Venice, Italy. Tim & Steve’s Travel Underdogs, Part 1

Steve and I want to start a new mini series of travel advice called “Tim and Steve’s Travel Underdogs.” The idea is that, for every major destination that’s on every traveler’s bucket list, we have an idea for somewhere to go that’s just as nice and safe, more enjoyable, less expensive, more authentic, more friendly, and more rewarding. First up, Venice! (If you have a suggestion for a future destination, leave it in the comments!)

Now, it’s well known by any traveler that there are hidden gems everywhere, just waiting to be found. And the problem with the Internet is that these “hidden gems” are quickly being discovered and being turned into the next “killer” destinations. What we hope to do in this series is to train you to be able to find your own hidden gems. By publishing these suggestions, I know we run the risk of pointing too many people on these specific little-known destinations, but we are just a couple of guys, and we want to provide our friends an example of how you can plan a trip and not just go where everyone else goes. In future posts, we will describe how you can find these locations yourself.

Responsible tourism is all about spreading out your travels to a wide area of equally interesting and rewarding places. Bring your tourist dollars to the rural areas and support them directly; they have lots to offer as well! You don’t have to go to the same place as everyone else to have a good vacation; in fact, we’ve always had a more enjoyable time in places no one has heard of.

Quick intermission: If you like our blog or our advice, please support the AIDS/LifeCycle ride. Steve and I have given all of our free time this year (and the past 5 years, combined) to training and raising awareness of this organization aiming no short of ending AIDS. Donate in recognition of Tim:
For Steve:

On our most recent training ride with our friends and amazing people, Greg and Gary, plus San Francisco AIDS Foundation COO, Greg Sroda. (You get used to the porta potties after 7 days.)

Okay, back to travel. So you want to go to Venice! Awesome, you are curious about life outside your home, and you want to see new and unique things. Italy is such a fascinating place, and we as Americans are particularly enamored with its food, its culture, and its landscape. Why not?! It’s amazing. And Venice! Who isn’t intrigued by a city built on canals?

Here’s the thing. Venice isn’t real anymore. Venice is chock full of Chinese and other tourists, scrambling their way from one place to another, clogging the streets, and changing the atmosphere from a romantic Italian coastal town to a hectic Asian capital. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Asian capitals; we love them! But it’s probably not what you had in mind when visiting Venice, Italy, is it?) Plus, it’s stupid expensive, with hotels commonly around $500/night. I could buy the most comfortable brand new mattress in the world for $500; why would you spend that on a hotel for just one night?

Our advice: Skip Venice. Seriously, DON’T GO! If you want to get your Instagram shots (the same as everyone else), we can’t help you. But if you want to have a great vacation, here are some ideas where else nearby in Italy you should go.

Chioggia, Italy. Described in this blog as “unspoiled Venice”, we would agree 100%. It’s just a short boat ride from Venice, not far from Bologna, and it has all the Italian charm you are actually looking for in your Italian vacation. When we cycled through, there was a farmer’s market occupying the entire downtown area, selling all sorts of Italian foods and products, and every canal we looked down was pristine and beautiful. There were few foreign tourists, just locals and some Italian tourists, including our friend Matteo, who rode with us for the day. Yet everyone was friendly and welcoming! After we got to Venice, we totally wished we had just stayed in Chioggia! Seriously!

Chioggia, Italy (NOT Venice) with our friend Matteo, an AIDS/LifeCycle rider from Italy who cycled with us for a day.

Trieste, Italy. Okay, you want something a little more metropolitan? Try Trieste. On the border of Italy and central/eastern Europe, Trieste has a fascinating history, excellent food, a unique coffee culture that rivals the rest of Italy (macchiatos are the best here, known locally as a ‘capo in b’), plus grandiose squares overlooking the ocean, and ancient ruins reminiscent of Rome and Greece.

Ancient ruins in Trieste, Italy.
Sunset over the Adriatic from Trieste.

Ravenna, Italy. Come here to try black squid ink pasta, camp in the sand on the ocean, see the historic old town, and laze along the Adriatic coast, watching local fisherman draw in their catch. This is the laid back old school coastal Italy you’ve been dreaming about. While Chioggia itself has a magical and beautifully preserved old town that you expect from Italy, the coast here is rarely visited and has only a few fishing villages, hotels, and campgrounds where you can literally rent a piece of sand all to yourself on the beach.

Our camping spot on the Adriatic near Ravenna, Italy.
Local fishing nets along the Italian wetlands
(credit Wikipedia – Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna)

Bonus: Emilia-Romagna, Italy (Bologna). You’ve heard about Tuscany, sure. But on the other side of the Tuscan hills is the university city of Bologna in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Just as beautiful, more local, better food (the birthplace of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pasta Bolognese), this region is so under-rated that you just have to see for yourself.

The view from our (inexpensive) villa in Emilia-Romagna.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the first edition of Tim & Steve’s Underdogs. Let us know what you think in the comments. Have you been here? Do you agree? Where should we review next? Peace and love to you all, Tim & Steve

What is normal?

