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Topics - Westinghouse

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August 27th 1994 marked the 20th day of my travel. By days and a total of $1,130 mi had been pedaled from paris, france. That was 511 days in the first 10 days, add $619 mi in the second 10 days. These past 10 days have taken me through West Germany, through the Czech Republic and into Poland. The terrain ranged from flat to rolling to hilly to mountainous. It had been an introduction to the substandard living conditions of Eastern Europe eventing frightful contrasts between the west and the east, between the Free world and communisms appalling legacy. Young women prostituted themselves on the roads. From the roadway it appeared that most of that world was a farm. There had been warnings against bicycling into the former Soviet republics, particularly ukraine. Roadside to stands and bistros would become regular features for the remaining Eastern European part of the journey. There had been steeper climbs on other tours, and much longer climbs too, however for a combination of length and steepness on the same climb, the most difficult was the mountain range at the Czech and Polish border. High mountain elevations gave beautiful panoramic views of the countryside. In check the traffic was frenzied, and in Poland it was maniacally insane. Poverty wore many faces to the world, and that was most obvious in the neglect and deterioration of the people of Eastern Europe and in their civilization. Air on the roads was egregiously heavily polluted. I had gone without a shower and shave for 10 days, and had camped every night. The women of the West were much more beautiful and healthy looking than the women of Eastern Europe. I often wondered about what experiences lay behind the Warren, severe, hard faces of the elderly men and women who stared as I rolled slowly past their houses and farms their fields and through their cities. I had jokingly told myself that I had become a millionaire, in Polish zlytok that is. The health was good. Being bullied off the road by insane motorists had angered me, and I had taken to showing the offenders my index finger. Still, for some mysterious reasons, the former Soviet republics held their exotic allure. How wrong can a man be?

Tammany Trace north of New Orleans was great for cycling. Others were seen running and cycling and walking. It was table top flat all the way and hardly ever had to stop for motorized traffic at any of the crossings. One small grocery store I stopped in for a can of beans and a can of Vienna sausage had several kinds of bicycles hanging from the ceiling and standing in its showcase windows. It had been dark for some time when I reached the trails end in Covington. I was concerned because of a weather report of rain, lightning and hail. I spent quite a bit of time cycling around town and back down the trace looking for a high place to set up camp, but to no avail. I finally had to settle on a small fenced in grassy area with trees across from the corner club bar. I set up the tarp using the tent poles. By the time I cooked it was about midnight. I climbed in under the tarp to sleep, and 10 seconds later the rain started. At first it was only a few light drops. But later it increased to a torrential downpour. Lightning flooded the sky  like a gigantic strobe light. The rain just kept pouring almost all night long. Eventually the water started inching its way into and under the tarp. The ground was hard and impervious to penetration by water. It had been very hard pushing the aluminum tent pegs into the ground, almost impossible. And it just rained and rained and rained. I could not sleep because I was worried about all the lightning strikes in my area. Later the weather channel would report over 2000 lightning strikes in the vicinity.

About 50 ft away stood a sprawling one story building with a large overhang that was probably used as a carport at one time. I resolved that once the rain let up for a while I would move everything under the overhang awning. It was on the other side of a flora fence. It was morning by the time that break came. First, I grabbed the four panniers and walked through ankle deep water to the roadway and back around to the overhang. The rain picked up again so I waited there a while until it abated again. I just walked through deep water through the flora fence and got the handlebar bag, foam pad, and sleeping bag. After that I got the rest of the gear, the bike and  carried them all under the overhead. I set out the tarp flat on the concrete floor to dry. I set up the pad on its edges. I spread the bag over a couple of wooden sawhorses to dry. I listened to the radio and brushed my teeth. I emptied water out of my shoes and rung my socks until they were no longer soaked. I packed the panniers and waited.

When the rain let up sufficiently I cycled over to McDonald's about two blocks away where I am at this moment at 1600 which is 4:00 p.m. civilian time. Outside there is a constant drizzle. The weatherman says this wet weather May remain in the area for a few days. I cannot cycle in it. Therefore, I may be locked in here for a few days. I will go to a laundromat to dry the sleeping bag at least. I may end up sleeping underneath that same overhang tonight. There were two reasons why I did not go under the overhang to begin with. I thought it might be an act of trespassing and it was not well concealed. Also I had not thought the storm would be so severe with so much lightning and rain. Who knows, maybe the weather will clear up sooner than predicted. My muscles could use the rest anyway. Maybe this will be a good time to get in some stretches. I did drink three pints of Red dog beer before hitting the sack last night. At this moment thunder continues to shake these dark gray and light gray skies.

I went to a laundromat in Covington and dried the sleeping bag. Then I sat on a bench out in front of the laundromat. Next I walked to the Dollar tree store and bought a box of taco flavored cheese-its and a 32 oz gatorade. I sat and ate and drank on the bench near the laundromat. There were a few day labor types hanging around there. Later I went back to McDonald's for a cup of coffee. It tasted old and bitter. I did not finish it. Around dark I went back to the building carport, lay out the pad and bag and laid down. I turned on the radio. The weatherman said the rain has gone now. I did some stretches and went to sleep.

