Log Cabin Chronicles

Dr. Denis Mahoney

Dr. Denis and his traveling machine. The long grey tube is his dijeridu, acquired in Australia. He is now somewhere in Europe, presumably hooting his 'du.

Letters
from the other side of the world

Occasional reports from a bicycle trip that began last July in Vancouver, British Columbia....

DR. DENIS MAHONEY
Chiropractor
denismahoney@hotmail.com

JOURNEY'S END

8/6/98

Dear friends and family,

Another chapter has been finished, and a new one begins. I landed on familiar turf on July 30, and am now on a road trip to visit family in Ontario, Quebec, Vermont, and perhaps Banff, Alberta, to pick up Celeste (my dog).

The bike is with me, but is mostly a passenger in the truck.

The last few weeks of my journey included a week with my brother Keith. I got spoiled with luxury accommodations including the 4-star Gresham Hotel in Dublin - a bit different then my digs in Southeast Asia!); a return trip through Wales; a concert with friends in Bristol, England; a ferry boat ride to Cherbourg, France, then onto Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, and Amsterdam.

The numbers are big. 37,000 km; 20 countries; almost 10 million pedal strokes; 11 months on the road; heaps of blood, sweat and tears.

The experiences are countless: Eating cow lung in Malaysia; biking 60km uphill in Malaysia twice one day; 2-3 inch flying cockroaches; Cigs and Pows (water buffalo); unique roadkill; 10=day silent Buddhist mediation;

Snorkeling at KaTao; eating coconuts; the left-handed habit; Bangkok; Thai massage; kao phat kai and pad thai; dogs in Thailand; life along the Mekong river; climbing PhuKraDun mountain with 12 Thais; hit and run accident(?); traditional Lao; French bread in Laos; vibrant Thailand;

ancient Khmer and Ankor ruins; the Nullabor desert and full-on headwinds; 46 degrees Celsius does melt your tires!; cycling with the roos; searching for gold; eating croc, wombat, and roo;

Ayers rock; Alice Springs; another bike accident; the 2-meter pythons; a couple days with Aboriginals; beach at the Whitsundays; BBQ chook; Cape Reinga and the intense green fields in New Zealand; hotsprings in Rotorua, NZ;

Bike paths in Holland; Luxembourg; Strasbourg Cathedral; biking from Neuchatal to Lausanne and towards base of Mt Blanc; cycling up and over Mt Blanc (2475m alt.) on a racing bike;

Gerry rides to and from England; landscape in northern Wales (Snowdon); the land of my ancestors in Ireland; Paris (I'll go back again); Bruges; and the uniqueness of Amsterdam.

All of this is secondary to the people I had the opportunity to meet. Countless folks along the way who did something extra to facilitate my journey. I don't know all their names. But I guess that's not important, as I realize the cycle of giving just continues through me.

Some of the special people include: Dr. Touraj Najafian for caring for our patients in Toronto; my family and friends for their support; the many e-mails from more distant friends that kept me going; people along the way who opened their homes to me, passed me cold drinks on the road, carried my bags to the next stop, gave directions, encouraged me, loaned me clothes, hugged me, cried with me, laughed with me, listened to me, bought me food, and lived even if just for a moment with me.

I guess I could write a book of all the experiences, but I'll save them for when we meet personally and we can spin a yarn together. I'm at an interesting crossroad right now. There's lots of opportunities and with renewed vitality I move forward.

Until our paths cross,

Love,

Denis.


7/27/98

Dear friends and family,

Ferry'd back to France [after Ireland], went to Paris for a day, then onto Brussels, now I'm in Bruges, and will have short ride today.

Have arranged unconfirmed flight home on Thursday from Amsterdam. Sounds kinda funny after a year on the road to book a flight to Toronto, but it's time to move on.

Pending all going well, I'll probably drive homeward [to Fool's Hollow] starting Friday. More firmness on this later.

loads of love,

Denis.

7/13/98

Dear friends and family,

Wow! It exciting in Ireland. Last night we watched France win the World Cup of Soccer on TV, after cycling 125km and watching the Tour De France cyclists tear through a small town called Hollywood. There's plenty of support and enthusiasm for the tour here in Ireland. After today;s second stage, it will continue in France.

Cycling has been fun here. Lots of exciting sites -- ruins, cathedrals, rolling fields outlined with stone fences. Guiness definitely rules as the beverage of choice and as the motto says: Guiness is good for you.

I'm cycling with my brother Keith until the end of the week. This afternoon we plan to tour the Waterford crystal shop, then move on to Dungarvin in the south of Ireland. While travelling in Europe over the past two months, I've developed an interest in my heritage.

Love,

Denis.


7/3/98

Dear family and friends,

It's been building you know. The headwinds, the mountains, the rain, the traffic. It all accumulates. And you're out there everyday striving, struggling to get a grand slam. Sure, you get a few base hits. Even an occasional home run. But then it really hits. 35km into today ride it got me.

"Thats it", I said. I'm ready to buy a car."