The most generous people in the world are those with the least. Can you prove me wrong? More about that later, but first…

It’s really hard to put into words the past 6 months since returning from our halfway around the world cycling trip. Steve and I have both started trying to write a blog a dozen times, but we just couldn’t find the words. We have now jumped into what most Americans would consider a “normal” life, and we are trying to make it work.

But this is not normal.

Yes, we do our best to continue living by what made us happy on our trip; we live without a TV, with few additional “things”, without a car. But life here is not normal. Life in San Francisco is not normal. Life in the United States is NOT normal. Don’t get me wrong, we love our life, but we are shocked.

Normal is not seeing advertisements on every surface. Normal is not being unable to help the helpless because there are TOO MANY homeless, mentally ill, those who can’t afford their medication, and those who struggle with the impossible draw of addiction. Next to them drive millionaires in $100,000+ Teslas. This is not normal. Normal were our days camping in back yards, and smiling at strangers, and trying new food. Being welcomed by strong knit communities who take care of not only their own, but also honor the travelers and the transient folks in need who pass by. THAT is normal.

We can make a change; we all can make a change. We are SO incredibly fortunate, you and us; we love our home, and we love our family and friends, and we especially love our country and our state of California. And because of that, we again devote our efforts and (pretty much all of) our free time to train for the AIDS/LifeCycle! This has brought so much meaning to our lives, and we are so happy that many of you have joined us in supporting them in the past. We hope you will support us again.

We train with selfless individuals like Rob, who captivates other volunteer cyclists with his passion and love of life.

You may remember the woman in Bulgaria who offered us a cucumber from her farm, simply because we smiled at her and said “dobyr den”? Remember also the locals and shopkeepers in India and Turkey who stopped us on the road for tea, sweets, and holiday gifts? Remember the Thais who stopped us to give us mangos and water? Remember the Croatians who offered us a place to stay? The average wage in India is $2/day, but in these parts of the world, the people are the most generous we have ever seen.

If you make more than $2/day, you can be generous too. Help us help those in need. You can donate directly to the AIDS/LifeCycle ride here:


PS The adventure is calling… More on our next trips soon. Love to you all,

Tim & Steve

Half way around the world by bicycle…

After our last few posts, we’ve been getting lots of questions, so this post aims to answer some of those and tell you about what’s next for us.

First of all, yes it’s true. We are stopping our cycle tour and are returning to the USA.

The most common question is, Why?

There’s no single answer, so I’ll touch on a few thoughts and experiences we’ve had that led to this decision.

As we began to travel, the idea of becoming permanent nomads was very intriguing, traveling from place to place, picking up odd jobs or remote work, and continuing to see the world. This was great for the first six months to a year, and then the reality of our nomadic lifestyle began to set in.

The travel itself was amazing and eye opening, and every day was a new adventure. It’s impossible to over state how much we learned and grew on this trip, and we have absolutely not one single regret, and only thankfulness for having such a unique opportunity to pursue this dream.

But we missed our family and friends with a longing we’ve never felt before. Even in our connected online world, nothing matches physical connection and presence in the real lives of those we love. And this weighed on us more and more. Sure, we made many new friends along the way, many of whom we will keep in touch with (you know who you are, we are so thankful our paths crossed!). But only rarely did these connections last more than a day or two, leaving us yet again feeling lonely even when surrounded by crowds.

Further, our brains were becoming overwhelmed with new experiences. We had life changing exposure to people, countries, and cultures, but yet we were losing the ability to appreciate, gain perspective, and make sense of it all. Exploring the locales we cycled through began to sometimes feel like a chore rather than a delight.

We began to greatly miss some form of permanency. Having to, every day, figure out new routes, find new shops and restaurants, and communicate our needs to new people started to weigh on us. We realized how nice it is to have a regular store, familiar roads, and regular restaurant with staff who recognize you and remember your favorite dish.

For the first year or so, figuring out our travel routine was fun and exciting, and we relished in trying to find the best way to do things. Planning routes, finding accommodations, and finding new food to try were all highlights of our adventure. Even figuring out new ways to pack our bags more efficiently, and fine tuning our minimal selection of clothing was an exciting way to spend our spare time. But as time went on, parts of this routine became banal, something that just had to get done in order to get to the enjoyable cycling or other adventures. And towards the end of our trip, it became frustrating. Packing our bags every single day became a chore. Convincing hoteliers and guesthouse staff that we needed a safe place to store our irreplaceable bicycles, when they wanted us to leave them unsecured on busy streets and in dodgy alleys, turned an exhilarating adventurous day of cycling into a sour and frustrating evening of finding new accommodations or politely arguing our case over and over again.

It was becoming clear that we needed a break.

In addition, I was having a strong desire to return to my career of software engineering, a field that has always fascinated me since I first learned about computers, and is something I enjoy tremendously. My experiment as a digital nomad in Chiang Mai was disappointing, as my fantasies of networking with super smart geeks working in exotic locales, sipping rum drinks and inventing new things at co-working spaces with beach or mountain views was replaced by the reality of a handful of inexperienced and broke wannabes and borderline scammers crowded in claustrophobic shared offices, looking for the next get-rich-quick scheme (all the blockchains!), working illegally on tourist visas and making too-frequent nerve-wracking visa runs and hoping to fly under the radar of immigration.

