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BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: November 2, 1997

Breakfast: While standing in the street next to our bikes, we had yogurt, fruit, bread, and water.

Lunch: Once again, while standing in the street next to our bikes, we had more yogurt, fruit, bread, and water.

Dinner In a local restaurant in town, the vegetarians ate a grand veggie couscous, and the meat-eaters ate grand pasta. For dessert, we had pastries and yogurt from a street stall that we passed while shuffling back home.

Food of the Day: Sandwich à la tunisienne

The tiny sandwich stalls that we find in many coastal Tunisian towns are a special place to have a quick lunch. Non-native speakers have an easy time communicating their favorite sandwich ingredients. By pointing and nodding to bowls behind a glass panel, anyone can choose from salade tunisienne, harissa, méchouia, spicy or mashed potatoes, black olives, parsley, fish, etc.

The sandwich bread is cut in two, the "soul of the baker" (the soft inside of the baguette) is taken out, replaced with whatever filling you've chosen, and then used as a "lid." You pay, leave the stall and eat immediately. It's cheap and fast. And, if you are an IJ, you eat two in a row . . . and then perhaps return for a third!

Word of the Day: Boondocks

Every country in the world has them. This American expression describes places in the middle of abolutely nowhere. The boondocks are usually far away from urban areas. You know when you are there, but there are no signs actually saying that you are there. Boondocks are very close to the edges of the earth — where you have to take care not to fall off. You may never find your way back again no matter how many GPSs, compasses, or maps you carry with you. Most of the BikeAbouters are dedicated city folks, but andrEa likes getting lost in the boondocks — the neglected space of an attractive wasteland.

Person of the Day: Jacquie Phelan

"Women have more obstacles than men to overcome when taking up the sport of cycling, from finding equipment that fits, to locating a fun riding partner. Mountain biking can be even more daunting, with it's macho lingo and current emphasis on techno stuff," writes Jacquie Phelan , founder of WOMBATS, the Women's Mountain Bike And Tea Society. She has also offered a way (almost) out of the woods:

The mission of WOMBATS is to sustain a women's off-road cycling network. Besides helping its members find riding partners, it encourage girls and women to try cycling for the fun of it, to learn about the trails in their areas, to improve their riding skills, to keep up with the latest news about "women who love mud too much," and to enhance an awareness of bicycles as a mode of transportation. In short, change the world.

Place of the Day: Bike seat

This place of the day is usually black, made from plastic or real leather (see this article), and supports the biker's bottom. Important information on bike seat theories, including the obvious difference between women's and men's saddles is available on the Web.

The IJs don't use stock seats. Instead they have saddles from Selle Royal. The IJs' saddles are made of real leather and come with an elastomer cushioning system. The two women use the Selle Royal "4all" series while the men use the narrower "Xcountry" model.

Group Dispatch, November 2

picture of andrEa

Departing from the Sfax youth hostel with the rising sun, we all fueled up with plenty of carbohydrates, packing in additional food for the long road ahead. click to view a photograph The sign at the first intersection described our fate: 137 km (85 mi) to Gabès. We didn't expect to stop riding until the sun was ready to set.

Leaving the expansive and much industrialized city of Sfax took a while, but at least the early morning traffic was light. On the way out of town, we noticed the remains of the city's development near the railroad tracks. Piles of old, rusted machinery in a junkyard of decaying trucks and buses lined the passage just beyond the roadway. These wastelands are found in industrialized cities the world over; "progress" leaves an inescapable trail of waste.

As the guys rushed ahead, the ladies reached the mid-point of the journey at about noon: 67 km (42 mi) behind them and about as many left to go. The terrain varied from olive groves to desert with very little else in between except for palm groves and souvenir souks — the latter an indication that we were headed back into tourist country.

In the slowish traffic, several moped and car drivers made the trip less boring. They passed us, only to be passed by us after a few hundred meters. They'd pass us again; we'd pass them again. Then again, and again. (Get the idea?) Despite the age of the Tunisian machines and their obvious mechanical deficiencies, most of these vehicles were kept on the road by many improvised repairs, and by the fact that most of the drivers use their vehicles as tools rather than as status symbols.

The boys arrived well ahead of time. Upon locating the youth hostel in Gabès, showering and changing clothes, they waited at the train station for andrEa and Corinne, who arrived with a friend just as the last shreds of light were leaving the sky. A fellow long-distance cyclist had met them on the road and accompanied them to the train station. As the reunited group made its way back to the youth hostel, a sliver of the moon and a very bright star (we think it was a planet but were too tired to figure out which one) hovered in the sky, making it all pleasantly picturesque.

Gabès itself was small and quaint, without nearly as many tourists as the other seaside cities (like Hammamet and Sousse). The youth hostel — another Centre des Jeunes — was colorfully decorated with Tunisian flags Tunisia, marking the beginning of a weeklong national holiday.

Happy to sit on a flat surface (chairs not bike saddles, see the Place of the Day), everyone had a big dinner in a restaurant in town. Heavy limbs carried us back to the Centre des Jeunes, where we soon fell into a luxurious sleep.

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