You know, I convince myself as I sit by the roadside, those funny looking 2CV Escargots are great cars. They really start to grow on you.

There's only one way to get to the next town. It the same it has always been: One kilometer at a time. Then the next one. Whipped, I rise, jump back into the fire. Ah, the turning point. The wind shifts to my back side, hills flatten out, traffic is more gracious and lighter, I shift down my rear cog set. Pace quickens. 65km later I stop. Refuel and rest. The tolerance factor reset.

I still have more miles left in me.......

Denis.


6/26/98

Dear family and friends,

It's World Cup Spirit over here! Allez, 0lè, Ola!

Numerous times I've learned that the journey rather then the destination is really the rewarding experience. Let me tell you a little story about a big hill.

I set my sets on riding over Mont Blanc in the French-Italian Alps. Altitude 4800m, Col. de St. Bernardo pass 2473m; on a racing bike, easiest gears 42 front, 21 back. So I set out from Montreau, 40km to the base, 33km more to the tunnel mouth, 7km twisted, steep, gut-wrenching hill to the top. At the tunnel mouth, I thought another over-rated, over-anticipated destination.

Then, I learned I wasn't allowed in the tunnel. Here the challenge started. I earned this one. I'll carry this one with me for a long time. I'm shopping for a Mont Blanc pen as a reminder. As if I need one.

Here's a few little notes after 33,000km and counting:

    1. If you don't like biking in tunnels, stay away from the mountain ranges in the south of France and Italy. Scary moment: 4plus km in a tunnel, not really knowing if and when it would end.

    2. Bees: Sting number 3: this morning, biking 40-50kph, in my helmet, stung my shaved head. Another scary moment.

    L 3. Europeans Stare. A lot. Its not to be offensive, and it's not to get your attention or acknowledgment, it's just the way they observe, I reckon. A couple of weeks back, a guy was staring so intently at Suzanne and I, he drove into a raised median, over it, missed a dump truck, drove between two poles, then carried on. This was one funny moment.

Weather is great now (hot:33C.), hills are long, gelato is plentiful, and the bike is rolling well.

Allez, Olè, Ola.

Love,

Denis.


6/12/98

Dear family and friends,

We've been touring France and Belgium during the past week and will make my way back to Luxembourg, then to Germany. The weather has provided much opportunity for town and city walk tours, frequent pastry shop visits, and late morning starts. It a lot different then traveling in Australia.

Our bodies are really something of a miracle. I spent almost seven months in 30-46 degrees Celsius temperatures, biking up to 320km in a day, and 3000-5000km each month, then I flew to New Zealand and now I'm in Europe, cycling in temperatures from 0-20celcius, and my body still functions. Well in fact.

Water is vital; food seems important only from a calorie perspective; sleep is necessary; friendship and social contact grounds you. But it ain't easy.

I can share the fascinating sites, signs, and smells with you. I can show you pictures. I may even be able to motivate you to stretch out and roll off the couch and go grow. I hope you do, because its the only way you'll feel it. Really feel it.

Experience the two- hour scavenger hunt for an e-mail site, getting lost in a small city and walking 2.5 hours to get back to your hotel, using the Post system in Belgium (postal systems challenges cross all borders), the flies in Australia, noon hour store closures, and being cold and wet and still having 50km to go.

You may also have the opportunity to meet many police officers as I have: In Malaysia (biking with shirt off), Australia (on Motorway), New Zealand (on Motorway), Netherlands (on road, not bike path), and Germany (on Autobahn).

The rewards are proportional to the expense and sacrifices invested. Friendships made; countries seen; time to reflect; time in nature; lifestyles lived and observed.

Tolerance grows when rested, more appreciation of others actions and efforts is realized. Small actions make big impacts.

Until we connect again, loads of love from

Dr. Denis

PS Belgium update: Famous for lace, chocolates, and beer. Also, the cuisine dish of Water Rabbit. Careful, it's a rat, not a rabbit! We passed and ate salad and ribs.


6/9/98

Dear family and friends,

I've been traveling with my friend Suzanne for the past week, starting from Amsterdam. It's been cold and rainy daily, limiting our travel time and our bike range to 50-100 km daily.

Highlights on this leg of the journey have been Ann Frank's House in Amsterdam, the infamous Red Light District, the small city of Delft, Willemstad, a chapel in Ghent, and viewing the Mystic Lamb painting. The story behind the painting reads like an action movie.

We're now in Lille, France, and are planning our next move. At this point we're both a little tired of the cold driving rain, but it seems a train ride south may be out of the question as trains no longer allow bikes.

Plans change frequently now.

The skills acquired along this trip are being stretched daily, and some challenges still remain the same. Every country requires different skills: language, right of way, food sources and types, accommodation, weather, traffic, terrain and riding surface (cobblestones ain't fun with a heavy load), directions, and social interaction.

There's lots more to write, lots of stories to tell. More will come.

