Baltic Notes Summer, 2005, The Bipolar Baltic
Why do I call the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Estonia bipolar? During my
41 day 3255.48 mile solo bicycle ride around the perimeters of Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania while earning USA perimeter bicycling records, I found the people, roads, accommodations, towns, flora, fauna, weather, food, and my reaction to this exhausting trip to be extremely moody or bipolar. These 41 days had times that were like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead/She was either good or horrid. I am glad to say that my folding Bike Friday held up quite well and never failed me; however, whenever a pedal was in the down position, when I was trying to get on and off the bike, the pedal dragged on the road and was horrid. It was extremely irritating and I imagined what was happening to the jerk that put this bike together. I don't want to share my evil (Ha!) visualizations here. I had had problems getting this bike built to order.
I require a bicycle with a small frame as I am not a large woman but am 5'2", weight about 115 pounds. Clipless pedals are not an option for me.
5/12/05 Finally, after 6 months of planning, organizing, worrying, etc. I was ready to leave. I left for the Baltic flying from Melbourne, FL, USA, where I live 3 miles from the airport. My aging car promptly broke down in the front of the airport upsetting security but my husband was able to drive it away. On the Delta Flight to New York, the male flight attendant was the best in the business as he entertained all of the passengers with great, but tasteful humor. He should get a raise. It was a nuisance getting from Delta to the FinnAir terminal but finally the trip was actually beginning. I chatted with a large Russian man in line at JFK Airport to get on FinnAir. The Russians are here and I recall my young adulthood when all Russians were villains. I noticed on FinnAir during the flight from New York to Helsinki the announcements were in Finnish, Russian, and English. There was an emotional sour note as I had gotten into an argument at the airport with a large fat American man about Phyllis Schalfy who "killed" our equal rights amendment and, of course, about our most unpopular president ever, Bush. When will it ever end?
On the airplane ride to Helsinki, a large blond blue-eyed Russian sat beside me. He told me that he was Phi Beta Kappa at Rutgers University. He was very helpful with my on plane problems of getting my bike panniers, which were my carry on luggage, into the bins high over the seats. He joked with me telling me that if one does not want to laugh or cry, one should not travel with me. He insisted that women want to get into their luggage on planes more than men do and of course I did as I needed my book to read, note writing supplies, and my sleeping medication. We talked on and on. When I reminded him about the river that separates Russian from China he told me about an island that developed in the middle of this river. The Chinese immediately occupied
this island, so the Russians bombed it and no more Chinese as the island disappeared.
He reminded me that Russia has enough weapons to destroy the entire world. This was a nice thing to learn. Ha! Sometimes, I think I learn more from the person sitting next to me on an airplane than I learn from the entire trip.
5/13/2005 I arrived in the Helsinki Airport and found Arrivals level 3 where I was supposed to leave my bike box but I had big bad problems getting bike together as could not remove bolt from the bike to bolt on the luggage rack. I had to ask Airport Information to call for a mechanic and he came with a tool box and quickly took care of that stubborn bolt.
Money exchange was the next chore as had brought USD with me. Then I had to get FinnAir bus to downtown Helsinki and from there bicycled to the ferry terminal. There was the problem of which ferry to choose but I chose Nordic Star because in the Lonely Planet Guidebook it noted that it gave a pensioner's discount on a ticket. The ticket seller dutifully gave me the discount only briefly looking at my wrinkles. However, I had some waiting time so I wandered around the large market near the ferry terminal and even bought some food but dropped my visor and had to find it, again. I must remember to always lock my helmet and visor to my bike. The prices of all souvenirs were high because of the high Euro and low USD. I have learned that the higher the USD, usually the lower price of my trips.
I have never taken my bike on a ferry that was not bicycle friendly and Nordic Star was perfect. I dutifully lined up with the cars for passport control and was waved onto the
ferry. Little did I know that the border control officer would remember me when I returned to Helsinki in June 22 when he asked how many kilometers I had biked.
I just love ferry rides! First, I have to explore or "case the joint" and then often I am told to find a seat and sit down because I guess sometimes the crossings can be "rumpled" with big waves. It's nice to be alone because I can do what I want when I want and where
I want within certain limitations. Second, I can always buy food, carefully checking the prices, as I am always hungry.
At 5:45:22 PM on May 13, I got off the ferry but then had to find the youth hostel in Tallinn, Estonia. Carrying my faithful Lonely Planet guide complete with city maps, I slowly made my way to Hostel Uus 6 (street name) where I stayed in a dorm bed. The bicycle was allowed in the dorm room with me. I met a young Norwegian man who noticed my long hair and I explained that I wasn't going to cut it until a woman was elected president of the United States. He said that the first king of Norway had decided that he wasn't going to cut his hair until Norway was united. I felt good when he told me that it worked! As usual, I had the "door problem" with the bike. After a zillion times of unloading my bike, propping the desired door open with the panniers (these are bicycle saddle bags clipped to the bike's luggage rack), then taking the bike through the door, and then removing the panniers to close the door, I have become very skilled at this necessary part of travel.
On May 14 (105.69 miles) I biked as planned east with a glorious miracle-making west tail wind. It has been a long time since I have bicycled 105.69 miles with bike loaded with a pair of heavy panniers, containing everything that I needed for the trip. I discovered that I could bicycle on their Interstate as there was little traffic but suddenly I realized there were no towns with hotels. What was I going to do? I just kept bicycling
until Johvi appeared complete with a hotel billboard. The hotel was on the second floor
and the door was locked but there was a buzzer near the door. The staff was very nice and I felt very welcomed to Estonia. There was a convenient grocery store to buy groceries. Most hotels in the Baltic served breakfast but I hated to both to pay extra for it and wait. One of my perimeter rules is that one cannot start riding soon after daylight as an early start gives many advantages of less traffic, earlier arrival at next destination to insure budget accommodations, etc.
Since I was already near the Estonian/Russian border I now had to bike south into a horrific headwind along Lake Peipsi. In January when I was planning this trip I had considered biking the perimeter of Lake Peipsi that is shared between Russia and Estonia but it was a very long extra ride and time restrictions were very important as plane tickets these days are almost impossible to change. Also, my husband wanted to leave as soon as I got home so that he could get acclimatized before running the Hardrock 100 mile race in Colorado in July.
Sometimes I think I have a Ph.D. in headwinds! When solo bicycling one cannot draft or ride close to another cyclist's wheel that breaks the wind that makes it easier. Supposedly when racing, the competitors take turns riding in front and it is a real advantage for racing teams. But I was alone against the blasted wind that was jerking small twigs off trees so I knew it was a low-level gale force wind. I did ask some other cyclists if this was the dominant wind in the area and they told me yes but then I know that the earth has predominantly westerly winds. In the Baltic, there was no reason for the direction of any of the winds. They seemed due to change due to chance in that I had head winds on some days and tail winds on other days.
