3296 km so far.
7am Wake up after the best sleep I’ve had since leaving Krakow several days ago. Actually feel refreshed and ready to cycle 100 km. Shower, breakfast, tea, pack, carry bags down several flights of stairs.
8am Realise we are about to bike 100 km. Take moment to psyche myself up.
8–10am Listen to music as we glide along Saturday roads, largely empty, smooth, and flat. Sun is shining. It’s not too hot, not too cold. All would be perfect if it wasn’t for the wind.
10:10am Stop in a town whose name I’ve since forgotten to buy soy milk for tomorrow’s breakfast and a loaf of bread for lunch. Can’t find store we’re looking for, find much better one instead. Delikatessy Gama. Hope it’s a chain. End up buying chick peas, tortillas, taco seasoning, pinto beans, rolled oats, 3 donuts, spelt milk, Skittles, soy pudding, and a loaf of bread. Because we can.
10:12am Scarf donuts and soy chocolate pudding for second breakfast.
10:13am Return to the road, ready for the next 35 km.
10:15am Start following the carrot-on-a-stick called “lunch break”. Imagining the delicious sandwiches we will eat keeps me focussed on moving forward, as does the idea that after the lunch break we’ll be 2/3 of the way there.
11:28am Get distracted from laser-focus on lunch by contemplating the nature of large trucks and their personal weather system. Every time a truck goes by in the opposite direction, the headwind doubles in strength. Not just while the truck is going by, but for about 100m afterwards. There are a lot of trucks going by in the opposite direction.
11:34am Curse all large trucks and their damn headwind-creating properties.
1:10pm–1:40pm Picnic in a gas station parking lot to avoid the mosquitos. We have been riding through a swamp all morning, so a more picturesque picnic spot is out of the question.
1:41pm Use the worst restroom I’ve seen since leaving LA. Get back on bike, disgusted.
1:42pm Realise we still have 40 km to go.
1:43pm Try to ignore the “if only” thoughts running through my head. If only my bike would stop making that noise. If only the wind would die down. If only we were there already.
1:44pm See 1:43 pm.
2:15-2:40pm Attempt to meditate while riding. It actually works. Clear out all thoughts, soften the gaze, and use the rhythm of the pedals to steady your mind.
2:40pm Come out of meditation and immediately require a rest break.
2:42pm Finish the bag of Skittles that I’ve been munching on since lunch.
2:43pm Decide to put music on, as it’s the only way my body will actually move forward again.
2:45pm Make Stephen go in front so I can hide from the wind behind him.
2:45–3:35pm Watch Stephen’s butt for an hour, to make sure I don’t run into him or get so far behind as to lose my wind break. Curse Stephen at every uphill, because he goes way too fast for me to keep up.
3:37pm Forget about Stephen’s butt as I contemplate the Audi brand. It seems to attract only one kind of driver: namely terrible dickheads drivers who are convinced they are the only people on the road. Every time someone goes by at twice the speed limit, every time someone cuts so close I can feel their side view mirror grazing my elbow, every time someone passes another car almost causing a head-on collision, it is an Audi driver. What’s with that, Audi?
4:15pm Arrive in town, just having cycled 103 km. Yay!
4:16pm Exhausted, want to die.
And this is where the story veers off the typical day in the life. In brief, our evening went like this.
4:20pm We find the first hotel on our list of possibilities. I am already dreaming of falling into bed as soon as we get inside. No dice. The hotel is full. There’s a farming convention in town, so all the hotels (there are 3) are full.
4:25pm Walk down the street annoyed that we just biked 100 km to this town because this town actually has accommodation, unlike the 50 towns we passed on the way here and the 50 we’ll pass tomorrow. But now, the town with accommodation has no accommodation. I DO NOT want to get back on my bike.
4:27pm Decide to ask at the big church in the centre of town if we can set up our tent on their spacious grounds. Sadly (for us), there is a wedding in progress which we wisely decide not to interrupt, so that idea is out for now.
4:30pm Desperate for food, we decide to get dinner while the wedding finishes up. I really want pierogies, but the only restaurant we can find does not have any, nor do they have anything without meat. Also, the meat dishes look really awful, so even if we did eat meat, we wouldn’t eat here. Some teenage girls tell Stephen we need to go to Pizzeria Pacino, where we can get the vegetarian pizza. We head towards Pacino, even though neither of us really wants pizza. Any food will do.
4:39pm On the way to Pacino, we see a poster for a festival in Białystock, about 70 km away. Sivert Høyem, who we used to be friends with in another life, is playing. Stephen is still a fan and instantly starts to devise a plan on how to get there tomorrow, even though we’re not sure if Sivert is playing tonight, tomorrow, or already played yesterday.
4:50pm I am a useless lump of exhausted dough, so Stephen does all the ordering while I sit there, dough-like.
5:15pm Food comes, and beer. Like all pizza in Poland, the pizza is served with two sauces on the side, for pouring on top. One is a creamy sauce with herbs and usually garlic, the other a spicy tomato sauce (often like ketchup). The tomato sauce is particularly good at this pizzeria.
5:28pm Post binge, we head back to the church. Now there’s a church service going on! Damn busy church.
5:35pm Start discussing what to do next. “Discussion” becomes heated. I want to ride along the river path to see if it ends in a likely place for camping. If not, I want to ride out of town to find a wild camping spot. Stephen wants to head towards another hotel that may or may not be down the road, and also to find the internet so he can see what day Sivert is playing.
5:40pm Discussion over, I sit with the bikes while Stephen walks his iPad around, looking for internet.
5:52pm No internet to be found, we finally agree to head over to the potential hotel. I start pedalling towards it, but when I look back, Stephen is stopped way behind me, pushing his bike around in circles. I can’t fathom what he’s doing.
5:56pm Stephen catches up and I discover he is still looking for internet as we ride.
5:57pm Frustration getting the better of me, I point out that I would like to figure out what the hell we’re doing tonight, not whether some concert is happening tomorrow or not. We growl at each other menacingly, but bite back the argument that is brewing.
5:59pm I am grimacing at Stephen’s back when two mountain bikers pass us going the other direction. They smile and nod and I can barely smile back, but I do.
6:00pm Kick myself for not stopping to talk to them, as they could have been a source of help.
6:02pm One of the cyclists comes back to speak to us. “I have a bar just down the road, would you like to come for a drink?” “Yes,” Stephen says, “but what we really need is a place to put our tent.” “Oh, my neighbour has a green area, I will call him.”
6:03pm The cyclist tells us we can camp in his neighbour’s yard! Really? All our problems have been solved within one minute of meeting Jerzy. Amazing.
6:05–6:15pm We ride towards our new friend Jerzy’s bar. I chat with him briefly and then we are there. He shows us the yard where we’re to camp, but before we can even put our bikes down, he upgrades us to a room above his bar that isn’t being used.
6:30pm We are sitting in the bar, drinking from the best beer selection we’ve seen in a long while, our bikes stashed away in a locked shed, our bags upstairs in our room. The room has a fold out couch, and there is a restroom, shower, and WiFi. The bar is full of the young and cool of Zambrów.
7pm Way too tired to enjoy this great bar, I had upstairs and get into bed.
8pm Fall asleep watching Calexico live at Glastonbury on the BBC website.
Soundtrack: Thom Yorke, The Eraser | Atoms For Peace, AMOK | Madrugada, The Nightly Disease ♥