Category Archives: bike

Former Ottoman Empire: Albania & Istanbul

We booked another tour with Far & Away Cycling, this time to Albania. As it turns out, Turkish Airlines had a massive fare sale for our dates, and the cost to fly from Houston to Tirana to Istanbul back to Houston was only $800! I normally hate flying from Houston (or Dallas), but this fare saved us over $400 per person, so I agreed to make the drive.

The drive to Houston took forever. It rained the whole way. There was a lot of traffic. Ugh. Aside from the drive to Houston, it was a fairly uneventful flight, and I sat next to a young couple on their first trip to Europe.

Day 1

We took a long bus transit out of Tirana and started near the border with Macedonia. Since the previous dictator was paranoid, bunkers littered  the mountainside. We cross the border into Macedonia and had lunch on Lake Ohrid. When we rode around the lake, I got dropped at the climbs and took some photos. I met up with the group again by the split to the monastery and did a short tour with them.

Bunker along Lake Ohrid
Monastery of Saint Naum

We crossed the border back into Albania and stayed at a hotel on the lake.

Lake Ohrid
View of fishermen in the morning

Day 2: Korce

We took an easy ride out of Korce and saw gorgeous farmlands. Just as the tempo picked up, it started to rain and hail. We ducked into the gas station to wait out the storm. As soon as we got started again, another hail storm rolled in. We skipped lunch and did the bonus miles to the monastery in Vostepoje. The roads were rough on the way to the climb and the climbs were steep. I was so glad to get to the top. Since the monastery was closed, we rode back down in the lightening and rain. I loved the disc brakes on the bike.


Day 3: Trout Farm

Of course, there was a long climb out of Korce. After a long downhill to a coffee stop, we did some fast riding to lunch. Being a roadie, I crashed on some bumps going out of town. I cleaned out the rocks while my adrenaline was flowing and got back on the bike. We  went up more climbs with rocky descents and then did a really long climb to the trout farm. I lost my mojo after the crash, so the descents were just brutal. The trout farm was relaxing. It was isolated and quiet, and we had amazing trout for dinner.

Day 4: Benje

As the pattern goes, we climbed out of the trout farm. We saw Armand’s (the ride leader’s) land and then descended through the gorge. It was a crazy bumpy downhill on torn up roads. The scenery was gorgeous, but without my mojo, the descent was hell.

We did the extra mileage to go to the Greek border and time trialed to catch up with the other folks. We did sprint attacks on the way back. At the much needed coffee stop, we chatted with some Belgians. They were quite surprised Americans were biking around Albania. We climbed more hills with rough roads to Benje. There, we had an amazing lunch with roasted lamb.

That afternoon, we biked to the hot springs with more rough road. Instead of getting into warm water, I hiked through river bed and soaked my legs in cold water.


Day 5: Girocaster

The group started the day riding together until our coffee stop at Permet. After coffee, the pace picked up,  and I learned to downshift on rough roads to add some power and smooth out the ride. We rode through a gorgeous valley and picked up honey at the lunch stop. The ride to Girocaster was rainy with dreadful headwinds. I tucked into a pace-line until the steep climb into Girocaster. After cleaning up, we toured an old house and castle and sat at the city corner for “happy hour.” The dinner was incredible with melted cheese and sweet pumpkin byrek.

Some fisheye fun atop the Girocaster castle
In an American fighter plane atop Girocaster castle (scarf and sunglasses added later)

Day 6: Sirande (coastal town)

Of course, the group did the extra mileage to the start with a flat, tailwind assisted ride to the climb. The climb was long, yet doable. I caught up to Janice, and found out her competitive nature. The descent was winding, but fun.

We took a short ferry to Butrint, and toured the grounds. After lunch, we had a long, undulating climb and descent. I pulled my companions into Sarande and promptly got lost. We finally found hotel. I felt a bit of overtraining at dinner and went to bed.