On May 15 (47.06 miles) I left Johvi and got lost. I asked a local cyclist who had me follow him out of the city south. Here I am an experienced cyclist having biked more miles than almost any other cyclist in the world as I have been actively bicycling since 1960 when I dared ride my bike to my job teaching grades 4 and 5 in East Alton, Illinois, and was told that I was an embarrassment to the teaching profession. I still hate the conservative conforming-at-any-cost midwestern part of the USA.
Following the cyclist, with all my cycling miles, I still crashed on a rail road track but promptly got up, ignored the bleeding on top of another railroad track scar on my elbow and finally was headed south into the headwind.
Again, no hotel and after 10 hours I was very worn out so I stopped at a grocery shop and tried to get the clerk to call a bed and breakfast for me. An English-speaking " angel" appeared and helped me make the call. No, I don't carry a cell phone. Finally, I found the bed and breakfast sign but it was another (6.2 miles) 10 k away. Yes, I bicycle miles but the rest of the world does kilometers so I easily convert in my head. However, there was another bed and breakfast close by so I bicycled there. There was only one woman there who was very, very strange. Our inability to speak each other's language added to our problems when she insisted that I pay for "frotose" which meant breakfast. No, I wasn't going to eat breakfast. She showed me my room on the beautiful lake front beach but kept knocking on the door. She noticed my bloody arm with the blood having seeped through my cycling jersey. Yes, I had a first aid kit and just needed time to clean and medicate the road rash on top of the previous road rash. But I did another stupid thing: I tried to reset my bicycle odometer and probably really messed up the calibration.
Finally, she brought me a fish dinner that I appreciated and of course thanked her in Estonian. One of the rules that I never break while traveling is to always learn to say "thank you" in the language of any country in which I am traveling. Fortunately, the
Lonely Planet guide always had simple phrases and I had practiced at the Tallinn youth hostel but even though I tried very hard, I never seemed to get "Aitah" pronounced correctly. The few times that I did so, people responded with a smile. I would recommend that every traveler learn to say "thank you" as these are the two most important words in the world!
On May 16, 2005, I biked 57.08 miles to Rapina and on May 17, bicycled 68.15 miles to Valga on the Estonian/Latvian border where I stayed in the second worst hotel in the Baltic. Again, I was exhausted and the Lonely Planet Guide was wrong when it said to stay on the Estonian side at the Hotel Sade. The road into Valga was torn up but an angel appeared in the form of an English speaking young man on a bicycle who led me to the only hotel in town. It was filthy!!!!! In my room, the handle of the bathtub's hot was water faucet was off so there was no way to have hot water for a bath. I believe it was there that I contacted a mouth sore that took me the entire trip to get over.
The next morning I felt terrible so I decided to (horrors!) stay another day. I had told the
hotel cleaning lady to fix my faucet showing her the problem but I was ignored. So much for Lonely Planet's comment about "friendly service." I did enjoy a free breakfast that wasn't very good. When I am hungry, which is usual during my long perimeter rides, any eatable food is good.
I decided to do a "walkabout" Valga trying to get my bike odometer calibrated and finding free Internet access at the local library. I enjoyed the local supermarket and sent some post cards home. Rest days are my favorite days always especially if I have decent accommodations. I also did a trial walk into Latvia easily crossing the border on foot.
Of course, when I returned to the hotel, the water faucet was not fixed so I made it clear that I needed hot water. A male hotel employee could speak English who finally convinced the non-English speaking female hotel receptionist to get me a room with a hot water faucet. She was able to retaliate the next morning when I set down for breakfast and she jerked my plate of bread away from me and also made me change tables. That's the kind of friendly service I like. Ha!
On May 19, 2005 (71.22 miles) I crossed the border into Latvia but got very lost, as I needed a better map. One thing that I learned is no one should ever attempt a bicycle perimeter without having a map of at least a 1:200,000 scale. These maps are available via mail order for probably every country of the world and show the road conditions. Latvia had many dirt roads ranging from fine sand to rocks. The paved roads were called "black" roads. There was much road construction with Latvia's new road construction being funded by the European Union.
I ended up on a dirt road following a Latvian's male bicyclist wheel tracks. I finally caught up with him when he was stopping for a rest. He took my photo and admitted that he worked for Customs in Riga, the capitol of Latvia. He did show me his Latvian map
atlas which weighted a ton but after I purchased one solved my problem as to where the
dirt roads and hotels were located. I'd never leave home without such an atlas, again, although I never found one in a bookstore for Estonia.
My map following skills using the atlas increased to such an extent that I could bicycle into a town where I had never been before and promptly find a hotel.
May 20, 2005 (78.17 miles). When I was leaving Aluksne about 6 AM I saw unsmiling women sweeping streets with twig brooms and dustpans and little wheelbarrow like carts filled with gray dust. I don't think I would like that job. Today I had a bumpy hilly road to Rezekns Hotel that cost $33.49 USD or 18 Lat. My 2 credit cards would not work so I had to pay cash. I was able to get on Internet but could not find email from my husband Matt so I emailed my friend Mary Ramba and finally found a message from Matt about a local runner we both dislike, as he is extremely dictatorial. He was insensitive about the death of runner at a local race. His time severing in our very unpopular Viet Nam War probably made him mean like that. But I had problems with avoiding dirt roads, had trouble locating super markets with no one was speaking English. However, the traffic free road beside beautiful pastoral scenery was worth the problems. There were few domestic animals today and no wild animals because they had probably shot them all; however, I did see some goats for the first time. There seems to be no happiness in the Baltic while there was much laughter and happiness in the Balkans. I had earned USA perimeter records last summer of Hungary and Slovenia, part of the Balkans.
May 21, 2005 (72.01 miles) I stayed in Hotel Leo in Daugavpils for $37.21 USD or 20 Lat. On the first floor, too! I didn't have to laboriously take my bike up many flights of stairs as was usual. It was the best cleanest roomiest ever. The Internet cafe closed but had huge market that was mostly clothing shops all under one roof. I scared a child when I asked her where the Internet cafe was. In a very frightened manner, she slammed the door of her home behind some shops. While biking today, a bee got under both pairs of my glasses (I wear prescription glasses for my myopia and then cover them with large sunglasses which protect my eyes from wind damage), stung me and made me glad that I'm not allergic to bee stings. Near the hotel man was going through trashcans like one sometimes sees in the USA. I did get photo of vet's office. Most of the day, I had bicycled past fields of dandelions like numerous stars in the sky. Beautiful Latvia!!!
May 22, 2005 (64.43 miles). While I was loading my bike, a very large man accidentally walked into my ground floor room. Please let me repeat that this was one of the few times during my trip that I didn't have to wrestle my bike up many stairs; sometimes, I had to carry it up multiple flights of stairs. I began screaming & he backed out quickly saying, "Please" in Latvian or so I think. I know almost for certain that my room was locked but who knows? The hotel woman clerk was kind when I gave her my key upon leaving. I now have this supersition that if I ever don't return my room key every morning when I leave my travels will be over.