Sunday August 22nd 1993 at 9:25 a.m. now in Denny's in crescent City for coffee. Just got here. The weather is gray, foggy, cool. Cycled South on 101. And Itasca motorhome came way too close. So it turned right into crescent City harbor district. Followed it in and told the jerks about it. Cycled long long steep hill. Foggy visibility maybe 200 or 300 ft max. Narrow path made it treacherous. The weather cleared around 11:30 for a while. In del Norte Coast redwood State Park. Big trees, long downhill to level area along a beach. Stopped at the beach and farther along at a rest area near a pond. Put on more aspercreme. Time now 3:00 p.m. I am at the Klamath salmon festival. Just had a big meal and re-watered my bottles. Sunny blue warm with wind from the north. I have another major climb just up the road. So what was that the festival. Chainsaw competition, Indian traditional dance, food stands, handicrafts. Plenty of Indians. The road over the hill is no cycling route. Whatever set it aside as such as a peculiar sense of humor. Elk prairie Road is my next alternate route over the hill coming up.

Sunday August 22nd 1993 at 9:25 a.m. Now in Denny's in crescent City for coffee. Just got here. The weather is gray, foggy, cool. Cycled South on 101. An Itasca motorhome came way too close. Saw it turned right into crescent City harbor district. Followed it in and told the jerks about it. Cycled long long steep hill. Foggy visibility maybe 200 or 300 ft max. Narrow path made it treacherous. The weather cleared around 11:30 for a while. In del Norte Coast redwood State Park. Big trees, long downhill to level area along a beach. Stopped at the beach and farther along at a rest area near a pond. Put on more aspercreme. Time now 3:00 p.m. I am at the Klamath salmon festival. Just had a big meal and re-watered my bottles. Sunny blue warm with wind from the north. I have another major climb just up the road. So what was that the festival. Chainsaw competition, Indian traditional dance, food stands, handicrafts. Plenty of Indians. The road over the hill is no cycling route. Whoever set it aside as such had a peculiar sense of humor. Elk prairie Road is my next alternate route over the hill coming up.

General Discussion / Starting my first ever bicycling tour.
« on: June 11, 2024, 11:14:34 am »
Thursday, July 14th, 1984. The flight arrived in Gatwick this morning around 9:30. I put my bicycle together they're on the spot in the baggage room, trashed the box, and took the train into Victoria station, a 35 minute ride. There four other men and I were approached by two females who were getting people to go to a certain hotel chain. The affair commenced in a van ride around town to two hotels or hostels around town both of which had no vacancies. We ended up back at the station. I made one call and got a room in a hostel where I am now, 3 lb a night. Today I rode my bike around Westminster for a while, but this city traffic is a bit much for me. Notwithstanding that, I had lunch of fish and chips, dinner at mcdonald's, and saw Westminster abbey, the Thames River, Buckingham palace, the British museum, two major squares, green park, Hyde park, and the immediate general vicinity. It is now 1:00 a.m. on the 15th. Four of us are in a dorm just talking, playing cards and sleeping. Today I met a man who retired from the Royal Marines. We talked about military life, England and the best routes for bicycling to Canterbury and the South coast.

Friday, June 15th, 1984. This morning at 9:30 I woke up from a sound sleep at the gayfere hostel on gayfere Street just one block or two from Westminster Abbey. I packed my bicycle and took off for Canterbury by 10:00, with a stop at the corner restaurant for toast and marmalade, coffee and a roll. The way out of town was extremely busy as was the rest of the journey with the exception of a few miles out of the 60 miles traveled. The road, a2, was lousy for cycling, and tomorrow I am getting a Bartholomew's one in 250,000 which shows the country lanes. The trip took all of 7 hours owing to Long steep hills which I almost gave up on, heavy traffic and traffic lights as numerous as the Stars. The route took me through several towns, the biggest of which was rochester. On the way I ate two apples, and orange, one and a half pounds of green grapes, a box of strawberries and a box of farmhouse biscuits and four bottles of water and a chicken dinner with carrots string beans and boiled potatoes.

The towns were old and interesting, the countryside was lush and deep green, the roads smooth and the people friendly. Now arriving in Canterbury I find that the used hostel is all booked up. So I have made a reservation for Saturday and I am now in a nice little b&b for only 5 lb. It is now 10:50 p.m. and I am going to hit the hay. The address here is 7 South Canterbury Road and I am looking forward to a good breakfast in the morning.

Now in Zen hostel in Gainesville December 10th 2009. Started Monday December the 7th from Vero Beach. Did 78 miles to Mims. US1 had a nice shoulder most of the way except in Melbourne where it disappeared and the sidewalks suck for cycling. Stopped in a dunkin' donut for 40 minutes. Also had to wait for the rain for 2 or 3 hours at a roadside arcade run by Rich Cummings. Mims was all wet when I got there. Two women at a convenience store said highway 46 was dangerous, two lanes, with a lot of accidents. I found a place in the trees to string up the tarp at the northeast corner of US1 and highway 46.