View of Corfu from Butrint
View from hotel room at Sarande

Day  7: Hiram

I took the first climb out of Sirande a bit hard. At the coffee stop in the mountains, a sweet old lady patted my head and talked to me. I clearly had no idea what she was saying. After the stop, we took it really easy. Roman left his camera on the side of the road and had to go back for it at lunch. After Roman found his camera on the side of the road (!), we toured the Venetian fortress.

When we finally arrived in Haram, it was hot. I quickly changed into bathing suit and headed to the beach. The beach was a bit rocky, but the water was nice and cold.

Day 8: Vlore

We climbed out of Himare and then started a steep climb. I caught up with Janice, and we stopped at the gorgeous overlook coffee shop. We climbed through the town and wondered when the climb of the day started. When we rounded the corner, we saw the climb above us. We climbed, climbed, and climbed. It started sprinkling on us, and I got cold. At the top, I took as selfie with Janice. Armand arrived and took us through the cold descent. At lunch, I could barely warm up, and I seriously thought about jumping into the car for the rest of the day. I soldiered on. When Janice decided to stop to put up her hood, I went on and ended up riding the rest of the way into Vlore by myself. The hotel was isolated resort on the water with nice beach chairs. I spent the afternoon in the sun relaxing

Day 9: back to Tirana

We took a brutal bus transport back to Tirana and hung out at the hotel. I had Merlut (small fish) for dinner and went to the Brauhaus with Adriene, Bob and Roman to close out the trip.


We saw the touristy sights in Istanbul: Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, and Bosphorus cruise. My favorite memories were eating: breakfasts in a dive joint and fresh sour cherry and pistachio Turkish delight.


Hagia Sophia
Topkapi Palace


Day 1 – Bastia to St Florent

A bit nervous to start since I wasn’t as fit as I was in 2012, and the Croatia tour was really tough. The Croatia tour had lots of steep grades that went on and on and on.


We started off easy with a pretty flat ride with tail wind on the Eastern coast until lunch. After lunch, we followed the “cap course” path and cut through the center of the island. After some time, we started climbing (to get to the other side of the island). It was relatively long, but very manageable. At some point, we took the “high road.”  It was very narrow with few cars. Impressively, most managed to stay on their side of the narrow road. During this section, we had to navigate a herd of goats.

The high road didn’t last forever, so we had to rejoin the major road (D81) on the west coast. The designated stop was Nanza, which I should see across the valley. With all the bends and turns, it was still miles away. With the wind swirling in the bends, it took forever to get there.  After Nanza, we had headwind for a bit. As soon as we turned, we had a downhill with a tailwind into St Florent.

Day 2 – St Florent to Calvi

Since we got started after the other folks on the trip, we rode with Bob (the tour leader). After the town, we started climbing. We expected a headwind into the mountain, but we had a nice tailwind help us up. As we headed up, we look back on St Florent in the bay. All along the way, we could see rock formations. During the descent, we saw a busload of riders (including tandems with blind riders in the back) about to start their day. As we ascended into Belgodere, we could see it from several bends away. We also saw another town in the distance.


After a long lunch stop, we headed to that other town.  As soon as we passed through it, the rain started to pout. I decided to ascend the big climb of the day and pass on the descent on the rough roads. I climbed into the warm van and saw the scenic views from the inside.

Calvi had a nice citadel and port.

Day 3 – Calvi to Porto

We got an even later start out of Calvi. We wanted the laundry to dry took our time. According to Lonely Planet, the ride from Calvi to Porto is one of the most beautifull rides, and I wholehearted agree. We did rollers on the coastline, descended into a valley and rode back out to the coast. The road surface started off nice and then got awful for a long stretch. I started hoping to uphills to ease the strain on my back and hands.

After we crossed a bridge, the pavement finally got better. We had lunch right before our climb. It was a nice, gradual climb. We would see a point on the other side of the valley and go through multiple bends before reaching it. We were rewarded with a lovely view at the summit.


