteman into Bedford and then the Narrow-Gauge Trail to Billerica. The total ride was to be 31 miles. The Minuteman is the jewel of the Rails-to-Trails in Eastern Mass. It’s 11 Miles from Alewife Station to Bedford Depot. Along the way one can stop in Arlington Center and at the site of the Battle of Lexington. The Narrow-Gauge Trail, I’ve never ridden and this seemed like a good time to explore it.

The Indian Summer had caused one major issue – melting. The two feet of snow we’d gotten in the past three weeks became puddles on the trail. Between Alewife I found one 60 feet long and about 6 inches deep. Then some points of the puddle weren’t even puddles but ice hidden under a thin layer of water. At points Schwarzfahrer was not a ride but a poor icebreaker. In front of the Bike Stop (The Bike shop on the Minuteman), it was another 30 foot-long puddle of ice!

Ice Sheet in Front of the Bike Stop

For better or worse, I fought through each of these spots – mostly for worse. But at Bow Street the town stops plowing the Minuteman. Indian Summer or not, There was still a foot and a half of snow on the rest of the trail. So, I removed myself to the road. At this point, I had no clear idea where to go. I meandered the streets of Arlington – taking the most challenging hills I could find.

This eventually led me to the Mt. Gilboa Conservation Area. I dismounted Schwarzfahrer and started walking down the trail. About halfway across the park I saw it. There was the cliff I had to climb! After that adventure, I was wet and tired. So I rode back to Davis, hit the Mexican place and went home to watch the stupid Pro Bowl and eat a quesadilla.

View from atop Cliff

Map of Ride

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yurtin' for Certain: Or, Jamming on the Yurt! (1/3 - 1/4/2009)

Yurtin group

The Nissan Maxima sputtered a bit climbing higher and higher up the Kancamagus Highway between Conway and Lincoln. Coming the other way, skiers in luxury SUVs and various other vehicles crawled down the icy road leaving Loon Mountain. Jim commented, “I’m definitely going to build my own yurt.”

“Well, you’ll need plenty of musk-ox hide,” is all I could think to comment.


“Yeah, I think the Mongol’s yurt walls were made of musk-ox hide.”

With a laugh Jim responded, “If I see a musk-ox, I definitely get its hide.”

You’re probably thinking one of two questions – if not both: “What the **** is a yurt?”; and/or “Why the hell were you guys talking about yurts?” To the first question, a yurt is the western name for the portable hut the Mongols and Turkics of Central Asia used. The walls are made of felt from sheep fleece that are stretched over a frame of willow. (Notice, it’s not musk-ox at all. As a matter of fact there are no must-ox in Asia; maybe I was thinking of yaks?) They have slightly pitched roofs with an opening in the center to allow the smoke from the hearth to escape. The Tang dynasty poet Bai Juyi went North on a diplomatic mission and was deeply impressed by the relative luxury and the ability of the dwelling to withstand the varying weather of the Mongol Steppe.

Tanka of the Yurt
after Bai Juyi’s “Sky Blue Yurt

Thousand sheep of felt
Drawn taut as Agincourt’s bows
Over willow frame.
Boreas’ blows shake it not
And warm does my yurt remain.

Mongol Yurt
Today, many westerners use the yurt design as an outdoorsy structure. It is an excellent mix between tent and cabin. Jim and I had just stayed outside of Fryeburg, Maine in a yurt with Tnarg, Laura, Patrick, Michelle and Emily. Our yurt was not transportable. It was about 12-15 foot in diameter with walls of a lattice work of pine, maybe. The outer wall was not fleece (or musk-ox or yak for that matter). Instead it was a plasticized canvas. Except for a bathroom, the yurt had all the amenities of a cabin, including wood-stove, a propane cooking stove and beds that could sleep eight.

Upon arriving at Frost Mountain Yurts, we parked the cars and found the key to our yurt. The yurt is still about an eighth of a mile into the woods, so we loaded cargo sleds and pulled them into the Maine Woods. Once the gear was in the yurt, we decided to go on a snowshoe hike before the winter sun set.

Hike One: Frost Mtn. Summit
Date: January 3, 2009
Distance: about 2.5 miles
Height: 1,211 ft (369m) (about 700 ft elevation gain)
Location: Brownfield, ME
Type: hike (snowy)
Sights: White Mountains, sunsets that “look like Jupiter”, sledding
Difficulty: Easy

The snowshoe trails leave right from the yurts sites. After a quick walk back to the cars, we made our way up the old logging trail into the hardwoods. This part of Maine is on the tail end of the White Mountains region, the snow was densely packed where we used the snowshoes very little, but the crampons on the shoes considerably; Jim did not even use his snowshoes, only wearing his cramp-ons.
As far as mountain hikes go, this was a quite easy. There were two or three parts that I would call moderate, but they were few and far between. At the summit, we all gathered at Sunsets Rocks. Looking almost due west, there were spectacular views of the Presidentials as the ice and snow glistened in the low sun. While we had lost Jim originally, he caught up with us at the top. Apparently he returned to the yurt and grabbed two sleds for the return trip.
With the sun quickly dropping behind Mt. Washington, we decided to return the way we came, rather than finishing the loop. This put us on the northern slope. About a third of the way down there was a great view of the ponds and lakes in the Fryeburg/Brownfield region. The refraction of the setting sun produced purples and oranges reflecting off the glacial ponds. They were of almost unnatural color. Jim commented it looks like Jupiter.

Back on the old logging trail, Jim decided we should sled. He took the saucer and made a great run of about 100 feet down the mountain. I then took the full sled and leapt forward in a Cressida/skeleton run. I passed where Jim had sled to, made a jump and BAM I was going down the hill with my yurt hat flapping in the wind. In what seemed a five minute ride (and probably only like one), I thought I’d make all the way to our yurt. Off course once I said this to myself I was stopped in a snow bank and Jim-in-saucer was right behind.


Date: January 4, 2009
Distance: 4.8 miles
Altitude: 3800ft
Altitude gain: 1800ft
Location: Mt. Washington, NH
Type: hike (snowy)
Sights: White Mountains
Difficulty: Moderate

In the morning the seven of us left the yurts. The other five went back to Portland while Jim and I headed back to Boston. As we headed toward North Conway, I asked “Is there another hike we can do while we’re here?”
This set in motion a fantastic hike. Jim, the backwoods-rock-climbing man knew of several up in the White Mountains. But, based on time and effort, he picked out the perfect one.
We drove into the Presidential Range to Pinkham Notch at the base of Mt. Washington. Jim gave me some spikes and after attaching them to my Bean Boots and going through some complicated tying of nylon rope around them, we were off.
It’s only about 2.5 miles from the base at Pinkham Notch to Hermit Lake. But, it is pretty much straight up. Winter hiking is a new thing for me and I didn’t quite get how much the spikes were helping – that was until we passed a couple without them. They were slipping on the packed snow and ice while I was merely tiring from the uphill.

The hike brought us to the Hermit Lake shelters, which is the common place to end ones hike. It is also the jumping off point for skiers and ice climbers. We had chats with groups of each. It’s still another 1500 feet and 2 miles to the summit of Mt. Washington. This summer I definitely plan to do it.

Portrait of Patrick - or Oliver Cromwell; I get them confused all the time