Jekabpila, Latvia. Today, I biked a slow 62.43 miles sometimes on an almost deserted four-lane highway. I stayed in Viesnipa Jekabs Hotel, one of the best in the world!!!!! It
was huge, impeccably clean and its bathroom was complete with the type of bathtub almost demanding a long soak. I was told that the woman president of Latvia had stayed in this hotel. In the same room where I was staying? Ha! Also, it was one of the sleepiest Sunday afternoons I had ever known...so sleepy that my heart almost stopped beating. I had pedaled as fast as I could to read email before the possible cyber cafe had closed but because of language problems. I could not find any cyber cafe. I did my usual walkabout and tried to sit on a bench on the levy beside the Daugava River in the sunshine but 4 smelly people (my scared instincts screamed silently inside me) came and sat on the bench beside me. I was suddenly afraid of a possible robbery. It is too bad that I could not have enjoyed the solitude on the river levy. Also, I was very tired, sleepy, and achy. It seemed that I was relaxing more than I have ever relaxed in my life just like that time in Duluth, Minnesota, when I was at the University of Minnesota and friend had taken me home to his family for Christmas. In the hotel there was a bar, with servers waiting but it was empty but later I met a Finnish couple that were eating supper and staying in the hotel. The Finnish couple's business was selling saunas. They invited me to go to a bar with them but since I don't drink and now cannot even drink coffee so I regretfully declined. Besides, I had to get up early the next morning to bike.
May 23 (72.90 miles). Happiness is reading email from my friends Doug and Mary who are giving me priceless encouragement. In Ogre, I met 4 Latvian "ladies" teenagers. They helped me when I tried to find the Tourist Information Bureau that always seems to be deliberately hidden. Tourist Information Bureau found me a hotel for $22.33 USD or 12 Lat for a very, very tiny room with a bathroom across the hall; however, there was an English station on the TV. I laughed with the "Latvian ladies" and gave them the address labels that I carry in lieu of business cards so they could write me. We did get lost trying to find the hotel and had to go under railroad tracks in underpass. Bike pedals chewed my legs. I thought evil things, again, about that, in my opinion, jerk who had put my Bike Friday together. I have ridden numerous bicycles since 1945 when I got my first bike but this is the first bike whose pedals chewed my legs when I walked beside it and screeched when the pedals dragged on the road. At hotel that night heard woman screaming in English but just kept sleeping. I have had my usual insomnia while traveling until last few nights when I didn't want to return to USA and to all my problems with my mother-in-law.
May 24, 2005 (75.41 miles) Today I biked in the first awful traffic in Baltic. The roads were narrow, bumpy with a head wind. Latvian roads are either dirt, very rough/bumpy, or have too much traffic. Once a wind gust blew my bike off road. The lightning became so dangerous that I took refugee in farmhouse. The weather was so bad the guard dog refused to come out of his doghouse to announce my arrival. I walked around the outside of the farmhouse and saw girl through a window watching TV so I taped on the glass. She was scared but father invited me inside. He told me, "We're not rich" The farmer insisted the rain was good for his fields. However, I got very wet and when the rain stopped, I biked to the Dobele Hotel which cost for $37.21 USD or 20 Lat with very large room. I had left my reflective vest at the farmhouse but he called and his wife said she would bring it to me the next morning when she came to work. I was allowed the read email at the hotel desk!!! The receptionist was so very nice to me.
5/25/05 Today, I only biked 34.75 miles but was very, very, very tired. I met a Swiss woman traveling alone on her bike, going from Switzerland to Moscow. She said she had never met another woman bicycling solo but I told her about the solo Swiss woman I had met years before. She insisted that solo bicycling by a woman is dangerous. But we had all kinds of strange coincidences: we're both left-handed, her husband is a mountain guide but is presently in Alaska climbing the Mt. McKinney, we both completed an Ironman triathlon (she had done the Zurich Ironman in 1987 & I had done the Hawaiian Ironman in 1984, 1985, and 1987). She had trouble finding email access for the past 2 weeks. She is a cook in the Alpine huts, is 50 years old and said the USA is crazy (I didn't know that! Ha!) Note to myself: I think this would be an excellent Bicycling Magazine article titled "Solo Women Touring Cyclists." Later in Lithuania, I met a German woman solo cyclist going to St. Petersburg, Russia. My photos of both women were excellent with both of them having the sturdy waterproof German made panniers that I don't care for as there are no small convenient rear pockets for the stashing of cameras, food, etc. I have a pair of panniers or bicycle saddle bags mail ordered from Bike Nashbar that I waterproofed with a special spray from Wal Mart. My possessions always stay dry during all kinds of wind driven rains.
Today, (May 25, 2005) I biked to Sallus & the atlas map showed only one hotel for 25 Lat or $50 USD but was told about another hotel for 5 Lat or 10 USD but no bike allowed in the room according to a convenient translator who was just getting into his car in the parking lot. He was so very nice to translate my negotiations with the landlady of the hotel. My bike had to be put in above ground dungeon like place. The bath was down the hall with almost no water pressure but $10 USD for a large room!!! I hate feeling so very, very tired and have promised myself a rest day tomorrow.
May 26 (63.11 miles). My custom is to leave early in the morning but had to wake up my middle-aged landlady who was sleeping on a couch in her office all snuggly covered up. On a small piece of paper I had written "Good Morning" in Latvian. She smiled and thanked me. Then, she dutifully let the bike and me out and accepted my room key. Cheap hotels always seem nicer!!!!
But I had an impossible headwind today. I almost wept from the pain of my upper body hurting trying to control the bike on the traffic-filled road. There were modern windmills generating electricity about 10 K (6.2 miles) from Liepaja. Lonely Planet Guide recommended the Liva Hotel for $18.60 USD or 10 Lat and it was very, very nice with bath down the hall. The elevator worked fine for the bike and me on the 4th floor. The hotel staff was very nice and spoke English but I had insomnia the first time on the trip as I was so tired. The road construction along with the headwinds had worn me out. I came to hate that Euro sign because it meant road construction or destruction (Ha!) with often large rocks like on RR tracks on the roadway..
Liepaja had a huge supermarket. I met a Latvian who was promoting tourism in Latvia. He had studied in Dunedin, New Zealand where I had bicycled in 1979. I was able to leave my Latvian atlas at the hotel desk as I was planning to return there after I had completed the perimeter of Lithuania.
May 27, 2005 Today, I had a glorious rest day in Liepaja. Rest days are always my favorite days except when I have a 100-mile ride with a tail wind on traffic-free flat smooth roads. Ha! . The receptionist at the hotel let me read the English language
Baltic Times and I read about Denmark's mortgage mutual fund Finansbanken. I would like very much to do some foreign investing and will email them <email@example.com>
I love my rest days but they are always over too quickly & admittedly I quickly get bored. I had hot chocolate that is pure thick warm chocolate sauce in Latvia. Delicious!
