Day Nine Jirko and me in Bad Eisenkappel
I awoke a little early to the sound of soft snoring from two sources. Curled next to sleeping Ota was sleeping Badje. When Hana put breakfast on the kitchen table, Ota and Badje awoke. Along with Otto, we all ate leftover chlebíčky, Hana’s own apple strudel, assorted yogurts, seedless green grapes and assorted fruit juices. Czech Republic grocery stores are always stocked with an amazing variety of fruit juices like peach, pear, currant, mango, cherry plus those flavors so common in the United States. I find them all delicious.
Ota determined that we (I?) had better not ride over the Austrian alps early in our trip. Train routes, however, were too confounding when it came to understanding which connection would or would not carry bicycles. Sometimes, a train required reservations just for the bicycles. Also we would worry about delays (common), and about our missing train connections. Ota arranged for (and paid) his friend, Milán, to drive the family car to the border between Austria and Slovenia near the village of Jesenica [YES en nitsza], Slovenia. That way, we would avoid bicycling up the highest mountain in the range. The car trip through Austria and past Vienna, took nearly six hours. We arrived at the border in Bad Eisenkappel National Park as night was falling. Ota treated me to and supplied me with every bit of equipment I would need. He bought the exceptionally reliable mountain bike and all the accessories, even toe clips. I had double fenders to prevent splash back, a carrier rack on the rear and saddlebags to fit over the rear rack. These saddlebags are very fancy. Each side bag has two zipper compartments. There is another component on top that becomes a two compartment, removable suitcase with its own shoulder strap. Additional carrying straps and Velcro tabs, along with plastic locking clips, allowed the whole contraption to turn into a carry bag. Eventually, I learned in which pocket I had stowed which supply (almost). I did not keep the bicycle, its auxiliary equipment or the saddlebags. Ota offered them to me as a gift, from the beginning. He could use them far better (in many ways) than I. He is generous beyond belief. I did keep the inflatable seat cushion that worked very effectively. I also kept the very special gift of a Mickey Mouse bell. He thought of everything. Larry, Jirko & Milan
This was my first camping trip. Again, Ota
supplied me with all the camping essentials. I brought a few things I thought I, or we, might use. I think it is natural that I would pack too much rather than too little. I packed lots of socks and underpants, thermal underwear, T-shirts, shorts and biking pants, a rain poncho, a portable clothesline, sandals, my Czech textbook, a swimsuit, suntan lotion, adhesive bandages, a sewing kit, pain pills, toiletries, flashlight, a chamois towel, antibacterial lotion and, of course, a camera with extra batteries. We unloaded the bicycles from the roof of the car, packed them with our luggage, supplies and equipment and headed to the border crossing. MilĂĄn drove home all through the night. Inclement weather made his trip a nightmare. Both Jirko and Ota were able to stay almost constantly in-touch with news from home with their cell phones. The lone Customs guard, who had been observing us, seemed very interested in our plans. Ota spoke to him in English, being careful not to reveal that we would soon be looking for an unauthorized place to pitch our tents. All the way down the mountain, there was no traffic on the road. In the dim light, and because we were just getting used to the balance of our cargo, we all applied the brakes and stayed single file to maximize the brightness of our bicycle lights. At the bottom, Jirko and Ota stopped to address the map. A church bell rang for at least five minutes. The sound might have been a recording or an electrical bell. The time was about 21:15 when the ringing stopped. Flickering red votive candles in the church graveyard intrigued me. I began to take photographs from the gate. A man walked out of his cottage and called something to me. Ota translated that I was disrespecting the dead by photographing their graves. I ceased immediately. Ota asked the man if he knew a place where we could pitch our tent. The gentleman couldnâ€™t explain well enough in words so he hopped in his car and led us about a kilometer away, in the dark, up another winding road, to a campground. Then he made a u-turn and drove back toward his home. This was a commercial campground. There were cabins around the periphery. We were on a plateau nestled among mountains. We pitched our tent beside a rushing river. There was a group of children and some supervising adults gathered around a campfire a hundred yards away. There was also an RV parked near the port-o-potty. It displayed Czech license tags. We didnâ€™t see any place to pay but we proceeded to set up camp expecting someone to approach us for money. No one ever did.
We enjoyed a dinner feast of fresh bread with hard Czech salami, hot powdered garlic soup, biscotti cookies, and canned meat spread. We used the small propane canister and cook top on loan from Patrik, who wasn’t with us. The air was cool and damp. The hot garlic soup warmed our souls. Jirko and Ota taught me a little bit about how to pitch the tent. In the dark, I couldn’t learn very well. It was an ingenious contraption. First you seek level and smooth ground. Next, you lay the tent base out. Two collapsible poles are assembled, inserted into the base’s corners, and tied together at their apex by the ties attached to the peak of the tent top. The poles support the suspension of the tent top. The top is permanently attached to its base. Metal stakes, contained in their own zipper case, are pounded into the ground beside loops around the base and the loops are hooked over the stakes. There is also an overlay that covers the tent top. It extends beyond the base and affords additional covered space for storage of our shoes and a few supplies. The overlay is fastened to the stakes in the ground also. When the top is set correctly, it lines up with vents and keeps them open. It also provides a second zipper closure for the one door in the front. Jirko and Ota were easily able to pitch the tent in darkness. We three slept in the one tent very comfortably. We each had a sleeping bag and a roll-up pad beneath us. I used my inflatable airplane neck pillow. There were a couple things that I knew I would need every morning or night like that pillow, a toothbrush and toothpaste. My friend, Donna Gould, had given me a pullover jacket with deep pockets and a zipper compartment, specifically to take on this trip. I wasn’t expecting cold weather in August. I didn’t realize we would be riding across mountain ranges. I have never camped before and I really didn’t know how to anticipate my needs. The soft black jacket, with its compartments and the warmth it afforded, turned out to be one of my most valuable assets. It carried my pillow, toothbrush and paste and eventually, most of my essentials. It also became part of my pillow ensemble.