You are now at post Nr. 03 out of 06 of this trip.
If you want to read my posts in order, voilà:
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”
I did a second day/night/day shift that allowed me to be in Riga on schedule. But required me to ask myself some questions about this whole tour as well as the route to St. Pete (see RECAP at the end). I’ll address my perception of entering 3 to me previously unknown countries in 2 days as well as my cockpit.
This post will be in chronological order, but interspersed with some associated thoughts and topics here and there; maybe even one or the other pathetic pun or awesome alliteration.
Die Startsaffäre (<- pathetic pun.)
So, as you know, I stopped my previous “day” ride not in Klaipeda as intended, but instead decided to stay in a hotel in Zelenogradsk (Kaliningrad), 110km before Klaipeda. The next morning (when I posted the previous update) it rained heavily, the forecast was horrible and I assumed I’d have two monster days ahead. However, 30min later it cleared up and the world looked and stayed like this:
I had a clear goal when I departed Zelenogradsk: Being in Riga the next evening ( = 36h later). How Exactly I’d devide the distance I didn’t know yet and just got going. Pretty late, around noon. Very motivated: slept enough, ate enough and indulged in using my clean second set of cycling clothes; heavenly!
Between Zelenogradsk (RUS) and Klaipeda (LIT) there is a land connection on a thin stretch of land that spans the entire distance (100km) and is only max 2km wide. So it is one pretty long, quite straight road with hardly and villages on the side. It made me think of a ‘laboratory environment’ for cyclists, because here I could really cycle through without interruptions for navigation or traffic lights.
It basically all looked like this:
The whole thing is a nature reserve and you have to pay a few rubles to be allowed in.
I underwent a couple of passport checks again and an alibi-look into my backpack and then I was allowed to pass the 3rd country border on my trip and meet the second country I have never visited before. Hello Lithuania!
[photo] the last few meters of the bike bath were less well paved but the more beautiful. Later I also passed a fascinating birdwatching area and might post a video some time.
In fact, while in Kaliningrad (RUS) the roads were all cracked and bumpy, as soon as I crossed the boarder the pavement made it feel like being carried on a conveyor belt. Hence the title “paved new world”. Most importantly I wanted to get this ingenious pun out there. I mean, I had 402km time to make it up! But then there’s also truth to it. I’d like to quote two Lithuanians I spoke to: as soon as the Baltic states were liberated from the Soviet Union, the infrastructure started to redevelop. At the latest with the advent of Lithuania’s EU-membership, a lot of subsidies went into building roads. I could go on now dreaming about the advantages and beauty of a united Europe; could even declare my entire tour as a symbolic act for the European unity and solidarity; but that would make this post even longer.
In Klaipeda I had an early dinner together with Andrius. Andrius would have been my Couchsurfing host for the previous night; since I didn’t arrive we decided to at least share my dinner break.
It was time to move on. I was just at about 100km. The perfect road conditions inspired me to go on until I’m too exhausted. Then, so I thought, I’d put up my tent and get some sleep. I didn’t. The further I got, the more tired I was, the more I was craving to be in bed and in Riga, the less I wanted to postpone my arrival by camping. So: because I was tired I didn’t want to sleep. Yes, that makes sense.
I went through the night, at some point still looking for a place to camp, but a dog that chased me off some open terrain was my message to go on.
My light: the beam is just amazing. You still see the 100m away post lighting up.
Already shortly before this modest border the roads started to get bumpier and so did my mood. The hours shortly before the common waking time are the worst. Additionally I ran out of food making me feel incredibly weak. I clearly overestimated the population- and thus gas-station-density in the border region. So all I could do was to go on another 40km to the town Saldur on an empty stomach and dead tired.
Once in Saldur, I fueled up again, bought breakfast, had a short nap in a hidden park until I got woken up by a wet kiss from the clouds, found a bathroom… All that takes quite a while. At some point, maybe 10 or 11 am, I was good to go and hit the last… 120km on a highway. I new what to expect. The navigation was simple (“stay on the A9 for 120km”) so it was time for the
Soundtrack of the day:
- Black Market
- Domino Theory
- Mysterious Traveler.
3 full albums. Perfect battle music for that fight against poor pavement, trucks next to me, an endless road, hills. And also I always felt I never listened enough to Weather Report.
[photo] This is how it roughly looked for many hours (only more traffic usually). I always rode on that little strip between the marking and gravel. Only when the pavement was bad, I tried to cycle where the truck tires massaged the concrete to that smooth skatepark-feel.
And while we’re at it, why not introduce my entire
Cockpit: roughly from left to right:
- Rear mirror. It is small but works perfectly! I wouldn’t want to de without anymore.
- Garmin Edge Explore 1000. GPS. Since I didn’t follow my digitally planned routes anymore I now use it mostly as a compass and tracking device. It completely failed navigating me into Riga. Disappointing.
- Sigma cycle computer. Gives the most accurate and instant information about current speed which is handy for May purposes. Also, it’s battery lasts a year. Use it also as a clock and hardly ever check the distance
- Cycle2Charge USB outlet that I connected to the dynamo. I use it only when I really run out of battery to charge my power bank or phone directly.
- BELL. This is absolutely crucial.
- Remote control for the Garmin. Sounds rediculous but makes lots of sense since it has tactile buttons and I don’t want to swipe on that Garmin touchscreen. Very handy in the rain.
- Paper map. An absolute must! Never without!
- On the top tune you see a little square. This can hold my waterproof smartphone case. It’s handy when I use google maps in a city
If you have questions, let me know!
Slowly traffic (trucks and cars) got denser as I got closer to Riga. This is globally not what I like, but one great effect is that the vehicles passing so closely next to me created an air draft strong enough to carry me at roughly 40km/h for a while.
It was a real pain in the A to get from outside Riga into the center region. I couldn’t believe it at first but then followed the advice of 3 different people who I asked: I had to cycle on a Highway. A PROPER one, namely this one:
402 km in those past 32 hours.
Again, my Garmin didn’t record it all because I didn’t notice the battery died in between.
There were some things for me to consider: It took me 5 days from Berlin to Riga. I have to say I am happy about this result. But at the same time: what did I gain from it? I mean: I don’t to this merely for the cycling – I do it for the feeling of arrival. When cycling through the nights, doing 400+km in a row without a serious break (like a nights rest) the ratio of cycling to arrival is out of balance. I have to change my approach for the rest of the tour and take it easier and maintain the rhythm of cycling during the day and enjoying the rest and the location where I am in the evening. As a result I decided to skip Tallinn. I will instead do two moderate 200km-rides from Riga to the Russian boarder at the Baltic Sea and the one more day to st. Petersburg. I will camp, and hopefully find time to read the book I brought:
Brave New World
I might make a separate post for some Riga photos.