Days 81 Through 90

Day 81

The past couple of days I've taken my time getting ready in the morning and left town really late. There's to be none of that today, its time to get down to business. After falling behind schedule a bit yesterday, I need to really go at it today in order to Arrive in Samsun on time. Woke up early today, nervous and determined at the same time. I needed to go 130 km, a decent challenge even on flat land. With this road, with this terrain, I predicted this 130 km stretch to constitute the hardest day of biking in the past 81 days. I was right. Oh man, the hills just did not stop. Up 500 feet at over a 10% grade, then immediately down 500 feet at more than a 10% grade, rinse and repeat, all, day, long....... Hardly a parcel of flat land the entire day. Going up was hard for the obvious reasons. Going down, the roads were so steep that I had to approach it like I was skiing, using up the entire width of the road and swerving back and forth to prevent myself from running out of control down the steep, sharp curves of the road. Then there was also the condition of the road. At some points it was smooth, at other times it got pretty bumpy, and in some spots, it just was not paved at all. In one spot it was so rocky that I physically found it impossible to ride the bike. Of course the trade off was incredible views of untouched coastline, spanning as far as you could see in either direction. The 130 km took me over 10 hours, and even though I made an effort to leave early, I still arrived into Inebolu way after dark. I'm dead. That feeling of pure exhaustion, a feeling I haven't experienced since the first days of the trip, is back. Wow, intense day.

View from my hotel balcony in the morning

Day 82

I woke up feeling like I needed another week of sleep to make up for yesterday. Never mind that though, the show must go on, keeping up with the schedule is part of the adventure, part of the challenge. Today's ride promised to be a little better, finally some stretches of flatland, and less distance to cover. Yes indeed, today was pleasant. Even the spots which looked pretty nasty on the map turned out to be alright. Finally got into town for the night before it got dark, what a nice feeling. Only one more day on this road before I get to a main route. It's been fun, although definitely exhausting as well. With the small road, comes small towns, and not many of them either. In the past couple of days I haven't passed any places with more than 8000 people, and most of the ride has been filled with absolute nothingness, sprinkled with the occasional small village. Suffice it to say I'll miss the region of Turkey when I reenter the larger coastal metropolitans.

Another great view from my hotel room

Day 83

Back on the main highways, with their shallower grade allowances, smoother pavement, bridges and tunnels. Easy riding, this seems like I'm cheating or something haha. Still quite a nice route, right along the coast. Made good time into town tonight. Tomorrow to Samsun, finally a couple days off after 10 days of straight riding.

Lot of turtles crossing the road in one spot today

Day 84

Google maps is incredible. It is rare to find a mistake on them, but today, Google was completely wrong. I headed out of following the signs for Samsun, which took me along the coast on a 4 lane highway that Google seemed to have no idea about. Quite fortuitous actually, as the route avoided the hills I was expecting to climb with a 2 km long tunnel. Great ride, hardly a hill, made amazing time on the 125 km into Samsun.

Today I saw my first major accident of the trip. You never forget when you see a dead body, and judging by the amount of spilled blood all over the road, today I'm pretty sure I saw two more. I've only seen a handful of deaths firsthand in my life, but every single one of them has been traffic related. I've always stated that by far the most dangerous aspect of this trip is the potential of getting hit by a car. Of course it makes you think, especially since I'm on the bike, usually the most vulnerable person on the road. It was a really weird scene since the screams of friends and families mixed so bizarrely with the upbeat joyous music protruding from the speakers of a nearby political ad van. I'll certainly never forget passing through the town of Bafra.

On a brighter note, I made it to Samsun in one piece, on time, and under budget. On my way in, I found myself biking next to another guy on the road, and we started talking. He invited me to stay at his house for the night, an offer I wish I could have accepted, but I have work to take care of here in in town. Cool guy. Got into town, right in time for a huge political rally. People were going nuts, whatever was going on, this was a big deal. Police helicopters, riot police, lots of singing, intense sounding speeches. 

When I was in Istanbul I made a friend at the hostel, Mucahits. He gave me the name of a contact he had here in Samsun, and I met up with her, Nisa, tonight. She showed me around town and explained what was going on with the big rally. Apparently the president was in town promoting his party. I guess that explains it...

Day 85

First day chilling in Samsun. Nisa showed me around town and we met up with some of her friends. Cool place, lots of history from back when Turkey gained its independence and before. Interesting change of pace from my average day off, busy day, lots of walking, meeting people, talking to locals, a bit different than the usual hostel routine. Nice day.

