Out of the Wolf’s Mouth

Sipping Croatian beer, keeping half an eye on my cart outside, because last time I left it unguarded with all my worldly possessions inside people started using it as a garbage can…
So far I’ve learned that what goes up must come down, down, sweeping down, flying around corners to sudden, breathtaking vistas of rugged Adriatic coastline and crystal blue deep aqua SLAM breaks screech swirve wildly, nearly killing everyone in sight:  suddenly one finds oneself on a sunny mediteranean beach swarming with insanely beautiful topless rich girls.  Oh how European!  Don’t mind if I do!  What’s the matter, you folks act like you’ve never seen a bum in a helmet taking a bath before?  I haven’t experienced this many disgusted aryans since laundry day in Norway…  On a related note, wet salty jean shorts pedalled a hundred miles on an experimental bike seat are a sure recipe for an itch spookily reminicent of tropical ball fungus circa 2008.  
Flat, flat Italy was a breeze, except that every bike-stashable bush outside Venice was infested with hookers, but what a city once I finally got in!  No cars!  (or bikes, which made it an odd first stop on the tour…).  Evan saw me down the steep steep hill- we said our goodbyes amidst the cobblestones and castle I’ve spent the last month camped above, and off I was down the open BANG!  Not two minutes on my way and the cart broke- it seems that in my hurry to leave I had neglected a critical pin.  But what could I do?  Back up the steep steep hill was out of the question, so I eeked the 50k to Ravenna on a bike that could onlz shift into gears intended for climbing mountains… much anxiety, unnecessary amounts of pedalling and wild gesturing later and I managed to borrow a drill and get the bike fixed, to boot.  THEN I was back on the road, except I lost my may and got blown 10k off course before charging north on busy 4-lane interstates for lack of a better plan.   But milage was good, and wild fantasies of waltzing right through the iron curtain filled my brain.  But that was before I encountered a hill… did I mention the crazy heat wave blowing in off the Saharrah which bumps the temperature up to 100 and makes me drink a gallon of water before noon without pissing?
The relentlessly steep climb from Trieste up to Slovinia took easily as much effort as the 350+ km up the coast of Italy.  As did the 60 km stretch through the Slovenian Alps.  Some would call these the FOOTHILLS of the Slovenian Alps, but those would be some who have never towed a garbage cart across them.   A potentially fatal flaw of the wagon is revealed- mountains- and the reason why the two other bike tourers I’ve met have literally laughed in my face when I told them I’m going to Istanbul.   But before I further degrade my chariot, let me first sing its praises:
Evan and I constructed a bike cart entirely from free, found garbage- no welds and not so much as a purchased bolt- which actually has the potential to make it 2,000 miles hauling 50+ pounds of gear accross mountains, bad roads, crashes, and continual bashing into things.  If this feat of engineering sounds paltry, then I challenge you to replicate.  And remember- your safety and well-being are on the line if you fail.  So yeah, she may weigh a little more than the hightech carbon fiber GPS-chipped odo-computer-equipped beauty I saw on my first day out, but its MY cart, and I know it inside and out down to its soul.  I know what’s likely to bend, snap and what each sound and pull means.  A day hasnt gone by when I haven’t fiddled with or repaired something, but thats only because not a day has gone by when I haven’t actively appreciated this re-purposed shopping cart.  So when just today, when I’m taking the first well-earned break I’ve taken in two days, and I randomly just happen to witness two different sets of bike tourers ride past each on and give each other fist pumps… yeah, it hurts my fealings a little bit when I ride past the same group of cyclists a little bit later and recieve nothing but scornful looks.  I’m going up the same hills, slogging through the same heat, and just because I’m doing it a little differently I’m not part of the club?  Well fuck, whether I make it to Turkey or not my cart made it 400+ km through mountains and 3 countries, brightening the day of at least one gas station attendant, and for this I am proud, thankful and optimistic.
All this has been conditioning for what’s to come- I now head south along Europe’s hottest trendy beaches before cutting inland to Bosnia and the heart of the Balkan mountains.  The real journey starts tomorrow….

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