December 8th 2009. I awoke and packed. I noticed I had camped about 150 ft from a house. I prefer to stay clear of houses when I can, but I did not see it in the dark. It was about 11:00 p.m. last night when I finally got set up to sleep. So late due to the rain. I cycle West on highway 46 to McDonald's where I had a breakfast of pancakes, yuck. I left there around 9:30 a.m. 46 was a very good road for cycling east of sanford. It has a good shoulder. The scenery along the way was quite swampy. West of Sanford traffic increased very much and the road took on more of what the women had described the night before. I took various roads to eustis where I got on highway 19 going north through Ocala national forest. The area is rolling. The growth on both sides of the road was so thick and interlaced like a flora fence I could not get the bicycle in anywhere to sleep. And there was hardly any place to lay down. I finally did find a short road to a tower. I got off into the trees and bushes behind a fence around that Tower. I just lay on the ground and threw the tarp on top of me. No rain. I had already searched several places to sleep before I found that place. It was very cramped. 77 miles.

With a view to these latest rounds of storms and tornadoes, it is good practice to stay ahead of the weather. A cyclist touring long distances could find himself wild-camped away from a roadway when some unprecedented wild powerful storm suddenly appears and wreaks serious damage. It happened three times to me.  As far as I know, googling weather forecasts for different regions should yield accurate reliable information.  When you do not know severe storms are coming, they can take you by surprise.  I cycled the southern tier one summer east to west. It was hotter than hell, but otherwise the weather was great.There was 25 minutes of rain in Slidell Louisiana, and one night of heavy rain near Las Cruces, New Mexico. That was it for a two month tour. Doing the southern tier again there were extremely serious very dangerous radical changes in the  weather. On another crossing it was a miracle I survived it. Doing a transcontinental bicycle tour can bring you to very nice weather with rain here and there. It can also steer you into a seriously hazardous situation, if you do not keep yourselves forewarned. I ignored the weather advisories. I also woke up to a tornado shredding trees all around near the Mississippi in or south of Minnesota, 1987. I got myself into a number of fixes with the weather while bicycle touring because I was not prepared.

I bicycled the southern tier alone from southeast coastal Florida to San Diego, California. It was in the highest heat of summer, at times 110 degrees F. Water was going in and out of me like I was a sieve. Baseline hydration was at least 6 full 47 ounce fountain drinks.  Add to that draining the water bottles, water and other beverages in restaurants it came close to three gallons of water daily. I could drink three gallons a day for four consecutive days, and not urinate at all.  The water went through me so fast it did not get to the kidneys.

I have bicycle toured and camped 36,000 miles through 19 countries.  Like other experienced distance tourists, I was outside in the elements in some dangerous and challenging surroundings. The worst events were sudden, unexpected, unforeseen, extreme changes in the weather. You know, like, you are slumbering comfortably in your tent and bag.  All is peaceful and calm. Then without warning the wind suddenly gains velocity and it is 30 mph, then 60 mph, then 70 mph.  The tent is hammered to the ground.  You hightail it to a nearby bridge and get under it. You crawl up the retaining wall.  You sit perched at the top.  The rain is coming in parallel horizontal to the roadway at 70 mph.  Interstate highway traffic stopped.  Tractor trailers pushed over on their sides. Thousands of bolts of lightning slamming to earth all around. It is dark night made to look like daylight with all those electrical bolts. A bobcat comes running in for cover. Lightning strikes fifty feet away, conducts through water across the road, and kills it. That is how I spent one night when bicycling across America.

It was winter in 1984-85. My girl friend from England and I bicycled from southeast coastal Florida to San Diego, California. In El Paso we went into Juarez, Mexico and did a loop in Mexico, reentering the US at border towns Agua Prieta and Douglas, Arizona. In Mexico the policia pulled us over. They advised us to go back to the American side. they said there had been robberies and crimes where we were headed. they said it was not safe. Years later, circa 2010, I bicycled from FL to CA. This happened on that stretch of highway between Van Horn, TX and El Paso. It was on that stretch of road where you must exit I--10. You know that road. It has all those small towns strung out along the way. Fabens is one town. Anyway, it was zero dark thirty. The border patrol stopped me at the side of the road. They told me this. If anybody waves or gestures to you in any way to stop, if someone or ones try to befriend, DO NOT STOP. Keep going. Recently two tourists had been lured to go party and drink and some fun time with the senoritas. What they got was robbed and murdered. After that I wrote about the possible dangers of cycling the Mexican roads along the border, naming Laredo/Nuevo Laredo as a possible danger zone. The people on the bicycling forum seemed to think the risk was negligible, and the threat exaggerated. Someone from Nuevo Laredo posted a sort of denunciation of my warning. She insisted theirs was such a good place to live. It was a decent area for tourists to visit. Shortly after that, several corpses were found hanging from a bridge in that decent safe little town. They had been horribly mutilated, some probably beheaded with their sex organs mutilated. Another time I bicycled from Florida to Brownsville, TX. It is right on the US / Mexican border, across from Matamoros, near the gulf of Mexico. I was in Brownsville in a cafe, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a a newspaper. This story was in the news. A Mexican border town had voted in a new chief of police. He had vowed that bribery would not rule the police in his jurisdiction. His position was anti illegal drugs and anti cartels. One day after his election, they shot him dead in the street in front of his office.

