Portland, OR  |  503-922-1934

From the journal: Mediterranean Therapy Day part 1

From the journal… Discoveries and misadventures from my pedaled past. If you’ve got some travel stories of your own, send ’em in!

I woke feeling somewhat refreshed after a difficult and demoralizing yesterday. My legs still ached, but at least my head no longer did, and the night’s sleep seemed to have replenished my broken spirit. Half-conscious, I groaned, confirming that my dreadful day had not been a sour dream. My gear was still wet. My rear wheel was still tensioned partly by shoelace (I hoped). My shoe was still fastened by a bent length of broken spoke. I smiled. These circumstances, fruits of muttering desperation the previous afternoon, held some humor under the early morning sun. It was yesterday’s news, and for that I was grateful.

I packed up slowly, lingered over breakfast and rolled out with the intention of going only as far as I felt like- if that was five kilometers down the road, well, so be it. The corded shoelaces might hold until I could replace them with spokes, or maybe they wouldn’t. (See notes below.)  Whatever the fate of my wheel, an easy day was my first priority. I bought basic provisions in a small village just across the bridge from where I’d camped, warmed up on a large hill and then cruised over some smaller ones, onto a broad expanse of coastal flatland. So far so good with my improbable wheel truing job, so I took a chance on a mellow side road that headed north toward Mesolongi, a sizable town where I hoped to find a bike shop.

After several days on the rugged and mountainous coastal highway, it was a welcome change to be on a road that was both quiet and flat. The moist morning air warmed and dried in the sun as I fluttered across the coastal plain. There were alternating lush green fields, low wooden bridges, and shallow blue-green canals juxtaposed with abandoned, dilapidated buildings and unapologetic heaps of roadside trash. It was the sort of landscape where one could photograph so many postcards, each with something “unsightly” just outside the frame.

After a while, once I’d gazed long enough at the still and silent waters, the old-country bridges, the luxuriously wispy coastal grass, I found myself no longer looking around the trash heaps, but inquisitively into them. Each pile, an extract of local life. Of cultural discards and guilty pleasures. I saw the ubiquitous array of pop cans, plastic bags, and diapers. I also discovered two thirds of a child’s rocking chair, some broken toys, and a bespectacled and dusty-bottomed Santa Claus gnome, his stuffing peeking out of his jolly dirty belly as he sat grinning atop a little mountain of faded rags and broken treasures.

As I continued, the coast crept closer on my left, until I could once again see the calm blue sea in the distance. I was riding past a large expanse of long, rectangular, shallow-looking pools that ran perpendicular to the road, and some enormous whitish mounds, presumably of the sea salt extracted from them.  Across the road from all of this was a small parking area and a lone gazebo surrounded by desolate scrub. The little building seemed misplaced, and while I was happy to make use of the shade, I couldn’t imagine why motorists would want to stop here, particularly…

(Notes taken to self:)

Know the importance of a strong & symmetrical rim– just because a rim can be tensioned into symmetry doesn’t mean it will last a tour. Vastly uneven spoke tension means it probably won’t.

Spokes are cheap and light, and not available at the village market. Bring more than two for the rear drive side, as they’re the only ones that tend to break. Better yet, use a quality asymmetrical rim like Velocity’s Synergy O/C. The spoke tension on these is equal between the drive and non-drive sides, making spoke breakage far less likely.