Sunday, 23 July 2006

London to Prague in protest against George W. Bush & Tony Blair's 'WAR ON TERROR'.

On the 23rd of July 2006, US born peace activist Matthew Hahn will set out on a three week bicycle ride from London to Prague in protest against George W. Bush & Tony Blair's 'WAR ON TERROR'.
He will set off on the 23rd at 11.30am from Parliament Square in Central London and cycle through Belgium, Germany, and into Czech Republic meeting with other peace organisations along the way to invite them to “'Ping' for Peace” by handing out bicycle bells. He will end his journey in Wenceslas Square in Prague where he hopes to meet up with other peace organizations from the Czech Republic. He wants to raise awareness of the growing movement against further aggression by the US and UK and to promote peaceful rather than military options.
“I am cycling to Prague as a protest against this 'War on Terror' madness that is currently being propagated by our leaders. I have tried asking for peace. I have tried petitioning for peace. I have tried of demonstrating for peace,” Matthew says. ‘’I feel our leaders have driven me to this ludicrous position because the sane arguments for peace do not seem to be working.

“Wenceslas Square is my destination because it is the home of the Velvet Revolution. I believe that my country & the UK could use one of those now: a peaceful revolution from the people to end this madness. My “'Ping' for Peace” bicycle ride is ridiculous and I admit it, but what our leaders are doing is repulsive. I have run out of other options. I am matching our governments' lunacy with some lunacy of my own.”

Matthew, a theatre director and lecturer in performing arts in London, has been active in the antiwar movement in the UK since arriving in September 2001 at the start of the 'War on Terror.'
''What our two governments have done in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world hasn't made us any safer -- and it killed too many people without reason. Two more nuclear powers in the world since their 'War on Terror' began? How is THAT making us safer? Our leaders now want to do more of the same by threatening and posturing towards North Korea and Iran. All of this appals me. ‘They need to LISTEN to the people's demand for careful diplomacy. Or they need to be ready for a Velvet Revolution.''

Sunday, 16 July 2006

What is the past tense of 'ping' ?

Whatever it is, i have done it. yesterday was a great day. i was warmly welcomed by around 100 people who had gathered for the anti millitary base demo that was occuring. i spoke briefly about my journey and about my opposition to the bases. to tell you the truth, i felt a little pang of 'jane fonda' itus, but i figured that we are not at war, yet, with the czech republic, so i felt that i could speak out. and i said nothing different that what i have been saying for many years and through many demonstrations. There was a lot of media there and it was a bit overwhelming to have many photos taken of me upon arrival, but i think i was a bit of an oddity, a u.s. citizen speaking out against war, against the miltary bases and for peaceful solutions.
Anyway, i feel a 'pang' of sadness that it is over, but i also refreshed and ready to get back to london.

Monday, 3 July 2006

Miltenburg to Hussen, just beyond Scweinfort 130k's

I am in the town of Hussen waiting for my bike to be tuned. Ever since leaving Frankfort, I have noticed that the back wheel (DAMN that back wheel!!!!!!) has been riding slightly flt in one area.
I wonder if it is because it is an new wheel and old tire. Does the tire need shaping? Anyhoo, once again, I was fortunate as this tiny wonderful town has an excellent bike shop. Now, I thought that the town of Aschaffenburg sucked, but Schweinfort makes it look like Berlin to me. Okay, maybe not that much of a difference, but again, maybe because of the timing or whatever, but some towns i
just hate because they all look the same. Same bloody shops, same bloody bored kids hanging about. I spent the night roughing it just outside of Schweinfort and had a great dinner. I was told when asked about bike shops that i should go back to Schweinfort as it was closer or I could hold on until Hussen. And for once, my stubbornness has paid off. No way was I going to back track even 3 or 4 kilometers and go back to that horrid town even with my bike not in great shape.
For now, the traveler-snob takes presedence over the more sensible cyclist. Which probably isnt the smartest thing. But i pushed on and was rewarded. Now, when anyone comes to Hussen, they might wonder why I thought that it was such a brillant place and I do admit that maybe that has to do with their bike shop which wont matter much to those who dont have a bike, but I tell you it is a great place. And when you come here, check out the bike shop. It is just beyond the town towers on the east end. Tell 'em, I sent you. The guy who just pointed a lot and spoke in bad bicycle
german (who out there knows the german word for 'spoke'? Again, free beer to anyone who does and tells me upon my return).
So, i am now waiting for my bike to be fixed. I dont know what the difficulity really is, but the woman in the bike shop recognized the problem right away and with a flurry took my bike to the back shop to get it repaired. Man, i think that i will come to germany to get my bike fixed from now on. Hell, maybe even come to Hussen as they were so darn good. But, it is just easier to get things done here. I have not had any problems in the shop that I encounter in England.
I have decided that i am too emotionally attached to my bike. I am in a very needy relationship with 'the hog.' I guess that it makes a bit of sense, as that is my means of transport, but I a very sensitive when it comes to dealing with my bicycle. My head says relax, it will be taken care of, but my body is wrapped up in worry about it's condition. Look around you what you see is great. You are in a lovely small town and the bike is being fixed. I guess that i am tired of having to make plans to go to bike shops. This is my 3rd one since starting. Things are better this stop isnt nearly as bad as the previous two with the broken spokes. So, i guess, it is getting better. After this, i hope only to have to deal with things that i can repair, not difficulties that require a bit more know-how and tools than I have. I so enjoy cycyling in theory that sometimes the practical aspects of it overwhelm me. This trip is becoming less of a propaganda anti-war tool to a more personal challenge / journey / test for me. And it is difficult.
Yesterday was another whale of a day. I started off really early at 6am after a very cold and wet night under a tree (man, I really should have brought my sleeping bag with me....). I cant do another night like that, so I hope to find a bag in some town ahead of me.