I longed to return to my career where I worked on products like YouTube where my efforts impact billions of people, and where I had the support and the opportunity to really create new things and change the world in positive ways. With the opportunity to do this kind of work again, our two-year trip began to feel like a bit shallow, benefiting only ourselves and the few of you wonderful folks following our journey who we have been able to inspire. It is time to take our experiences, and leveraging the life lessons we have learned, do something bigger that will touch more people.

And so with that, I decided to go back to work. We briefly considered pursuing an opportunity over seas, but when I learned of an exciting new project that some very smart colleagues of mine are working on, I jumped at the chance to contribute. It is in the San Francisco Bay Area, so we will be moving back there to pursue this.

Steve, meanwhile, is looking for ways to give back with his newfound perspective on life, and is very interested in changing careers to work in the nonprofit sector. He is actively searching for jobs, so please contact us if you have any leads. After a year of living minimally, the idea of working in retail again and pushing people to buy things they may not need feels unrewarding and antithetical to all we have learned.

We will cycle tour again! But we look forward to doing smaller trips, where we can focus on embracing the challenges and immersing ourselves in the adventure.

We are not giving up on cycling! In fact, we have signed up for AIDS/LifeCycle, a 7-day fundraising bicycle ride that raises money to support HIV/AIDS programs. We are both committing to raise $10,000 each before June 2019. This will be my 4th year participating, and Steve’s 3rd.

If you have enjoyed following along, we urge you to be one of our first supporters and make a contribution to this worthy cause that means the world to us.

Contribute to Tim

Contribute to Steve

A lot of people ask if we are writing a book. The short answer is, we might. But right now our primary focus is on beginning our new lives and being thankful for the opportunity we’ve had. We hope you have enjoyed following along with us. This blog is going to stay put so you can enjoy reading old posts and following along on future adventures.

Love, peace, and respect to all of you. And most importantly, get out there! Ride your bike. Go for a walk or hike. Explore the world yourself. Sign up for or CouchSurfing. Be generous in your hospitality to other foreigners and tourists you meet, and help to give back the kindness we were shown everywhere we set our feet and tires.

If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words…

22,542 kilometers (14,007 miles)…is the distance we pedaled over the last 19 months in 25 countries plus 3 more countries we either took a ferry to or flew by plane for Visa runs to extend our time in Thailand.

Europe Part #2 from Budapest to Amsterdam took us 8 weeks, where we loved all the amazing and dedicated cyclying infastructure throughout 7 beautiful European countries.

Czech Republic

Laos ✈️
Singapore ✈️

Morroco 🚢

My/our emotions are mixed as we complete our 2nd long distance cycling tour and return home to the USA where we will both go back to work and call the Bay Area home while we plan our next tour in the foreseeable future. We will visit both of our families for some quality time and are mostly excited to begin this new chapter in our lives and relationship and be closer to Family & Friends.

Thank YOU all for following along on this incredible journey over the past year and a half. Your L♥️VE, Support, and Prayers were definitely felt and are bringing us HOME safely for countless HUGS. I’ll write another blog within the next month after I/we process all the amazing and incredible expieriences. We are Blessed, Thankful, & Forever changed by the Great Big Beautiful World we all live and breathe in.

Amsterdam was the perfect city to complete this tour that we started in Lisbon nineteen months ago. It was a photographers dream with bicycles everywhere, doorways to ?, and canal after canal of stunning architecture.

Picture This… Schnitzel This

Budapest, Hungary was the perfect place for us to begin our second time of cycle touring in Europe. What a beautiful and vibrant city full of amazing food, history, and culture. Our Airbnb was perfect with a pinball machine, a loft bedroom, a full kitchen, and access to a washing machine too.

Dotted with unique architectural masterpieces, Budapest’s skyline suggests an old world charm, accentuated by the fact that there’s not a skyscraper in sight. On the food walking tour that we took on our first full day in the city we learned that no building in Budapest can stand at over 96 metres (314.9 ft) tall. This is thanks to regulations which restrict building height, and the fact that the number 96 has symbolic value in the country. It was in 896 that Hungarian Magyars first came to the area, and the first stages of the Hungarian Kingdom were born.

As you walk through the streets looking up constantly at the beautiful architecture you’ll notice something a little bit uniform about the city’s skyline. Buildings seem to stand at the same height, with two spires rising above the rest. There’s not a skyscraper in sight and the tallest buildings don’t seem to be more than eight stories high. The lack of ultra modern high rise buildings allows the city to retain a historic appearance that is truely eye appealing.

St Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament Building set the presedence for this height legislation after the completion of these two buildings in the early 1900’s. However, both stand at the same height – 96m – and represent religion and government respectively. Their equal heights are no coincidence. The fact that one is not taller than the other is significant, as it shows that neither religion nor government is more important than the other.

We definitely could’ve spent more time in this elegant and vibrant European city, but we were also eager to begin pedaling on our new Specialized Sequoia gravel touring bikes and to start working off the weight gain from our five weeks off the bikes celebrating my 50th in Thailand and Singapore with family and friends.

Always fun to tag something with our sticker and a link to our blog and this was the perfect spot at Szimpla Ruin Bar.

