Friday, May 31, 2013

Imagining Portugal

In just a few days, we fly to Portugal and I'm looking forward to riding a bicycle in one more country.  I've met cyclists who rave about riding in Portugal and an article I read in Adventure Cycling magazine contained alluring photos of rugged coastlines and splendid, sinuous roadways.

My experience in Lisbon may differ from the other places I've cycled - in Israel I could have rented a bike in Tel Aviv no problem.  There were numerous automated bike rental stands along the 5 mile boadwalk near our hotel.  I declined since my wife doesn't cycle and she would think it rude of me to pedal off into the Mediterranean sunset without her.  Besides, we were heading to Jerusalem in a couple of days and renting a bike there would be no problem. 
Bike rentals galore in Tel Aviv
I searched high and low for bike rentals in downtown Jerusalem and I was thrilled to discover that mountain bike tours of the Old City were organized at night.  The idea of zipping around on the same cobbled stones that Jesus walked on was an exciting prospect.  And doing it at night when the narrow alleys and lanes were deserted held quite an enchantment.  But my nights were taken up with social events so one afternoon I ended up handing over a few scheckels to a group of youths for the priviledge of riding around the basketball court where they were hanging out. That was the extent of my having biked in Israel.

Imagine riding on the same stones that Jesus walked

Taiwan presented two opportunities for cycling.  I took the subway in Taipei to the end of the line near the South China Sea where an old codger gave me a nice GIANT based soley on the name of the hotel we occupied in the city.

Near the South China Sea

Also while in Taiwan, I ducked out of a guided tour and was able to rent a bike for four hours for only $1.50.  I commenced to pedal along a paved path beside a gentle river but when the path turned to gravel and then the gravel path became an overgrown, skinny rut, it was time to head back to the security of the tour group. 

I wanted to go here and here and....
When we were in London, the weather was cool with a light overcast which made it ideal for cycling.  My map had been marked with dozens of points of interest but I could not convince myself to ride on an actual London street.  We'd almost been clobbered by a London taxi when we had crossed a road but looked the wrong way for traffic and that experience discouraged me from attempting to cycle the busy thoroughfares.

A fowl time was had by all
Wandering near the Marble Arch, I found one of those computerized bike rental kiosks and rode around a nearly deserted Hyde Park.  A pair of geese and a two snobby looking ladies on horseback were my only company.

Critical Mass?
Being cheap, I found that I could ride a rental bike in Vienna for free as long as the bike was returned to the rental stand within one hour.  So I hastily spun around Stadt Park and avoided the throngs surrounding the gold statue of Strauss that sits in the center of the downtown park.

While rambling in a swishy retail area, a gaggle of cyclists passed us ringing their bike bells and shouting slogans and when I realized it was the last Friday of the month, (this had to be Wein's Critical Mass), it made me nostalgic for being in my home city and riding with my countrymen (and women) across the High Level Bridge and cascading down the funkiest part of our prairie city then to lift our bikes over our heads in a victorious gesture at the end of the ride.

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