Today was a much better riding day than yesterday. I took the chance that all those trucks on the autoroute were not heading east from Zilna. I don't know where they go from Vilna - Poland? - but traffic today on the expressway going toward Poprad was almost entirely cars. The road, E 50, follows the Vah pretty closely, going through two beautiful river gorges and, unfortunately, turns into an autoroute just before the Vah reaches it source, a mountain lake. Almost all of this stretch of road has good to excellent shoulders, and most of it has great views of mountains and the river.
When I was thinking about why the trucks don't come this way, I realized that, maybe 20 km east of Zilna, the mountains start and for then next several hundred miles, there is no way to leave the Slovak republic without a big climb. Until you get to Presov, almost 200 miles from Zilna, there are also no big cities, and it is much easier to get to Presov from Kosice than from Zilna. On the other hand, if you are on a bicycle or motorcycle, the stretch between Zilna and Presov contains some of the best riding in the Slovak republic.
I stopped my ride at Liptovsky Mikulas, a resort town just west of the place where the Vah starts. Several rivers coming from the High Tatras come together in the 20 km east of here to form the Vah.
Tomorrow, I will ride in the High Tatras on 537, a road that I reached two years ago from the other direction, so, in a sense I will have completed riding around the Slovak republic. However, I plan to continue east on a northerly route - essentially one following valleys near the Polish border - for another day or two before going north into eastern Poland.
This morning, and last night, I had internet access at my hotel. That is a mixed blessing since the time I spend on the net is time I don't have to ride reports and web pages. I did manage to upload the previous days web page and handle some email, but even getting to bed late and getting up early, I still left half an hour later than usual and without finishing the web page for the ride to Zilna.
Zilna seems like a very neat town. I cruised around its centrum area for a quite a while just looking, smelling, and listening. Once I picked my hotel and moved in, I didn't go out again until I was ready to leave town. Heh, it had a place to sleep, a place - my bed - to create web pages - it was a small room, a place to eat supper and breakfast, and internet access. I didn't need to go out and I didn't have time to get everything done that needed doing.
From my cruising, I knew the route I needed to take to get on the road to Poprad. I didn't plan to make it to Poprad - just about 100 miles by the shorter route using the autoroute that I couldn't ride, but I thought would reach Liptovsky Haradok, the town were the road throught the High Tartras starts. I stopped instead at the town before that, because it has an internet cafe and it looked like a fun place to stay. Of course either of these towns are expensive places to stay since they are resorts for both summer and winter activities in the Tartas.
I did have another reason, besides internet access, and that was that, after only 100 km or so, I was tired. Todays riding was great, if a little noisy because there was a lot of traffic on the expressway, and it was uphill - up river to be proper - and into a mild to moderate headwind almost all day. When the autoroute started, I rode 18, a road that took 20 km to get back to the autoroute 14 km later and either climbed or descended for almost all of those kilometers. I figure there was at least 1000 feet of climbing where the autoroute probably climbed a hundred feet. It was nice riding and it had some great views, but it was tiring to spend more than an hour climbing at 5 to 8 mph.
There were two real highlights on todays ride: riding through the Vah river gorges and seeing the High Tatra Mountains from the high point on 18 near the end of the day. Both the gorges and the Tatras - both high and low - are beautiful, and the High Tatras are just very special. They are a little bit of the Alps in the middle of eastern Europe.
Martin, the big town between Zilna and Poprad, is also between the two gorges. I stopped at a grocery store in a suburb of Martin to get supplies for a first lunch and some snack breaks. I stopped again about half an hour later to eat and rest after crossing the Vah.