General Discussion / Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« on: December 29, 2023, 03:15:06 pm »
You can save a  ton of money stealth-camping. Stealth and camping need articulation to define and clarify. Stealth (to steal away) is perfectly acceptable. It does not suggest illegal wrongful behavior. All the great many times I free-camped, stealth was only a means of security. I was alone, asleep, vulnerable to anyone with bad intentions. I positioned my sleep-sites to minimize the possibility that anyone might know where I was. Often I waited till traffic cleared before getting off the road and into the woods, reducing the number of people who saw where I exited the road. It was self preservation and caution.  Concealing was for one purpose, personal protection. Way too many bad actors walking the streets these days. They are in the news every day of the week around here.

Camping may be the wrong word. I call it a sleep-site. I mean, you haul the velocipede into the bush. You string up a tarp or erect a tent. You sleep a few hours. And you are gone in the morning. Somehow, that seems not to qualify as camping. If the sleep site were used as a base camp for two or three days, if it were used for cooking or had a camp fire, that would be more like camping. It is hard to define lying down on a few square feet of ground for a few hours as camping.  You need a safe secure location to sleep. Need for safety and security (stealth).  Essential small space for 6-8 hours sleep(camping). There are campsites for money. They often have the facilities for camping, such as restrooms, electricity, running water, grills. These places are set up for long term stays. Very different than a small sliver of sand in the Pines.

General Discussion / C 2 C
« on: December 19, 2023, 01:40:16 pm »
Anyone finishing the Southern tier in St Augustine Florida or thereabouts might want to consider adding the C2C route at the end. It is a dedicated bike path, approximately 245 miles, about 88% completed, from Titusville Florida to St Petersburg Florida. You can read the journals on crazy guy on a bike and elsewhere. People like it. Plenty of places for free and paid camping. Restaurants and food stores abound. Safe cycling all the way. Just an idea I would throw out there. I'm going to do this route after the beginning of the new year. Actually it will be a huge loop around South Florida beginning and ending in fort Lauderdale.

Saturday September 3rd 1994. I woke early, ate a banana, packed, pushed the bike downhill directly onto the highway and pedaled for the border of Ukraine. I was soon at the border on highway 17. Getting across the border from Poland into Ukraine was a process involving seven stages. First, on the Polish side, the candidate had to present himself at an 8-ft by 4 ft shack where a guard dispensed a 1-in square piece of paper with a number on it. Second, the candidate had to conduct himself about 100 yards to a concrete building with an overhanging shed under which were three one lane roads for cars, each with its own guard shack with large Windows all the way around each one. At one guard shack a uniformed female guard asked about things should be declared and how much money the candidate carried in cash. If waved through from that point in the Inquisition, the candidate was permitted to advance upon stage 3 which entailed removing to yet another concrete building with a shed being managed by the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians were all uniformed government personnel. The fourth stage commenced inside the building where the man in the running had to show a passport, and stand interrogation from a guard who understood little English. They issued only 3-day Transit visas at the border at a cost of $15. If one filled out the application for the Visa and agreed to pay, he was privileged to enter upon the fifth stage of the negotiation which involved walking a few hundred feet to their Bank to make the necessary deposit. The bank accepted only two kinds of currency, Deutsche marks and American dollars. The sixth stage comprised walking back to the building with the shed to show the receipt for the $15. The 7th and last stage involved cycling about 1,000 ft up a hill to another small guard shack near the electrified fence at the border of Ukraine. A guard there asked more questions. What is your name? Where are you going? Why do you want to visit Ukraine? Where are you from? I explained that I had been given only a 3-day visa and that much more time would be needed to cycle through the country. He said that Visa extensions were available by applying to the bureau of police in any city that is a regional capital in Ukraine. Of course that Visa would cost more. He said that such a service is available only Monday through Friday. The border Police were competent, efficient, helpful and friendly. The last one even wished me good luck. When I told him I was from America he answered, "Ahhhhhh America." He said it in a whisper. It was obvious he wanted very much to live in America. Who could blame him for feeling that way after seeing Poland? There was a gate across the road with a narrow pedestrian path going around one end. That was my point of entry.

The western edge of Ukraine looked like the outside of a prison. On the border was a tall, metal, electrified fence. Beyond that fence was a clear strip of land about 100 ft wide. Another t-shaped barbed wire fence stood at the edge of the cleared strip. After that at first, Ukraine looked attractive. Large verdant green fields of Short Grass bordered both sides of the road. Cattle grazed lazily in the fields. Horse drawn wooden wagons hauled hay from the fields. Men hand-pushed bicycles loaded down with burlap sacks full of potatoes and other crops. In a short distance though came a perceptible decline in living standards, standards noticeably lower than in Poland. Side roads were dirty rutted muck holes. Buildings were dirtier and even more rundown looking. More human deformities were visible, adults and children with swollen infected limbs.