Love

Dr. Denis
On the road somewhere in France


5/25/98

Dear friends and family,

I've worked my way from Holland, through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, crossing into Switzerland at Basel, then into Germany, back into Switzerland, landing for the night in Zurich. It's a lot of countries and they're not using the eurodollars yet, so I have a purse full of money from six countries.

Tomorrow, after getting my rear tire rebuilt (two broken spokes), I'll head to Liechtenstein. More on this when completed.

Heading into Strasbourg, a cyclist went past and "reeled me in" for the last 10km. It was nice not to fight the winds for a while. Talking about winds, when I get lost or disorientated, I just head into the wind, and I'll be correct about 80% of the time.

The most amazing aspect of the trip so far has been the buildings. The house/shed/barn complexes, the castles, the fortresses and moats, and the churches. I'm traveling with my mouth open and drooling most of the time.

Other highlights thus far: Meeting riders in Holland, who treated me to refreshments at the Bommel in Eindhoven; the castles near Maastrich, Holland; walking tours of the cities where I sleep; Luxembourg countryside; and French bread, croissants, mille feuilles and eclairs au cafe.

Lowlights thus far: Being blown away by the Swiss Bike team. I was definitely on the wrong bike at the right time.

What I've learned thus far: You can be below sea level and still be dry; don't try to book a room at the l'Hotel de Ville; and you won't get far if you try to bike in Venice.

Love to all

Dr. Denis.


5/20/98

Dear friends and family,

Again, it took me a long time to get here. Everyone one I know seems to have done the Europe thing after high school, university, or at other points in their lives. Well, here I am.

Started in Amsterdam, biked to Rotterdam, Eindhoven, then onto Massttrich. I headed south into Belgium and Luxemberg. The landscapes are beautiful: Holland is flat and below sea level; Belgium is rolling farming country and seems more traditional then surrounding countries; Luxemberg is hilly, with many seriously old buildings; and now I'm heading south through France on route to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Every country requires different travel skills. It's been a good learning experience. Bike routes, inaccessible roads, poor maps, inability to speak the native tongue, and short store hours have been my recent challenges. None of these have come close to tarnishing the glow I possess from the beauty I encounter every step of the way.

Today, I speak French primarily. My youth, having grown up in Quebec, has served me well. It's amazing in a crunch how well I can speak after 18 years of lingual hibernation.

Lots of love,

Denis.


5/15/98

Dear friends and family,

My time in New Zealand is coming to a close. Temperatures here were from a low of 3 degrees Celcius to a high of 12 yesterday. The winds from the south are definately cooling things off a bit. A check of temps in Amsterdam have indicated highs of over 30 celcius. Definitely my kind of weather. I leave for Holland on Sunday pm.

I'm in a town called Rotorua, originally settled because of the sulfur hot springs originally popularized by Father Mahoney back in the 1880s.

Story has it that he dug a hole in the ground which filled with the hot water and in a week his crippling arthritis was gone. I've travelled far and wide (but not digging too deep), and have not until now found a place or monument named after a Mahoney (actually there was a "Mahoney Bar" in Malaysia or Singapore) for some heroic or humanitarian event. I spent the morning enjoying the pleasures of the 38-45 celcius water that one of my ancestors bathed in over 100 years ago.

Thats all that's fit to print today. Loving you with cold hands and a warm heart,

Dr. Denis.


5/14/98

Dear family and friends,

On route to the Top of the Top: Cape Reinga. I cycled north to Paihia, then onto Kaitaia, then up to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga. As with this whole trip, it's been the journey not the destination that's held the greatest reward.

I cycled north into 40km head winds with driving rain. Add my speed and you've got 60kph nails of rain stinging the non-weathered areas around my eyes. The scenery is still rolling farm land. I keep rest periods brief so I won't freeze too much.

At 75km, I got a puncture. Real shit because I forgot to buy more spares and my old tubes are probably still unpatched. Its raining hard, so I walk. No worries, a sign indicates a gas station in 1 km. I eat a steak-and-cheese meat pie, unpack, and find a good spare.

Now, a rear flat is different then a front one. The procedure: remove then rear paniers; unscrew c-clamps holding my rear panier rack; shift it upwards so I can loosen the skewer; remove the tire; fix the flat. Reverse these directions to get rolling again.

When I'm done, its really raining. I'm soaked under an eight-foot covered porch due to the wind. I inquire about accommodations - Yup, 2 km ahead. Definitely no tenting in this weather. My spirits are good, my hands purple, my cloths drenched. A hot shower, a 2-hour nap, and better fit I couldn't be. Cape Reinga will have to wait another day.

Cape Reinga was beautiful. When I finished the last 20km of gravel/mud road my bike ate the rear derailer. A mechanic/tourist fixed it with some good whacks of a wrench. It proved good enough to get me back to Auckland (some 300km south).

Despite what you may have heard about the native New Zealanders being cannibals and fierce warriors, they've all been friendly and I've been spared the pot. They probably think I'd be too stringy to chew! Include this part of the world in your travels.

I'll see you when you get here.

Love

Dr. Denis.

P.S. Further travel plans are to work my way south, perhaps limiting my trip to just the North Island.


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