Bratislava, Slovakia was our next country we pedaled through on a quick two day adventure of seeing a few sights and trying to stay cool in the 40 Celcius temperatures. We enjoyed the city squares and loved being back in the outdoor cafe and restaurant culture of Europe where it’s great people watching. We also met some other cyclying tourists from the UK (Kris & Jill), from another cycle tourist Renata that we met last year in Bulgaria who introduced us to them via social media. It was fun sharing meals and stories from the road with them. We met up with them again in Vienna & Salzburg before Jill and I both sang “So Long Farewell, We Hate to Say Goodbye”, as they departed through Germany and we went onward to Prague.

Austria was a dream come true for both of us as we always heard such great things about the cycling infastructure. Another dream of course for both of us (more me) from the first and numerous times we’ve seen the 1965 Academy Award winning movie The Sound of Music. Vienna was stunning, and as Tim said it best in a previous blog post “it’s like walking in an outdoor museum”. We were both in awe of the countless statues that adorned the tops of every building, and the entricit designs and craftsmanship in the details of all the buildings. After Vienna, we pedaled through the amazing dedicated bike paths along the Danube River, through picturesque villages, and a little side trip to “Climb Every Mountain” into some of the beautiful Lake regions on our way to Salzburg. I sang songs from the movie as I was more excited than a kid at Christmas or going to Disneyland to finally seeing where “The Hills Are Alive” and seeing the famous sights and scenes where the SOM was filmed. It was on Sunday, August 20th that the dream came true of finally arriving in Salzburg where we also realized we crossed the threshold of 20,0000km obtained on our cycle tour that had begun 17.5 months ago.

As we’re pedaling from city to city, and new experiences each day, one can only imagine it gives us both a lot of time to reflect and think about anything and everything. It was in these moments throughout Austria that I realized I’ll be just like Rose from the Golden Girls one day as I say “Picture This, Austria in August of 2018”, to anyone that will listen and go into a story about this incredible, rewarding, and eye-opening adventure the two of us have experienced throughout 26 countries in Europe and Asia.

So, Picture This if you will as “These are a few of my Favorite Things”, I’ll always remember about Austria.
-apple, pear, and plum trees
-pumpkin patches & sad end of season sunflower fields
-corn fields & Christmas tree farms
-vinyards with white grapes on one side and red ones on the other
-solar powered homes in small villages along the Danube River
-do a deer a female deer running through a field we cycled by, and re a drop of golden sun at 40 degrees Celsius (104F) and 90% humidity
-tree lined bike paths covered in leaves pedaling by a stream or river
-church bells ringing…and feeling the sense that we were late for something just like Maria running back to the Abbey.
-perfect flowers adorned in window boxes on every home
-crystal clear lakes and majestic mountains as their backdrop

Another one of my “Favorite Things”, is a pork breaded tenderloin as we call them back in Indiana where I was born and raised. It’s always on the list of foods to have when I go home to visit family and friends now. Well here in this part of the world it’s called Schnitzel, and I can’t get enough of this delicacy that we’ve found in each country since Hungary and now in Germany. As we sit down for dinner, Tim will ask, “what are you having”, and I’ll say Schnitzel, and he’ll say “you had that last night”, and I’ll say “yes”. I mean come on, you can’t go wrong with something deep fried and breaded can you? It’s usually served with a side salad, frittas, and if your lucky a cranberry sauce to add to the pork schnitzel.

So, “Schnitzel This” if you will as we’ve had all of these from Budapest to Berlin now.
-Cordon Bleu

Schnitzel (pork), Spatzel, & Salad

Schnitzel, Frittas, & Chanterelle mushrooms in season now for only 2 months…lucky us. 😋

After Salzburg, we had a week to reach Prague the capital of the Czech Republic. We we’re excited to finally see this city with its rich history in Central Europe and the Gothic, Rennisance, & Baroque architecture it’s world famous for with sights such as the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Astronomical Clock (that was unfortunately under renovation), and the John Lennon Wall just to name a few. Our most exciting attraction to see was our friend Luis Legaspi, a friend and ALC brother from San Diego that was traveling in Europe for some weddings. He had made a post on the Book of Face as where to go between the weddings, and I said “meet us in Prague”. It was great to see him, hug him, and spend quality time with him and getting to know more about each other in this magical city. Needless to say, Prague was a little overwhelming for Tim and I with the amount of tourists that were everywhere, so the three of us escaped by finding some cafes to eat & drink, and also found a local gay bar that we went to each night. Prague receives 8.5 million visitors annually and is the 5th most desired city to see in Europe we later learned, so this makes more sense as to why we felt like a salmon going upstream when we were near all the tourist traps. We both want to come back to this city if there is such a thing as off-season for Prague.

From Prague, it was music to my ears as I was told it would be relatively flat all the way to Berlin, and it was compared to the 13,000 feet of elevation we climbed from Salzburg to Prague over 7 days with a rest day in Cesky Krumlove.

In Berlin we we’re excited to meet some International Participants for the AIDS/LifeCycle ride that Tim and are passionate about back in the states. Jens and Thilo met us out for dinner and drinks two nights while we were there and have 9 years combined of flying to SF and doing this incredible 545 mile ride over 7 days to LA. We look forward to pedaling with the two of them next year when we do the ride again as well.