May 28, 2005. Today, I had terrible diarrhea but took my generic Pepto Bismo and finally it went away. From Liepaja to the Lithuanian border it was 43.20 miles. The Lithuanian border guards gave me a great welcome. My first night in Lithuania was the most expensive! It was $34.08 USD and the very large room had no windows. When I asked if they had a room with windows, I was told that it would be more expensive. I still want a room with windows but after safety, money rules my travels, followed by fun. In Lithuania, the roads were much better but there were fewer road signs. When I went to use an ATM machine to get Lithuanian money, there was a couple from Chicago. They were the first Americans I had seen/spoken to since May 12. What a concidental welcome to Lithuania!
May 29, 2005. Joniskis (60.12 miles) where I could not locate 2 hotels shown in the Lithuanian atlas as they had closed. I photographed wedding procession. A woman who had purchased bottle of vodka took me to beautiful guesthouse outside of town for 60 Lit or $22.72 USD. I had to walk back to town to shop in large supermarket so I got about 2 miles of walking done. The young woman receptionist was ironing sheets that afternoon when I checked in but I had to wake her up the next morning to get the main door unlocked & to return the key. That night I dreamed that I had hugged my husband Matt. It was my brother's birthday today but since he has never acknowledged my birthday and has throughout the years ignored the birthday cards I have mailed him, in a pout, I didn't do anything for him this year. My family has repeatedly let me know that I am the black sheep but since living well is the best revenge, I find myself a very happy person, most of the time, exploring the world on a bike.
May 30, 2005. Today in Pasvalys, I found the hotel easily following directions in the atlas. Across the street from the somewhat shabby but clean hotel was a Land Museum in the Information Center. They had a Wild West exhibit including Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as part of the wild west in the USA. No, I didn't correct them but I thought it unusual for me to come to Latvia to see a museum containing a wild west exhibit complete with photos from Tucson, AZ, the home of Perimeter Bicycling.
5/31/05 In Pasvalys (68.50 miles) I woke up to rain so put on rain pants, the hood of my jacket on my head, my bicycle helmet and visor over that, but didn't bother with my rainproof socks. In Panders, I stopped at local market for snack and drunk grabbed my jacket while he was screaming something at me. I went into the meat market and he followed me inside still grabbing at my clothing Fortunately, the shops were crowded with people. I began screaming, too, and a local woman said something to him. Little did I know how prevalent public drunkenness is in Lithuania, the worst in the 31 countries I have been to.. In the other Baltic countries of Estonia and Latvia drunks in public were unknown. I had a terrible time finding the hotel in Pokiskis but found a cook who could speak English. It cost me 30 Lit or $11.36 USD but I felt I was catching a cold, very rare for me, as my nose was running all over the place. Ha!.
6/1/2005. It rained all day so I stopped in Visalia (52.27 miles) that had the worst hotel in the Baltic. The hotel looked quite nice from the outside and I have a photo to prove it. In Lithuania, when there is much discussion in their language about what room to assign you, you should know you are in big bad trouble. A tall young man and woman, who were impeccably dressed in black and white, kept talking to each other while I was dripping wet and waited and waited. Finally, they put me on the 10th floor. This floor had no bathrooms or showers! No! I asked for a lower floor so they put me on the fourth floor. However, there was no electricity in the room, no shower anywhere, and no toilet seats apparently in this hotel (Yes, I took a photo). The toilets or bathrooms as we call them were dirty, of course. In 1991, did the Russians all march out of Lithuania wearing toilet seats on their heads? When I gestured that there was no electricity, it was found that the light bulbs were out. A sullen man changed them. Near the hotel desk there was a travel agency with a woman with a streak of yellow in her hair like a banana whom attempted to translate by just yelling at me. She insisted that I should carry a dictionary with me. I did have the Lonely Planet's Guidebook with its very helpful phrases. She insisted that I should have carried a dictionary. True confession: I was born with genetically caused dyslexia which handicaps my use of phonetics and sometimes causes me to have involuntary screaming attacked when I hear some noises and rhythms. Also, I tend to reverse numbers and letters. I have had no end of problems with Space Coast Runners here in Melbourne, FL, USA, that use hearing impairing boom boxes at races.
I have had no difficulty avoiding loud sounds while traveling. It's a miracle that I have earned 4 college degrees. When I was bicycling the perimeter of Slovakia in 2003, the
Russians had left a series of loud speakers which droned on and on playing that "garbage
music" and probably also doing some political broadcasts. I couldn't understand the
speaker was saying.
Slovenia had the Russian conquerors, too, but the hotels were all beautiful and clean. In Slovenia and the other Balkan countries with the exception of the Slovakia, public drunkenness apparently was not allowed. I believe that the Lithuanian drunks had decided that I should not be traveling alone but I never understood what they saying.
It may be that I should be glad as I can get very angry.
6/2/05 Vilnius (95.26 miles). I am trying to increase my bicycle mileage each day as I want to get out of Lithuania more than anything in the world. I found the Vilnius Youth hostel fairly easily but saw McDonald's enroute to it & bought a "mushy" hamburger...not like dry ones at USA McDonald's. When I entered the Vilnius there was sign in several languages noting that we must remove our shoes. No problem! While I was registering at the Youth Hostel, the woman manager warned me about my bicycle outside as a strange creep was checking it out. She could see him through her security camera. My bicycle was placed in front room with other bicycles. I was assigned a bunk bed but immediately began having problems with a very drunk Englishman. When I tried to read my email in basement where kitchen, computer, bathrooms, etc. were located, he verbally attacked me and began yelling & would not stop. Now, I really HATE drunks and Lithuania is filled with them. When I complained to woman YH manager she said, "Youth hostels are for drinking." This is the first time in all the youth hostels I have stayed in throughout the world that I have heard this.
But the drunk would not stop yelling that he was going to "bash my face in." I calmly begged him to be quiet but he just kept yelling and threatening more. Finally the other people became upset with him especially another Englishman who said we must do something about him. The drunk followed him upstairs where the manager's office was & they finally refunded his money & evicted him. It was peaceful after that drunk left!
6/3/2005. Rest day in Vilinus. Heaven!!!! Today, I wrote some of my notes at the Chocolate Presto cafe. I am carrying a map so that I will get lost. Ha! I liked the ornaments in the cafe that were: net bags decorated with sequins hanging from tiny ribbons all in pastel colors. My chocolate desert was decorated with a tiny sign in chocolate saying Presto. It's 7:54 AM in cafe and I am the happiest woman in the world! The waitress was very helpful in helping select a piece of a chocolate cake. As usual, I want to put my excess happiness in a savings account to be withdrawn when I get depressed. Here in Vilinus, it is worth every second of economic deprivation like all the severely frugal methods we use at home to save money so that I can afford to travel.
