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Back Home Again & Final Thoughts

Back Home Again & Final Thoughts

Wednesday was a very very sad day.  Time to go back to the U.S.A.  I suppose all good things must come to an end (do they really?  REEAALLY???) and so our amazing vacation of a lifetime is over.  Our driver picked us up from the hotel at 8:45am and took us to the Vienna airport.  We would be flying straight through to Chicago, a 10 hour flight on Austrian Airlines.

The town square in Prague

The town square in Prague

 

 

We’d never flown Austrian before and it was excellent.  We were on a brand new Boeing 767.  The economy seats were huge!  And our seat back computers were shiny and new.  My headphone jack worked.  The food was actually very good.  And they give you free beer and wine for the entire flight!  WHAT IS UP WITH U.S. AIRLINES???!  They’d better get a clue because compared to Austrian Airlines, all U.S. AIRLINES STINK!!!  I guess you can tell that we had a really great flight.  I watched a bunch of good movies: The Great Gatsby (I cried at the end, yes, on the airplane I cried.  It is my favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald novel and I think Baz Luhrmann did a fantastic job with it.), Monsters University (cute), and Kon Tiki (a true story about explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsawood raft in 1947.  Very good!).  Then I watched a short documentary called “Reindeer Girls” about a Saami family in Northern Norway who herd reindeers.  Very interesting.  All in all the most pleasant 10 hours I’ve ever spent on a plane.  The four glasses of wine might or might not have had something to do with it.

Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

And so we’ve returned home.  Craig and I were both pretty sick by the time we got back to St. Louis with full blown colds, sore throats, and sinus troubles.  It has taken us several days to recuperate and realign our body clocks.  Coming back home after such an amazing adventure is always tough.  It is difficult to get re-motivated at work.  But life must go on and we’re adjusting as always.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about our entire adventure since we’ve returned.  We’d never tried a supported bike tour before and didn’t know how we would like it.  I have to say that it was a marvelous experience and I certainly could get used to having someone else carry all my gear for me and sleeping in nice hotels instead of camping!  And VBT’s (Vermont Bicycle Travel) prices are so reasonable that I doubt if we would be able to set up a similar trip on our own for much less.

Roadside shrine in the Czech Republic countryside

Roadside shrine in the Czech Republic countryside

So from a money standpoint, there’s no good reason NOT to take advantage of the luxuries of VBT trips for our international bike tours.  Plus it is so nice having someone else organize everything, arrange all the hotel stays and travel.  It would be a nightmare trying to do all of that by myself for an overseas tour.  I would have no idea where to begin.

Through the forests of Germany

Through the forests of Germany

We were also concerned about the people we would tour with and all the “touristy” things we might be doing.  Craig and I are not touristy types.  We like to mingle with the locals, eat and drink where they eat and drink.  We’re not too hip on touring castles and such places filled with hundreds of touristy types snapping away on their cameras.  We’ve witnessed huge smoke belching busses stop at a village, open their doors to a swarm of tourists who descend upon the poor villagers en masse.  It is too contrived.  Artificial.  You don’t get to really learn or experience another culture like that.  It’s just not the way we roll.

Passau, Germany

Passau, Germany

But our VBT experience turned out to be exactly as their literature described it would be.  We enter the villages in smaller groups, slowly on our bicycles and don’t disrupt the normal flow of life.  We meet more people because we are more approachable on our bicycles than a tourist traveling from village to village on a big noisy bus.  On a bicycle we get to smell the smells, hear the sounds, really taste and feel each place we pedal through.  That’s why Craig and I love bicycle travel so much.

Cycling along the Danube in Austria

Cycling along the Danube in Austria

We did do several touristy types of castle and cathedral tours.  But for the most part, our guides were local people connected with VBT and were more interesting and personal than your average flower-on-the-end-of-an-antennae toting animatronic guide spouting off a memorized spiel. (In some of the more congested tour areas the guide of each group would carry something unique like flowers or a little stuffed animal on top of a pole so that everyone could find them easily and stay together.)

The beautiful Austrian wine country

The beautiful Austrian wine country

And the other people on our tour?  They were wonderful!  They were folks a lot like us who are willing to get out there on their bikes and work for their adventure.  They weren’t afraid to immerse themselves in the unknown.  We just fell in love with everyone and everything about the whole experience.

The "Fairness Zone" in Vienna

The “Fairness Zone” in Vienna

 

 

But I don’t think these supported tours will ever totally replace unsupported touring for Craig and me.  There is just a freedom in being completely on our own, carrying all our gear, and camping that we wouldn’t ever be able to give up completely.  So I think our plan will be to try several more VBT tours in order to learn more about bike touring overseas, and figure out which areas we would like to come back to on our own.  Then when Craig retires in a few years, we’d like to come back to Europe by ourselves for an extended unsupported bike tour.  We’ll see what happens!!

Thanks for reading.  Hope you’ve enjoyed our European bicycling adventure! Here’s a little video Craig made of highlights of our entire trip:

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2 Comments

  1. Great blog, Blue. You’ve got a knack for writing and an eye for detail. And Craig’s videos are cool. Maybe competition for Lonely Planet? We enjoyed meeting you both, fellow Missourians. Come to Colorado for altitude training before you go to Kathmandu!
    Oh, by the way, I also developed a cold on the way home. The combo of jet lag and a cold sucks, to be blunt. It’s taken a while to totally shake it.

  2. Thanks, Steve! It was great meeting you and Marta. I’ve really been enjoying your video (watching it in sections). Yeah it took over two weeks to get over that nasty chest cold. Feeling much better now!

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