We then had a nice descent with wide roads. We had stunning views after each bend. My legs finally felt good, so I added some effort to the climbs. On one of the narrow climbs, a bus got stuck trying to pass a car.



Day 4 – Porto to Ajaccio 

We climbed out of Porto and stopped for a tour of the rock gardens. [Wind, erosion] formed these rocks over time, and we spent about 45 minutes hiking through the rocks.

After exploring the rocks, we continued the climb to the top.  As with the other days, the views were gorgeous, and we could see the coastline to the right. We descended on the inside of the island with wide empty roads and lovely views. We even got to navigate through a smaller herd of goats. We did some rollers back to the coast and went through several quaint villages. I could smell food wafting through the town in these villages, and I was counting down the miles to lunch. We stopped at a beachside restaurant in Sagone. I was particularly excited that there was an egg on my lunch pizza!  After Sagone, we climbed a bit (with the sun upon us) before descending into Ajaccio. I was so tired after the efforts, the heat and the five course traditional meal at Restaurant 20123 that I fell asleep right after dinner.

Day 5 – Ajaccio to Evisa 

Today was the “queen stage” for the trip. Tons of climbing, and not very much mileage to do so (6300 ft in 43 miles). We climbed out of Ajaccio and ran into the same construction/gravel from yesterday. I got through a few sections of gravel, but ended up walking the looser bits. (Need to mountain bike more to get used to loose surfaces). We climbed out of the pass going in the other direction to Sagone and grabbed a quick bite to eat at the bakery. No one really wanted to do the big climb on a full stomach.

The climb could be broken into two parts: Sagone to Vico and then Vico to the summit. For the first part, we had plenty of shade and the sun was hidden behind the clouds. I kept myself in low zone 4 on the ride up to Vico, but right after Vico the pitch went up to the 14-15% gradient. My heart rate skyrocketed, and with the sun beating down on me, I had trouble keeping my heart rate low(er). Towards the end of the climb, I just wanted to stop. In fact, I was going so slowly, the Garmin auto-paused itself ($%@# !!!).  I saw what I hoped was the summit, but didn’t dare hope too much in fear of disappointment. Thankfully, Chantal drove the van pass me and told me it was the end! I kept moving, and voila! I was done with the climb.

We waited a bit for others at the summit, so we had time to hang out with the pigs.

We decended a bit and had to go back uphill to the hotel in Evisa. In Evisa, we sae hikers (presumably doing the GR20 hike) walk into town.

Day 6 – Evisa to Bastia 

The day started off with a delicious breakfast at the bakery in town. After breakfast, we climbed out of Evisa to the top of the Col de Vergio at 1467 meters. The serene climb took us through an alpine forest, and we cleared the treeline close to the top. At the summit, we could see ski slopes across the valley.

To prepare for the long descent, we put on all our warm gear: armwarmers, kneewarmers, jackets, long-fingered gloves. Even so, I was too cold. We had a nice coffee stop and then descended through the magnificent Golo Gorge.


After the gorge, there was a nice bit of pavement, so we picked up the pace to lunch. After lunch, clouds threatened to rain, so we made short work of the distance back to Bastia. I was exhausted from holding pace for so long and was relieved to see the Chez Walter to end the trip.

Corsica Thoughts

If you ever do a tour of Corsica:

  • Make sure you do a tour that rides through the west coast from North to South. You’ll want to look over and see the gorgeous coastline.
  • Make sure you descend through the Golo Gorge. You don’t want to ascend through it with the traffic.

Travel notes 

  • TMobile rocks. My cousins didn’t have TMobile, and it was a bit difficult to communicate with them when we were separated.
  •  Bring conditioner. It’s not offered in many hotels, and leave in condition doesnt cut it
  • Pack warm layers and rain gear. Quality gear is expensive overseas.
  • Be careful with your passport. I’ve been a bit lax on this lately, but I’ll be more careful from now on.

