Augustow, Poland to Alytus, Lithuania

Young storks hunkered down in their nest in Lithuania because of the wind
Note the concrete power and support poles

A stork nest in Poland, note the different power pole construction

I rode into a new., for me, country and, at last, into a new timezone. I've been in this timezone before, but well south of here in Romania. Now the sun position feels about the same as it does in Hamburg at the same clock time, so I'm more comfortable ;-}. I wasn't at all sure about being comfortable in Lithuania. My initial impressions were all negative but, having 'settled' in Alytus, I rather like it. Coming in on 16 from Poland, you do not see a pretty area, there is little color in the land or in the things people have built here, and there is little to block the north wind which made today's ride much harder.

I only rode 67 miles - 100 km - in five and a half hours of hard riding. It wasn't hard because of hills - only 1200 feet of climbing - but because I was riding into a strong head/side wind. When I was going north or north-northeast, I could not maintain 10 mph. Mostly I was going northeast and managed a 11.7 mph average for the day, but that was strongly affected by my higher riding speed in Poland where the wind was usually better blocked by trees. The first 50 km was in Poland with an average speed of near 13 mph. The second 50 km was in Lithuania with an average speed at least 2 mph less. The part in Poland was mostly easy riding. The part in Lithuania was mostly quite hard riding. It was hard riding with little reward. Nothing pretty to see, smell or hear, just the constant cold wind battering me. In that way it felt much the same as northern Portugal and Spain, even down to the fact that I had to put on my wind vest and my extra kneewarmer, but, in Lithuania, there was no interesting country to distract me the unpleasant riding conditions.

i was really tempted to turn around and go back to Poland. I didn't because of two things. I wan't to see Vilnius, especially the Jewish part, and Czechlaw Milosz, my favorite poet, was from this part of Lithuania and wrote lovingly of it. I did decide that I'll remove riding in the Baltic states from my future touring plans. I also decided that I couldn't ride to Vilnius and back in three days. 430 km in three days would be about right under normal conditions, but simply is too hard under these conditions. Having ridden about half way to Vilnius, I'll take the bus the rest of the way tomorrow morning, and bus back here tomorrow evening so that I can ride back to Augustow on Friday.

Things started out well this morning when I discovered that all that big truck traffic going by my hotel was actually going up 8, not 16

I got up early this morning to work on yesterday's web page. The fact that my room was very bright by 5 AM also helped ;-}. I finished the page and went down for breakfast at 7:30. Breakfast this morning was very good, and a bit strange. The waiter asked me if I wanted meat, eggs with meat, or an omelette. I said omelette. Then he brought me coffee, three kinds of bread, meat, cheese, butter, and some tomato slices. I ate for quite a while, wondering where the omlete was, then he brought a huge omelette as desert, complete with whipped cream peach slices, and a chocolate sauce decoration around the edge of the plate! Neat! and good.

Riding in Poland was easy and uneventful, mostly heading northeast through forest.

I was on the road by 8:30 and in Lithuania at 11:45. I stopped at a store in a Giby, Poland , a smart move since I didn't see any place to get supplies in Lithuania until I got to Alytus, and twice in Lithuania to snack. I had foil wrapped cheese wedges and bread to make cheese sandwiches and cherry coke to provide sugar and caffeine. It worked well. When I got here just before 3 PM - Poland time - I got some cash, checked in to my hotel, cleaned up and walked around town for half an hour or more before remembering that I was hungry. Then I found the tourist info place and got the info I needed about buses before I stopped for what I thought was a very late lunch. When I looked at the clock after 'lunch', it said 5 minutes to 6 PM!

When I got to Lithuania, I had to ride north in open country, uphill - of course! - into the wind

The border crossing was backed up, so I walked my bike to the front and went through quickly. As I ground along into the wind, some of the cars I walked past, passed me half an hour later. They probably though it was only fitting that I should suffering since I had avoided the painful wait. The first time I stopped to snack, I leaned my bike against a guard rail and sat down with my back to the wind. The second time, I went down an embankment into the shelter of some trees, but I still had to keep everything in my 'food' bag or it would blow away.

After about five miles, the road turns east and riding was better
Later in the ride, the wind seemed to shift around to the east

I stopped for the last time, some five miles from Alytus, to drink the last of the one liter cherry coke I bought in Poland. I was very tired and the energy burst from that coke helped me crank on into town. The first part of Alytus I saw was a large group of very ugly soviet style apartment buildings. Then came a mundane looking commercial strip, then I turned - tourist info 1.5 km that a way - and things got better. The central area of town is not old and it is quite pleasant. Lots of folks were walking, but it felt much more laid back than a similar area in Augustow I bicycled through yesterday. I t will be interesting to see how different Vilnius feels.

Roads here are similar in quality to roads in Poland, but often have a shoulder
Traffic was light and there would have been no problem without the shoulders

At the restaurant, It cost 13.50 for a nice lunch with a large beer and good coffee afterwards. That is 13.5 Litu. Litu are about 2.75 to the dollar, so that is five bucks for meal that would have cost at least three times that much in the US. Food here seems cheaper than in Poland, but beer is a little more expensive. My room is 60 L or $22, which is also a little cheaper than it would be in Poland. I don't think that includes breakfast ;-{, but the restaurant is close and it opens at 9, which my body thinks is 8, so I'll be OK.

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