EVERYONE here speaks English - come on OVER!

Trip Start Jul 26, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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the ol' saddle

Flag of Greece  , Peloponnese,
Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ok, well not Everyone!  But, I assure you that no matter what tiny, backwoods (I mean back-desertrockysragglyscrubbrushhillymountainblueseamiddleofsomewhere) village in which you may find yourself - someone WILL speak English...even if poorly : )  It doesn't really matter.  It makes all practical concerns easy : )  YES, COME ON OVER!!!

My first impression of Greece, when arriving in the port city of Patra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patras), was uncomplicated: blue sky, moderate temperature, clear sea and the long, concrete piers for ships of this size.  The gates dropped and within a very short time, the semis and cars, along with the passengers, began speeding away.  I waited for them to clear a bit while happily watching the Greek flag wave in strong breeze from one of the aft, upper decks.  When the traffic hopping ashore began to slow, I grabbed by bag and headed to the lower garage to unlock my bicycle and join the exodus.
It's a bit silly, but skipping onto my bike always makes me feel happier than the moments just before - only upon my two feet.  Add to this little lift the additional pleasure of disembarking with the giant transports of the highway and the nearest emotion I can muster to describe the feeling is pride.  In New York, there's a phrase that's used when life feels more real, more in the moment and full, than usual: Keepin' It Real.  Well, for whatever reason, whenever I'm cycling, I feel in all of my bones, in my heart and in my mind, that I'm 'keepin' it real'.
Off of the boat I headed with the rest of the traffic and then, upon hitting solid land, I kicked my legs a bit and zipped between and through the traffic, through the lights and onto the main road!  I had only gotten a few hundred meters worth of the main road underneath me when a legitimately 'new' experience transpired right by my side.  Semis were lined up in the opposite direction awaiting their turns to start boarding the ship that I had just left.  Their lane was dead still and backed up for as far as I could see.  Right as I began overtaking the cab of a semi in that predicament, I noticed an angry and fearfull shadow become his physiognomy.  In that instant, my mind registered curiosity.  In the very next, I saw one and then a couple youngish, semitic (maybe wrong term - dark skinned but not negro...) come quickly roadside of the rear of his trailer.   I was still in motion with the opposite traffic and as I came around his tail, I saw a mad throng of such youngsters furiously pulling the cargo out of the trailer: grabbing and throwing to eager hands on the street that were scattering from the scene with booty in their paws!
I don't know what's wrong with me, but my first thought was two-fold: poor dude for leaving his trousers unlocked - he is royally screwed - and, Welcome to Greece!  Needless to say, being a white-ee with red hair, a 'nice' bicycle (even if she is old), a large pack and skinny bones...I did not stop to investigate further!  hahahahaha  It's good to see these things.  In the U.S., where we are so preoccupied with making everything look pretty and seem nice, it's refreshing to see the desperation and need first hand.  Maybe it's too large a blanket to spread, but I would imagine that most of those folks are from countries that the U.S. has bombed the hell out of in order to 'spread peace and democracy'!  Bravo U.S. corporate militarism!  You have managed to make the world a more desperate place...Malakas!
For whatever ill-reasoned notion, I had made up my mind to try and cycle to Athens.  By the main, new highway, it was about a little more than 100 miles...google maps did say.  Now, I know that old roads do NOT bee-line like highways.  Even so, I decided to get a move on...with my skinny road bike with skinny tires and skinny SEAT (don't ask - it was GREAT anyhow! hahaha : ) and the sun quickly rising in the sky (yes, i'm a white-ee AND red-haired)...I did slather myself with sunscreen : )
I cycled a little ways - going along with the hoard...guessing they were moving to a more major road.  God Bless the Lemming mentality!  Sometimes it nice just to go brain dead and simply jive with the flow : )  And, it worked!  Soon we all came to a split where an interstate-like highway began.  I stopped at a nearby shop and asked for a local road following such and towards Athens.  The dude was super chill, welcomed me to Greece and gave me perfectly clear direction to the 'Old National Highway'.  The New National Highway is wider, faster and bypasses all of the small towns...sounds familiar...like the damned, blasted, land hogging, monstrasities built in the U.S. supposedly built for efficient movement of military troops in case of land invasion but quickly co-opted by the corporate sector to move merchandise thereby sounding the last death knells of the rail system...

