Good Greece

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Two weeks in Greece full of quiet and peace, so warm and calm you could soak in it.

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hello albania!

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Everywhere we go, we hear little voices and they call out hello! Sometimes we don’t see them at first and then we look, up hillsides and down valleys and sure enough, there’s a small small person or maybe two, smiling and waving.

Where are you from? How are you? What is your name?

Amerika?!

In Albania everyone wants to talk. Sometimes their English is just hello hello! Sometimes they sound nearly American. They all want to be friends.

Albania good?

Yes! Albania is beautiful!

Their faces light up. Their hearts are for Albania, their home, and they invite us in.

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Bird hands replicate the Albanian flag.

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Most kids over four feet ask to ride our bikes.

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This guy was too little to climb on the bike, so he spun the pedals with his hands instead.

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Христина

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We climb up and over a tall mountain and descend past paragliders and gypsies, blueberries and cranberries and cows– down down down, along a stream, to a little valley.

I stop at the third house I see. It’s wooden and yellow with paintings hanging on the outside walls.

Nick pulls up behind me. Looking at the house, we hear a voice behind us. I make to move on, not wanting to disturb her. Getting up from a bench in the shade, she walks over to greet us. 

Where are we from? Where are we going?

She is Христина, sounds like “Christina” starting with an H and rolling the R.

She invites us into the yard to eat mushrooms.

These mountains are full of mushrooms. We see mushrooms and mushroom hunters everyday. They bring them home and dry them and sell them by the roadsides. They offer them on every menu. They paint statues and pictures of mushrooms. In Ukrainian, mushrooms are груба  ” sounds like “riba” starting with a soft H and rolling the R. Христина calls them “gryba” with a growl.

She pulls another bench into the shade and offers Nick a seat. She motions me into the house to get the gryba.

I stoop through the entry way into the house, past steaming pots. All the floors are covered in knit rugs. I peek into the living room. Embroidery and photos and paintings adorn the walls. She’s knit and stitched everything by hand. Nick stoops in and she shows us pictures of family.

We collect bowls of stewed wild mushrooms and enameled metal mugs of beer, white bread and large soup spoons and head to the yard.

Prepared with a little salt and a little butter, the mushrooms are rich and slippery.

We talk of the Polonina we descended, about the Carpathian mountains, about the past. 

Христина was born in her parents’ house next-door in 1947. She was their only daughter. She had two sons and a daughter. During the Soviet era, she cooked for a large camp. She used to be a bartender.

Where will we sleep tonight?

Further on.

She insists we sleep there. The village has a store with everything we could need– beer, wine, bread. We must stay. She’ll cook us potatoes with salo and we can wash up in the stream.

It’s getting late, we accept and set up our tent in the yard. She brings us blankets and pillows and instructs Nick how to make the bed.

We walk to the store together. It’s in her friend’s house. Villagers sit in the garden on the front porch, drinking bottles of beer. We buy beer and a pepsi bottle half full of homemade wine and walk back to her house.

She waves us in and sits us in front of the televisor. Her favorite soap is on. She stands and explains who loves who and who’s brothers with who and who doesn’t know about it as she moves in and out of the kitchen making potatoes.

We carry everything out to the yard and picnic in the waning sun. Walking past, the post lady joins us for a mug of wine. The wine may be a few weeks old or it might just be funky– tastes like a cigar box poured out of an old boot– wood and leather and dirt.

We all laugh and drink it anyway.

It gets dark. The post lady goes home. We pack up and go to sleep in the tent in the yard.

In the morning, we drink coffee and tea and talk mostly about the same things, things worth talking about again.

Where are you going?

We’re going to Kolochava.

Where will you eat?

Kolochava.

Where will you sleep?

Further on.

And she waves us down the road.

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Pictured: her husband and son and husband.

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Pictured: Христина

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Mountain folk

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Summer festivals celebrate Slavic mountain culture in each nearby country.

Slovakia, July 2014.

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Moldova.

Romania.

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Poland.

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Poland.

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Ukraine.

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Romania.

Hungary.

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Wien-Bratislava…

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Flew into Vienna on Wednesday. Rode to Slovakia on Thursday.

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Anchorage-Seward-Anchorage

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On a sunny Sunday morning I borrow a bag from my dad and a bike from my mom and catch the train to Seward. The four hour ride passes mountains and glaciers and streams from one port to another. 

In Seward, I eat a pastrami sandwich and start pedaling into the wind at noon to begin my 127 mile ride home.

Two miles down the road, I ditch my pants and fleece by the side of the bicycle path for the climb out of town.

Thirty miles down the road I stop for coffee in Moose Pass. It’s early tourist season in Alaska; little traffic and roadside merchandise is sparse. The offerings are a mix of country and city. Homemade rhubarb pies share shelves with Little Debbie. Everything is monster sized. I pack a snickers and roll on.

Riding a road bike is fun, especially on a sunny day, even into the wind. I listen to music, sprint up hills, sneak nips from my flask and soar free.

I stop for a frittata and a bagel and a juice at a log cabin.

Chilled by sunset, I buy a sweatshirt at the gas station in Girdwood.

Ten miles out of town it is dusk in Potter’s Marsh– as dark as it gets this time of year in south-central Alaska.

I make it home before midnight, my skin soaked in sun and evening chill, my brain and legs a little numb, but happy.

I would do it again, even into the wind, especially on a sunny day.

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to the beach!

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Kincaid sand dunes

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Knik River beaver ponds

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Point Woronzof

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Tracks and Tracks

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Kincaid Bluff Trail, March 2014

There are tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks, all over the world.

Sung as a round. Second person begins when first person sings: “There are tracks and tracks…”.

Song almost never ends.

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Anchorage Coastal Plain

 

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Knik River floodplain

 

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Kincaid Beach

 

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Kincaid sand dunes

 

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Alaska RR to Seward, on the way to Resurrection Pass Trail

 

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Spenard Road, Anchorage

 

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Middle Fork Trail, Chugach State Park

 

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Arctic Valley

 

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Arctic Valley

 

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Kincaid Beach

 

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Middle Earth Trail, Kincaid Park

 

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Knik River

 

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Kincaid Point

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spring

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This weekend I slept outside and swam in the Knik River. In between, we rode to a glacier.

Earth and sky communicate through moisture. They write their stories in trees and moss, mud puddles and wildflowers, growth and decay. I spend weeks trail riding in the rain through the Belgian woods. My clothes and skin swell. My wool mittens become damp moss growing over my fingers and around my handlebars. Everything perspires. Like bathing in a creek, it is at once musky and fresh, cold and sweaty. They earth layers a story over my skin and into my hair.

Eastern Belgium, May 2013 

GET RAD

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Bunyan Velo patch! Wanderlust Beargrasstank.

Resurrection Creek bridge near Hope, AK

March 10, 2014

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