It was some time before a Ukrainian restaurant came into view. Hungry as hell and looking forward to a nice big nourishing meal with a small price tag, I had been in Eastern Europe long enough by that time to know that only the small price tag part of the fantasy would come true. But I was still permitting myself that singular delusion simply because it was so hard to shake that expectation after living 44 years in places where nice big nourishing meals were always taken for granted. The sickening smell was the first thing that distinguished that particular eatery as I entered it's small dark rectangular gloom. The place smelled putrid like rotting flesh or road carrying rotting in the sun. There must have been somewhere out of sight a big dead rotting animal hanging from a meat hook. The worn tile floor was covered in layers of ground in filth. The walls and tables look gloomy grimy and dank. A glass display case held a one foot in diameter round of cheese. On top of the cheese was a big hunk of rancid meat. There was no way in hell I would eat in that place. The few grimy characters standing at one small table looked more sinister than anyone pictured in the FBI flyers on the walls in American post offices. A small hardware store was in the same building in another room. I walked in to take a look. The few shelves contained a few small farming implements and a few jars of paint. Across the street was a drab gray one story elementary School. The children who filed out of that place were so clean and healthy looking they seemed incongruous to the entire setting. Their clothes were washed. Their hair and complexions were clean and clear. They presented something of a contrast to the rough, worn, soiled appearances of young and old alike in the rest of Eastern Europe. There was also a small food store connected with the restaurant building, but there was no sign of food anywhere.

I needed water and what better place to ask for it than there, or so I thought. Asking a woman behind the counter, she just shook her head no from side to side. Then a man appeared around the corner from a hall and motioned for me to follow him. He walked across the highway to a round Stone water well about 4 ft in diameter and 4 ft high. A inverted v-shaped wooden shed sheltered its opening. The man grabbed a galvanized metal bucket connected to a steel cable and dropped it into the well. He used a hand operated crank to pull the water filled bucket to the top. He filled my plastic water bottle with the cold clear liquid. I immediately popped in two iodine water purification tablets into the bottle and shook it vigorously. A mangy dog chained to a building near a house barked like crazy. Numerous Small potatoes lay on the concrete near the well. I thank the man and I took a photo and left.

Countless men and women were bent in stoop labor in the fields on both sides of the road. They carried their crops from the fields in push carts, and wheelbarrows and loaded onto old one speed bicycles. Life here was definitely a few steps down the ladder from Poland already.

Soon a small wooden roadside bistro offered another opportunity for food. Four men sat outside playing cards at a wooden table. I explained to them about being hungry and having only polish money, and asked them to sell me something to eat. The owner of the establishment invited me in and gave me bread, coffee, sausage, ketchup and a stiff drink of whiskey, all three of charge. Even there an old man and an old woman were bent in stoop labor in a small field of vegetables contiguous with the lot The bistro was on.

After a while more cycling down the road, after getting lost a few times, and after asking lots of directions, and cycling down a few gloomy back roads, I made my way into the city of Lviv. I had planned to avoid this metropolis of more than one and a half million people, but now it was the nearest regional capital for obtaining an extension on the 3-day transit Visa. I stopped for a haircut. The barber gave me a haircut, and then a shave with a hot towel treatment, both for about 20 cents. I gave him $2 which was damn good pay for a haircut and shave in that part of the world. Someone advised me to go to the hotel George on Ivan Franko Strasse to get in touch with the tourist office and the police. From there it was a matter of hand pushing the bike along the sidewalk. One distinguishing feature of Ukrainian people in general was that their everyday people looked like some of our worst down and outers in the United States. What we in the United States see in the most ragged, low-rent quarters was what was normal across the board in Ukraine, even in the uptown sections of major cities. People had that disheveled worn out appearance. There was plenty of body odor, as if most had not showered or bathed regularly, as if where they lived was bereft of water and soap. People were noticeably shorter than people in the West whose standards of sanitation and health are on a much higher plane.

A blonde-haired man about 5 ft and 8 in tall approached me on the sidewalk. The man was odd looking and he reeked of alcohol. His right eye was white and he was clearly blind in that eye. It appeared that at one time he had sustained serious injury to his head, for a considerable portion of his skull was covered in scar tissue where it had been crushed inwards. He asked something in German, so I told him in German that I was going to the hotel George. He said he would show me where it was, and he did. The hotel George had been a grand old hotel in its time, but now it was long past its Glory Days. Still it was quite an edifice for the likes of Ukraine. A blonde haired woman at the reception desk informed it would cost $46 to spend the night. The price was definitely out of line, so naturally I declined. She said the tourist and Visa services were around the corner at the police station and they would reopen on Monday. I thanked her for the information and left. As I turned to go I caught a glimpse of the old serpentine staircase leading to the dark upstairs hallway. The place must have been 8 or 10 stories high.

