FIRST NIGHT – OCT. 4

Long flight from New York after delayed departure from JFK. Thunderstorms. Landed following morning in London, late, just barely made connection to Budapest.  Two hour bus ride to this town. Bekescsaba.  I can’t even say it. Hotel looks like a dump from outside, surprisingly clean inside. Place seems full. Wonder how many of them in the group. Delicious dinner, much enthusiasm all around. To bed early. We ride tomorrow.

SECOND NIGHT

Big spread for breakfast. Didn’t recognize half the items. Rode 45 miles today… or 72  kilometers. That’s about what I do back in Lansing. Feel good. 24 people in our group. Had a meeting after breakfast, then were given our bikes. 28 gears….must be hills coming up. Took off about 10 a.m. Weather lousy, early riding was in the city and suburbs, or whatever they call sprawl here. Chilly, overcast.

THIRD NIGHT

Got to know some of the group today at lunch in a mountain pass. From all over…Europe, U.S., China, even two guys from Africa. Don’t know where our meal came from. It was there waiting for us. The locals are strange—don’t smile. Hostile looks in their eyes. They probably hate bicycle tourists. One biker, young guy named Peter from Germany, about my age, got into a heated argument with a shopkeeper. No idea what caused it.

FOURTH NIGHT

Our group is down to 23 already. One woman, from England, didn’t show for breakfast. No one talked about it. Easy day today, 37 miles. Great scenery, mostly flatlands, haystacks, winding road through woods. Shopped in a couple of villages.  Bought t-shirt.  Word has it that we cross the border into Romania tomorrow. Funny…we don’t have maps. Just follow some guy in an orange helmet.

FIFTH NIGHT

Hard ride today. 61 miles, into Romania. Mostly uphill. Dark, rutted road twisting through black mountains. Didn’t see many natives, lots of cows. Strange—no birds. Feels like land of Dracula.  But that’s not Romania. ls it? Had 3 glasses of strong red wine at dinner. Sleepy.

SIXTH NIGHT

Heavy downpour today. No riding. Spent most of the day here in the b&b. Owned by a friendly couple, look like storybook characters. Pipe, shawl, teapot. Played chess with a Swede, tall, pale man with hollow eyes. He won. Everyone was watching us, like a tournament…made me nervous.  Thought I heard wolves howling out in the hills…just the wind. No electricity in this place. All candlelight. Quaint. Talked to two young women from Italy. In English. One of them is writing a book about monasteries. Sounds boring. But she isn’t.

SEVENTH NIGHT

Rode with Angie. The girl from Italy. Strong rider, we stayed out front most of the time.  Sunny and warm. Romania not so bad. Rode late, almost dark. Maybe 50 miles. They separated us tonight. Different homes for sleeping. Don’t know where Angie is. I’m with two Germans and a Pole. Like waiting for war to start. Nobody seems to have a clue where we’re headed. Brochure was vague. Oh, well, “Adventure, thy name is mystery.”

EIGHTH NIGHT/OCT 11

It’s after midnight. I’m in a village called Brasov, at an inn. I think we’re still in Romania.  Waiting for five of our riders, who got lost in the darkness. Dangerous road at night. Mountains on our left, valley on our right, no idea how high we were. Angie is one of the lost riders. Guy in orange helmet said not to worry. I don’t trust him.  He doesn’t seem worried, everyone else is. Even so, most of us have appetites. And the beer is good. Tough day tomorrow, says Orangeman.

NINTH NIGHT

We left without the other five this morning. Rumor has it they were forced to turn back by falling rock. Road is closed behind us. I don’t believe it. Only choice – keep going.  Covered almost 70 miles today, much of it downhill. One of the African guys came down with a fever. Stayed behind, waiting for a doctor. The sky was bright blue, air cold.  My legs feel good, breath strong. Peter and I and a couple from Holland lead the pack most of the way. Stopped in a village—Nakovo?—where street musicians played. Many of us danced. Funny thing, there were no children in the village. No dogs either. My bed tonight is very hard but the blanket is warm.

TENTH NIGHT

Good news – we left Romania today. Bad news – we crossed into Bulgaria. Soldiers at the border insisted on checking everyone’s backpacks. Peter refused. They dragged him away. Three Brits protested. They’re gone too. I figure there’s a reason, but maybe I’m kidding myself. I hate this. Most of us just want this trip to be over. Stops at a church and cemetery today, tombstones dating back to the 14th century.  Delicious dinner tonight.  Hot cabbage soup, a roast pork and beets, dark beer. The other African man has begun chanting while he rides.  I hope he has good voodoo, if there such a thing.

ELEVENTH NIGHT

No time to write tonight. Got to inn very late. No dinner. Ate a couple of energy bars. I don’t know where others are.  Room smells like rotten leaves. Finally get to sleep.

TWELFTH NIGHT

The village is Sargorov. The streets are deserted, the houses dark. Only 13 of us left.  Bad number.  Rode until dusk. School house was unlocked, empty, cold. We huddled in corners, under desks, found blankets and padding to use for bedding. Everyone looks at me as though I have caused our problems. I tried to talk to the Pole…speaks no English. I’m awake in the middle of the night, writing this by flashlight. Can see my breath. I hear something scraping about, crawling perhaps, in this room.  What is that smell?  Urine?  Vinegar? Something else moves now. Flashlight off.

THIRTEENTH NIGHT

Nine of us rode this morning towards Zitomar, a town we saw on a school map. The others refused to go. I’m so tired now.  Little food, sour water, heavy clouds. When I get back, I’ll write a book. We never got to Zitomar. Problems.

FOURTEENTH NIGHT

woods are dark… bicycle gone, over the cliff… I am lost… don’t see or hear anyone near me. Guttural sounds in the bushes.  like something waiting. So hungry, cold. Don’t know if I can make it till morning.