On day twenty, we entered Czech Republic. We were ecstatic, realizing that we had about a week of cycling ahead of us (and that we could finally afford to go to the pub). We hadn’t had any bicycle problems for a few days and, although we knew that the terrain was going to be hilly for quite a few days, we were feeling good.
We searched the first small village for an open pub, but, unfortunately, they were all closed so we opted to drink the cherry liqueur that we’d purchased at the shop. Our Slovakian companion had found a partially built house for us to sleep in that night, so we drank the liqueur there as I prepared a creamy onion soup with ingredients we had found in a bin. We had a nice sleep and a late start the next morning because of the thick morning dew in the mountains. Because we had pushed ourselves extra for hard the last few days, we realized that we could still easily reach Slovakia by the date we had originally wanted. That being said, we began a new routine that day: cycle two hours, beer break. In Czech Republic, a pint of beer in a pub is cheaper than water. Clearly this country has its priorities straight.
We were also able to eat out a few times, an absolute treat after three weeks of basic outdoor living. We powered through constant ups and downs, and ended up sleeping under bleachers at a soccer field one night, as a massive Midwestern-style thunderstorm moved in. We checked the forecast for the following night, and it said that there was a zero percent chance of rain. We believed it and didn’t take finding a suitable shelter too seriously that night, stopping to take photos at scenic places along the way.
We had seen on a map that there were some lakes nearby and, since we hadn’t bathed in weeks, we were eager for a swim. At dusk, we followed a guy on a motorbike into the woods, where we found the best form of entertainment that we had on our entire trip. Climbing up the hand-crafted ladder, holding on for dear life, and flying through the air and into the water, we were all at peace with life.
The boys started cooking a stew out of root vegetables that we’d found in the bin, while I attempted to make a pan fried cake from a box mix without eggs or oil. We had just started to enjoy our feast when the thunder and lightning began. J managed to capture the black night sky being illuminated by the intense lightning, and if we weren’t about to have to sleep through this in a flimsy tent, I might have enjoyed the beautiful scene more. We had seconds to waterproof our panniers and run for cover in our tent before the downpour started.
That night, we huddled in our not-so-waterproof tent, our legs and heads being soaked. When we woke up the next morning, we were shocked to find out that our Slovakian friend (who had outside wrapped only in his sleeping bag and a plastic bag) had not gotten wet at all. Feeling foolish that we had been feeling sorry for him the night before, we rung out our clothes as best we could, had one last go on the rope swing, and started out on yet another day of cycling through hills.
The forecast for that night warned of a severe thunderstorm and, this time, we weren’t taking any chances. Although we had plenty of energy to continue, we chose to stop and sleep in a bus stop, risking being seen and getting into trouble.
The next day, we got a very early start, since the first bus came at 4:30 a.m.. A few hours in, we noticed a storm, but continued on because it was moving ahead of us. Seemingly out of nowhere, the skies opened and we were soaked in minutes. We had managed to avoid heavy rain for our entire journey, but were getting absolutely poured on for our final stretch. We took shelter under a bunch of trees, before deciding to make a mad dash for the next village. Thankfully, that turned out to be only a mile away so, once again, we took shelter in a pub.
A few beers later, the storm let up and we were on our way again. We cycled hard that day, and completed one of the longest cycles of journey. At one point, I chose to cycle as hard as my little legs would go, so as to get far enough ahead of my traveling partners where they couldn’t yell for me to stop. By doing this, we ended up in the last Czech village that night. All that stood between us and our final destination was a few hours in Austria and 12 miles in Slovakia. We bought a beer to celebrate, and pitched our camp under a bridge (sorry,Ma).
The next day, I woke up first and, trying to be nice, I decided to cook breakfast so that it’d be ready when the boys got up. Unfortunately, we had a packet of semolina that was only written in Czech and Slovak, and I ended up accidentally making ten portions with the amount of water necessary for one. “Is it supposed to be this lumpy?”, I asked my friend. Definitely not. In my defense, I’ve never cooked it before since porridge is my forte.
Three extremely full bellies and an hour nap later, we were off on our final day of cycling. We arrived at the Czech/Austrian border only minutes later, some of us more excited than others.
We cycled for about two hours before arriving at the old Iron Curtain border. We passed the old checkpoint, crossed a very wobbly bridge, and began high-fiving and hugging each other. We celebrated for several minutes, not realizing that our Slovakian friend’s mom was a few hundred feet away, waiting to surprise us with a picnic.
We graciously devoured the picnic, feeling amazing that we had just cycled 1000 miles…until we met the senior citizens cycling by who had done 20,000. Nothing like an elderly person to humble you. After 26 days of cycling (two of which were rest days), we finally found the Euro Velo. Riding it for the last hour, we were all on cloud nine. We had arrived five days earlier than we originally anticipated and, to reward ourselves, we stopped at a pub on a lake a few miles short of our friend’s house.
We had a few beers and a celebratory shot of Slovak hruska, then mounted our bikes (Delilah, Doris, and Danny) for the final time. Feeling lucky, we decided to take a “short cut” that landed us right back in the woods on a non-existent path. Within minutes, my arm was bleeding from ten separate thorns, and J had crashed into a cement block and cut open his leg badly. Lesson learned. We rejoined the main road, adding an extra 40 minutes to our journey, and finally arrived at our friend’s parent’s house for some much needed rest and, more importantly, showers.
A journey that was planned to take 31 days took us 26 days, two of which were rest days. We overcame the terrain, the elements, losing our way, nearly strangling each other, minimal money, and an angry police woman in Amsterdam, but we did it. We made it. We had a great adventure.