Tour05 Day 24

Looking out the window at the Drava river

I started my day in a Slovenian mountain valley and ended it on the Great Hungarian Plain. In between I rode through Maribor - and got lost there - and on Slovenian highway 3 - which was fine riding 4 years ago, but is now a major route for international trucks - and on 439 which is small and beautiful, but has 10% grades in several places. I also rode on roads that prohibit bicycles in both Slovenia and Hungary.

My day did not start well. Despite having a very nice room with a comfortable bed, I did not sleep well. This morning I was pretty creaky and wondered if I might be coming down with something. I'm still a bit congested, but I felt OK once I was riding.

Breakfast at my fancy Gostilina was good, but not as good as the morning before. My total cost for an excellent supper, a very nice room, and breakfast was 45 Euro, which is only about 50% more than the same cost for the previous night. Tonight, at a pension in Lenti, my total cost will be close to the cost of the night before last. Tomorrow in a resort on Lake Balaton, I expect the cost will be higher, but still cheaper than a night at an inexpensive motel in the US.

After breakfast, I worked on the web page and then, after I checked out and got my bike out of the garage, I worked on my camera mount. I'd found a piece of wood along the road yesterday, and, this morning, I carved a replacement for the piece I lots yesterday when my camera came out of its mount. It isn't elegant, but it works wells, so I was able to use the camera as I rode today.

Riding in Maribor:s old city

Riding into Maribor this morning wasn't bad, but it was a reminder of how much more plesant it is to tour with little or no traffic. Maribor is a neat, university, city with lots of action and a good feel. I expected that it would be easy to find an internet cafe, but it wasn't. I asked some college aged guys - "Oh, you mean a Cyber Cafe!" - and got directions, but still didn't find the place after a 10 minute search.

Traffic in the city was bad, so I decided not to hang around. I actually found - by compass navigation - the road I should have taken out of town, but the name of the city on the sign for the road didn't match any name on my map. Cyrillic to Latin transliteration is not a precise art! I went looking for a better map.

I found one, for about 8 dollars (!) at a service station on the wrong way out of town. After I figured out the straightforward way to get to Higway 3, I discovered that riding that way was anything but straightforward.

The autoroute going north out of Maribor has a huge roundabout and getting to highway three required riding north several km on the old road parallel to the autoroute, then crossing under the autoroute and riding back south a ways to get on to the autoroute - which is briefly not an autoroute - then going through that roundabout with all the autoroute traffic to get to the highway. That has to be one of the dumbest highway designs I've ever seen!

Highway 3 near Maribor

Once I got on Highway 3, I realized that easy access at the border had really changed the nature of traffic on that road. Three years ago, when I came into Slovenia on that road, trucks were lined up for several km at the border. I bet the average wait was at least a full day. Now the average wait for a truck appears to be few minutes, and the number of international trucks using highway 3 must have gone up by a factor of ten.

Big trucks - most of them are double trailer semis - and buses formed the head of great 'trains' of vehicles. Often there were several big trucks at the head of a train. The road - two lanes with no shoulder - was wide enough for one big vehicle, a bicycle, and one normal sized vehicle, but just barely wide enough for two big vehicles. If a truck or bus came up behind me when another train was approaching from the front, it had to wait until that entire train had passed in order to pass me. Some of those trains went on for five or more minutes, and all the vehicles behind the truck or bus waiting to pass me would also have had had to wait. I just got of the road ASAP when that situation developed.

After 10 km or so of this, I reached Lenart and stopped for lunch and rest from the heavy traffic. Lunch was excellent, but turned out to be a bit hard to digest. I think that may have had something to do with the steep hills I was climbing after lunch ;-)!

During lunch I studied my, newly acquired, map of Slovenia. I saw that there was an alternate to Highway 3 and that it started in Lenart. It was a small road, number 439, which went more directly to the border than highway 3 - it rejoined Highway 3 about ten miles form the border - but also was much hillier and much 'wigglier.' I figured there would be more climbing and the overall time to get to the border would be about the same, but the riding would be much more fun. I was right, except for the fact that climbing a, kilometer long, 10% grade hill in hot weather is not a good thing to do shortly after eating a big lunch! Oh well, my tummy recovered on the long flat stretches after those hills.

Highway (?) 439

With hills...

And then very flat riding

439 was really nice riding and even the climbing isn't too bad after it gets past Cerkvenjak. The hill into Cerkvenjak is a challenge on a loaded bike, and there are several other hills that are shorter, but just as steep.

I rejoined Highway 3 at Cransovc, after riding for several hours on 439. The last half of that route was essentially flat because I had reached the Slovenian part of the Great Hungarian Plain.

On the bike path near the border

The truck traffic on 3 was still bad, but now there were bike paths most of the time, so I could get out of the way. When the bike paths were between the cities, they were quite good, but in the cities they were not good. I still used them when I had to - when a truck was coming up behind me and one was approaching from the other direction - but they were rough and dangerous at touring bike speeds. I almost got hit by a car pulling out of driveway. The driver didn't expect a bike to be coming down that path at 15 mph. After almost hitting me, he blew his horn at me ;-(!

In Hungary, near the start of Higway 75
I should be on a bike path, but the road is better riding

When I got to where the road T's - north for Hungary, south for Croatia - I had to ride a road which banned bikes and had no bike paths. I knew this from when I was here for the first time. At that time there were some policemen near the border and I waved at them as I rode by on the road I wasn't supposed to ride. This time, I got off the road twice to let trucks by, and the border person gave my bike a dirty look, but didn't make an issue out of it. I suspect a lot of bikes cross at this place because the road to Lake Balaton is just north or Redics, the Hungarian town nearest the border. Lake Balaton is such a popular biking destination that Hungary runs special bicycle carrying train from Budapest to the lake.

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