While hunting for bike shop, I asked 2 young men in suits who went back in their office to find a bike shop on the computer. The bike repair shop was at least 2 kilometers from
So I went to sporting goods store and found some light trail running Salomon shoes for my husband, Matt. The young man there adjusted my bike and checked it over. I detest working on bicycles as I really don't like them. The purposes of bicycles are to grease people and their clothing, to balk when going uphill or against head winds, to shutter when passed by large trucks, etc. I found a buffet breakfast at the Best Western Hotel, straight from the USA! Unlimited food was a miracle that I gratefully enjoyed. There were fresh vegetables, eggs, several kinds of sausages, breads, yogurt, etc. Also, there were a wide variety of teas, juices, and coffee. For the first time during my Baltic trip I was not hungry anymore.
In another shop, I noted veins of leaves used as decorations. I was told they got that way by boiling them. Great craft idea!
I found a tiny amber teapot for my department head Dr. Crews' mother who collects teapots. Today in Vilnius was just a perfect day doing my walkabout. I love rest days!
6/4/ 2005. I had a late start out of Vilnius on a hilly road. I became very tired and tried to find a hotel in Varian (69.34 miles from Vilnius). One of the hotels was closed and the owner was in Vilnius working. A man appeared with a woman & said there was another hotel so we walked through a park and down a street where the woman had a key to the hotel. The man & woman talked and talked (this should have raised a red flag in my mind because in Lithuania when they must discuss something it is not to my advantage as they aren't treating me like everyone else) and finally I was charged 70 Lit or $26.51 for a downstairs room. They wanted less money for an upstairs room but I was too tired to carry the bike up more stairs. There was no one else staying in the hotel. Another red flag! Then, I had to walk back through the park to the Salunte Supermarket. A young girl joined us and the woman shadowed me while I was shopping actually snickering at me because I guess she didn't like women like me. She was very interested in where I kept my money. The woman and man left me but the girl stayed beside me making the sign for money. There were people along the road in their yards and she waved at them so she was well known. She insisted on going into this KMK hotel with me and into my room. She indicated that she had to use my bathroom and when she came out all of a sudden she grabbed in my purse and I hit her and began screaming. I ran into the hotel cafe and a boss type woman had me write down exactly what happened. Then another woman with the woman who had checked me into the hotel and had also shadowed me at the supermarket drove up in a red economy car. The boss woman asked me how much money had been stolen. When I replied that it was a robbery attempt and that I had had hit the girl to prevent the robbery, I was asked for my passport and what time would I leave in the morning so that my passport could be returned to me, then. I refused so I was asked to leave, my 70 Lat were returned to me. I went into the cafe connected with the hotel and asked for help but the employees in the cafe yelled at me to "Go." Now, I didn't have a place to stay, and was extremely exhausted so I boldly went and talked to 4 young women sitting in a booth at a cafe on the main road. One could speak excellent English and had worked in Rehoboth Beach, Maryland, USA. near where I had once taught. The fact that her pronunciation of Rehoboth Beach was perfect led me to trust her. She tried to get in touch with the owner of the other hotel in Vilnius who was on his way back to Varena but she kept calling him and he kept saying he was just leaving. Finally, she suggested that I stay with her grandmother and it was one of the best things that happened to me in Lithuania!!!! I had always wanted to get inside one of the Lithuanian homes, as I am extremely curious. The home was somewhat similar to a home in the US but had an outdoor toilet with a toilet seat though. The grandmother, who couldn't speak a word of English, showed me her lovely garden and I was given a bed upstairs. The grandmother made a bed for me with a duvet and buttoned pillowcases. The next morning, I quietly left, closing the gate, of course. I shall forever be grateful to this family who took me in!!!
6/5/2005. At Lazdijai (56.29 miles) I saw some 2 people touring on Bike Friday bikes with another man on a regular bike. They were Lee and Linda Gillard from San Diego, CA..USA. Linda praised me for traveling alone as she insisted it was harder. She said that she rode slower than the men but they waited for her. Bill, their friend on the regular bike, was fluent in German so he found us a hotel and talked to reception. I had a nice room for 70 Lit ($26.51 USD and ended up eating lunch with them for 12 Lit ($4.54 USD) At that time, I was always hungry. The next morning, I had to wake up the receptionist to get out of the locked hotel. In the Baltic countries at most hotels, the receptionist slept near the desk and had to be awakened for me to get the door to the outside unlocked. I did my best to say "Good Morning" in Lithuanian but since I butcher the pronunciations in most languages, I usually write what I want to say on a piece of paper and show it to the people. They always smile at my attempt to be nice. It is very easy to say, "thank you" in Lithuanian as it is similar to what we English-speaking say when one sneezes, "Ah-choo."
6/6/2005. Today, I biked 79.9 miles to Sakiai with some tail wind and hills and then rain at the end of the ride. When a storm hits in Lithuania one gets very strong gusts of wind that stopped the bike. Hanne Fleischmann, a 65 year old German solo woman cyclist, caught up with me. She rides much faster than me. She was also self-contained, camping out when it is safe. On the side of the road we talked, she checked out my atlas as she had the same almost worthless Baltic map as I did. She also told me her experiences with the dirt roads. She insisted that sometimes the sandy roads turned into rocks large like the rocks for railroad tracks. We parted so that she could find her campsite.
6/7/05. Silute Hotel (79.99 miles). I shared a double hotel room with Hanne. We had 2 twin beds and a bathroom but reception refused to give us 2 keys. She had caught up with me at Pagegiai when I was eating at a cafe "peopled" by border patrol. They were all large heavily muscled men except for one red haired woman. Hanne told me that we are old enough to cycle alone and not be looking for men. She continued, "It is nice to cycle alone. You can turn left or right when you want." I told her the Budapest, Hungary, story told to me by the Bike Friday people. They were on a ferry crossing the river in Budapest and their friend Bill jumped off the ferry and began to swim. He swam across the Danube but when he tried to get out of the river the police asked him for his passport. He was wearing only his Speedo swimsuit and didn't have a passport with him. The Hungarian police then demanded money in payment of a fine but again he had no money. Meanwhile the Bike Friday people were taking care of his bicycle but pretended not to know him. The police gave up! He was an excellent swimmer and had done a 1/2 Iron man Triathlon.
Hanne & I also had so much in common. When we were sitting on twin beds we noticed that our bare feet at rest were twisted the same way. We were both muscled and
wore similar cycling clothing. It was so nice "talking to my own kind."
6/8 Klaipeda Youth Hostel (YH) Today, I suffered from the worst ever 36.06 miles of headwind, narrow roads, one-way bridges, and the worst traffic in Lithuania. At the YH, we had to take off our shoes as soon as we entered the door. It was the same at the YH in
Vilnius, too, but since I enjoy going barefoot it was no problem. There were shelves for all the shoes.