We loved our overnight stay in Potsdam just outside of Berlin the day before we arrived for 3 full rest days to take in some of the sights from this famous city with so much history from countless wars and of course the Berlin Wall. We did a free walking tour and learned that the TV tower is taller in height than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. One of our rest days was a cold, rainy, and overcast day that we used to do laundry and send a package back home, and some Netflix & Chill.

On Friday we took a tour of the Reichstag Building that’s the historic glass-domed building of Parliment. After 18 months of touring now we come to realize that we enjoy the quiet countryside and less touristy parts of a country compared to the countless tourist traps of a major city or capital of the country. There are only so many churches, castles, and other places that Google or friends tells you that you need to see before you are just like “eh okay, get me back on the bike with the fresh air and surprise me” part of our journey.

We left Berlin this morning as we’ve decided to go North and see the Baltic Sea across Germany on our way to Amsterdam. It was another amazing ride of dedicated bike paths on the Euro Velo 7, that took us through forest and around lakes to our Pension as it’s expected to dip down to 11 C (52F) tonight which is too cold to camp for these California boys.

Here are some of my favorite photos from Budapest to Berlin. If you want to see more, especially all the ones I took in Salzburg, I’ve told you once and I’ll tell you again, you should be following me on Instagram @scubastevecyclist where I’ve posted so many pictures from our last year and a half of pedaling.

A stunning church (just look at those colors) that we stumbled upon after a climb out of Austria into Czechia in the middle of nowhere

Who recognizes this famous lake and house?

I am 16 going on 17…well not really I am 50 going on 51 and Tim is 42 going on 43. 💃😉🎼

Karlskirche. A stunning Baroque style of Architecture Church in Vienna.

Austrian mountain lakes, Salzburg, and crossing into Czechia

Since my last post, we’ve been furiously cycling on roundabout gorgeous routes through Austria and Czechia (aka Czech Republic, once a part of Czechoslovakia).

Cycling before Salzburg

We were enjoying Austria so much that we decided not to cycle directly towards Salzburg and instead visit the Salzkammergut Region, famous for its mountain lakes. We planned an overly ambitious path by the most popular lakes, but upon arriving at the first lake, Traunsee, we found there was a summer festival that evening. The town was packed and setting up for the festival. The cheapest hotel rooms were over $350, and the first campground we stopped at was booked full. The second campground had some space, but we were torn because if we stopped now, we wouldn’t have time to see the most popular lake, Hallstatter. But if we kept cycling, we ran the risk of not finding a campsite for the evening. It made me grumpy, but we decided to stop.

Our busy campground with the stunning views.

It turned out to be a good decision to stop because every campground we passed afterwards had signs up stating they were full.

Still, we saw some stunning scenery in the lakes. The scale of it all was literally breathtaking. Even with the summer crowds, it was an experience to remember.

Even cycling between the lakes, the signed bike routes led us through picturesque landscapes with beautiful fancy homes.

It seems to be a pastime of the Austrians to make designs in the drying sunflowers. Very entertaining for us as we cycled through many fields.

Charging our batteries (literally and figuratively) with solar power by Wolfgangsee. Campgrounds often charge extra for power or don’t have any at all near the tent-only area, so these have come in handy. At 10W, they are almost twice as powerful as our last ones and charge much quicker and even in cloudy weather.

Most of the cycle routes follow the rivers in Austria, and you can spend hours cycling under shade trees or on high levees and suddenly come around a corner and see sights like this.


Salzburg was great, and for me partly because I could sit back and let Steve plan it all. He had so many Sound of Music places he wanted to see, and I was more than happy to help navigate and sit back and go with the flow. I’m not a particularly big SoM fan, so I’ll just post a few photos; see Steve’s Instagram for the choice ones.

The actual gazebo from the movie set.

Pegasus statue.

Stunning views of town from the peak of the town’s main castle.

Water fountain that I guess was in the movie.

We toured the Stiegl brewery and left with some souvenirs including some bottle caps. Inspired by my friend Wendy, who has a bottle cap bike mirror that I love, I glued a bottle cap to my own mirror, making it much more interesting, and I hope entertaining some of the folks we pass by. If asked, I can proudly says, “das ist mein Stiegl Spiegl!” (Alas, no one has asked me yet, so I’m saving this gem of German wordplay for the right occasion lol!!!)

The craft beer room. Too bad we didn’t get to try this one as it wasn’t ready yet.

View from the love locks bridge. This is a thing everywhere apparently.

We really enjoyed getting to see Kris and Jill again in Salzburg. They are now headed west back home to the UK (probably), while we head north towards Prague. I know we’ll have a reunion at some point, but likely after our tours are over. It’s the curse of cycle touring, always saying goodbye to new friends.

Sankt Erhard.

The nunnery from the film with my very own nun. Ha!

Walking up to the castle.

Cycling after Salzburg

Ready to ride, we planned an ambitious 3-day route to Çesky Krumlov in Czechia. The first day and a half were fairly easy, following the Salzach River, emptying into the Inn River, and finally back on the Danube, this time going east. We were looking for the easiest mountain pass between Austria and Czechia.

We found one, and it was passable, but not easy. We joined one other cycle tourist (look behind Steve) walking our bicycles up the 12-14% grades for a few kilometers.

