Days 41 Through 50

Day 41

Wow. By far most difficult and challenging day of the trip. To start, the rain was back, stronger than ever. On top of that was a ridiculously strong wind. When it blew perpendicular to me, it packed enough force to run me of the road several times through the course of the day. As trucks passed me, a vacuum was created which sucked me in, towards the truck, and then spit me out off the side of the road. It was bad enough that I almost stopped riding for safely reasons. When the wind was blowing straight on, man it was nearly impossible to bike down the road. I sat for hours today grinding out the miles in my low gears. I ultimately decided to cut today short because it was just so hard. All said and done, I went about half as far as yesterday, and put in about 3 times as much work... Very frustrating.

The weather is one thing, I suppose you get days like this sometimes. What really made today the hardest, was what happened to the bike. Today my crankset broke, my front derailleur came off, my rear derailleur froze up, my right pedal cracked, and my gear shifters got out of whack. Top that off with a flat tire, and today was officially the most broken my bike has ever gotten in one day, by far haha. I limped into my backup town, completely demoralized by the day. I could fix up the bike a bit tonight, but the broken crankset is the main problem, a problem that I don't have the tools to fix... Basically a bolt came loose, which is impossible to tighten. At the moment its only loose, not completely out, so the bike is still rideable, but each time I pedal it gets a bit looser. On average I pedal about 5000 times per hour, and I expect tomorrow to be atleast an 8 hour day, so I am quite a bit worried about tomorrow's fate. Really hoping my cracked pedal holds in there too.Ya, crazy day...

Sorry the video is impossible to hear in the wind... I added some captions.

Couchsurfers Bene and Diego

Day 42

It was really hard to get out of bed today. I was tired, still sick, and not at all looking forward to the prospects of the day. If the crankset broke off completely, I was going to be walking. If the right pedal cracked much more, I was going to be walking... I amended today's route to pass through as many towns as possible in anticipation that I might find myself demobilized. Since yesterday was only 60 kms that meant today was going to be 140. Luckily for me, everything held together just well enough for me to keep on biking. Wind died down, rain wasn't too bad, and I auspiciously found myself entering Venice. Despite the uncertainty, I had made it in one piece and on time. I couldn't have been happier, what a turnaround from the way I felt the night before.

Breakfast at the B&B I stayed at last night

Day 43

Last night I got lots of sleep. Feels great. Today's task, fix the bike. Found a great shop, walking distance from where I'm staying, handed over the bike, hopefully I'll get it back tomorrow with a fixed crankset. Bought a pair of pedals as well. Things are looking good.

I think I have decided to alter my route to Istanbul. I found a different way to go which is a bit shorter and with nicer terrain. Only concession is that I won't be biking much along the coast. I think that's ok with me though, I saw a lot of coast in France and here Italy. Its nice, but its also touristy and those curvey coastal roads can take forever. Today I spent a couple hours vetting the new route. Its a lot more work than just asking Google for directions to Istanbul. Have to check the terrain, traffic, make sure its not too desolate, not too urban, not to cold, not too windy... So far everything seems to check out.

Day 44

Venice is a really weird place. Felt a bit like Disneyland with all the tourists and overpriced shops. Nevertheless, it was an awesome place to visit. As far as I can tell, its the only full sized city in the world which exists entirely without and cars, pretty cool. Interesting urban planning...

Went back over the bike shop, everything was ready to go. Its a minor miracle given what happened a couple days ago, but I'm back on the road tomorrow. 

Day 45

Everything about today was great. Great weather, bike in great shape, great terrain. Taking advantage of my fortunate conditions, I sprinted through the day and breezed past my intended stop an extra 30 kms. Today was my longest day as of yet, around 100 miles. Believe I made the century club for the first time on the trip. As I headed down the coastline towards the city of Trieste, I saw the most awesome panoramic sunset over the cliffs, just to top off the fantastic day haha. Cheap hostel in town so I spent some of the money I saved on accommodation going out that night with a friend I made at the hostel.

