Today, I took some routing advice without realizing where it would leave me at the end of the day, and, as a result ended up riding till sundown. I was out of water, out of food, and, having climbed a lot - I'd estimate well over half a mile of vertical at grades of 8 to 9% - of large, steep, hills, often in very windy conditions, I was well beyond the point where I would have chosen to continue riding if I had a choice. I didn't, so I kept on riding.
After a final, hard climb of 2+ km at 10% grades with wind gusts so strong that I almost constantly had to fight to keep the bike on the road, I was riding a nice, but hilly and VERY windy stretch of road that has no service of any kind for tens of km. The next place to stay, on that road was some 55 km from where I got on it at about 7 PM. Fortunately, it was only 14 km to a service station. That took an hour of hard riding.
Just past the service station - where I gratefully bought water and coke and some little cakes - was a sign for a hotel and a road leading down, seven km down, as it turned out, to a place that has no hotels. The place with the hotel, was 3 km back, and an maybe 200 m up, down a side road that I hadn't taken. The place I ended up seems to a largely German community, right on the water.
One of the residents was very helpful. The others just sort of looked at me and were not helpful. He got the lady that rents apartment here to rent me one for the night. This is not their usual mode, but she appreciated that I was needy and responded. So I have a two bedroom apartment, a place to get some sort of breakfast in the morning, and 7 km climb to look forward to when I leave ;-(. Still, I feel pretty lucky, although quite worn out.
Breakfast, like every thing else at my hotel in Biograd, was good. The entire night - nice, four course, supper, comfortable, big, room, and a good breakfast - cost me 49 Euro. It was much better than Split and cost about two thirds as much. Of course it also cost about twice as much as my days in the Southern Balkan countries. Anyway, if you are riding the Dalmation coast, the Bolero Hotel in Biograd is definitely a good place to stay. (an aside: I saw a beautiful Dalmation (dog) while waiting for the ferry.
The ride to Zadar was easier and much faster than I expected it to be. Part of that is more confusion about its actual distance from Biograd. (An aside - as I write this, the wind is literally howling outside. I'm glad I'm not still out there! ) Zadar felt more fun than Split, but, after reading my email, I decided to ride on rather than stay in Zadar and take the ferry tomorrow night.
I rode out toward Pag Island, on a small, and sometimes very hilly, road. Pag Island, on its southern end, is quite desolate. Riding was hot and windy, which helped with heat. After about 30 km, in which the land got increasingly greener - it looked like the wetter parts of Nevada - and increasingly windy - I reached the city of Pag.
I saw a wind farm near Pag - half a dozen megawatt wind machines - and that was neat even though I was riding right into the wind! In Pag, I had a nice second lunch. I'd had the first in Zadar, and rode around a bit. I liked the town, so I asked a tourism place about staying the night. He said only the hotel would rent rooms for one night, so I went to the hotel. Reception had closed at 3 - it was now almost 4:30 PM - and wouldn't reopen till 6. It was 33, "Very hilly", kilometers to the ferry according to the tourism man, so I couldn't wait to find out if I could get a room. I rode on, or rather up, since leaving Pag meant the first big climb of the day.
As I cranked up the 8% grade for several kilometers to cross over the top of the island, I hoped that was enough to make it "very hilly." It wasn't. The climb over the top of the island bit was repeated twice more on the ride to the ferry. Each of the three was big climb, i.e. more than 500 feet vertical in my way of classifying climbs, and each was 8 or 9% sustained grade. It took me over two hours to get to the ferry and the majority off the time was spent climbing steep grades. Those were hot - full sun, no shade - and dry climbs. I left Pag with two full water bottles and reached the ferry with very little water.
The tourism guy said the ferry ran non stop and took about ten minutes to cross. It took more than half an hour for me to get across and, because I was out of water, food, and energy, I asked about a room as soon as I reached the other side at 7 PM.
Sure they said, and made phone call to confirm. I tried to follow the directions, but no one was home at the one apartment place I did find and it didn't match the directions. I crashed my bike trying to ride back to the road from the ferry place and, in a bad mood, rode on up the road to the coastal road. That was a hellish climb: I was very tired, and climbing a two hundred meter vertical climb at 10 % grade in very strong gusty winds was pushing my limits.
I made it, but I was totally out of water. I headed north, hoping that I'd have better luck at the next town on map. I did, but it was an iffy situation to be in.
At several places in the 14 km from the top of that climb to the service station, I had to stop pedaling to focus just on keeping my bike on the road. There was no question of keeping it near the right and side of the road. The wind gusts were so strong it felt like my helmet was tying to blow off! Fortunately there was very little traffic. It would have been very dangerous with traffic.
I wouldn't do Pag island again, unless I stayed at Pag. Even then, the climbing required just to get from Pag to the next possible place to stay on the Croation coast is brutal. This ride was much harder than any other ride I've done on this tour, including several mountain passes.