We did cycle most of it though, and the scenery was stunning.

Earlier, we came across some llamas…

and saw many scenic towns along the Danube…

and even caught a stage of the Race Around Austria! We watched a few dozen riders go by and cheer them on. It’s a 4-day non-stop race around the edges (i.e. hilliest parts!) of the country.

One part of the Danube cycling route requires you to take a ferry. We were joined by this group of Romanian cyclists who gifted us a Romanian flag that we were honered to receive. They are hoping to visit Florida next year, and we hope to see Romania soon!


Across the border, little initially changed, except that now fried cheese was on the snack menu. We tried some and it’s good! I mean, how can it not be?

Our first town of Çeske Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and we enjoyed pushing our way through hordes of Chinese tourists taking selfies. And watching hot air balloons and small sightseeing planes glide over the historic city.

Beautiful quaint architecture in the old town.

We rented a raft and paddled down the river! There’s a reason they call these boats widow-makers… But we had fun! 😬

Enjoyed sunset views over the city.

The city seal. I always enjoy looking at the town infrastructure especially in historic towns like this. Call me a nerd.

But wait, what? Is there really vodka piped through the city?? I knew I would like Czechia!

After Çesky Krumlov, we are headed north along the EuroVelo 7 route to Prague and then Berlin. Along the way we are going through historic river towns, and fields of corn, barley, and hops.

Speaking of food….

Food – Austrian & German

We had a few lunches across the Inn river in Germany, so they are mixed in here with the Austrian food…

I don’t know why Steve couldn’t finish this itty bitty platter of sausage, Knödel, and creamy lentils topped with bacon… Seriously, I think you’re only meant to eat once per day in Austria. Two meals is just excessive.

Yum, Schneider Weisse! Was happy to find this.

Lots of goulash mit Knödel were eaten. Reminds me of the beef stew my father used to make when I was a kid. Good memories.

We heard this strange dessert, Knockerl, was a specialty of Salzburg. After trying it, we know why it hasn’t caught on anywhere else. It looks well, odd, and tasts like a poorly cooked souffle. Oh well, we had to try!!

Steve loves his schnitzel! He’s got a blog coming up about this…

And me, my spaetzl. Omg, I was uncomfortable but very happy after finishing this.

Berry strudel-ish dessert.

Food – Czech

We didn’t know what to expect, but so far, the food bears a lot of resemblance to Hungarian and Austrian food, but at 1/3 the price of Austria. Which is not a bad thing at all!

Turkey cordon Bleu in mustard sauce over creamed spinach. Heaven!

They do a lot of pasta here too, though no one has claimed this is a Czech dish yet.

Did you know Budweiser is from the Czech Republic? Yeah, me either. The other local beers are better, to be honest, though the variety of beers at most restaurants is very limited. Can’t wait to get to Prague and try some special ones.

A spaetzl-like dish.

I had to try this local cheese from the market, a specialty of the region. Very funky taste, almost like I got the milk right from the source. Probably won’t have it again.

Okay that’s all for now! Next up, Prague!

Austria is not over-rated, but it is expensive!

Our first reaction to Austria was how beautiful it was with the traditional houses, farmland, and the Danube. Our second reaction when we paid for lunch was how expensive it is! From 90c beers and $3 meals at restaurants in Hungary to $5 beers and $12-18 lunches here. Well, it will take some adjustment. We have started eating a big lunch out and making breakfast and dinner from the supermarket.


Vienna absolutely astounded us. It was literally like walking through a museum. Every corner has a unique amazing piece of architecture.

Look up anywhere in Vienna and see gorgeous architecture and stunning foliage. What an incredible city!

And practical too! Shop hours are strictly limited to be closed on Sundays and have only so many hours per week open. It’s great for the workers, but if you need condoms and lube after-hours, where do you go? Well, there are vending machines to take up the slack!

Vienna is starting to speak up against animal exploitation for tourism, and we support this.

We toured the magnificent opera house. Here is a chamber you can rent during and opera performance for your event.

Pink bunny…

Beautiful views from the Volksgarten, the people’s garden.

Goethe statue.

We heard about this movie being shown for free during Vienna’s film festival, so we had to attend! Discofootball… It was… Weird… Very weird…

Yikes, did somebody slip something into my drink?

Nope, everything’s normal here.

St. Stephan’s in reflection.

The film festival before the film.


This reminded us our our Coffee Cycle friend in San Diego!!

Interior of the Opera.

On the road

Cycling into Vienna, we holed up under this bridge while a rain shower passed by. The street art is excellent near the rivers; I wish we had time to see more.

Steve’s bike in an alley along the Danube.

The Danube valley really does not disappoint! We’ve heard many amazing things about how beautiful it is here, and I can say with certainty that it is not at all over-rated! All of the compliments are fully deserved.

The cycle path takes you through small villages with amazing historic houses, vineyards, wineries, and shops. You will see none of this in one of the luxury cruises or by car. Cycling is truly the only way to see this part of Austria! Many of the most scenic paths are restricted to bicycles or pedestrians only.