Back out on the sidewalk a chain smoking Ivan reiterated continuously about going to his house with him. Normally such an invitation would have been courteously received and readily enough accepted. ivan, however, had breath that smelled very strongly of alcohol, and his general demeanor was abnormal. He kept crowding me on the sidewalk, touching my arm and babbling over and over in broken English that we should go to his house. He must have repeated that 25 times. Knowing not to trust alcoholics, I looked for a way to avoid Ivan. There would be a more pleasant visit in Lviv without this man. So, I walked along, with Ivan nearby going on incessantly about going to his house, thinking of a polite way of extracting myself from the situation. I had already declined Ivan's invitations several times. He stopped at a street vendor for two bottles more of vodka and a few packs of cigarettes. The last thing I wanted to do my first night in Ukraine was stayi up all night swilling rot-gut alcohol with a chain smoking brain damaged alcoholic.

I saw a young man in dark dress pants and a white shirt. He had the look of an intelligent young man, so I said to him, "Hello, do you speak English?" He said he did, so we got to talking. I told him about this fellow Ivan, and asked the young man to tell Ivan that his invitation was not being received, and that I would seek other accommodations. The young man did that. Ivan said he understood and he left straight away. The man said that there are many hotels in Lviv, and when they find out a foreigner needs a room they charge 10 to 20 times as much as they charge Ukrainians. He said travelers in Ukraine are better off going to a person's home and offering a few dollars for a night's accommodation. Nine times out of 10 you will be offered a place to sleep. You are better off doing things in a less formal way in Ukraine, not the traditional. The fellow was nice enough to walk back through the center of town to show the location of some hotels. One hotel refused to take in foreigners. Another had no available rooms.

This fellow was a postgraduate student at the University of Physical Culture, physical fitness, in Lviv. He was 24 and had lived in the city for 7 years. He told me this much.  "Ukraine is very corrupt. We know that. The people wanted change, but there has been little change and it has come too slowly. Most Ukrainian people are not interested in physical fitness. The only change in Lviv after perestroika was the addition of a religious cloister near the University stadium. Under Gorbachev, people who had amassed savings were arrested and their savings were confiscated. While these people were imprisoned inflation increased at the rate of 3,000% and 4,000% per year. Later these people were released and their money was returned to them, but by then it was worthless. Young people are finding more work, but the elder people are being left out in the cold. Pensioners are paid $10 to $15 a month and get bread and milk only. But I believe that Ukraine is superior to the rest of the world, including the United States. I would like to visit the United States only temporarily." When I asked him where else he had been in the world besides Ukraine, he said he had been only to Russia and Kazakhstan.

He was living in a hostel near his university. He invited me to stay over there a few days. He seemed like a decent enough fellow, and it turned out he was at that. An hour of walking got us from the city center to the hostel. We carried the bike and panniers up four stories to his room. We had a cold shower in the first floor shower room. He prepared us a delicious dinner of fried eggs and salad. After dinner he invited over two of his friends to meet the American cyclist. One was Sergie, a patriot of the port city of Odessa on the black sea, and a champion boxer for Ukraine who had trained for 9 years. I did not get the name of the other man. They asked many questions. Where are you going in Ukraine? How long will it take? What routes do you plan to follow? What kind of work do you do in America? I answered these and many other questions. Everyone left after a while. We finally hit the sack around 2:00 a.m. . I could not sleep again, so I got up and took two sleeping tablets which pushed me over the edge around 4:00 a.m. .

Day 27 saw me 76 miles farther along than the day before. There was a passage through a seven stage process of leaving Poland and entering the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine where an even sharper decline in living standards soon became visible, standards worse by far than either in Czech or Poland, standards of which I was gradually growing more wary. Towns were dirtier. People looked rougher, less healthy and more soiled. Side streets in towns were often just muck trails, passable only by Jeep or mule. Buildings were smaller, grimier, more cracked and crumbling than anything visible from the hard top up to that time. The stench of poverty, of abject desperation was everywhere. The warnings given by the Polish cyclists, and the fact that I carried more money than most Ukrainians could hope to earn in 9 years were certainly not the more comforting. Quite the contrary, robbery and murder were both real concerns. Ukraine was a cash only economy. They wanted only Deutsche marks and American dollars. Everything else could go to hell. I had gotten into Lviv and made a friend who invited me to a hostel for a few days. There had been some recuperation from the illness contracted in Poland, so things were looking up once again.