Asia for Work – Fall 2013

The goal of the trip was to meet folks work in Asia, build a personal connection and collaborate on several projects. I can’t stress enough the importance of meeting folks in person – so much is lost over a phone conversation.


After oversleeping my alarm for a flight earlier this year, I try to avoid early morning flights. It didn’t happen, so I ended up on the first flight from Austin to San Francisco. I uncharacteristically took a window seat and managed to get some sunrise shots over the wing.

The flight over was uneventful, and I tried melatonin for the first time. I’m not sure why I took so long to do so — it worked like a charm. Since I arrived early Sunday, I made arrangements to rent a road bike from the Bike Butler and rode with the Anza cycling team around part of the country. They’re a friendly group of fast expats. I rode with the group on a freeway, AND I saw the border with Malaysia!

Waiting at ride start
Route from Strava


After a couple days of great meetings in Singapore, we left for Tokyo. Since I was jet lagged, I woke up way before work the day after Halloween in search of food. I saw tons of folks heading home after a night of drinking in full costume. Glad to see Halloween is a universal holiday.

I spent the weekend in Tokyo and met up with Regan and his wife Sharon at the Park Hyatt. It’s a gorgeous hotel. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to swim in the pool due to their strict no tattoo rules. On the other hand, we were there for Tokyo Design Week.

Regan in the storage container full of stickers @ Tokyo Design Week
Me @ the Alice in Wonderland booth


After Tokyo, I headed onto Shanghai. We got to stay at the can opener, which was the highest building in the city at the time. They were building something even taller nearby. The office in Shanghai is just gorgeous – I felt so energized yet relaxed in the office.

View of the Pearl Tower and Bund from hotel

Summary Cycling Thoughts

In 8 riding days, I rode 368 miles with 30,578 feet of climbing. I had a great time riding in Slovenia  and Croatia this week, and I highly recommend Far & Away Cycling to folks who like low-frills traveling and lots of climbs.

Some things I learned this week:

  • Churches are often on top of a hill.  Makes for very scenic pictures.
  • It’s not just the mileage or the number of feet climbed, the gradient along the way can also soften your legs.
  • The climbing here can be like Austin hills, except they don’t stop for miles. However, even a quarter mile can still be a long way to climb.
  • The percentage, switchback, and snowflake signs mean more pain and suffering to come.
  • The “right way” usually involves a climb.
  • Here, people don’t create the segments – Strava creates them for you.

Cycling in Slovenia

Day 6: Brod Na Kupi to Ljubljana

The morning was bitterly cold, and we immediately rode through the border crossing. The fog was still lingering in the valleys, and within a few miles, we had the uphill for the day that involved some “work.”  (Our tour leader, Bob, has a great way of understating the climbs.)

Fog lingering in the valleys on the ride to Ljubljana

The day was just cold and miserable, and the pack we were riding in (Greg, Robin, John, Roman and myself) weren’t properly bundled up. We accidentally found a coffee shop, so we warmed up with cappuccinos and hot chocolate.  I poured my hot chocolate into my thermal water bottle to have some warmth for the ride.

We had fun riding through the forest and picked up the pace to get to lunch. Due to the cold and unexpected distance to lunch (about 5-7 miles after I expected it), I got a bit hungry and mean. I wasn’t using much nutrition in my bottle on the trip and was counting on lunch to refill my tank.  We picked up some lunch at the grocery store (as the restaurant wasn’t open yet) and tried to warm up at the coffee shop next door. At one point, I was so cold and miserable, I seriously considered not continuing on with the day’s ride.

I toughened up and got back on my bike. After lunch, the cold, cold descent was on a scenic, quiet bike route and then undulating roads into Ljubljana. The ride in was nicely paced and fun, so I was happy I continued.  At the concluding happy hour with the tour group, I found out we weren’t saying goodbye to everybody – some more folks were joining us on the way to Bled.

