Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.  – Robert Frost

We love bike rides.  We also love our study abroad experiences in Vienna.  It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that many of our BRAT participants also travel to Vienna with our program.  I think that it might be an adventurous personality gene that drives them to do both.

Our Vienna trips usually occur in July–after the completion of summer BRAT rides.  Fond memories of riding together on the BRAT adventures make the thought of doing a ride along the Danube River in Vienna seem like a fun, and not-so-daunting, idea.  On our last two trips to Vienna, groups of us rented bikes and rode 30-mile out-and-backs along the Danube.

On our first Danube ride, in 2016, we rode up one side of the river, crossed over a dam about 15 miles upriver, and returned to the city on the opposite bank.  Toward the end of our return ride, we crossed a small bridge and ended up on the Donauinsel (i.e., Danube Island).  Donauinsel is a long and narrow island that sits in the Danube between the natural river and the excavated Neue Donau.  Donauinsel is a park-like area with biking/walking paths, recreation areas, and swimming areas.  Among the swimming areas, it is also home to a section, which we discovered by chance, where nude sunbathing and swimming is permitted.

As we returned on that first trip, we followed the wide path that ran down the center of the narrow island.  Unfortunately for some of us, we got an unexpected glimpse of some old, wrinkled, and tanned nude-sunbathers in the distance to our left.  Not everyone had the displeasure of seeing the people in their Euro birthday suits.  I should have invested more brainpower in remembering.

On our 2018 ride, I decided that we would follow a different path from what we did in 2016.  Instead of riding up one side of the river and coming back on the other side, I wanted to go to the other side and stay over there.  We once again rode to the dam, but we then turned around and came back on the same side.  The view was better from the far side–mountains and trees could be seen in the distance.  It’s very picturesque and pretty.


After we left the bike shop and crossed over the bridge, we quickly found ourselves on the Donauinsel.  Since the route was backwards from how we had ridden two years earlier, things looked different from what I had remembered.  After a short time on the main bike path, we came to a point of decision.  We could continue on the wide and ordinary path or we could veer off to the right on a narrower path that looked like it rolled along next to the river.  The narrow path looked more appealing and like the option we should explore.

As with most bike rides, I rode in the back of the pack.  I do that to provide support to the slower riders (who, in those moments, was my college-aged daughter) and to be available to help cyclists who have problems.  After 5-10 minutes on the path, the faster folks in our group had disappeared ahead of us on the path.  During that time, we passed a couple of docks jutting out into the river with swimmers and sunbathers basking in the mid-morning sun.  It was then that I had a horrible realization.

Since we were going the opposite way as the trip two years ago (when the wrinkled nude people were by the river on the left), that probably meant that by taking the path to the right, we might end up riding right through the middle of the nude section of the island.  It didn’t take much longer to realize that my suspicions and fears were correct.

I’ll spare you details of what we encountered.  My daughter, who was right in front of me, was not excited about being in the middle of it.  My only words of advice were, “Treat it like roadkill…don’t look at it directly.  Divert your eyes and use your peripheral vision to get past it.”  I sort of admire the people we encountered–they were totally unencumbered and confident enough to put it all out there.

Once we made it to the end of the island, we found our speedier counterparts waiting for us by the bridge to the far bank.  There wasn’t much to be said…we were all kind of speechless.  It was one of those uncomfortably awkward and funny moments.  We will be able to laugh about that for years to come–unfortunately, some things can’t be unseen.

On the return trip, we tried to stay on the wide and boring path down the middle of the island.  Maybe the road less traveled should remain that way.  Good times.


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