Webmaster's Note: Because the BikeAbout team is traveling in smaller groups for a little while, we have changed the format of the journal slightly. The dispatches for Turkey will be presented in geographical rather than chronological order. To view the chronological order, go to the itinerary.

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While Corinne and andrEa are cycling from Akçay to Çanakkale, Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic are traveling along Turkey's Mediterranean coast:

topics: Xanthos, Lycian League, Alexander the Great, history, bicycling; jump to dispatch

Rider Notes: February 23, 1998

Food of the Day: Kadiyif

Kadiyif is a sweet desert made with angelhair pasta. Inside are walnuts and pistachios. The desert is served with a honey sauce poured over the top.

Tech Fact of the Day: Lycian League

In 466 BC, a league of Greek city-states called the Delian League succeeded in defeating the Persians in Greece and then in driving them from Asia Minor. The Delian League, in particular its concept of a confederation of cities united in a common interest, served as a model for the Lycian League.

To protect themselves better from invaders, some of the cities of ancient Lycia, namely Xanthos (see the Place of the Day), Patara, Pinara, Tlos, Myra, and Olympos — all situated along the Mediterranean coast or in fertile valleys just inland (and thus along the route BikeAbout has been traveling the last few days) — formed the Lycian League. Despite constant bickering among its members, the League did offer some defense against attack. Only when it stood in the way of Alexander the Great's campaign to conquer the known world did the League suffer its first real defeat. Resurrected after Alexander's demise, the Lycian League later suffered another defeat at the hands of two Roman rebels, Crassus and Brutus. These two powerful Roman senators financed their fight against Octavius and Marc Antony during a civil war by looting the wealthy Lycian League.

Person of the Day: Anthony's parents, Carol and Gerald Ziehmke

Anthony would like to take this opportunity to express his thanks for being fortunate enough to have parents as understanding, supportive, and encouraging as his are. It seems that no matter what sort of crazy idea Anthony hatches, his parents always listen and try to help. (He would especially like to thank them for talking him out of hitting the road and starting his travels when he was six — he now realizes that he might have been a little . . . inexperienced). Throughout the last (mildly unpredictable and chaotic) 10 years of his life, his parents have provided him with a place that he can call home even if he rarely spends any time there. Further, they have never refused a collect call no matter from where it was placed. From the bottom of his heart, he would like to send out a big THANK YOU . . . and promises to make another one of those collect calls ASAP and apologizes for not having done so recently.

Place of the Day: Xanthos visit the World Heritage Site page

Once the capital of the Lycian League (see the Tech Fact of the Day), Xanthos was a prosperous city, situated in a fertile valley. Today it is recognized by UNESCO's World Heritage Center as a World Heritage site visit the World Heritage Site page.

Xanthos is perhaps most famous for its intensely strong-willed citizens who were notoriously unwilling to yield to attackers. Twice in their history, during battles in which it had become apparent that they would not be able to win, the people of Xanthos chose death over surrender. The first instance was during an attack by the Persian General Harpagus. Outnumbered, the Lycians fought bravely and well, but it was obvious that their defense of the city would fail. While their neighbors were quick to capitulate, the defenders of Xanthos gathered all the servants, women, and children in the central citadel and then set it on fire. The surviving men then either fought to the death or committed suicide by falling on their own swords.

In 42 BC, a Roman army lead by Cassius and Brutus attacked Xanthos. Again the defenders of the city knew that they would not be able to hold off the Roman hordes. So, once again, the Xanthians chose to massacre themselves rather than surrender.

Thankfully, things have become considerably quieter in Xanthos. After taking their lunch on the top row of seats in the amphitheater click to view a photograph, the boys spent an hour wandering around and visiting the ruins. After stopping at the remains of the Roman basilica to check out the newly uncovered mosaics (unfortunately off-limits to lay people), they quickly headed for the tombs.

The Lycian pillar burial tombs are one of the more spectacular sights at Xanthos. Constructed on large pillars, these sarcophagi were used to hold the remains of Xanthos's wealthy citizens. The sides of the sarcophagi were often decorated with designs depicting daily life and/or the gods that were worshiped by the deceased. click to view a photograph click to view a photograph. Some of the tombs were also cut out of rock walls. click to view a photograph

Unfortunately, many of the tombs visible today are copies. In 1842, the British ship HMS Beacon anchored offshore and waited for six months while the crew, under the direction of Charles Fellows (one of Britain's more revered archaeologists/thieves), dismantled many of Xanthos's treasures and carted them off to England. Today if you want to see the original artifacts you must travel to London. The BikeAbouters had to be content with plaster copies donated to Turkey by the British.

Group Dispatch, February 23

Ethan, Padraic, and Anthony woke not so early this morning. These boys are becoming so buff that they can look a 116-km (72-mi) day in the face and laugh! Well, only if it is a flat day. So, after a tasty morsel of breakfast at their pension, they hit the road and enjoyed a reprise of the last few days of riding: beautiful scenery, gorgeous weather, and the type of road that most bikers dream about.