 Why have we all been brainwashed to really BELIEVE that faster is better?
Most U.S. Americans believe that we are living better these days than ever.  In their minds, better means Happier.  Now, if this is true, then we must also say that people lived far less happy or fulfilling lives before - for all times before.  And, we must also say, given the notion that time moving towards the future with increased technological muckery makes life better, that the people of the future will live even HAPPIER and more fulfilled lives than we can imagine!'
Do we REALLY believe this?  When I have put it in this way to folks, most seem to be far less sure.  In other words, someone has taught us to buy something.  And, almost always, when someone gets you to buy, it's for their benefit and not your's.  A lot of folks have made a lot of money and increased their power over us.  We work too much.  Can you really call it 'living' when you start a new life with a wife and a family and then have to spend the vast majority of your waking hours AWAY from them in order to AFFORD living with them?  This isn't advanced.  This isn't HAPPY.  This isn't fulfilling.  This is WAGE SLAVERY!
Yes, we may feel 'proud' as Americans to be so 'productive'.  But, for whom are we being productive?  Is it REALLY for our loved ones?  Or, is it for the man?  Try to buy less stuff.  Try to oppose doctrines that teach DEBT as normal.  Try to invest in time - time with those you love, time with Yourself, time with the land.  Take care of your mind and your body.  Take care of your loved ones.  Take care of the land and your neighbors.  We do NOT NEED bankers, corporation or governments to take care of us OR the needy.  For, no matter how much (or in most cases how LITTLE) they give, THEY WILL ALWAYS TAKE MORE THAN THEY GIVE BACK!  The truth is in US.  We are our own HEROES!!!  Love yourself enough to dig deeper : )
I'm trying.  Will you join me?  : )

The sea was beautiful.  So many, little towns I passed.  Some were well off and others maybe had seen better days.  Graffiti was not uncommon and nor were abandoned buildings.  How does one interpret this.  Does it mean the same as when it's in the U.S.?  I wasn't sure and still am not.  But, there were folks out everywhere: sometimes alone but most often with another or a small group...along the beaches, fishing, on porches and in out door cafes.  It's so good to see people spending time with eachother.  Here too, like in Italy, lunch is long and the night's late.  People spend time with each other.  Is this a fault?  Are they lazy?  Is there no work?  Or, are we looking for the wrong kind of work?  It seems that folks are a bit transfixed by corporate advertising here too.  Maybe the world over we are all beginning to think that 'work' means making money in order to buy things.  What about the more ancient - tried and true - kind of work: the working of and with the land?  If we spend time with it, then it gives us all that we need.  If we work together and with it, then we not only have what we need, but also time to enjoy each other...
There were fruit and vegetable stands in every town and sometimes there were multiple.  After traveling about 80 kilometers or so, I stopped at one such stand and quickly used one of my Greek phrases: I'm sorry.  I don't speak Greek.  An old lady got up quickly and told me that that was not a problem...in English : )  This has stayed true throughout all of Greece that I have seen.  English is spoken everywhere by somebody : )  So, please don't hesitate to come here!  The folks are warm and are very proud to be 'International'.  Speaking English is one such way : )
I was carrying a decent amount of weight on my back.  And, when considering such, one usually increases tire pressure in order to keep the rims from 'bottoming out' when riding over sudden changes...pot holes, metal gratings, train tracks, etc.  However, since I was still breaking in my seat and was carrying a pack, I decided to keep my pressure a little lower in order to make the ride more cushy.  I was going great until I came upon a pot hole right up against an unusually high railway crossing.  A hard 'whack!' went through the frame - the tell tale feeling of having 'bottomed out'...yikes!  Sometimes, when such happens, you get a 'pinch flat' - where the metal of the rim pinches holes in the tube from the force of it connecting with what ever!  That didn't happen.  But, the tracks were on an angle - they didn't cross the road perpendicularly.  So, when my rim hit them, rather that the force having been taken symmetrically, it hit only one side of the rim.  This knocked it out of 'true'...meaning that the rim began wobbling pretty hard back and forth against the brakes.

