Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Jinxed Myself

Prepared for the rain!

I set off on my school visit on Friday, with my Gore-Tex jacket and rain booties, thinking, “Man, I’m lucky, it’s raining, but I’m not riding today!”  During my visit at The American International School of Zagreb, the kids asked me what I do when it rains. I had to admit, that I actually hadn’t encountered a full day of rain yet and that I was pretty lucky. Well, I should have knocked on wood because I jinxed myself. The rain caught up with me today and I rode the entire 132 km in rain, from drizzles to down pour!

I knew the rain was coming.  Saturday called for clouds and Sunday through Tuesday showers.  However, I had an invite to go grape picking on Saturday and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun.  Plus, there was to be a Croatian lunch feast afterwards,….How could I say no, even if it meant getting soaked riding the following day? 

So I guess you could say I was mentally prepared for the rain….I knew what I was in for.  Leaving Zagreb it was drizzling, but even with the damp roads, all the water splashes up from your bike and the cars spray you as they pass.  I’m somewhat of a “neat freak” and love keeping things clean and nice.  But when it rains, I have to forget about that because road gunk and grit sprays everywhere, and you are lucky to take a sip of your water bottle without grinding sand or dirt between your teeth.   

The rain was not going to get in the way of my destination today.  I was on a mission to cross the Bosnian border and go find the Una river so I could determine for myself which river valley was more beautiful, the Una, in Bosnia, or the Soca, in Slovenia.  I was going out of my way to find this river, but after all, I am taking the Loong way home!  In the late morning, the drizzle became more constant and I was soon completely wet.  There is all sorts of rain gear out there, but after 2 or 3 hours of riding in the rain, I find that nothing keeps you dry!  I figure the more gear I put on, the more stuff I have to dry out at the end of the day, so I prefer to wear the minimum to keep warm.  I keep my legs pedaling so they stay warm and my core is pretty dry with a Gore-Tex jacket. My feet are covered with booties, and my head and helmet stay dry with my hood. Today my hands weren’t cold so I didn’t even bother with gloves- but the secret to warm, dry hands are rubber gloves, like the kind you use to wash the dishes, over your summer gloves.

I was wet, but not cold, so the key was to keep on pedaling.  Nothing was going to stop me,…well, at least that is what I thought. Unfortunately, I soon I had a call of nature, and I couldn’t hold out anymore, I had to go to the bathroom!  I was eager to get to the next town, hoping there would be a nice cozy cafe with a wood stove burning (I know, sooo optimistic, but you have to keep thinking positively on the bike!) where I could have a cup of coffee and take a pee break.  In fact, I was so intent on making it to this café that the barriers at a railroad crossing came down in front of me, and I simply went around them because I couldn’t see a train in either direction.  Well, I also didn’t see the police car waiting on the other side.  I rode right past him, doubting he would stop a poor and soaked cyclist riding in the rain.  Well he did! The Croatian police asked me to pull over about 500 m afterwards and I used my urgency to pee and get dry as an excuse and it worked!!!  And then, all of a sudden in the distance, I saw McDonald’s golden arches. I’m not a fast food lover by any means, but the golden arches represent a fast, free wifi connection.  Most of the time I don’t even order, I just sit outside and freeload on their internet.  Today, however, I was a good customer, buying a hot coffee which I tried to make last as long as possible, and then had a hot chocolate, both helped washed down the pasty power bar! 

I got the worst looks walking through the restaurant with my wet attire, leaving a trail of water behind me and on the bench where I was sitting.  The truth is, I could care less!  You do what you have to do in order to survive, especially to be comfortable in the rain.  I hung out at McDonalds until the steady downpour let up and became a fine mist again.  I put on my wet rain gear again and got going. I was halfway done with my route and I had a little over 3 hours, and about 70 kilometers to go.  It seemed do-able having considering the fact that I had decided to treat myself to a hotel when I arrived, that is in fact, if the town I was going to was big enough to have a hotel!  You know it is sooo easy to justify just about any special comfort when you ride your bike all day for hours on end, especially when you ride in the rain!   The three hours went by quickly as I day dreamed about the hot shower and dry hotel room waiting for me, and counted down the kilometers until the border crossing.

I hit the Bosnia-Herzegovina border 30 kilometers later, and had no problem this time at the border crossing.  In fact, I stopped at the first booth, thinking I didn’t need to proceed to the second because it was an “either-or” situation.  I started pedaling off and the men from the second border booth hollered at me. I rode past shouted at them to tell them I had already been to the previous booth.  Two meters later it dawned on me that I had to go to both booths, not just one or the other….upps!  I got my first stamp in my passport outside of the European union, and kept optimistic looking for signs with kilometer markers to my destination.  Bosnia welcomed me with shops and restaurants that lined the border strip and a couple mosques that read their prayers promptly at 4pm when I crossed.

I have to say I didn’t luck out with the rain today, it finally caught up with me.  However, I did manage to choose a city Novi Grad, that happened to have just one hotel, but that was all I needed. My clothes are drying on all the heaters in the room and upstairs hallway (good thing there aren’t any other guests)!  Now I’ve got the sound of rain hitting the skylight in my hotel room to put me to sleep tonight.  I have my game plan all set and ready for tomorrow, and a back-up plan as well in case this rain doesn’t subside, YIKES!! 
Border Crossing
Mosque on the border
Drying out

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