Day 46

I couldn't sleep very well last night, because I was excited about today. Reason being, I was officially heading out of "Western Europe," and entering what I consider to be a new phase for the trip. Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely loved biking across all the countries I have encountered so far, but I didn't plan this bike trip because of my love for the west. I am quite excited to be heading east, towards countries a bit more different and a bit less on the beaten path. If you don't get what I mean, consider this; everyone knows Italian is spoken in Italy, French in France, Spanish in Spain. Do you know what language they speak in Croatia (if you guessed Croatian, you got lucky), what the capital is, how many people live here, typical foods here? Croatia is certainly not Timbuktu, but its a step in the right direction... Of course I also expect things to start getting a little cheaper, which makes me happy as well haha. Today took me out of Italy, across the corner of Slovenia, and dumped me into Rijeka, Croatia. Three countries in one day, that's always a recipe for a  good day.

Day 47

I originally planned three days from Rijeka to the capital city of Zagreb. I'd really like to do it in two. There isn't that much distance to cover, but the thing is that there's a decent sized mountain range. As I left Rijeka, it was more or less straight up the mountain as I expected. Knowing it was probably going to rain hard tomorrow, I tried to get as much distance in as possible today. Only went a little over 80 kms but it was a tough day. With some luck the 110 kms for tomorrow won't be too hard...


Day 48

Yep, rain as expected. Lots of it. Nevertheless, made my way through the day and everything was going alright. Then, disaster struck. I have no idea what I ran over, but whatever it was, it was nasty. Not only did it puncture my tube, it cut a 1 inch gash through the kevlar thread of the tire. This wasn't just another flat tire, it was a blowout and it was severe tire damage... Just one look, and I immediately knew I was going to need to buy a new tire. For those of you who don't know that much about bike wheels, the soft inflatable tube is covered by the rigid tire. Usually when you get a flat tire,  you just need to deal with the tube, not the tire itself. This was different. Here, the tire was cut open to the point where it was unable to house the tube inside, and that's a big problem... This is incredibly rare, but luckily I did pack a couple emergency tire boots, essentially a bandaid for the tire. These boots are for temporary, emergency purposes only, and my experience with them in the past has led me to believe they don't really hold up very well. I replaced the tube, popped in the tire boot, and things still looked pretty terrible haha. I was pretty doubtful it was going to last me the 60 kms for the rest of the day, so I took some rubber cement and tried to fortify it a bit. To make things even harder, it was pouring rain. It was pretty difficult to work on the bike because everything was really wet and it was hard to manipulate my hands because they were quite numb from the cold.  The end result was pretty makeshift, and something I had very little confidence in.

I really wanted to get into Zagreb tonight, with its cheap hostels and plentiful bike shops. I did not want to have to spend the night with a broken bike out in some small town. I was pretty worried about the bike holding up, but there was nothing else to do except keep going and hope for the best. As luck would have it, I did indeed make it to Zagreb. So needing to buy a new tire is the bad news, but the good news is that I made it to town a day ahead of schedule. So I am currently on track to arrive in Istanbul only one day behind my pretrip itinerary, a win in my book considering I was at one time almost a week behind. Another major stop reached, another couple of days off. Sounds great to me.

The boot

Trying to get the tire patched together...

Day 49

Days off today and tomorrow. Got a new tire, a new tube, figured out some stuff I needed to get done online, caught up with emails, and saw a bit of the city.

A couple of weeks ago my friend sent me a video he filmed of my old kindergarten students saying hi from Korea. I thought it was pretty funny. Anyway never got around to posting it, so here it is below. Huge shout out to Matt Nelson for being considerate enough to take the time to film the video.

Day 50

Not too much to say. Saw all I felt I needed to see in Zagreb, spent lots of time just chilling and waiting for tomorrow's ride. New tires on, couchsurfing requests sent, time to head out to Belgrade.

New tire and tube