Off tour: Ljubljana to Bled

Before we started the tour, we knew we were going on to Bled. The question was whether we would take the train or ride there. My big concern was having enough gears to cross the pass into Bled. Since other folks would be riding too, I didn’t have much of a choice. The two couples (Robin and John, Chantel and Bob) set off ahead of us that morning. I wanted to catch up, but I didn’t think we could make up the difference.

While the start/stop getting out of town was difficult, I liked the cycling infrastructure. We had a bike lane on the major thoroughfare that separated us from cars and pedestrians, and there traffic signals for all three.  The bike lane had mostly commuters, and one was upset when we passed her without using a bell.

After some time, we stopped at the picturesque town of Škofja Loka. There was a Citroen bus caravan that we wanted to photograph, and we ran into the two couples at a coffee shop there. I had a great farmer’s cheese stuffed pastry and a tasty tangerine soda.

Citroen bus caravan
Leaving Škofja Loka

After this stop, we had a brisk flat with a bit of headwind. I was careful to maintain an easy pace as I was wary of the mountain pass. The climb itself wasn’t too bad: it had short steep sections relieved by “flatter” sections (3-6%). Near the top, we had gorgeous views looking back at the start of the climb. A few switchbacks later, we saw a WWII memorial on the hillside. At the top of the pass, we had amazing views of the valley and a quaint church down a walking path. We could also see the snow-capped Julian Alps in the distance. 

Looking back to the climb start

Church down the path, Julian Alps in the distance

The descent into Kropa was shaded, cold, and bumpy. My forearms got tired from squeezing the breaks so often. We went into the museum at Kropa, and the attendant turned on the loud, but neat music box for us. It even had a drum head and cymbals.

After another descent, we arrived at Bled, which included a quiet route over a gravel path. On the way in, we took a route that was different than the sign to Bled. I stopped after the sign, and Chantel (Bob’s wife) went in a different direction from the group. I remember her yelling out, “Every man for himself!”  I like the spirit of exploration and the lack of handholding. It embodies the spirit of Bob’s tours. As Chantel said, Bob’s philosophy is that he doesn’t go back.

Before checking in to our respective hotels, we rode around town to see where everyone was staying and decided to meet at Penzion Mayer for dinner. The mushroom soup that night at Penzion Mayer was one of my favorite soups of the trip. (Earlier that day, we saw that the King Boletus mushroom was in season, so I made it a point to order mushroom anything afterwards.)

Our flat from AirBnB was awesome – and our hostess left us with a basket of fresh fruit. I’m a huge fan of how the AirBnB folks go out of their way to make us feel welcome.

Off tour: Bled to Bohinj and back

We met up with Robin and John for the ride to Bohinj and back. At one point, when asked, Roman said the next bit was undulating. Within a mile, we started our penultimate climb of the day – a Cat 2 Strava climb of 4.3 miles, averaging 7.5%, and climbing 1, 657 ft. During the unending climb, we went through two tunnels and saw a warning sign of 18% grade (the highest grade warning I had seen on the trip). I steeled myself and continued on. The climb was so long, I sweated through my arm warmers. This made the descent even colder. At the top of the climb, we could see a village at the bottom of the valley. After descending a bit, we started to see a different village ahead on a slope with hair pin turns.  Next thing you know, we went through the village at the bottom.  We were so cold, our coffee stop ended up being a long lunch stop. We filled ourselves up with tea with local honey, hot cocoa, mushroom soup, pasta and mushrooms, goat, and strudel. In the ride through the valley, we went through several picturesque villages. We heard and saw cattle bells hanging off cows instead of spectators. We finally descended to Bohinj Lake and rode around the lake to the entrance to a waterfall. On the way, we encountered some unexpected climbs to the entrance. There was a 20 minute hike up steps to get to Savica Falls, and when we got there the viewing area was a bit crowded so we took some quick photo graphs and headed back. Along the hike, we saw tons of freshwater fish in the clear water.  The sun was starting to wane, and I was worried about getting back to town before dark.