Nisa and her friend

Day 86

I've known for about a week now - I definitely need to replace my rack. Its falling apart, weldings are coming undone, supports are snapping, its really on its way out. I keep putting it back together with zip ties, rope, and duct tape, trying to delay the inevitable. I really need to get it changed out, but with a new rack comes dealing with several other tangetial issues, such as new water bottle holders, bag fasciners, dealing with rusted bolts, etc... I think I probably need to devote a full two days to getting all of the neccesary parts together and getting the bike set up properly with the new stuff. I can't be bothered to do that right now, so I'm kicking the can down the road until I get to Georgia. The rationale here is that the next stretch into Batumi should be pretty smooth, on a relatively flat road so, hopefully, it won't be too burdensome on the rack. Also, there's lots of towns along the way, so if I do find myself in an emergency, chances are pretty good, I'll be walking distance (although maybe very long walking distance) of a town with a bike shop. On top of that, I really do think my halfhazard duct tape repairs should get me there safe and sound. We'll have to see...

Day 87

Out of Samsun, and the first thing I notice is that the rack seems a bit unstable... Man, maybe I should have replaced it in town... Nevermind that though, too late for regrets, just keep the fingers crossed that it will hold out to Batumi, or at least til the end of the day.

The stretch of the trip, I've decided to give myself a bit of a challenge. Its a pretty flat, smooth road for the next several days, and I'd like to really up my daily distance for the ride into Georgia. Today I got on the bike in the morning and just coasted in top gear as fast as I could. The result was a nice 150 km day. Most of the terrain here is not actually that flat, but the road is quite new and the government has invested a lot of money into digging tunnels, constructing bridges, and building on reclaimed coastal land. The result is a cool mix of easy riding and awesome scenery. The only thing about the road that kind of sucks is the huge number of tunnels. They're dark, have no shoulder, and some of them are pretty long. In fact, I'm fairly certain that I passed though what will most likely prove to be the longest tunnel on my treck accross Eurasia today. About 4 km long, and taking almost 20 minutes of panic attacked sprinting on the bike to pass, I wasn't so happy about that tunnel...

Day 88

Again with that rack. I'm starting to doubt its going to last into Batumi... Last night I found another part which broke, and performed another round of makeshift repairs. Leaving today, I again had some serious concerns with that stupid rack. Anyway, on the bike, another day of smooth roads, another day of flat roads, but today I found myself biking in the middle of a rainstorm. Too bad, I had had such great luck every since Istanbul. Oh well. Nevertheless, the wind was strongly in my favor, and I flew down the road. I got really wet and cold, but I was making such great time that I didn't really feel like stopping. In fact, I blew past three different cities I was thinking about stopping in. As I kept going, the storm got more intense, with both the wind pushing me faster and faster down the road, and the rain pounding down harder and harder. The rain started to flood the highway and I felt as if I was gliding on top of a 4 lane wide swimming pool. It was fun, but started getting dangerous, and eventually stopped into a town. 166 km, my longest day of the trip so far. Coupled with my extended day yesterday, and I had officially jumped an extra day ahead.

Checking into a hotel, I left my bike unattended for a minute and came back to see a very unpleasant sight. My bike had falled/ been pushed off of the sidewalk and was lying upside down in the middle of a busy street. All of the stuff in my front basket had fallen out and was scattered all over the road. A couple of things got caught up in a stream of rain runoff and I had to run after my stuff before it reached the drain... Not fun. As I frantically tried to pick up everything, I developed quite the crowd of curious onlookers. I had my bicycle sprawled out on the street and was holding up traffic as I ran into the road to retrieve my stuff. Add to that the fact that I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt in the freezing rain and shouting swear words to myself, people probably thought I was a bit out to lunch. That's more or less the way I felt too haha. After I got everything picked up, I headed into the hotel, embarrassed, cold, wet, mentally drained, physically exhausted, and uncertain of the extent of damage that had been caused to the bike by the fall. I had a real bad feeling that my already compromised rack might really be screwed now. The only place to put the bike was down near the reception, so I didn't have a proper chance to check everything out. I was too tired to mess with that anyway. Unfortunately that's now tomorrow's problem...

Political flags in Ordu

Day 89

I woke up today to a peculiar sight; it was snowing. I had seen snow before on the trip, but this was different. I wasn't in some mountain pass in the middle of winter, I was at sea level, in the spring. It scared me a bit. I spent several hours this morning trying to decide if I should head out on the bike or take the day off. Feeling a bit shell shocked from the bike falling yesterday, and knowing that my prudent biking the past two days had put me a day ahead, I ultimately decided to take a snow day. My first snow day every in fact. Never before, not in school, not with work, never, ever. Uneventful day, as I didn't really leave the hotel too much because, well, it was snowing... The big find of the day, was that I got the chance to check up on my bike, and everything seems good enough. A couple more tweaks to the rack and a bit of luck, and I should be able to hit the road ready to go tomorrow.

Day 90

A bit cold, but the sun was back, and the bike was holding up. Another long distance bike ride, and an all around successful day. Only one more day until I reach the end of Turkey, the beginning of Georgia, and the end of the leg.