Blowin’ In The Wind City

By Jane Mountain | July 13, 2013

4083 km so far.

Our big happy campground family kept us up late last night. There was a little covered picnic area right outside our tent that we had joked was where the party would be later.

Turns out, it wasn’t a joke. A few campers decided it was a great night to stay up late, talking, laughing, and drinking. By about 2am, I had had enough. I decided that being a grouchy bear had worked well once in Pécs, Hungary, so I tried it again.

The offenders were polite and apologetic, and about 10 minutes after I reprimanded them, all was quiet in the campground. I guess my angry tired face is quite terrifying.

The children in the tent next to us started squalling around 6:15am, so with a solid 4 hours of sleep, we started our day.

We wanted to get out of the campground early, not only to avoid having to glare at the drinkers from last night, but because the wind has been much worse in the afternoons, so we wanted to get most of our 67 km ride over with as early as possible. Despite feeling very efficient at the packing up process this morning, we didn’t leave the campsite until after 10.

I honestly don’t know where the time goes, but it’s very frustrating.

All About Asphalt

Today was another magical day on Baltic roads. That is to say, incredibly crappy pavement, with not many cars. Good thing too, because Latvian drivers may be the worst we’ve seen since Italy. Despite there being almost no traffic, most cars do not move over into the other lane to give us room. Curiously, we’ve noticed that cars coming towards us tend to drive straddling both lanes, so maybe everyone just has it out for cyclists.

Also, every few kilometres for the last few days, there are signs like this:

Even more crappy pavement ahead.

Even more crappy pavement ahead.

It indicates that the road is torn up, bumpy, full of holes, and generally needs to be thrown out and started again from scratch. After the distance marked on the sign passes, the pavement is supposed to get better, right? Nope. There’s just another sign, with another distance. Why don’t they just put up one sign at the border that says, “Caution: shit roads until Scandinavia”?

The effects of bad roads on cycling are many. First, they slow you down, because your bike’s forward momentum is thrown up, down, and sideways instead of forwards, where you want it to go. Second, cars are less courteous, because drivers are also aggravated by the crappy roads. But the worst part is that it makes it almost impossible to look around as you cycle. As soon as you look away from the road, you are guaranteed to smash into a pothole, jarring your body, and slamming your soft bits into the hard seat. Ouch.

If A Beer Is Poured In The Forest

Still, we managed to see a few things today. Stone sculptures are big around here, and every little town seems to have a beachside sculpture park made of boulders. We saw some great ones outside a farm today that were made of entirely rough stone with no carving. They were very clearly sheep, cows, and rabbits. I wish I had stopped for a photo, but I was too annoyed by the roads.

In addition to the stone animals, we saw many birds and other small animals squashed onto the roadside. I have seen enough animal innards for a lifetime on this trip.

We also saw lots of groups of day cyclists, all going in the other direction. It was a little mystifying, since there didn’t seem to be anything nearby, so we couldn’t figure out where they were going, or where they had come from.

Just as I was getting ready to expire from hunger, we happened upon a lovely modern brewery, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was so out of place in the deep forest along the featureless road we couldn’t quite believe it.

“Is it a mirage?” I asked Stephen.

But no, it was real.

spiral walkway uzavas brewery

The cool spiral walkway at Užavas Brewery.

Sadly it wasn’t one of those breweries that serve delicious pub food alongside the beer, so we had to settle for picnicking in their parking lot. Good enough for me.

Stephen’s note: The brewery was Užavas, named after the river next to the brewery, and they brew three unfiltered beers. Unfiltered beer is quite popular in Latvia, and as a vegan this is a great thing because some brewers still filter their beer with isinglass. I had their Tumsais, a dark, delicious, and quite complex beer at the brewery, while the campsite tonight had Gaiśais on tap. This is a light (in colour) beer with a really terrific flavour, which they describe as mildly bitter and hoppy. I recommend their beer if you find yourself in Latvia.

Welcome To Wind Haven

After lunch, the wind picked up and the last 10 km or so into town were absolutely brutal. The wind makes my brain go a little wild, and I can’t think straight while it’s blowing. It also makes my legs soft and lazy, from all the extra pushing they do. As I was contemplating the nasty wind in these parts, I realised the town we are headed for, Ventspils, must mean, when translated, Wind City, or Windy Place, or something similar. I mean, think about it. Vent = wind, right?

So it’s not like we weren’t warned.

Stephen’s note: Ventspils actually means Castle On The Venta, the Venta being the river here. Thank you Wikipedia.

The town itself is a big and pretty beach city, with wide boulevards and plenty of smooth bike paths (which pedestrians love to walk on!).

Despite the half-hour wait to check in for the campground (processing one camper every 10 minutes), we have high expectations of it, as we’ve heard good things online and from the people we met yesterday. We’ve seen the gorgeous beach already, and the weather is supposed to be good tomorrow, so we may just stay an extra night.

woman on a sanddune in ventspils latvia

Just sitting on a dune in Ventspils.

Soundtrack: Wilco, Wilco (The Album) | Common Prayer, There Is A Mountain | The Bird and The Bee, Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future | Beastie Boys, | NO, Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever | Steve Mason, Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time | Wilco, Various Playlist | The National, Trouble Will Find Me  

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