ALL VOICE TO TEXT, some errors.  My flight from New York to Paris touched down in Orly airport at 6:20 a.m.. the sky was dark gray. A moderate rain cooled the air fully wetting the tarmac around the jet. Customs and immigrations were a breeze. There was hardly a check or a question as we moved through the various lines and booths to the luggage area. The French did not even require a Visa which was surprising. In 1988 I had gone to France to enlist in the French foreign legion. Then the French required everyone to have a Visa because of terrorist threats they were keeping a close watch on everyone's comings and goings. There had been a waiting in line at a special office in London along with other people who had gotten themselves and Tangled in the Visa crunch. Now though it was just walk through and get it done. Two cardboard boxes weighted at baggage claim. One contained a chromoly touring bicycle and the other held the remainder of the gear. Because the other passengers had made off with all the baggage carts the best way to move them was by placing the smaller box on top of the box containing the bicycle and skidding them along the smooth tile floor. To some people it might have had an effect similar to screeching ones fingernails across a chalkboard but that was the only way. The immediate goal was getting into Paris to some discernible point from which to begin the journey. People at the airport said to take an Orly bus to somewhere in downtown Paris but where I did not know. With the two boxes loaded onto the bus it was necessary to hold them tightly as they swayed from side to side during the serpentine 20 minute ride into the City of lights. The first likely place was a rain drenched sidewalk in front of a city bus station in the small square d e n f e r t r o c h e r e a u. There was a clear plexiglass bus stop shelter there to keep out of the rain. The first plan was to unpack the bikes there assemble the bike and be ready to go when the rain stopped. However the shelter was so small and so many people kept coming and going from the buses that it was not possible. There was a small green park with an earthen footpath running through it just across the street that would make a good assembly point when the rain stopped.

Two young women from California were in the shelter. One was crying. She said their vacation had turned out miserably. She described their experience as a horror a nightmare. She said she and her friend were lost and penniless nearly late for their flight home and unable to speak French without a way to the airport. That did not seem to qualify as a genuine horror or a nightmare. It was more the case of the spoiled poor little rich girl who upon experiencing some minor inconveniences overreacts and blows they predicament completely out of perspective and proportion. But there was no use saying anything about that. however her words did bring back memories of August the 1st 1980 in buttevant Ireland when my train was derailed resulting in the worst railroad disaster in the history of Ireland with 18 people who were killed and more than 75 who were injured. Those injuries were truly horrible and appalling. For 6 months before that there were clear terrorists threats and warnings from soldiers in the United States army who were protected by the United States government. That was a horror and a nightmare. A few minutes later both of them were speaking French and boarding their bus to the airport. They made a quick recovery.

Hunger was setting in. The red neon lights of a pizza restaurant down the street to the left called out and made the stomach growl and set the juices to flowing. The questions were these. Was eating worth the trouble of carrying all that weight for a block? If not was it safe to leave everything unattended? The answer or the best answer to both questions was no. Had to besides that a frugal budget was necessary as usual and eating in Paris is notoriously expensive. The rain stopped in 2 hours and a dark gray sky remained.

It took only 30 minutes to move the boxes to the park and spread out everything on two benches. The ground was a drenched red clay that had splattered up on everything and stuck there. Moving carefully to avoid dropping any parts into the sticky clay it took about 2 hours to assemble the bike pack the panniers and then put everything together. A man and a woman two benches away we're smoking marijuana. The camping gear clothing and other items weighing about 60 lb were distributed in two large rear panniers two smaller front panners and a handlebar bag with the rest stacked onto a rack mounted over the rear wheel. The bike itself weighing about 32 lb seemed to wobble under the strain of body and gear.

When I pulled out for the first time onto the streets of Paris it must have been a site. Straddling the bike at some street corner to confer with a map of Paris, it was time to set out through the bustling City traffic following road signs to Led Halle, g a r e. du  nord, there was a right turn to parallel a quay at the S e i n e River and after that there was a canal. Somewhere in town was a McDonald's which charge $6.50 for hamburger Coke and fries. The streets of Paris were lined with apartment houses, businesses of all sorts, and sites of historic interest.

Mary ettinger and I had been tourists in Paris in the summer of 1982. We were on a one month rail pass in Western Europe and visiting in Paris many of the attractions to tourists go there to see. Now those places no longer held an allure. For this was the commencement of a major bicycling Odyssey whose first task required cycling successfully through the world's fourth most densely populated city with its more than 4,082 streets, 314 places, 8,016 intersections, and more than 2.2 million people distributed at more than 54,000 per square mile. That according to an encyclopedia. And already there were feelings of apprehension about what conditions might be encountered in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

General Discussion / Cycling Ukraine September 10, 1994.
« on: July 25, 2023, 02:16:29 am »
I pushed the heavily loaded bicycle out to the road where a tall thin bearded man was cycling by on the highway. There was no luck cycling West looking for the campground, but there was that tall bearded man talking with another man across the highway. Both men were on bicycles which is normal for Ukraine. Perhaps my cycling across the road to ask some questions would elicit some useful answers. "Do you speak English?" "Yes I do," replied the bearded man. And indeed he did this fellow named Viktor. Not only did he speak English well, he was also an interpreter in Kiev for a US News agency called Intel news. Viktor was a native-born Ukrainian, and his friend Leonid, Russian, was a retired pilot and testing engineer for an aircraft company. Viktor said the campground was very expensive and reserved for tourists. He said hotels were running about $65 a day, but that there was one cheaper hotel near where we were. We cycled to the hotel which was only a few minutes away.

