Monday, September 25 –
For the next five days, our suitcases and sometimes our bikes are to be trucked from start to destination by Ave; we have two Ave guides (one at the front and one at the back of our troop); tip sheets created by Ave; and most of the planning, pace, and stopovers all arranged by Ave.
This is a good news/bad news sort of situation. Foremost, it is truly advantageous that Allen did NOT have to ride or guide, because he was sick as a dog by this point. As were Michael and John—the sickest among us. So those three plus Laura rode in the van (Laura for only the first half of our first day, just to assure her wounds wouldn’t reopen). Others were coughing and snuffling, but no one was as bad as Allen, Michael and John. The bad news is that, for our guides, keeping track throughout the week of who was riding and who was in the quarrentine van—well, it was a challenge. Also, they had a steep learning curve to figure out our varied speeds, pairings, capabilities, etc., where Allen pretty much knows this already. As does Mary, who did ride with us and was likely quite helpful to Vlasta and Milan.
We bussed to the outskirts of Prague and disembarked at a start-point (Troja) convenient to the river trail, and well-away from too much of the urban traffic. Everyone was feeling out everyone else’s capacities, and many of us were either using or riding alongside (or behind) e-bikes for the first time. These are great for the less fit or less experienced of us, but they’re heavy, difficult to gear, and such an unknown quantity that all of us were watching out for the four of the group who had the electric-assist.
It became pretty clear quickly that we were actually two groups of significantly faster and significantly slower riders. Still, there were plenty of stops, including Antonin Dvorak’s birthplace with a statue nearby. Our guide, Milan, was the historian, but his delivery of his knowledge was ponderous (his English was not as good as Vlasta’s, but Vlasta’s knowledge of history is not as good as Milan’s—whatcha gonna do?). Either way, our stops/breaks were longer than most of us thought they needed to be, and from day one througout the cycle tour (writing today from the perspective of Berlin, two days post-cycle-tour) we were constantly late and rushed when there was an arranged meal involved.
We ate lunch at Marina Vltava, and there we discovered that we’d lost track of one of our group. Everyone remembered where we’d all last seen Katherine, but realized we had not seen her turn into the restaurant. Vlasta rode back to see if he could find her at the place where we’d last seen her (one of their recommendations for all their tour groups is, if you get lost or separated from the group, return when you realize you’re alone, to the place at which you last saw the group and wait there). The support van/bike trailer driver, Hansa, drove ahead on the assumption that Katherine had simply missed the turn into the Marina Vlatava.
The rest of us moved on after a delicious goulash soup and a substantial salad, and since Vlasta wasn’t back from his check-back, one of us volunteered to “sweep” the back of the group, and Milan led. Our first pause after lunch was Dvorak’s birthplace, and Vlasta caught up to us without having seen Katherine anywhere behind the group.
In addition to stopping to see Dvorak’s statue, we hit two chateaus along our way, but still did not find Katherine. While we carried on, Allen and the van driver were trying to call her and getting more worried when her phone kept going straight to voicemail, and she did not call him to check in.
We cranked uphill to a lovely setting high above the river (the town of Melnick’s Nelahozeves Castle), where there was a winery that uses water from a well that’s been going strong since the 14th century.
Meanwhile, Allen found Katherine in our destination town of Melnik, where she had followed the map and ended up where she knew we were supposed to be, and never for a moment thought anyone would be worried about not seeing her over the course of a few hours. Still, we were all very glad to see her safely back amongst us after we’d all showered and headed downstairs in the impressive Chateau Liblice (our hotel) for drinks and dinner.
The Chateau Liblice is a baroque house designed by Italian architect G. B. Alliprandi. Our room, like many (but not all) of our group’s rooms, was huge with an “ante-room” and very high ceilings. No one took advantage of the spa, which offered a sauna and a Jacuzzi, with massage available, through 10PM. But we’d arrived so late that most of us didn’t even have time to walk around the grounds, much less have a massage.
- Ride time: 3 hours
- Stopped time: 4 hours
- Distance: 33 miles
- Average speed: 11MPH
- Fastest speed: 22MPH
- Ascent: 511 ft.
- Descent: 500 ft.