Riding through the valley

Lake Bohinj
Savica Falls

The road back to Bled was relatively flat with a cross and headwind, so Roman led our paceline home. We saw two cyclists in the distance, but they stayed away for several miles. John moved to the front and slowly reeled in the two. They were quite animated when talking to us initially, but we couldn’t understand them. Roman and their lead cyclist pulled us all the way back to Bled. It was nice finishing the day with a brisk fast pace, and we had plenty of daylight left. When we got back, we found fresh-baked apple strudel from our AirBnb hostess! That night, I had trout for dinner as I had been thinking about fish all day.

Off tour: Bled East and back by Vintgar Gorge

The routes we used the previous two days had been recommended (and defined in GPSies) by Bob.  Using Strava, we looked around for suitable routes with just enough climbs at 3,000-4000 ft and around 40 miles. I then created the route for the Garmins using GPSies. This worked out pretty well – we used the route of a Bled local so the climbing was nice and the roads were reasonably safe.

We met with Robin and John at Helia’s, the travel agency / bike rental company that transported our luggage, and the travel agent recommended some sights along the way. We took a nice cycling path near the main road from Bled to Lesce. This was a well maintained route with a nice bridge. The cycling paths and bike lanes around Slovenia show that they really take care of their cyclists, and it shows in the number of cyclists we saw in our time there. During a Monday afternoon, we saw at least a dozen cyclists riding about.

After one of the first climbs, we saw gorgeous views of a valley and the mountains beyond.  We rode through the valley to the other side and saw those same mountains up close later in the day. The route felt comparatively flat, but we still climbed over 3,000 ft and went over three Cat 4 climbs. On one of our detours (uphill, of course), we rode by the ruins of a castle.

Our route went by Vintgar Gorge, and we had a nice stop there. It had neat wooden pathways through the gorge and beautiful waterfalls. I personally liked it more than Savica Falls. We were so weary of riding, that this was our last ride for the trip.


The next morning, we tried to rent a car to take us to Vršič Pass.  Since it was the end of the season, there were none available. Weighing our options, we decided to head to Vienna a day early as there was much to see there.

We used the morning to visit the Bled castle atop the cliff and eat ice cream while enjoying the view of the lake. Interestingly, a castle/fortress had been at that location for over a thousand years. Nowadays, a castle on the hilltop looks pretty, but back then, it made great sense from a defensive standpoint.

Cycling in Croatia

Day 2 Cycling: Motovun to Rabac, Croatia

At the breakfast meeting, our tour guide Bob described the morning’s climb to us: “You’ll climb some and then climb some more. You’ll hit an ‘Oh My God’ hill and think it couldn’t possibly continue. But it does.”  That pretty much describes the hill. The reward at the end was looking back and seeing Motovun across the valley.


Once again, we saw tons of gorgeous views of valleys and many small farms growing grapes, olives, corn and apples. I quickly realized that cappuccino was fast, delicious and inexpensive here, so I started my steady stream of cappuccino. At the lunch break in Pazin, we viewed the gorge that inspired a Jules Verne’s novel, walked through a castle and saw a tool shed with a heavy file, a kitchen/hearth and a torture room.  After lunch, we went down nice fast switchbacks; these had long straights and smooth roads. Of course, we almost immediately went uphill again. After the climbing, we quickly descended again into the seaside resort of Rabac. The water was clear and cool, but not cold enough for a much needed ice bath.


Day 3 Cycling: Rabac and Cres

In the morning, we wearily got back on our bikes and climbed back out of the previous day’s descent into Rabac. Roman didn’t need as much time for the climb, so he stayed in the hotel room a bit later. Unfortunately, Bob didn’t count the bags and left Roman and his bags behind.  Bob went back for Roman’s bags, and all was well.