Staying at the YH was a male nurse from Boston & his adult son and daughter. He was fluent in Lithuanian having been taught it by his Lithuanian emigrant grandparents. His daughter hated Lithuania and this American male nurse said that the Lithuanians said bad things about his family, as they didn't know that he could understand every word they were saying. The cab drivers would cheat them, too. However, he did go to the nearby bus station and made arrangements for me to go to Russia by Lithuanian bus and then return so I paid for in advance for another day at the YH. The bicycle was safely locked in a dungeon like place. It was uncanny how many of these deep dark places were in Lithuania. Perhaps the exhaustion was making my mind think strange things but I actually regretted putting the bike in that hateful dark, damp place. I was actually worried what that bike would think. Would it get depressed? Ha! I tried some Lithuanian food and had diarrhea the next morning. It was cold, cold, so cold that I was living in my blue Gore-Tex jacket and wore my blue bike chain oil stained rain pants to Russia.
6/9/2005 Pepto Bismo (generic version) cured my stomach. I am eternally grateful for this medication, which always worked. My bus trip to Russian began in sunny cold weather with the main bus station almost beside the YH. The Boston family had left me some Chinese food and milk that I had been craving. This may mean that if I wish for it long enough it will appear. I hope so. The Boston family had noticed that most of the women in Lithuania were beautiful while there were not many handsome men. There was a man from New Zealand staying in the youth hostel who did not return that night. The Boston nurse said, "He either got mugged or was lucky." People have a tendency to help me because of my wrinkles while the downside is that people think they can easily take advantage of me. I did enjoy seeing the shock on boys' faces when I found them at supermarkets and asked where the Cyber cafes were.. Mainly boys use computers in the Baltic. In Cyber cafes, the word Internet Explorer is a cognate in that it is the same in many different languages.
There was some problem with bus ticket taking me only to Nida that was a beautiful place on the Curonian Lagoon. Although she could not speak a word of English and I couldn't speak her language whatever it was, a woman beside me on the bus "adopted" me and pointed out the famous dunes which I could barely see. She also talked to the border guards about me.
At the Lithuanian checkpoint, a beautiful woman border guard took my passport and spoke English. Our passports were dutifully returned. The bus went down a narrow road bordered with bent trees like there had been a hurricane through there.
At the Russian border, the bus driver got off the bus and the woman sitting beside me stole his individually wrapped candy that he kept in a basket in the front of the bus. I saved a candy wrapper for my scrapbook. After waiting for a long time, the bus driver took a handful of candy to the border guards. I had problems because the Lithuanian government did not stamp my passport when I had entered Lithuania the first time. The border crossings prove the territoriality innate in human beings. The woman sitting across the aisle from me on the bus continued to chatter away in both Lithuanian and Russia, I think, but obviously could not speak English. I showed her my Russian visa that I had paid $200 USD for before leaving the US and she decided that it was OK.
6/9/2005 continued. The following is about my few hours in Russia that was worth the $200 I had had to pay in advance before leaving the US to get my Russian visa. The real reason that I wanted to go to Russia is because as a child I had been told how evil Russia was. Why it was almost as evil as me! I had to check out its wickedness. Ha!
As soon as I got off the bus at the main bus station in Kaliningrad, I immediately began searching for currency exchange. I asked a soldier who took me to a woman who asked if I wanted dollars. Both the bus & train station were near each other, so I wandered around all the shops and found an ATM machine in the railroad station. Presto! I had rubles. As I had planned, I went to the post office where I bought a book of post cards as they didn't sell them individually. Then, I sat down at a desk in the post office with my address list and wrote and addressed the post cards. Meanwhile, there was a grandmother type woman yelling at one of the women postal clerks. This went on almost the entire time I was in the post office. A woman sitting across from me at the desk rolled her eyes. Of course, I couldn't understand a word of the quarrel. When the older woman finally left, the women postal workers began yelling at each other. As soon as my post cards were addressed, I purchased stamps and mailed them proof that I had been to Russia!!!!. I was hungry as always so I saw a hot dog stand, pointed to a picture of a hot dog and soon one had been sold to me. To wash it down, I saw cold drinks displayed in a refrigerator with a glass door but could only say "Pepsi." While I was jugging my hot dog, drink, and my plastic bag containing camera, a kind gentlemen took my Pepsi can & jabbed it into my jacket pocket. It was the best hot dog, ever! I enjoyed walking around keeping my eye on the bus station, as I didn't want to get lost. I walked up the main street and took photos of the flowers, bought some English books at a book store, got a bad chocolate pastry at a bakery, and purchased a tea pot for Dr. Crews' mother. It was very ugly but what the Russian government had done to so many countries was ugly, too. This teapot rode in my youth hostel sheet for the rest of my trip. Finally I had to get to the bus station where I asked a man what platform the bus left from. He pointed so I waited for my bus sitting on some benches with the other people. It was gestured to me that the bus had assigned seats. While waiting for the bus several teenagers were laughing at each other. It seemed that one of the young women had dark roots in her blond hair & her friends were laughing at her. The trip back was through the lovely green forests of Russia with the waits at the borders. The Lithuanian/Russian border had a very high barbed wire fence with a large rusted searchlight guarding it. Very depressing! At the duty free shop one of the men on the bus bought some vodka and as the bus was leaving he came running to catch it. With his bottle of orange juice, he enjoyed his mixed drink and his ride back to Lithuania. There was a ferry from the peninsula to the city. The bus driver let people off the bus wherever they wished and he dutifully took me back to the main bus station, the only passenger remaining. When I arrived back at the bus station, I happily walked to the youth hostel where I ate that delicious Chinese food left in the refrigerator by the Boston people. It was one of the best meals on my trip. A perfect ending to my perfect day in Russia! Russia and the Russians weren't so bad and as a result I have changed forever. Perhaps like Russia, I am not as bad as I have been often told I am. Ha!
6/10/05 Today, I'm back in Liepaja, Latvia. At the border, I had problems with money exchange and sending home myLithuanian atlas. I tried to get my Russian rubles and Lithuanian Lits exchanged for Latvian Lats but the woman at money exchange in a small booth on the sidewalk got confused & I ended up with Lithuanian coins. When I found this out at a small grocery store in Latvia, I just cried and cried. However, I was finally out of Lithuania and shall never forget the cute beret worn by the Latvian border guard who welcomed me to Latvia. I still want that hat!!! I had stayed in the Liva Hotel before & had left my Latvian atlas there but the receptionist told me I would have to come back for it the next day. She also insisted that my bike could not be put in my room. I have learned to be "mean about my bike" so I calmly told her that I wouldn't stay in that hotel. She relented and gave me the same room that I had stayed in before.
I had begun Lithuania at Skudas, a town near the actual international border on 5/28/2005 at 11:45:54 AM and crossed the border on 6/10/2005 at 12:32:21 PM. These small border crossings are essentially only small buildings sometimes with a bar across the road. I shall never forget after leaving Lithuania, I was happily biking towards the Latvian border building, when smack, I almost lost my bike in a Latvian pothole. When I corrected my bike's steering I hit another pothole. Welcome to the awful Latvian roads!