For the entire morning, they swooped up and down gentle hills on a smoothly paved tiny slice of a road carved into the side of the mountain. It was the kind of road you most often see in your dreams, or on a car commercial. click to view a photograph It was almost impossible not to stop and peer ahead or behind at the amazing coast, or below at a hidden sandy cove protected by sheer cliff walls that soared straight up for 100 meters (328 ft). The ride along the water was simply stunning and all the riders went a little slower so that they could soak up the beauty of the morning. click to view a photograph

Unfortunately, all good things do have to come to an end, and at the town of Kalkan the riders turned inland and headed up the steepest little hill they had yet seen. Fortunately it was short. While it lasted, though, it reminded Anthony of Padraic's "Biking Is Pain" lecture and helped him complete his earlier thoughts about biking and hills. Of all Padraic's lectures (and he has a bunch — he is a history professor after all), this is one of Anthony's favorites. In their dispatches, the BikeAbout gang has mentioned various aspects of the biking experience, usually concentrating on the technical side of how to make the bike move (climbing hills, drafting , "spinning 90"), but there is also an emotional side. Padraic's "Biking Is Pain" lecture focuses on, not surprisingly, pain. Many people think of riding a bike, and remember what it feels like to have the sun on their faces, and the wind in their hair and at their backs. However, when you are riding a bike for sport or exercise, the reality is often more painful.

Anytime you spend a lot of time in one position, you inflict stress and strain on you body. The BikeAbout team spends anywhere from five to eight (and sometimes more) hours on the bike on riding days. When hills have to be climbed, the riders haul not only themselves and their bikes, but also somewhere between 25 and 30 kilos (50 and 60 pounds) of gear. If it is a steep hill, or a long hill, or (especially) if it is the sixth hill of the day after many days of hills, a lot of what you feel as you bike is pain. Your kneecaps feel like they are going to lift right off your knees; your calves burn; your thighs throb; your heart threatens to beat its way right out of your chest; and you breathe so hard that you expect at least one of your lungs to be launched into a low earth orbit with every exhale. But this is not the end. Sweat runs off your forehead and burns its way into your eyes; bugs get sucked into that great intake that is your mouth only to land on your tonsils; dump trucks creep by only slightly faster than you are biking, spewing black exhaust that serves as a chaser for the little insect that is thrashing about in the back of your mouth; and, as you turn the corner on what you hope is the last switchback, you look ahead and see . . . yes, three more switchbacks. Looking down at your arms you notice that even the very tip of your little finger is sweating, and you wonder if you'll make it. If you don't, you hope that your bike buddies will give you a proper burial and plant a little white cross on the side of the road, marking the exact spot where the hill claimed your life.

And that's just hills. Fortunately for our gentle readers, there isn't enough space here to describe fully cycling's effect on the butt (but here are some basic thoughts).

So why bike? There is a beauty in biking, an aesthetic beauty that you do not really get with other sports. As much as biking is a group activity, and as much fun as biking with others is (the camaraderie of sharing in pain, but also the bliss of cranking out some really long distances while in a tight draft line), it is really a solo sport. Unless you are riding a tandem, it is just you and the ride. You can think of biking hills (or biking into a headwind or a long flat boring ride) as battle — on a one-on-one level. It is you and the hill. Stop before you reach the top and the hill wins. Pedal through the pain, ignore the desire to stop and rest, reach the top, and you've won!

Don't forget that you are doing this for recreation! Stop if you want. But also keep in mind that the harder you push yourself, the easier the next hill will be. Anthony likes to think that every night that he goes to bed with throbbing legs, little elves climb into his legs and build new muscles for the next day.

It is not so bad though. After all, you ARE riding a bike. Sure there is pain, but every time you push yourself to a new limit, your body responds by becoming stronger. Bicycling is an aerobic exercise. You hop on your bike, start peddling, and as your muscles warm up, your body immediately starts to respond. Your heart beats faster, and you can feel yourself breathing a little harder with your mouth open. Suddenly, BAM you have hit your aerobic threshold. Your body has become the efficient machine that it really is and, as long as you have supplied your "machine" with fuel, it will keep pushing and pushing and pushing.

Reaching the top of the hill outside of Kalkan, the boys regrouped and stopped in small grocery so that they could rehydrate. They had to climb another hill, but it was not as bad as the first, and the reward was today's Place of the Day: the World Heritage site of Xanthos visit the World Heritage Site page. After combining their visit with a tasty lunch, the boys hit the road and headed back toward the sea and their stopping place for the evening — Fethiye.

Arriving in town just before sunset, the boys were stopped by a car full of inquisitive reporters from a local television station who refused to let them leave until they answered some questions about what they were doing and where they were going. The news crew was a little overwhelmed to discover that BikeAbout has been on the road for five months and has cycled across North Africa and through the Middle East. Unfortunately, by the time Anthony, Padraic, and Ethan found a hotel room, showered, and ate dinner, they were too tired to find a TV to watch the report of their experiences. Yes, they missed their 30 seconds of fame on the local news.

Meanwhile, the ladies have cycled from Akçay to Çanakkale. You can read about their journey in their February 21-23 dispatch.

[A note about the dispatches that follow: If you have been paying attention, you know that Ethan, Padraic, and Anthony were biking the Mediterranean coast of Turkey while the ladies were simultaneously biking the Aegean coast. Unless you want to jump immediately to the guys' next day of biking, the following seven dispatches recount the ladies' travels from near Fethiye all the way to Istanbul, where the full group was reunited. So, stay tuned for Istanbul, but in the meantime, a little out of date order, but following the line of the Turkish coast, here comes the Aegean . . . !]

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