Pax Romana - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

June 6, 2007

Pax Romana

We are sitting by the Black Sea, gazing at waves which run perfectly parallel to the coast.

Journey's end came soon after 2pm yesterday and we pushed our bikes down the fine, light sand and I dipped my front wheel into the waves and poured into the Black Sea the water I had carried from the Atlantic.

Journey's end. The Black Sea laps round my front wheel. My eyes were damp with emotion.
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It was an emotional moment and I, for whom damp eyes come easily, got a little tearful. Apart from the completion of a ride across a continent, it wiped out the disappointment of last year's TransAm, which I had to abandon because of what my mother would have called 'a sore bottom'.

There were none of those problems this time but there was a last-moment scare. For the past couple of weeks I'd noticed but ignored a slight catching from my rear rim when I braked. A cursory glance showed nothing and I dismissed it as a minor irritation of cycling. When a faint bump developed in the tyre of the same wheel, I ignored that as no more than wear and tear in a tyre close to the end of its life.

Well, yesterday we had lunch in a park and I chose that moment to look at the rim properly. I wish I hadn't because the wall had collapsed for about a centimetre in two places and, elsewhere, what should have been a smooth line where tyre met metal had turned into a wavy one.

The wheel had come close to collapse after weeks of unsurfaced cycle paths and then the potholes and unmade roads of Romania. How bad it had been and for how long, I had no idea. But, now that I knew, things were more serious.

Concluding that the wheel was unlikely to give up just because I'd noticed it, I half-deflated the tyre and Steph heaped my rear panniers on to her own for the last hour. And we reached the Black Sea just north of Constanta without further incident.

Now we have the problem of getting home. It will take three days and six trains, the only option, with the difficulty that Romanian railways told us this morning that bicycles aren't accepted from Constanta to Bucharest.

We put our problem to a travel agency which we had consulted about hiring a van for that stretch. No vans but wonderful help. We left with a tear-jerking letter in Romanian begging the train conductor to allow us aboard... and the advice that in these circumstances bribery is a useful expedient.

"Except," said Bogdana, a bright-eyed girl studying for a master's degree in tourism, "the phrase to use is 'micro-tax.'"

She'll go far, that girl.

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