Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | October 14, 2011

Another day, another bike ride

It was a gorgeous day for a ride in Bulgaria, so it was up, up and away — again.

As I’ve mentioned here, the bike rides out of Blagoevgrad go only one way: straight up. Today’s spin went about 35-40 kilometers, but we didn’t start heading back downhill until well past 20; maybe 25. We reached about 1,200 meters, which is nearly 4,000 feet. And as you head into fall here, it gets cold up in them thar hills.

After a heavy rain last night, we also struggled to navigate the sloppy trails. Tires spun, got bogged down. It was an amazing workout. Sweating like a dog in 40-45 degree temps is pretty, um, cool.

But the fun — and sometimes terrifying part — of these trips is the downward run. The sloppy, tree-lined trails were bordered by steep dropoffs, making the going a little more harrowing than usual. At one point, I slid from a soupy ridge in the middle of the trail into a mud and water filled gap in the road. Last night’s heavy rains had washed out some parts of the road, so as I headed downhill with a little speed, I was never really sure what I’d encounter around the next curve.

Anyway, when my bike slide into that ditch, I did what I did a few weeks ago on a similar spill. I catapulted over my handlebars (with a little momentum), landed on my feet and at a dead downhill sprint managed to avoid taking a header into a big pile of horse manure, which was conveniently “placed” in the middle of the path.

Now, I grant you that it’d be a better story if I ended up face first in the dung, and I was tempted to go with that, for the sake of the story. But, alas, I am a truth teller. So I just ran down the hill a bit, gathered myself, walked back, retrieved my mud-caked bike, and continued on the slalom course to the bottom. At the end of the ride, I was tired, sore from the physically taxing downhill ride, covered in mud and soaked with sweat. Had a big smile on my face, too.

If any of you ever comes for a visit I will take you up to some of these spots. The views are incredible; I’m not sure what to compare them to. Little hamlets rest along the hillsides — six, seven little farmhouses, barking dogs, fruit trees and old pensioners. And I think I can see Russia from up there. 🙂

Tomorrow, I join Melody on a “field trip” to a film festival in Bitola, Macedonia, she arranged for 30-40 students from the JMC program here at AUBG. Should be madcap fun of a different sort. I’m sure Melody will write about this in her blog.



  1. was the horse manure in the road as a sort of speed bump, perhaps?

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