6/11/05 It was hard to leave the now familiar Liva Hotel and it was raining with miserable bumpy roads, so I biked only 55.74 miles, but Kuldiga was a positive place with many English-speaking people. On the TV in my room I was able to watch English Euro News which was my best evening yet. While doing my usual walkabout, I saw 2 touring bicycles propped against a wall near a cafe. I found one German touring cyclist, a young man. He said his girl friend was at the Tourist Information Bureau finding out where the campgrounds were. He admitted that when I had looked over their 2 bicycles, he thought I might be trying to steal them. So much for my shabby clothes! He noticed that my eyes grew big when their food came. I ordered and ate a salad with them but did not like my dessert. While walking back to my hotel, I watched them biking on their way to a campground without their helmets on. Instead, their helmets were attached to their handlebars. I always wear a bike helmet every time I bike and several times my life has been saved by a bike helmet.
I had purchased some wonderful chocolate so I ate and read tucked away in a warm bed watching the English news on TV. Please let me repeat this was the best night of my life!
6/12/05 88.30 miles to Talsi. I was exhausted but had "stumbled" into one of the most beautiful cities on the earth: Venspils. There was a bobsled embedded in cement that I was able to get a nice young man to take a photo of me trying to push it. It seemed that
Venspils' athletes had done well in bobsled competition. There was a working clock made of flowers and another bobsled with the athletes composed of flowers. Yes, I got someone to take a photo of me in front of the "flowered" working clock. I guess that I was sometimes a pest asking complete strangers to take my photos. I could not waste much time, though, as I still had miles to bike. At Talsi, I was very tired but cashier of a RIMS supermarket let me bring my bicycle inside while I purchased my essential groceries. At the hotel, the receptionist carried my bicycle up a flight of stars wearing her high-heeled sandals. Only in Latvia!
In Latvia, there were no drunks or any horse drawn wagons as the country seemed to be much wealthier than Lithuania. However, as already mentioned many times, the roads were very bumpy. I was told that Lithuania had received help earlier from the European Union to repair their roads.
6/13/2005. Jurmala (68.28 miles) had a lovely pedestrian street. I immediately went to the Tourist Information Bureau and right behind it was a bed and breakfast that was very nice. I had a private room for 5 Lat ($9.30 USD) with, of course, bathroom, and shower down the hall but I don't object to this at all providing the accommodations are not too expensive. My room had a window with a beautiful view of a well cared for lawn. I had a very nice afternoon in Jurmala and talked to mother and daughter when we were all eating chocolate cake. The mother told me that when the Russians ruled them, all documents had to be in Russian even when it was between 2 Latvians. One can feel the under current of remaining bitterness especially in Lithuania that has many Russian residents but less so in Latvia. It has all been so sad & I'm thankful the US has peaceful neighbors of Canada and Mexico. A young man at sporting goods shop did not know that the US had fought in WW II. I explained to him that when England was attacked by Germany, the US joined in the war because the 5 English-speaking countries always stick together. I told him about food and gas rationing during WW II when I was a girl.
6/14/05 The trip is almost over and it's starting to be fun! I have been very impressed by the Baltic women wearing beautiful high-heeled shoes carefully navagatating their always bumpy sidewalks with pieces of cement sticking almost straight up at times. It's strange what one misses during travels: sandwiches, smooth sidewalks and ground floor rooms.
Sylkresij is where I stayed on 6/14/05 but had ridden only rode 32.01 miles. I biked immediately to the Tourist Information Bureau where the woman in charge had a room for rent about 10 K or 6.2 miles away. It was an incredibly beautiful room but had some almost impossible stairs to climb to get into it. They called them sexy stairs. She gave me directions and I biked there shopping at the usual supermarket on the way. Her daughter Gita wants to bike the Estonian Islands & gave me priceless amber necklace from Lithuania. I spent the afternoon walking on the Baltic beach & met a woman with a ring in her nose who said she was a police officer. This was one of the best afternoons of my life! I collect friends like I collect sore muscles. Ha! Gita said that the antique button I had found beach combing was very valuable but I had searched for amber but hadn't found any.
6/15/05 Valmiera (80.32 miles). I was very worried about all the traffic today. While I was biking into town, I saw a bike shop near a small track below me on the main road. There were very nice young men working there & they agreed that my rear tire was worn out. The Bike Friday "people" were right in that the tire was supposed to get 2000 miles and it did. I was carrying a folding tire that they put on the bike for 1 Lat or $1.86 USD. I guess they were shocked by an old lady on an obviously worn-out Bike Friday. The flies had been awful while biking, today. When I asked for directions to my accommodations, a young man gave me directions in perfect English and noted, "We tear up roads in Latvia." Indeed, there was much road construction in Valmiera. As I was repacking/reloading my panniers, they told me, "Give President Bush our best wishes from Latvia." We all laughed. I love to laugh so much. I stayed in a stadium above the seats but there was no toilet paper in the bathroom down the hall. One of my rules is to always carry toilet paper. My room was above the stadium seats so I could watch a lazy track athlete work out. My heart wanted to run some intervals but my legs screamed "No." I couldn't afford an injury as I still had to finish the perimeters of Latvia and Estonia. The next morning, I couldn't get out of the fenced stadium but finally banged on the door to the office where I had paid & sleepy young woman took her key & let me out.
6/16/05 Torva bed and breakfast. It was 31.58 miles to the Estonian border and I biked 20.67 miles inside Estonia. Today, I crossed the border into Estonia at Valka, Latvia, & Valga, Estonia. To spend my leftover coins I found a "zoo" which was a pet store and purchased many cat toys. The Estonian border guard was fascinated by my trip & took my photo at the border crossing. .Valga, Estonia, had a Tourist Information Center that was wonderful but it hadn't been open when I was there before. A nice young woman and young man were extremely helpful and told me about the Torva bed and breakfast. They even called and made reservations for me. At Torva, I saw the Tourist Information Center where I got to read email and they told me how beautiful my bed and breakfast was. It was down a sandy road and was fenced with a big dog that terrified me. The bed and breakfast was decorated with hand made pillows that I appreciated but best of all there was a framed embroidered "chicken scratch" (what we call that stitch in the US) angel. I thought of Mary Ramba my friend who does incredibly beautiful cross-stitch. My hostess ran about chattering but speaking little English. I made friends with her dog
and was able to shake hands/paws with him. I loved the view of her backyard from my window. This beauty of the Baltic has made it the best and worst of my trips!!!!
But then my antique bed (this bed & breakfast was filled with antiques) actually ate a book. Ha! But this is true! I had purchased an English book in Russia about the Arabian Nights & as I went to sleep the book slipped between the bed and the wall & disappeared forever. Yes, I tried so hard to retrieve it but failed & even borrowed a poker from beside the living room fireplace. On the bathroom scale at the bed and breakfast, I weighed 50 kilos or 110.5 pounds. I could kill for a sandwich/hamburger/hot dog. I shall never forget eating the best hot dog in the world in Russia! I got to thinking about what I am doing & don't feel it is extraordinary as anyone could do it providing they plan properly and spend many hours on the Internet in preparation for solo bicycle perimeters.
