02 Piła – Zelenogradsk (428k) “Nightrider”

You are now at post Nr. 02 out of 06 of this trip.
If you want to read the posts in order, voilà:
00 BERLIN-HELSINKI
01 Berlin – Piła (284k) “Muddy Waters”
02 Piła – Zelenogradsk (428k) “Nightrider”
03 Kaliningrad – Riga (402k) “Paved New World”
04 Riga – Valga (EST) (190k) – Narva (275k) “Winds of Change”
05 Narva (EST) – St. Petersburg (RUS)(165k) “Russian Roulette”
06 Vaalimaa (FIN) – Helsinki (200k) “Finnished”

Piła is in the middle of Poland. Zelenogradsk is in Kaliningrad, Russia (its little exclave at the Baltic Sea). That’s where I am now, on Tuesday, 5th of July. It is 8.30am and I just had a good nights rest. “But… Zelenoxhskavhj was not on your list in blog post 00!” – yes, my dear reader; plans changed (see below) and will change (as you will read later).

Why not start with a summarizing, informative list again:

  • Unexpectedly I ended up doing one continuous trip spanning 2 days; because I was too tired. I’ll explain.
  • I also cycled through the night without really sleeping. That’s a first for me.
  • Mostly these 2 days were not fun. But a valuable lesson none the less.
  • Before, I was hosted by an amazing(!!!) Polish couple in Piła.
  • And now back to some sad fact: it’s raining right now here in Zelenogradsk – heavily.

Let’s better go in chronological order; that also allows us to start on a very positive note:

Agnieszka and Piotr


They hosted me via couch surfing. Coincidentally it was their first hosting and my first guest experience. They have this rare and valuable mix of being very caring in a very relaxed way – such modern and thorough hospitality. As the loyal blog reader will know (well, up until now you only must have read 2 posts to deserve the predicate “loyal”!) my first touring day was very wet, muddy, tiring, long. What do you wish for when you’re back? Shower, bread and cheese, a good polish beer (Piotr, what’s the brand again?), a safe place for your machine, tea, a bed and good company. Well, that worked out! Thanks, you two!

Very interesting personalities, too! Agnieszka seems to have an even stronger aversion against church and religion than me (apparently possible) and expressed that in the shades of the darkest humor possible; which I will only quote upon request. Piotr is really(!) crazy: he does ultra marathons. 100km in 17 hours – running; can you believe that!?!

He gave me some tips about nutrition – a domain I have a lot to learn about – and generously supplied me with gels and Iso-drinks which you will find on a picture below.

The cycling

The good company of Agnieszka and Piotr didn’t exactly push me to leave until 10 am. And then I really felt the previous day in my skin and bones. Not so much specific pain – except for the “abdominal domain”; where I can say: that pain was very specific – but rather a general tiredness that led me to do many breaks and eating a lot.

One good thing: on on of those breaks I also met my new best friend Hotdog man (see picture below). He actually had 5 hotdogs, but was willing to share these 2 with me. Thank you.


I went on. Stop and go. The conditions were excellent, sunny and a light breeze from north east ( = hitting me from the left). The goal of the day was Elblag at the Baltic Sea, shortly before Kaliningrad, where I planned to find a campsite somewhere. The day distance would have been ca. 240km.

At the river Vistula:


But I quickly realized that – if at all – I would arrive very late in the evening which later became ‘night’ (and would finally become morning. see below). The hours of cycling and a couple of breaks went by. At some point I arrived in a city called Grudziadz; ca.21h and up till then I only made 160km. Completely exhausted. I spent a while at a bus stop contemplating the options:

  • Putting an end to that day immediately and finding a ho(s)tel here in Grudziadz. Thereby ruining the schedule. Also on a global scale: I have 2 (max 3) weeks time and prefer having my stopovers in Riga, Tallin, St.Pete instead of Grudziadz (no offense, people of Grudziadz)
  • Going on until Elblag and having a day of rest. This would have a similar outcome as Option one.
  • Seriously going on as far as I can – now; having my first night riding experience and probably doing more km in a row than I had ever before. Here the fact that I’d use the night would make it more relaxed: the additional time would allow me for a lower pace and more breaks.

So, option 3 it was. I went on to the next gas station – gas stations are always my lifeline on tours – and bought:

  • 1 coffee for immediate consumption
  • 2×0,5l of isotonic drinks
  • 4 big chocolate bars
  • One energy drink for immediate consumption (not that I believe in the miracles of red bull and the like. But maybe I was desperately seeking the placebo)

And then I went off, heading northwards. Originally, in google maps, I had planned a beautiful route along the river. No time for such sentimentality now (here belongs a twinkle smiley): I hit route 55 – proper pavement guaranteed, easy to navigate, no km wasted on detours.

Gear

It was already dark. Time to tryout my new lighting gear again (see gear). Since it was dry now, the headlight worked perfectly. So strong I could almost imagine it to be enough even on a car. I wanted to keep my Garmin GPS running and my power bank was running low. So, time to test the next gadget: before the tour I also connected a USB socket to the dynamo and to my stearing tube. It worked: light and USB charging at the same time. I found the additional drag negligible in the face of its advantage.

