Monday, July 29, 2013

Pictures from Odessa

First video, now pictures. I am a monster.

I've abandoned my attempt to find a unified, non-repetitive way of publishing photos, so please bear with me as I simply link to the two places I've made them available:

Google+ Album
Facebook Album

Both are public, so you might even be able to see them without accounts on either system. Maybe.

If not, let me know, and I can throw on a few images here!

In fact, I'll just add one for the heck of it. Here's me on my way out of Odessa.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

vbeard: bleary Moldovan morning

I thought I'd post a video on this here blog because JUST TRY TO STOP ME


Monday, July 22, 2013

Go Bike

I. bike bike bike time to bike. I rode out to Woodstock Ukraine a few
days ago, and the spell was broken: I am no longer sick of my bicycle.
Once again I can't seem to take my eyes off it. A few more days in
Odessa to wrap things up and then I'm on my way.

The last week has been a little rough. Too much procrastination. I
know it's not the only solution, and certainly not the best solution,
but packing up my whole life and heading down the road is certainly a
wonderful cure for feeling mopey.

II. I didn't travel alone on the way out to this Woodstock festival. My
Odessan programmer friend had suggested the trip, so we rode out
together, stayed two nights, then rode back. I know I've done a lot of
touring in the last couple years, but I still consider myself pretty
slow, and I was worried that I would struggle to keep up. My friend is
in good shape, and I am optimized for epic distances with a heavy load -
a short, light jaunt might be challenging!

But it turns out that riding 6000 kilometers in the last year has
conferred certain advantages to me. The "short" trip ended up being 50km
one way, and while that's well under my average daily distance, it's
nothing to sneeze at. By the time my friend reached his previous one-day
record of 25km, I felt loose and overly-talkative, while he looked eager
to take his backpack off and find something to sit on that was *not*
attached to a bumpy country road. I hate to feel good about myself at
another's expense, but damn did I feel pretty good about myself!

The festival itself was quite fun. It was on the beach, and I did a fair
bit of swimming and beach volleyball. One young dude we met was keen to
talk about college, opportunity, and American life, and he plied me with
cognac while talking my ear off and asking lots of questions.

One question this kid asked was, "Black people are... sly, right?"

III. Cycling makes me feel confident and capable, but running makes me
feel like a freakin superhero.

I developed a case of plantar fasciitis some time around the beginning
of 2012 that put an end to whatever meager running habits I had. A year
and a half later, I finally feel confident running a few miles once or
twice a week. I've gone a half a dozen jogs through Odessa, sometimes
hitting the beach for a swim as well.

After just two or three little jogs, I noticed a marked difference in
how I hold myself while walking around the town. My ankles are stronger.
My balance is more tuned. If I trip my toe on something, I simply glide
over the obstacle like a hopping bird.  My shoulders are looser. It's
just amazing!

IV. Oh right, this is a bicycle touring blog. Well, it isn't really, but
I'm pretending it is for now. So: touring news!

On Wednesday or Thursday, I'm going to head back to Moldova and then
head into the Romanian Carpathians. I'll toodle around Romania for a
bit, maybe see some Transylvanian castles and whatnot, then meander my
way back to western Ukraine, whence I shall head to Krakow to catch my
flight back to Sweden.

That's all I know for sure at present!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Into Ukraine

(Better late than never)

In this beard, I'll use my Facebook update format to talk about a variety of topics that are basically unrelated to each other. readygo

I. I spent nearly three weeks in Kaunas, Lithuania. That was longer than I intended, and indeed, a little too long. (Getting sick didn't help.) Because I sat around for a little too long, I started to get mopey and dissatisfied.  Luckily, the cure for that situation is simple: get on the bike and ride.

II. A couple days on a bike -- hell, even one day -- is enough to completely reset my clock. Which is kind of funny to say, since twice since leaving Kaunas, I have crossed time zones without realizing it. But what I meant by that phrase is that when riding, I get back to the present, and past worries kind of fade, and the future becomes a thing of unknowable possibilities that don't seem particularly threatening.  It's an amazing way to feel.

I get back on the internet after a few days of that, and I see that people have tagged  me in photos from less than a week ago, and I think, "Damn, I was there?  That only just happened? People still care?" The things I did seem so far away and unimportant. Which is not to say that they were unimportant. They just don't matter anymore, now, presently, here-and-now, etc. etc.

III. God damn it is radical to be in Ukraine. This is the furthest I have been from home, culturally. It's still European, definitely, but something about it feels different. It could just be my prejudices. At any rate, it does feels different, and the thing about coming to a place that feels so different is that it just makes me want to keep going. How else will things change?  What other ways will I be exposed to my own prejudices, my own ingrained mores, and my own internalized beliefs?

IV. The rest of this draft went off on a ridiculous tangent concerning tents and blizzards and bugs. I'm not gonna say it was not worth reading, but I will say it doesn't belong in this particular beard.

Which, incidentally, has now been stewing for two whole months! Time to publish, baby!

V. One last thing. It did, indeed, feel pretty radical to enter Ukraine. Now I'm a little burnt out. I just spent ten minutes trying to describe my impressions, but failed. The fact is that I'm more prone to emotion than to logic, and anything I would say would be easily refutable.

Well, I can say this: I think the language barrier is making life pretty tough. I just don't even try to interact with people. If I had time to get more Russian proficiency, my attitude might change a lot! For now, though, I've just buried my nose in my programming projects and started counting down the days till I hit the road again.

It will be interesting to get some perspective.