6/17/05 Parnu (65.02 miles) problems as there were no accommodations available but the Tourist Information lady was very kind and told me to calm down while she searched. Yes, I was upset! My sock now had a huge hole in it but was able to purchase a pair of new socks. My goal is to bike foreign perimeters until I am 70 years old and teach college classes till then, too. Future perimeters are Portugal and Andorra + small countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia next summer. Perhaps I will do the perimeter of New Zealand during our winter holidays!!!
Bipolar Baltic! As I wrote at the beginning of these notes, the roads were like the little girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid. I especially loved the flowers being sold in every village/town/city. Remember, I am the one who brings people roses and gardenias in season as I am passionate about growing pesticide and chemical free roses and gardenias feeding my plants banana peels and cat "manure."
After much searching on the part of the Tourist Information lady, accommodations were found for me. It was a youth hostel room in a stadium, with the usual view of the seats, track, and infield, was reserved for me. Is somebody trying to tell me something? The youth hostel had a nice gentleman manager who allowed me to carry my bike upstairs to my room. Again, I was staying near the Baltic on a wide flat beach filled with tourists but I had no swimsuit. I tried to swim in my little black dress but it was too cold. The beach was a long way from deep water and lacked waves, shells, and sea gulls. I met some English speaking Finns and there were 2 young men from Switzerland on made-in-the-Netherlands recumbent bikes flying the Swiss flag. They had biked 95 kilometers that day while I usually do 100 kilometers or 62 miles. They had biked through Poland to Estonia. At the youth hostel there were problems with the women's shower room door locking by itself. How many times did I go up and down the youth hostel's stairs? Believe me, I was getting plenty of exercise.
6/18/05 Haapsalu (72.16 miles) A guest House found for me by the Tourist Information Bureau. I am very worried about having the time to change planes at JFK in New York City. I must go from FinnAir to Delta + through Customs. I have been emailing Matt who isn't excited about helping me as he refuses to get me the email address of the US Customs or the 2 airlines. I spent some time with the Tourist Information lady who talked to FinnAir who has promised an electronic cart to be waiting for me in New York. Also, I was having problems with roads around the 2 Estonian Islands. I will never do another perimeter again unless I know exactly the condition of the roads. Impossible worries drag me down yet they are so silly but I am still under impossible physical emotional spiritual stress especially when Scott of Perimeter Bicycling emails that we have to talk when I return home. Does that mean my perimeters will be disqualified? That statement that "we have to talk" means to every man who hears it from a woman that there is trouble. I am tired of cursing and crying, today..
I hate that Saaremaa Island as most of the roads are gravel and I'm expected the bicycle the perimeter of it.
I was weeping so badly when I biked into Haapsalu that the Tourist Information lady wanted to call the police. This is not why I do perimeters. Sometimes they bring out the worst in me as I become so afraid that I'm wasting my time and money. Losing weight is fine but not when I'm partially starving myself to save money.
While doing those 2 disliked islands, all I thought of was moving to Australia but making another start at the age of 67? In New York, if I hear an announcement that a plane is going to Melbourne, Australia, I'll race for it. I have my passport, credit cards, some clothes, and bike. What more could I wish for?
6/19/06 on the ferry to Hiiumaa Island, I had a hamburger and hot chocolate and I am happy, again; however, I had had trouble finding the ferry terminal as the signs were poorly positioned. The kilometer signs were not from the center of Haapsalu but from a road junction. But I am perking up and feeling better with the thought of the adventures on the 2 islands. I could not get the pensioner's discount on the ferries in Estonia while I could for the ferry in Finland. Only Estonian pensioners can get this discount. Many signs in Estonia are in both English and Estonia like in Hawaii the signs are in both Japanese and English. I was told that Estonia has a good relationship with Finland and the USA. This is very true! I recommend that everyone plan trips to both Estonia and
Latvia but it might be a good idea to avoid Lithuania especially with all the drunks.
I enjoyed relaxing on the ferry after I had done the "mandatory" walkabout exploring the ferry. I was very surprised to see that the passengers on the ferry left their purses and bum packs unattended. This means to me that there is little theft on the ferry but there were very few passengers. The only smoking allowed was outdoors or in the popular bar. Most of all, I enjoyed relaxing on the ferry and even did some self-hypnosis to do some active positive healing.
6/19/05 I spent the night in Kuressaare (86.09 miles) on Saarenaa Island after another ferry ride from Hiiumaa Island. The bed and breakfast was OK in Kuressaare but "nothing to write home about." I heard about a bike race but was too negative to even think much about it. I have many miles to ride as I must bike to Tallinn to get the ferry to Finland.
6/20/05 After 2 ferry rides, I am back in Haapsalu and know I must get an early start for Tallinn the next morning.
6/21/05 Today, I kept singing, "I'll never go this way, again." Of course, I had traffic and headwinds the last day of my "perimetering" for this summer with 67.78 miles of it to Tallinn and then had to race to the large ferry terminal there. My next and last search was for the youth hostel in Helsinki that I had made reservations for before I left home centuries or so ago, it seemed. While searching for groceries, I actually marched in a Helsinki demonstration and later while on the plane home the Finnish MD, Ph.D. genetist going to New York City showed me a copy of the local newspaper showing that the demonstration had become violent. I had been tired and had left the demonstration earlier.
While on the ferry, I had noticed Estonia there were no sailboats near the ferry terminal but as we approached Finland, the number of sailboats grew all proudly "wearing" the Finnish flag. I had noticed the same thing when I went to Tallinn in 1998 when I had done both the perimeter of Finland and Helsinki.
How happy I was to see Helsinki from the ferry! The young border guard who had checked my passport when I was leaving Finland in May asked me how many kilometers I had bicycled as he had remembered me. But I had the youth hostel to find and the map I had down loaded before I left home was not that detailed. But the Tourist Information Bureau appeared and I was happy all over. I got a map to the hostel and got my bike settled in the bike room near the 24-hour desk. I love Finland as I have Finnish ancestry and am very proud to be a Finnish American. It is said that all true Finns who leave Finland return to Finland in the summer. Perhaps it is just my genes but I love Finland!
6/22/05 Miracle of all miracles, I made the airport on time to laboriously dismantle my Bike Friday, retrieve its stored suitcase and wait for my plane to load.
I was happy to have earned 3 more country perimeter records but I was glad to see my
husband and our 6 pet cats who had cleverly convinced him to feed them only the expensive cat food that I had left for them. He was supposed to have mixed the expensive and cheap cat foods for them.
Perimeters are my passion! The perimeters that I bicycle can be done by anyone do with proper planning and frugality. When the perimeters are bipolar, I suppose that I appreciate them more because variety is the spice of life!