The network of bicycle routes in Austria is truly world class. They are all signed and numbered, and they keep you out of traffic even as much as to send you through tunnels just to avoid a traffic circle. Everyone knows about the Danube cycle path, but there are dozens of others just as nice all through the country.

Melk Archabbey.

Cycling through vineyards and farmland.

Tractor parked in its home.

Our bikes overlooking a street in Vienna.

We cycled through a number of FKK, or Freikörper-Kultur (free body culture, aka nudism) areas, where people shamelessly sunbathe, swim, cycle, and hike in their birthday suits. It’s great to see a country support this, when there is so much body shaming happening elsewhere in the world. I would have joined, but my bike seat is not comfortable without padding!

We caught a water rapids race on the way into Vienna.

We are back to camping, and it’s nice! We loved our first campground in Austria, next to a lake, with fantastic showers and bathrooms. It was nice to sleep under the stars, even though Steve got spooked by a possom at 3am!

Photos can’t really capture the vast beauty of the Danube valley, especially the Wachau region.

More of the Danube.

Wood stacked by the Danube. We didn’t see many freight ships, but I imagine they use boats to transport all the wood.


Okay here’s my favorite part!

Steve’s first dish in Austria, the classic Wiener schnitzl!

A staple of our diet on the road, a wurst (sausage), bread, mustard, and horseradish.

Cheese spaetzl! Omg, one of my favorites!

Turkey schnitzel with cranberries.

Vienna’s film festival had all sorts of international food, from curry to tacos.

Austrian food stall.

Traditional Vienna style sausage.

One of my favorite bottled beers is the delicious Stiegl Weisse beer, brewed in Salzburg, so luckily we see more and more of it as we get closer.

A mildly spicy and delicate cheese from Wels, one of our overnight stops.

Steve at a famous sausage stand in Vienna.

I tried this Danube-caught Serbian-style fish and it was incredible.

More of our typical lunch.

Can you get enough sausage?

I couldn’t be happier than with a pint of craft beer and a pretzel the size of my head. Austria rules!

Sound of Music

So we are headed towards Salzburg, and of course, we are preparing to see all the famous Sound of Music sights!

Stay tuned and we’ll share them with you!

Slovakia is a funny name! – Sawyer

When my nephew-in-law Sawyer heard we were going to Slovakia, he texted me, “that’s a funny name!” I can’t disagree, and I have to admit that I knew very little about this country except that it used to be part of Czechoslovakia.

Without so much as a guide book, we booked an AirBNB near the city center and started cycling. Crossing the border from Hungary to Slovakia, the half-assed bike path suddenly became a full-fledged bike road, complete with signage, excellent pavement, and even small beer/snack restaurants lining the route! The bike infrastructure in Bratislava turned out to be world class!

As a mentioned in my last post, we were eager to meet other cycle tourists, and it was at one of these beer/snack places that we ran into Kris and Jill. Funny thing is, a mutual friend of ours had introduced us online and let us know we were both headed to Vienna. We saw each other cycling in Hungary, and I had said to Steve, “wouldn’t it be funny if those guys are Jill and Kris?”. Well, sure enough, they were!

We enjoyed getting to know each other and met up for dinner in the town later.

It was so hot that we didn’t do a lot in Bratislava, but I really like its energy. It’s still not too touristy, but it’s very comfortable. We spent a lot of time just walking around and admiring the architecture. I even heard a group of Thai tourists speaking Thai, and it surprised me, brought me back to Asia for a minute!

I think the “blue church” was our favorite, reminding us of some of the buildings in Barcelona designed by Gaudí.

It was fun watching some folks play on the big chess board downtown.

The food in Bratislava is a fusion of Austrian, Hungarian, and Slovakian, being so close to the border. But this dish with pork belly, sauerkraut, and a kind of tortilla, we were told is very traditional, and it was fantastic!

We took a food tour, and we sampled many different local cheese, fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, beets, cucumbers, etc.).

I feel like our time in Bratislava was rushed, being between two of our main destinations, Budapest and Vienna. And I think that honestly defines Bratislava, as the often-overlooked third sibling. I think it’s too bad, because I would like to spend some more time here; it feels like one of the more real and unspoiled capitals that we’ve visited, in a similar way that Zagreb is also.

Next up, Vienna…

Hungry in Hungary, back in the saddle, and a dead end!

We were very excited to be back on the bikes again, leaving Budapest! The whole region is having a heat wave, so we slathered up with sunscreen and headed out to the EuroVelo 6, south towards Serbia! Opposite from the way to Paris! Our initial idea was to get out of town and then follow the country roads to Lake Balaton, a very popular lake for swimming, boating, and fishing. A little detour but it looked really nice!

The EuroVelo 6 was easy to find, and we followed the Danube for quite a while, and then headed off onto quiet roads through suburbs and farms.

OpenStreetMaps has bicycle routes listed, and we planned to follow this one route that paralleled a railway. It slowly deteriorated to a path through the shrubs. It got worse and worse, but never so bad that we decided to turn around and take the 10km detour we’d have to take. But soon we were walking over thorn bushes one foot deep, and weed whacking our way through this badly maintained “bicycle route”. We were starting to get frustrated and nervous, drenched in sweat in the 100°F heat and nearly out of water.

