Today I reached my second routing point, Ohrid. Riding here wasn't a hard ride, despite the fact that it required a lot of climbing - two passes. Perhaps Macedonia has got me so used to climbing long 7 or 8% grades, that I don't even notice them (nope!), but I think it is more likely that I've adjusted my style of riding.
In Greece I tried to stay in my middle ring - which is a 33 so I can climb 2 or 3% grades in it - which was efficient, but hard on my knees. Here I've become more sensible. I switch to my granny when ever there is a sustained grade of more than a percent or so. With my 20 tooth granny and 11-32 cogs, I have well spaced gears usuable, at 80 rpm, from 4 to over 10 mph. That means I have a gear that is well matched to all grades from about 8% down to 2%. For sustained grades above 8%, I drop my rpm down to 60, or even lower.
This morning in Prilep, I had to give up my last 50 Euro becuse the Xotel couldn't get my Visa card to work. I used that card in Turkey and Greece, so I don't think the card has a problem. Bulgaria and Macedonia, like Romania, mostly function on a cash basis, so I've been traveling using cash I got in Greece. If my Visa had worked in Prilep, I'd have had enough cash to go onto Albania tomorrow. Now I'll have to wait and try to get cash from a bank here on Monday when the banks open again. My hotel here costs 50% more, and isn't as nice as, my hotel in Prilep. On the other hand, it is on Lake Ohrid and Lake Ohrid is spectacular!
Riding south from Prilep wasn't spectacular, but it was 50 km of pleasant, easy, riding. My hotel was on the old road to Bitola, so all I had to do was head south. I stayed on the old road for about five miles before switching over to the expressway. During that time, the old road went from good pavement to cobblestone to broken pavement. It was peaceful, but too bumpy. The expressway was smooth and traffic was light. I enjoyed riding through rolling hills down to near Bitola where the expressway headed west into the mountains.
I stopped at the only service station I saw. It was located a km or so before the exit for Bitola. I got a 1.5 liter Pepsi and a large (300 gram) cake roll for my snacks during the ride, and headed west to climb a pass - I didn't know there were two!
The road was good - not rough like much of the climb over the pass north of Prilep - and the traffic was no problem. As I rode north of Bitola, I stopped to remove a large rock - I had to roll it off the road - from the other lane. Traffic was light enough that I was able to do that without getting run over ;-).
Since it was warm, and I was doing a lot of climbing, I took off my helmet and my gloves. That really helps under those conditions. I was comfortable, i.e. not too hot, except when I was climbing the 7% grade with a gentle tailwind. There was no shade on the road, no clouds in the sky, and only a light wind. When the climbing got serious, the road added a passing lane. Typically those sections were 3 or 4 km long and then the slope would gentle, or even go away, for a few km. I stopped a the beginning of one of the passing lane sections to take my first break. There was a sign to lean my bike against and a small spot of shade to sit in. A very pleasant place to sit, rest, eat, and enjoy the view.
After the second steep climbing section, I looked ahead and saw what I thought was the pass, The road was flat with some down hill sections at that point, but, before the pass, the road switch backed up a steep hill to a saddle in the mountains. That was a steep climb - I did it in 4 mph gear and stopped to rest once before I reached the top. Strangely, there was no pass sign at the top.
I bumped - the road was bumpy at 35 mph - down a long hill into the next valley, and rode to Resen where I stopped for lunch. Resen felt different than the Macedonian towns I had ridden through. For one thing, it had an active mosque. The people looked different as well.
At the restaurant - Resturan Classic - I had a problem ordering - no English, no Deutsch - so the waiter called to a customer who was just leaving. He lives in Detroit ;-)! but comes back to this part of the world to visit relatives.
That fellow, and his cousin who had moved the US a long time ago but then moved back to Macedonia, and I had a nice visit. I found out why the feel of Resen was different. It is really an Albanian town!
I had hear, from Ocev, some resentment towards Albanians. Now I heard the Albanian perspective. They were pushed out of this area by the Slavs who came in in the 1700s and they still resented it. I wonder if those Slavs were fleeing the Ottoman's empires armies? This area has a complicated political/religious/cultural mix of peoples!
I also heard, from both these guys, how much the liked the US - although they agreed that US citizens generally know nothing about the rest of the world - and how grateful they were to Clinton for intervening in Kosovo.
Leaving Resen was challenging. There were a couple of turns involved and the signs were in Cyrillic only. I ended up riding a mile or two on cobblestone, but that was the correct route. Traffic was moderate, but there didn't seem to be much consistency in the use of lanes ;-(.
Riding from Resen to Ohrid was very pleasant, until I came to another section of long, steep climbing. On that section I had the pleasure of having the contents of a water bottle dumped on me from a passing bus. Actually, it felt good, but it got my camera wet. At the end of the climb, I found the sign for the pass that I thought I climbed before Resen.
Once over the second pass, it was (almost) all down hill to Ohrid. The upper part of the was one of the nicest, and longest, downhills I have ever ridden. It was a smooth, two lane road twisting its way down the sides of narrow valleys with tree covered wall. Very nice!
I passed one large truck on the way down and was passed by a car or two, but I usually had the road to myself. I 'd guess the descent was at least 2000 feet. The pass was at 1200 meters, or close to 4000 feet.
After the road flattened out a bit, it was still a long way down the road, which follows a river, to Ohrid. When I got here, I rode through town to see the lake. As soon as I got to the lake, I hit upon by a tout who made me feel like I was back in Istanbul again. I was not happy about this and I'm afraid I was rude to him. I rode around a bit, then checked into the Xotel which used to be the Hotel Rivera. My room is on the second - third in the US - floor and the floors are tall, but, with the help of the clerk - I carried my bike and he carried my bags - my bike is with me in the room. After I checked in and cleaned up, I spent several hours walking - climbing at lot - around this town. Wow.
The room is not fancy and the beds are the worst I've experienced in a long time, but breakfast was excellent, the staff is good, and the location is great. I used my Thermarest on top of the bed last night. I may sleep on it on the floor tonight...
Last night sleep was also made more difficult by some bad, overpriced , food I had for supper. I ended up having to throw up several times. I don't think those fresh mushrooms agreed with me!