Even the Goats Have Sticks …

Last post from Slovenia - written after returning.  Thanks for following. "How do they harvest the grapes that are planted straight down those steep mountains?"  The wine cellar guide in Ptuj (pronounced Pit-tooey) looked at me like I had tasted one too many of their lovely wines.  "Well they just climb down and pick them." The day before on a loop ride out of Ptuj along the Drava River and into the Haloze wine region on the Croatian border, we had found ourselves at the top of some of these mountains with vineyards planted straight down the steep slopes.  I had stood at the top and looked down those almost vertical lines of grapes, so steep that I had held on to


"Sorry. Do you speak English?" This comes from one of three grungy and slightly odiferous young men sitting on a bench overlooking the Aegean Sea. "Do you like Rock music? We are a rock band from Estonia." We play rock and roll, blues guitar, Jimi Hendrix ... He hands me a CD with eighteen songs, one named "A Stairway to NO Heaven". "We wrote the songs ourselves." They are dividing their time trying to sell their CD's to everyone who walks by and watching the naked young woman swim in the clear waters of the sea below. The young woman is proving an effective distraction from commerce. They say they are selling these CD's to support their music tour around Europe,

The Acceptable Price for Something Special

"Tree! Tree!"  I looked up and wiped the sweat out of my eyes. A little man was gesturing towards a lovely fig tree hanging over the road where Julie and I are standing in the shade, hanging our head and panting, trying to breathe again. He has watched us push our bikes up a hill so steep that it's taken all my effort to slowly creep up the winding road to our missed turn. Calves burning, feet slipping backwards, face bent almost horizontal to the ground with all my weight leaning into the bike to keep it moving slowly forward and up. We must have looked like we needed sustenance. Or a brain transplant. I was wondering what the heck we were


"There is no end. There are no jobs here for Italians, much less for immigrants." Our Goritzia hotel clerk is visibly agitated as she quizzed us about the United States and tells us how she wants to move to America but can't find a job even though she travels there twice a year. She speculated that the biggest influence on Italy's liberal immigration policy was the Pope - especially this Pope who is so inclusive of everyone. But she says the people are angry. Then she asks us about Donald Trump - whose anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim stance and promises to build a wall between the US and Mexico has gotten the world's attention. We tell her we hope he does not become

Divided City

The menu tonight has pasta. And goulash. And even goulash on pasta.  A typical menu at a typical restaurant here. Gorizia Italy is a true border town. It also lies in the heart of one of the most contested areas of Europe over the last century. The result is a cultural blend of Italian meets Austrian meets Balkan meets Slavic. Gorizia was the front lines of some of the bloodiest trench warfare of World War I - still called the Great War here unlike other countries when the atrocities of WWI were overshadowed by the horrors of WWII. This is where Earnest Hemingway drove the ambulance for Italy and was wounded, and wrote A Farewell to Arms about that bloody experience. It was

Party under the Loggio … And other tidbits from the last five days of cycling

We couldn't resist. The international bike trail known as the Alpe-Adria was just too tempting. A bike trail that stretched from Salzburg Austria to the Adriatic resort town of Grado, Italy. We had joined the trail after we left Bled, Slovenia as we worked our way around the high Julian Alps of North Western Slovenia. Gorgeous riding through a valley with granite mountains on either side of the trail ... a former railway that has been converted to a dreamy bike trail. Former rail stations now serve as bike trail cafes for snacks and coffee breaks as the trail rolled first west and then turned south. The trail was packed with bike pilgrims all making the journey to the sea. Familiar faces

Diverted to Italy

Oh Italy.  There always seems to be a reason to go back.   This time, as I write this from Gemona, Italy in the North Eastern province of Fruila, we find ourselves here because, simply, we could not find a good route via bike through Slovenia's Julian Alps with our heavy loaded touring bikes.  The leg-wrecking alpine passes with their multiple switchbacks and 15% grades seemed stupid to attempt at the beginning of a long ride, regardless of how tempting they might be on my super-light Orbea unburdened by panniers stuffed with gear.  And the mountain bike trails offered challenges for Julie's skinnier tires. So, after riding 70km northeast from Ljubliana to the Slovenian resort town of Bled in the Julian Alps


The thin, long-haired young man stopped his skateboard and spoke with Julie while I photographed a red mural that was painted on an abandoned building by the river.  "You should go to Metelkova," he said.  He handed us a glossy postcard of the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum.  "It's only 15 minute walk. "  Then he looked at me, "There is lots of graffiti there." That got my attention.  I love street art if it is intelligent.  Graffiti and murals tell stories.  They can say more about a culture - and its less promoted counterculture - than any museum or tour.  Plus ... I love photographing those colors and the contrast of bright paint scrawled on pompous or boringly functional buildings. The next morning, our

Where is that?

Slovenia!   Small, but mighty.  Big Alps.  Good food and wine.  A love of the outdoors. Castles.  I'm here with my bike and a friend for three weeks with plans to circle this small but packed country with detours into some of its neighbors ... Italy, Croatia, maybe Austria and Hungary. But today we are getting organized, building our bikes, catching up on sleep and checking out the fabulous capital of Ljubljana (pronounced Lube JAHN Yah).  As I write this a band playing the salsa street party and lots of Cuban sound has my toes tapping and is doing a grand job of keeping me awake to get on the right sleep schedule for our 9 hour time difference. This town thrums.  The

It’s Always Good To Try New Things

I Like Pig Butts and I Can Not Lie ...   The BUTTS is written inside the outline of the back end of a pig and the letters are blaring white on a screaming red background. I wandered toward that shirt like a moth to the flame.    I am with a friend in Scott, Louisiana after completing the final forty miles of a four-day bike ride through Acadiana - aka Cajun Country. The bike ride has finished at the Scott, LA Boudin Festival.  We have dealt with all the post-ride bike shipping and packing chores, wolfed down our end of the ride Jambalaya and a delicious cold beer and have headed inside the festival gates.     Naturally, the first stop on