Sunday, 2 July 2006

Frankfort to Milterburg 120ks.

I did well today and covered a lot of ground. Since i really dont know how long the trip is going to také me, i am still in kind of a hurry up mode. I guess I wont really know until I get quite close to Prague. But it is just nice to hit the road with a finely tuned bicycle and not have the worry that has been accomplanied me since the first spoke blow out in england. It was an easy ride today along
the Main River, a close rival now in my heart to the Rhein River, but still second place. The path just followed the river so, even for me, there was little chance of getting lost, which is nice. I kind of miss the security and the relaxation of the last few days in Frankfort, as getting back on the road lends itself to insecurity, how is the bike going to hold out, where will i sleep tonight, etc... but, i
guess that too is part of the adventure and fun of the trip. I explored some towns along the waz, more were interesting but one, Aschaffenburg, just annoyed me. And that is hard for a town to do, but it was just dead and filled with chain stores in the centre of town. I wanted a nice beer garden and none was to be found. Nothing. I was tired and wanted to rest and there was no where nice.
So, I begrudgingly pushed on. But why am I such in a hurry? Why do I have to ¨be somewhere'soon? There is still residual 'hyper-big city' mode floating in me. I wish that I could relax more and enjoy the journey. That is the difficult thing for me to do. I find it hard to relax. I have ten days to make it to Prague. I should start 'worrying' about falling behind until a fews days before I must be there, say Sunday the 13th. So, this is what I am going to do: My new mantra-Not to hurry, enjoy
the journey and know that I will arrive on time, to quote Adrian, 'at any time I chose.' I cant tell if people are responding to my flag or not, as it is behind me on my bags and so only people see it after they pass me or if they are coming up from behind me. I do get odd looks all of the time, but i think that is due more towards the four paniers and the cycling outfit (like they have never seen a long distance traverler) rather than the flag. When I am stopped, I do get asked about it or looked at it, but again, I dont know how much is regestering as I dont have the opportunity to have a longer chat with them. Again, that seems to go back to being in
a hurry. So I will try to improve upon this as well. This has been a tough journey for me. I havent enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. In the moment, it is one of the most diffucult things I have ever attempted. I am staying motivated to carry on, but at times it really sucks. Talking about the journey with friends in Frankfort was fun, so maybe reflecting back on the accomplishment will
bring the joy. It is satisfying, but not necessaryly enjoyable. I am so happy that I am doing this and it is such a challange both mentally and physically, that it means so much to me, but man at times, I do just want to sit for a longer period. But that is not necessarly what this trip is about this time. I have had my touristy time in the past, this now is to cycle across the country. As you can tell, I still
am quite torn within myself as in one thought I say to slow down but in the other, I see that this journey is not necessarly about being a tourist, but rather cycling to Prague. I am finding this balance hard to accomplish.
I just ate something I have no idea what it was. It was good (and vegitarian (or as vergitarian as the Germans can get)). It was a prezel-ball with mushroom soup and a kraut salad. Wonderful (and a free beer to anyone out there who knows the name of what it was I just ate). It felt great to relax and enjoy a really good meal and a couple of beers. I dont exactly know where I am going to stay, but as I have seen plenty of good 'campsites' along the Main, I know that I wont have a problem
finding a place to crash for the evening. I wish that more nights could be like this.One problem that i have with sleeping rough is that you have to be with your things the entire time. Now, in this case, this is no problem as this restaurant is right off the path. It is late, around 7pm so I know that I wont go much further.
It is cool out and it has rained a bit. One thing that I should have purchased in Frankfort is a sleepingbag. I left mine behind in Chelmford as I thought it was not needed, too heavy and the weather would hold out. It is getting colder and now that i have the extra bags and better wheel, I can afford the added weight. May have to get one soon as its not nearly as warm as it has been.....
Something, I recall Ricard saying on my first evening that I shouldnt base my needing the bag on the current weather, but the enternal optimist in me thought that it would be fine and I do have warm clothes.... Well, we shall see how things go tonight. It is a beautiful evening with the sun setting behind me. I am in a beautiful beer garden just outside of town with sunflowers to my right and the river to my left. I am tired but satisfied with my day. I am looking forward to taking my time tomorrow as it continues to be a good route along the river. I am ten days into the trip and have just under two weeks to get to Prague. I guess I can make it.....

