Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | September 19, 2011

Sometimes, you just gotta pick yourself up

That saying: “There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode or a man that couldn’t be throwed.” Well, today I got throwed. And it wasn’t by a horse. It was my trusty bike, which slid into a deep crevice on a gnarly downhill run, stopped dead and sent me over the handlebars. I was hitting the brakes hard before the tumble, feeling that this 2-foot gouge in the earth was going to swallow me up. Slowing down helped me keep the damage to a minimum. Mostly a little scraping and a lot of laughing. I have no idea what’s around the next corner on these crazy mountain trails around Blagoevgrad, but the surprise (a beautiful view, a nasty dog, a treacherous rocky trail or — like today — a flock of sheep and a friendly shepherd) makes it all worth the grueling climb that precedes these crazy descents.

Bill and I went 65 km today (give or take). The opening section was all uphill (as usual), a climb to about 1,100 meters (about 3,600 feet or so). We traveled along a trail that paralleled a pretty, narrow and fast-running mountain creek (picture below) and ended up with another fabulous view of a valley dotted by a few small villages and grazing herds of sheep and goats and one donkey who eyed us suspiciously.

No nasty dogs today, but some sweet-hearted working dogs were guiding this flock of sheep and goats uphill (pictured). We stopped and Bill chatted with the good shepherd, who looked to be 60 (but who knows?). What I do know: He had to be in good shape in spite of how he looked because he was hiking fast after those animals, pushing up to if not greener at least less-brown patches of grass to graze.

Then we ended up rolling through a town, village, settlement, whatever, whose main business appeared to be tobacco. Dozens of structures were set up and the recently harvested leaves were hanging on intricately woven lines to dry. I’m not sure if these leaves end up at the local cigarette factory or are processed in the small town for more local use. Worth a little research, perhaps. We tried to get a few pictures of some of the locals who were either trailing or leading mules into town loaded down with freshly harvested leaves. But they all demurred. They did not want to be photographed — and we didn’t want to be rude.

But when I get that Go!Cam, pictures will be taken because the camera will be rolling from a spot on my helmet. So hurry up with that thing, honey! Then I can really start SHOWING what I’m seeing on these unbelievable rides.

Just before my header, I let off the brake going downhill along a grassy trail that looked smooth enough. I was flying along, gravity doing the work while I concentrated hard on the path in front of me. But no matter how hard you’re looking, you just don’t see everything at that speed. I hit a little hill that sent me flying. As I landed, I bottomed out into an invisible dip in the trail. I thought the bike might break in half with the force, but that husky gal can hold her own. I don’t know: I’m 50, but I feel like a kid with a new toy. This is just fun, in spite of the pain — from riding, from climbing, from getting throwed.

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  1. So.Much.Fun = life!

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