Scenic overlook before the ferry to Cres

Before taking the ferry over, we stopped at a scenic overlook for a drink and to take some pictures. The descent to the ferry terminal was a bit steep and fast, and the ferry ride to Cres was uneventful. After waiting for all the cars to unload, we started our climb out of the ferry terminal. It was a nice long climb but at manageable grades (4-6%). Towards the end of the climb, we saw the Mediterranean Sea on our right.  The road finally flattened out on the ridge of the island, and we could see the road ahead along with the Mediterranean Sea on both sides of the island. This was one of my favorite views the entire trip.

We descended into the town of Cres (same name as the island) for lunch, and we stopped at a nice restaurant on the water. We gorged on a fish platter with amazing grilled squid and then bought some pastries at a nearby bakery and packed them into my jersey pocket. During the climb out of Cres, I felt the donut melting, so Roman transferred the donut from my pocket to Greg’s backpack – all while riding up the hill.

We rode along the ridge again, and this time we had an undulating descent through a wooded area into Beli for the night. The descent was somewhat scary for me as the roads were narrow and there was traffic in both directions. At Beli, we went to the secluded beach (an 0.8 mile walk that dropped 414 ft), and Roman got into the water.

Bakery treats for after the ride
On the ride to Beli
The beach at Beli
Beli from our hotel

Day 4 Cycling: Beli, Cres to Krk

That morning in Beli, I had a big breakfast that included a multi-egg omelet and pancakes (crepes) with jam and nutella on top.  On this full stomach, I rode through the fog to climb out of Beli back to the ridge. I left a bit early as the sky was dark and threatening, and I preferred to ride in the sunshine and minimize the amount of time riding in the rain.

Ride through the fog from Beli

The undulating hills from the previous night made for some respite for the morning’s climb. Since I was familiar with the roads towards the other end of the island, I rode tempo for a few miles while enjoying the gradual descent off the ridge. Before long, we had a nice long climb. (Being my silly self, I underestimated what an 0.9 mile hill entailed and worked the hill trying for a Strava segment.) Once more, we descended into the ferry terminal, and we could see the fog and mountains on the other side of the island where Beli is situated. This ferry ride was more eventful: we were worried that the support van with all the bikes wasn’t making the ferry. When it was nearly full, the ferry opened up its belly for small cars and our van was one of the last vehicles on. Interestingly, there were tons of campers and RV’s going from island to island on this ferry – I never knew before that this was popular in Europe.

Once we landed (at a bigger terminal that could handle two ferries), we climbed out of the ferry terminal and had an undulating ride into Krk (same name as the island). Here, we had lunch on the waterfront, and again we climbed towards our destination of Vrbnik on a full stomach. We had a fast undulating descent. When we got to town, folks on the tour stopped at the wine shop and picked up quite a few bottles of wine.

The hotel for the night had lovely views of the sea and of the mainland. We swam in the cold yet clear water and had appetizers of bread, salami, prosciutto and white asparagus on the hotel terrace. It started to rain about dinner time, and overnight, a huge storm blew in. As the thunder and lightning woke me up, I made a resolve to not ride in the lightning – in my dreamlike state, I didn’t want to be a lightning magnet on my steel bike.

View from terrace at Vrbnik

Day 5: Unexpected rest day 

This was supposed to be the hardest day of the trip: a 3.2 on the Bob scale. Cycling to Motovun was the hardest so far, and it was only a 2.9. I spent a lot of time worried about my gearing and whether or not I could even make it up the climb. Most of the folks had a triple chain ring and could spin up the previous climbs. I had double chain ring with and felt like I was in trouble on some of the harder days.

All the worry for was naught: when we woke up, the conditions were miserably cold with a windy downpour. Bob asked if anyone wanted to ride, and no one really seemed up for it. So, he found a van to drive us to the next stop of Brod na Kupi, a Croatian town on the Slovenian border. On the drive over, I could see why he canceled the ride: the hydrofoil that was to take us to the mainland wasn’t operating due to the waves and the wind gusts could have easily blown me off the road or over the bridge. Even though I dozed in and out of sleep during the drive, the bridge from Krk to the mainland seemed like it went straight through a mountain. In a short span, we went from a Mediterranean to alpine atmosphere, and I may come back to ride this route one day.