The hotel a dull, drab looking, few stories kind of place was located in a sports complex surrounded by a car race track. Viktor informed me that he cycled on the track on weekends. After going in and looking at the rooms Viktor negotiated a price of $12 a day. He explained to the woman at the desk about The travelers checks and how they would be exchanged for coupons the following day. The Ukrainian renter paid 50 cents a day. The American paid $12. Or the Ukrainian paid 25,000 coupons a day and the American 600,000. Frankly the room was not worth it and it would be too much even for the United States. However, a poor Ukrainian, seeing a foreign tourist in his market, especially an American, is like a hungry shark sensing blood in the water. He goes crazy. And who is without guilt that he can cast the first stone? It was a market economy. They do the same thing in Florida every year when the tourist season rolls around.

 Agreeing to meet Viktor later outside, I repaired first to the room to get cleaned up while he cycled around the track.  It was a little confusing where we had agreed to meet. First, I cycled along a rocky road and then doubled back and cycled to the top of a concrete bridge over the track. There was no discernible way of getting from the bridge onto the track. They showed up and gave me directions on which road to follow and which gate to go around and where to turn and soon I too was on the track and cycling leisurely along. During our one lap of the track Victor talked about the sports complex and answered questions about Ukraine. We cycled over to a set of bleachers near an airfield and sat a while. Sitting prominently in a green grassy field about 200 ft in front of us was an old flat-green biplane. Large black letters were printed on the plane's fuselage, and a large painted red star adorned its rear rudder. It looked like a relic from a bygone era of aviation history, like a display in a museum for looks only. At the rear of the plane five young people sat and lay in the grass. Suddenly, along with a billowing cloud of gray smoke, the two engines burst into a well-oiled well-maintained and very loud roar. It was surprising as hell. "You mean that thing actually runs," I exclaimed. "Of course it runs," said Viktor. He went on to explain that students from Nepal used the plane to practice skydiving.

At that moment a group of 15 young men and women walk single file from a building to the plane and boarded. With its twin engines purring The relic took to the air like an eagle. It flew completely out of sight. At the same time a green military helicopter landed on a round concrete landing pad near us.

Victor, Leonid and I cycled into the center of Kiev. We came across a store selling cheese and yogurt, which, of course, I snapped up immediately. There is no better yogurt than Ukrainian yogurt, and the same goes for their coffee, cheese and their bread but that is all. The store had a second story which sold sundry items including soap powder. I drank down all of the yogurt in front of the store. Victor said that Intel news would pay me to write an article on my first impressions cycling through Ukraine. I made no promises but told him I would write one if I could find the time. The most important thing on my agenda was getting a few days of sound sleep. I did not want to get tied into someone else's agenda. Most always I am better off deciding my own course and making my own decisions. Victor promised to introduce me to the editor of Intel news tomorrow. We made plans to meet on Sunday to cycle out to the area's lake district.

It was a relief heading back to the hotel back to rest and relaxation. While cycling up to the front door, seven mangy snarling curs charged from behind a hedge in the hotel's front yard. They were mean vicious acting mongrels, but they backed away when I stopped cycling and yelled at them. They acted as though they would have liked nothing better than tearing me apart limb from limb. A new woman at the front desk claimed to have no knowledge of the agreement to cash the checks and pay later. She started arguing about paying, insisting that I come up with the money then. It was pointless trying to communicate with each other. Neither one of us spoke the other's language. She finally called a female interpreter.  Over the phone we got things straightened out. I carried the bicycle up the stairs and kept it inside the room. Dinner was composed of Nutella sandwiches and cheese.

The room itself was abuzz with flies. There were no screens on the windows. The TV was a fuzzy black and white affair that brought in two channels with no sound. The small refrigerator did not work at all. A brown colored crud coated the walls of the shower room all the way to the bottom of the tub. There was running water, all of it cold as ice. There was a sit toilet that flushed. Pull the overhead handle and a powerful stream rushed into the bowl onto the floor against the wall and all over anyone standing in front of the thing.

This 34th day was spent cycling about 10 miles around the city of Kiev. I rented a hotel room for an exorbitant price for 2 days and saw kiev's sports complex. Cheese and yogurt from a local store were an unexpected treat. This was the first full body ablution, cold as it was, in 5 days. A pack of nasty mean curs had menaced. An old woman at a reception desk had hassled and harassed. What a reception. Welcome to Ukraine.

The long search for an effective, light-weight, high pressure bicycle pump is over.  It is here.  The brand name is Lezyne.  The chrome colored one is high volume.  The black one is high pressure.  It is as light as a feather, not exactly but it is light.  You can tuck it in a pannier.  It has a long hose with a nozzle that screws onto the tire valve. The least expensive of three has no PSI gauge.  The next has a mechanical gauge.  The most expensive is the one with a digital gauge.  It pumps to 90 PSI in a jiffy.  Sure, you might have to lean on it some,  but so what.  You need extra strong Superman eyesight to read the microscopic numbers on the gauge.  Maybe an electron microscope would help. You know, one of those 300-meter-long scopes they use to look inside atoms and atomic particles. Once you discern your needed PSI mark, tape the line with a small piece of gorilla tape.  When you need air supply, pump till the red indicator gets to the tape.  The red indicator you can see as pressure increases.  When it disappears under the tape you got it.  It looks like it would not fit onto a presta valve.  It is good for schrader.  You need an adapter for presta valves.

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