 My first thought was,'CRAP!'  My second thought was,'thankyoufornothavingbeenworsepleasemayitNOTbesobadthatican'tfixit!'
I reached back and opened up the brakes so that they'd have more clearance from the rim.  The rubbing stopped.  And, the wheel did not worsen.  This was good news!  I took it easy to the next town and then found some fruit to nibble on, some water for my bottles, and a shady spot to fix my out-of-true rear wheel.  It was then that I noticed that the rim was not only out-of-true, it had made contact hard enough to dent inward the side of the rim that had made contact...Blast!  This doesn't make a wheel un-ridable, it just takes a lot of years off of it's life and makes a nice - ok, not so nice - thump in the ride with every revolution of the wheel...grumble.
Now, I am not sure who is responsible for my disposition.  But, rather than becoming upset or negative or even bothered, I became a bit excited.  To me, it adds to the adventure!  Bring it on!  Let me have some FUN with whatever you throw at me!!!  I was able to true up the wheel pretty well without removing the dent in the rim and then decided to true up the front wheel too (it was just a little off).  And, off I went : )  Life IS for the LIVING - none other : )  And, it's too short to waste on PISSED-OFFEDNESS!  : )
The towns continued: some with squares and some with just a few houses, some with long and high-heeled shops and others with puttering out service stations and old, dusty dogs.  Some of the towns looked only towards the sea for inspiration and others seemed proud to look back at themselves too.  But, through it all, the sea remained.  The sand and rocks remained.  And the mountains, to my right and to my left, far across the sea stood still in charge or time and place like unapproachable lords.  Life creeps up there sides but becomes weary soon.  Very little does it reach their tops where the moisture in the air accumulates enough to obscure but not to collect and give life.
As the sun set, I found myself only in Corinthos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corinth).  Even though the narrow and worn road on which I had traveled often cut over the train tracks heading towards Athens, only once did I see or hear a train covering them.  And, the train that I did see was much lighter and smaller than those I had used in Germany and Italy.  The bridges that carried their tracks were also smaller.  For whatever reason, the train, as a means of commuting and transporting goods, is not supported/used much here.
Therefore, when I found in Corinthos an old, failing, locked train station, I was not surprised.  However, serendipity was in the air and upon the ground opposite the cadaver was a very l ively bus station.  I hopped off of my bike and asked a couple of dudes if they spoke English.  One of them did.  I explained that I'd like to find a bus to Athens and that I had a bike.  He told me there was a 21:30 and that they might allow a bike.  After a few phone calls, he was able to phone the driver and found there were no objections.  He then told me of a nearby internet cafe where I could Skype my contact in Athens to let them know my ETA.  As with all of the other Greeks I had met that day, he was very friendly.  He had to leave, but left instructions with his colleague to look out for me!  Sure enough, when I returned from the internet cafe, his friend took note and then came out of the office to get me when the correct bus arrived.  He then showed me to the driver, who had been given a heads-up.  The driver then escorted me around the bus to an empty luggage compartment.  And, then, after loading the bike, asked me if everything was OK before closing it up!   Super kind - Fantastic!
Athens in the next posting!

...a curiosity!  Is this really a law in Italy?  When I was cycling in the port area, heading towards the ferry in Ancona, I police officer pulled me over...for cycling without my hands on the handlebars!  I thanked him for cautioning me without writing a ticket and continued on.  ...what?
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