Brod na Kupi couldn’t be closer to the border. I could see the border crossing from the hotel window, and we walked by the river that makes up the border.  That night, we had an amazing feast of mushroom soup and veal at Hotel Mance.

Turbulent coast in the morning at Vrbnik
View from Hotel Mance of Croatian border crossing

Ljubljana and riding out of Slovenia

Ljubljana, Capital of Slovenia

We started the trip with two days in Ljubljana. We stayed at the city center and walked everywhere (cars aren’t allowed in the city center). On the first day, we landed mid-morning and got situated at the hotel. Things went a bit slower than normal due to our exhaustion from the flight (no sleep for me). We visited the castle at the top of the hill, walked around, signed up for a 5k the following evening and watched an ITU (draft-legal) duathlon and triathlon. It was another sleepless night for me, so I ended up getting breakfast at 6AM and fell asleep on a full stomach.


On the second day, we took a “free” tour of the town (paid for by voluntary tips of the tour guide).  We learned a lot about the different buildings and the multiple bridges that crossed the town. The older part of the town by the castle was protected by the river, and the bridges linked the old town to the new.  We then had a heavy lunch at a traditional Slovenian place which included duck pate wrapped in prosciutto along with different cuts of game.

After putting my bike together, we had a brief tour meeting, and headed over to the race. The nighttime 5k (started at 9PM) does 2 laps of the city center and crosses two different bridges. The course was a bit confusing as I didn’t understand any Slovenian.  However, I liked running through the lit up old buildings and right next to folks having dinner and going to the bars. Even better, when we were done, they fed us a massive plate of pasta with meat sauce. I had another nearly sleepless night.

Day 1 Cycling: Divaca, Slovenia to Motovun, Croatia

We started the morning off with a train ride from Ljubljana to Divaca. It was a nice train ride, with a pretty and varied country side. On the way to lunch, the roads were smooth with a nice shoulder. The climbs were reasonable with sweeping descents. After lunch, we biked across the border between Slovenia and Croatia. Strangely enough, there was at least a mile or two of road that was no-man’s land between the Slovenia exit and the Croatia entrance.

We decided to take the “high road” “with some climbing” (according to Bob, the tour leader) to Oprtalj where we would meet up with the group taking the less hilly “low road.” The high road started (and continued) with some steep climbs that skyrocketed my heart rate. I had to stop a few times to let my heart settle down before continuing. Looking at Strava data, it was a Category 3 climb that went on for 1.8 miles and averaged 10.2%.

As a reward for the climbs, we saw gorgeous sweeping views (common theme for the entire trip).  Some of my favorite memories were watching two women pushing an older farming truck down a hill to get it started, climbing through a quaint town and hanging a right to continue past it, and looking left during the undulation section of the hills and seeing a castle on a hill in the middle of the valley.  When we stopped at Oprtalj, we could see Motovun, our destination, across the valley.  This meant was had a great descent from Oprtalj, and more hills up to Motovun. For some reason, I thought we were done by the time we hit the parking lot for Motovun, but we had over a mile of climbing before reaching the pave. At the pave, I had to walk up the steep and uneven road. I was tired and hungry.

View on the first day’s ride
View of the pave headed into Motovun

We stayed at Kastel atop Motovun, which meant a cool room and great views of the valley.  Even better, we were in truffle region, so I had a dinner of truffle cheese, cream of mushroom (truffle) soup, and white truffle risotto. I was happy after dinner (and I finally got some much needed sleep).

Thursday Night Pain Cave

I’m a bit behind on posting photos, but this has been my Thursday Night Pain Cave (when I’m in town and able to get away from work). 30 mins at a minimum of 20 beats above threshold. Just trying to keep up with the pack for now, and hoping to make the sprints by later this summer. Numbers below are for the speed loop from last night.