When the trail disappeared, we were forced up against this rail line, where cargo trains and high-speed commuter trains zipped by every 10 minutes. It was too dangerous to continue, and we were scared and exhausted. The trains came by so fast they must have been going 100mph. But there was no way we wanted to cut our way backwards through 2 kilometers of brush and 10km of roads to go around.

So we sat in the underbrush watching the trains go by and making a plan. After a 15 minute rest in the brush, I looked on Google Maps satellite view and saw that if we climbed over a steep hill, there was a field on the other side, and then a road going in the right direction. I scrambled up the hill to check, and sure enough the road was there! We had to take turns carrying the bikes up the steep incline, me holding the front wheel and Steve pushing from behind. But after half and hour and 3 trips up and down the hill, we were home free, pushing our brand new, now scratched bikes across the field, along with a hundred scratches on our arms and legs from all the thornbushes we’d pushed our way through! The most mentally difficult day of our trip so far, even more than the most intense days cycling through India, and who would have guessed it would be in Hungary?

The next town had a local beer shop with a burger restaurant next door, and we planted ourselves there for two hours recovering our strength and changing our plans. Luckily we never plan out more than a day at a time, so it was easy to do something different.

We decided to skip Lake Balaton and head north to join the EuroVelo6 towards Bratislava and Vienna. Lake Balaton seemed to have little to no accommodations under 250€ per night, and we didn’t want to take the chance of showing up to an overbooked vacation resort area and not find a place to stay, even the campgrounds were questionable. Plus we were missing seeing other cycle tourists, so we aimed our path north towards Bratislava.

The Hungarian countryside was an odd but delightful mixture of eclectic, modern, and traditional. At times we felt we were cycling by California freeways and industrial shipping plants. At other times it was quaint villages with beautiful traditional houses. And other times we saw whimsical decorations like this one. The Hungarian people were, on a whole, welcoming and friendly, and we really enjoyed being off the beaten track here.

A few bears with the UNESCO Pannonhalma Archabbey in the background. We later walked up to the Abbey, and I tasted some local wines. The atmosphere of the local village was more interesting to me than the Abbey itself, but the walk up and the views are stunning.

Our homestay had this adorable momma kitty, visibly pregnant, and super loveable. She shared our evening meal of local sausages and cheese. Sleeping that night was nearly impossible; this region gets hot weather maybe one or two weeks per year, so there were no fans and definitely no air conditioning! Yet the homestays are 4x what you’d pay in Thailand. We began to think about returning to camping, now that we have our tent and camping gear back!

Another view of the archabbey.

One last photo of Hungarian food, this time a maybe-French-inspired cordon blue dish made with local cheese and pork, and coated with paprika bread crumbs, all friend in lard. The perfect calorie-rich lunch for a cycling trip.

Leaving Hungary, we made our way towards Bratislava, Slovakia, a country and a city we knew little about but would really enjoy…

Make American Fat Again

Taking a page out of President Trump’s play book, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (aka The Viktator) announces a new policy targetting American tourists, Make America Fat Again.

With increasing levels of obesity in relation to the North American nation, whose citizens have been holding hunger strikes in reaction to their tense political situation, Hungary’s leader has chosen to unleash this devious plan targetting American tourists.

But not everyone is on board with this plan. Cyclists Tim Norman and Steve Carnes aim to challenge the dictator’s edict by riding their bicycles ridiculous distances from Budapest all the way to Paris even while succumbing to the administration’s culinary demands and eating everything required, in an effort to offset the caloric content of the meat-heavy diet. The following photos show some of the horrific dishes that will inflict pain on many Americans visiting the Central European country in the foreseeable future.

Catfish stew with baked curd cheese noodles rolled in bacon…

The not-at-all discriminatory “Jewish egg”, along with some goose skin cracklings, hummus, cottage cheese with paprika, sausage, and some decorative vegetables (you don’t eat those).

Pounds and pounds of smoked stringy cheese.

Farmers market platter, with cheese, sausage, cheese croissant, cheese pastry, bread, truffle horse radish, champagne, and fresh berries (just for color).

Burgers made with a traditional flat bread.

Spicy paprika cottage cheese.

Classic langos.

Pulled pork leves (stew) in a bread bowl.

Pickled vegetables, mainly decorative.

Egg, bacon, and Hungarian cheese sandwich.

Dobos cake, vanilla biscuit, chocolate cream, caramel crisp on top.

Artisan cocktails at Pharma Bar.

Some recipes for you (disclaimer: may contain Hungarian propoganda designed to make you fat):

Here is the subliminal message being used in the fattening campaign.

Tim & Steve, along with the local Speed-Way bicycle shop team, and their new Specialized Sequoia touring bikes, ready to bicycle-tour for freedom (and to burn calories!).

At a “ruin bar”, a bar complex that sprung up amidst ruined abandoned buildings.


Weapons of war.

Graffiti unlimited.

Ruin bar self portrait #1.

Ruin bar self portrait #2.


St. Stephen Basilica (Steve’s namesake).

St. Stephen Basilica

St. Stephen Basilica

St. Stephen Basilica

The Parliament Building.

The car driven by Marijuana Man (no kidding!). Well, at least a dude with a huge cannabis leaf tee shirt.

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