June 20, 2014
We laughed for weeks about this sign. It indicates that you are leaving the town of Beclean, Romania. But we instantly interpreted it as the theme of our journey in the Balkans, "Be Clean ... Not!"
It was our first bike journey together, and we were on a seriously limited budget. Hotel stays were few and far between, and wild camping rarely came with a free flowing water source. It was summer, hot and muggy. Many farmers were out plowing the fields. The air was often filled with a mix of dust and liquified pig manure, which settled in layer upon layer on our sweat-moistened skin.
We were newly engaged (I asked Kat to marry me in Budapest). There is nothing quite as romantic as getting into a sweltering tent (to escape the clouds of mosquitoes) on a breeze-less night, and wonder if the acrid smell is from a nearby field or your own body.
But like many of life's adventures, the hardships transform the simplest of pleasures into pure joy.
It had been at least three days without a bath, and late in the afternoon, we came upon a roadside water pump. We were in a region of Romania where autos and trucks were rare, and horse drawn wagons the norm. The beauty of this situation, is that you can strip down and bath on the side of the road while your partner keeps watch, and you have at least five minutes lead time when you see someone approaching. So that is exactly what we did.
I'm not sure there is a spa treatment in the world that would rival just how fabulous we felt after that roadside cleansing. We were giddy with delight, proving once and for all, that the joy in getting clean is directly proportional to just how filthy you started.
May your own summer be with plenty of clean filthy fun.
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.