30 July to 2 August - Frankfort

I spent in Frankfort visiting my friend and her family, fixing up my bicycle and recharging. I replaced my back wheel so that it could support more weight plus I bought two front paniers to distibute the weight that I was carrying better. It was a good place to stop as it allowed me to reassess what I needed and didnt need for the rest of the journey. Plus, it was just nice to relax as I had been hitting the road quite hard and for many kilometers at a time.

Saturday, 1 July 2006

1 August (Frankfort, Germany)

My bike is back and all shiny new. I pick it up in the afternoon and later that evening a friend helps me tune it after getting all of the new components. So, i am ready to get started bright and early tomorrow Morning. It has been dreary and raining off and on, which is pretty good travel weather. I know my route and hope to get out of here early tomorrow morning.

31 July (Frankfurt, Germany)

I get to the bike shop and get the bike fixed up in good shape. Most of my components are being replaced - from my back wheel to my sprockets to my pedals to my crank shaft. Ouch. Double ouch. This takes them until Tuesday afternoon to fix but I do hope that it solves my problems. I also have them Install two front panniers in order to distribute the weight better around the bike so that 80 percent of the weight is no longer above me back wheel. Ah, live and learn. This is why staying a few extra days in Frankfort is great for me - i have learned a lot in the previous week of travelling
that i would never had know before starting. This gives me a chance to make changes to my bike and gear and begin the next 2/3s of my travels. I am though beginning to get a bit excited about getting back on the bike and Getting along the main river.

Dormangen, Germany to just south of Bonn, Germany

I finally made it to the Rhein and it is beautiful. i start off just north of Koln and take a right. i have never spent much time up around here and the ride is wonderful. smooth and fast. i think for once my average speed might just be better.
I love Koln, having just been here last month for the world cup - the boardwalk along the river is heaving with people, music, food & beer. I made an executive decision after conferring with my board that i needed to take a break. so, I jump off and have a quick .25 litre of Krolch beer. wonderful in the afternoon. after that, i tool around Koln looking for a bike shop to replace my broken tube, but have no luck...... gulp...... a bit foreboding, but again, worse case, i jump on a train,
as there is a train track that follows parallel to the river and bike track. but the trip is much longer than I anticipate; I got up late thinking that I should have no problems reaching St. Goar by evening, but by 6pm I am hardly south of Bonn, which is still 80 k's from where I started. so all of that talk yesterday of me being a good judge of distances have been grossly proven wrong as I am not even a
third of where I thought that I would be. and then, what I had been dreading happened again. I hear a small pop under my saddle - another broken spoke. i stop this time immediately as it is much safer than on the A road in Chelmsford - in fact i had just cycled into a small village, so i quickly found a b&b and tried to figure out what to do. as it was a Saturday night, no bike shop was open nor would
one be open tomorrow. so, I figure that the best thing to do was to spend the night here and then take the train to Frankfort where I know serval bike shops and I could spend a couple of days with my friends who live there while the bike is being repaired. this really sucks and is a horrible as the one track that i did definitely want to ride was from Koblenz to Frankfort, my favourite stretch of the river. but it is either spend a couple of days waiting for the bike shop to open, or get to Frankfort which I know better and get the bike overhauled so that this never happens again.

I spend a wonderful evening eating dinner next to the Rhein and having a couple of beers along its shores. it is quiet and reflective and I throughly enjoy the silence of the evening and my own thoughts. i throughly enjoy the entire evening and wake up the next morning to catch the train. So, I wake up the next morning and with much sadness and regret, i jump on the train. I am travelling about 120 k's, which in a stretch is about a day's ride. Not to split hairs, but I really wanted to avoid if at all possible taking a train, but i think this is the best decision, to keep me on
schedule and to do the best thing for my bike. Once in Frankfurt, I have many more choices and better facilities for the ride than here.
So, I get on and within 2 hours am at the Hauptbahnhof where my friend Najla picks me up in her minivan. I feel a bit dispondant about the indignity of having to be picked up in a minivan, when I should have ridden to her place, but I suck up my pride as i am happy to have the opportunity to fix this Problem with the bike once and for all. so, Sunday was spent catching up with old friends and relaxing.
30 July