My bike worked very well, too. Even though it went through very bad conditions on the ride before, I just had to apply some chain lube and the bike felt great again.

Only gear issue I had: I should have bought those long leggings in M instead of L.

And on it goes…

Here’s another photo from a gas station. That was at 00:48am


I noticed I was getting really tired. Falling asleep while cycling doesn’t usually turn out well (never tried). So I went to a bus stop to have a nap; that was the idea. The bench: two wooden planks, each ca 15cm wide and a big gap in between. Sounds comfy! Additionally: wet cold air, the yellow light from a street light, trucks passing by a few meters next to me, each saperated from each other by the number of minutes it would take me to actually fall asleep. I don’t think I could imagine any situation less suited for sleeping (maybe “impaled in Disneyland” is worse. That’s the kind of metaphors that pop up in a numb cyclists mind at 1:30am on the road).

45 minutes later: MIRACLE!! I woke up from the sleep I didn’t have. Feeling kind of ok. Good to go on. So I did. These 45min of semi-napping actually helped!

The sky was already lighting up a little from the yet to come sunrise. Soon the landscape became more interesting, too: the road curvier, the forest opening up, and I could earn the downhill rides I was working for all night (by going uphill).

[photo] Somewhere. Downhill (towards the Baltic Sea)


And slowly approach Elblag (yes, even though I cycled through the night I was still not there in the morning)


And then at some point I arrived at Elblag. I have to say: it didn’t seem like an interesting or beautiful place. But the phantasy of it being a nice little town that would invite me to have an extensive breakfast and coffee served as a good motivational tool.

Instead I lay down on a bench in a park. The sun already high up and warm. I lay there for about an hour and might have slept some part of that. Coordinates: ca. 7.30am, 235km behind me. That I made much more than that 1 1/2 days earlier in the rain, shows how tired I was on this second track, and is the reason for that tiredness at the same time.

But the idea was to go on.

So I went to the next…? Gas station; correct. To again fuel up my bike with water, chocolate bars and iso drinks and get some fresh water in my face.

[photo] Somehow I liked this view. I wonder: what does it mean that the colour style of my bottles matches the colour of the car wind screen cleaner in the background so perfectly?


So, ready to go; kind of. My ass hurt, and by now there’s no way any metaphor or all audiences-term would serve it any better.

Let’s have a list again. The ranking of the day:

Body parts that hurt most:

2. arms (yes, unexpected)

3. legs/knees

Alright. So now some up and downhill riding, seeing the Baltic Sea for the first time this trip, somewhere in the distance. Then..

The Russian border

My passport got checked at 3 stops, the last check took over 5 minutes. Very thorough, apparently. No idea. And here is the third of three border controls as seen from the Kaliningrad side; I didn’t shoot it from a nicer angle, because I remember authorities don’t like their official buildings photographed so much:


And I went on and on, grabbing some food in a supermarket. Of course the language and letters are completely alien to me, so I judged by the pictures what I bought…

I slowly approached Kaliningrad city. What a mess, I have to say: pretty run down, dusty, chaotic.  But then, I only took the most pragmatic route through it and probably (hopefully) missed some nicer parts. After fighting myself through that jungle, or beehive of cars, the last battle of the day began: cycling up North on open roads against strong wind. Tired. Exhausted. The idea was to get to Klaipeda. Another 150 from here.

At some point I arrived in Zelenogradsk which is at the beginning of some 120km-long, thin stretch of land that leads to Klaipeda. Usually it works like this: I am tired and exhausted and feel I couldn’t do any additional mile. Then I eat a hamburger and fries and drink a coke and subsequently feel like I was new-born: yay yay hooray, let’s do the next 150k!

So, I ate hamburger, fries and drank a coke; in line with the above mentioned revival-recepy. And then: Nothing. Still as exhausted, aching legs, butt, arms, body. 30 min later still the same. I got the message. Time to find wifi to find a cheap hotel and call my couch surfing host in Klaipeda that I will not be able to arrive anymore that day.

It was then 18.30h I was on the road for 35 hours and my cycling computer counted 428 km, 1.600m accumulated altitude.

Number of the day: 3 (times I lubed my bike chain).


Epilogue:

I went to the hotel, managed to convince the lady at the desk to allow me to take my bike up into the room. A shower, putting out my things to dry that were still wet from the first touring day (1,5 days ago). Then went for a walk, ordered food and wine which were both so bad that I had to return them immediately, back to the hotel, typing some of this post and while doing that falling asleep. Heaven.


Now it is the day after. My legs hurt in a normal way. And the next challenge: it is raining heavily and will stay like this until tomorrow eve. So, here (photo below) I’m planning deviations from the planned route. In any case I want to be in Riga by tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. So I should make about 200k today. Maybe camp somewhere. Tomorrow the rain will be even heavier. Anyway there will be a new blog post to cover this.

Time to hit the road.

Unfortunately I forgot to press ‘record’ for the last kilometers. That’s why te Garmin shows less than the Sigma:

Author: cyclingtourist

solo long-distance road-cycling tourist www.cyclingtourist.com

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