Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | September 12, 2011

Up, and up, and up

I can’t get over how unimpressive it sounds: We climbed about 750 meters today. That’s, what? A couple of thousand feet? Just doesn’t sound all that hard. Until you jump on a bike and ride straight up (again) for about 15 kilometers. That’s what we did today. The ride, overall, was about 35 kilometers, the first portion was up. The next portion was through the woods and up and down and up again along some old logging trail, mostly (and through some small settlements with more nasty dogs). Bill hurled a rock at one dog — and I was ready to unleash one, too, on the big, snarling bastard. There was only one problem: Bill’s got a good arm but he’s not very accurate, so he nailed my bike plenty hard. Luckily it’s a tank (and luckier still that the rock didn’t hit me!). The sound, though, scared the shit out of the dog and we high-tailed it out of there.

The last part of the ride, the part that is supposed to be easy, is pretty much all downhill. From about 3,300 feet at the peek of our climb to about 400 feet back in Blagoevgrad (where we quenched our powerful thirst with a tasty beverage: Jules voice from “Pulp Fiction”). That part is easy in the sense that you’re not pedaling and so you’re not taxing your cardiovascular system. But it’s damned dangerous. I haven’t wiped out yet, but it’s gonna happen. Hell, I don’t understand how the wheels don’t fall off the bike on some of these trails. We’re banging into loose rocks, we’re speeding downhill and hitting soft sand, we’re careening off of partially obscured boulders that are buried in the trail. And there ain’t no guardrails, folks. If you go down, you’re going way down (unless you’re stopped by a tree, which wouldn’t be a picnic either). Makes my bike helmet seem kind of superfluous, really. Sorry, honey. It’s really safe. I’m just saying this for dramatic effect.

That, and when you’re going downhill, putting the brakes on periodically and practically doing handstands on the handlebars  (while trying to keep my considerable ass as far over the back tire as I can get it), well, who am I kidding, it’s a gas. I don’t have the vocabulary to adequately describe it. But it’s a “yee-haw” joy ride is what it is.

I have a couple of mediocre pictures. I’m waiting for Melody to set me up with a “Go!Cam” so I can bring back proper shots, maybe even catch my ultimate demise. (Again, sweetie, I’m just kidding!)



  1. So, how’s the health insurance over there?? Wear your helmet!!

  2. Hi Mark, I just want you and the crazy professor to know that instead of rocks, take doggie bones. Instead of bites you will get licks. Dad

    • Um, that’s a brilliant idea. … Thanks, Dad!!. … will be my next purchase, if I can figure out how to read the packages. 🙂

    • But you have to admit, Dad, that it’ll make it a lot less interesting as a story if we just pacify the dogs. … I like the fact that it SEEMS death-defying.

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