The view from the top of today's steepest climb
An Orthodox Church in the middle of a large, Soviet style, apartment complex in Svidnik
When I left Sanok today, I wasn't sure if I would go to Slovakia today. I was riding in a beautiful part of Poland and enjoying being in Poland. I could have stayed in Poland for another day or two before going down to Slovakia, or even have ridden due east and into the Czech Republic instead. However, I have ridden in that part of the Czech Republic and not liked it as much as riding in Poland or Slovakia and, If I went on east before going into Slovakia, I would have been riding in places I've already ridden. This way I got to see a new part of Slovakia and, even though I have ridden through Presov before, I will only overlap a few km of that ride as a I ride south-east out of here, heading for Brezno. Tonight, I'm staying at a hotel that is at the intersection of two roads I have ridden, but I've never been at this point on either road. One road goes north to Stara Lubovna and the other goes east to Poprad. Tomorrow, I'll ride a few km toward Poprad - I think briefly overlapping where I rode before, and then take a small road, 546, through the mountains south east of here.
I rode from Sanok to Miejsce Piastowe on 28, stopping at a bakery in Rymanow to pick up fresh bread and two pastries, then turned south on 9, heading for Barwiek, the town on the Polish/Slovakian border. 28 was fairly flat, but once I turned south, I had a big ridge to climb. I noticed that 9 going north to Rzeszow had a 12% grade warning. 9 going south only had 10% grades ;-} and no warning.
Despite, or maybe because of, the hills, 9 is good riding. I stopped once on 9 to eat my first pastry and drink some Hoop Cola. I stopped after a series of climbs. I leaned my bike against a guard rail and sat, in the shade, across the highway. It was very pleasant sitting there, cooling down and feeling good. When I got to the border, I stopped to eat lunch, refill my water bottles - it was hot! - and change my money. Unfortunately, they wouldn't change my Ukrainian money so I'm stuck with about 20 dollars worth. No big deal.
As I expected, the border crossing was a piece of cake, nothing like getting in to, or out of Ukraine! The border was a high spot and I got almost 800 feet vertical of, mostly, gentle downhill before I had to do any real climbing in Slovakia. Very nice, easy, and fast, riding. I did have to climb when 73 turned east after Strocin. That climb started out gentle and built up to a 'mini' pass, but still not very steep. I stopped again in the middle of that climb, to rest and eat my second pastry. This time, i leaned my bike against a small bridge and walked a short ways down the road to a patch of shade.
After an interesting descent between big trucks after the small pass, riding was easy till after I stopped for a second meal. I started looking for a place to eat as I rode through Giraltovce. I was disappointed that I had left Zlaty Bazant beer territory, but, as 73 started climbing again, I still stopped for lunch. That was a good place to eat! I ordered the 60 Korun lunch and a large beer. With coffee after lunch, it came to 102 K. I don't remember the exchange rate, but I think that that is only about 5 Zloty. My lunch was an excellent soup followed by meat with a white sauce and 'dumplings.' Slovakian dumplings are rather like a heavy white bread, and very good. The Slovak name for them is the same as the Yiddish word for dumpling.
After lunch I faced an unpleasant reality: I had eaten just before the biggest, and steepest climb of the day. It was only about 400 feet vertical, but it was marked as 12% grade and the grade was consistent all the way up. I shifted down into my 17" gear and cranked on up. I really don't think it was 12%, but it was as steep as anything I've had to deal with on this tour. I was glad I'd taken a relaxed approach to my meal and that I had had coffee afterward so that my digestive system didn't shut down on the climb.
The most exciting moment of todays ride wasn't climbing or descending. It was when the road narrowed and a guard rail replaced the shoulder just as a big truck was coming the other way. I was taking pictures as I reached that point and didn't hear the car coming from behind me until his front tires started locking up. It is always exciting to hear that happening close behind me, but, when a guard rail and a big truck limit my response to that sound, adrenaline really flows. The car made it between me and the truck and the adrenaline helped me get on down the road faster...
The rest of the ride into Presov was uneventful. After 73 becomes expressway 371, I had a 'race' with a young person on a mountain bike. I'm really not sure of their sex, but I do know they don't have my endurance ;-}. I was passed easily, but then they couldn't keep up the pace, and I passed them. When we came to a fairly steep hill, I expected to get passed again, but instead, I was able to pull away from them. Coming into Presov, I was cruising at 18 mph or so, so my aerodynamic advantage out weighed my weight and age disadvantage!
In Presov, I stopped a service station to buy an expensive - it cost more than twice what my lunch cost - map and ask about hotels. I got good advice on a reasonably priced hotel that is right on my route. It is hot and noisy, but the heat is everywhere and my route is a main drag, so those things come with the territory. My room has a good desk and chair for me to work at, something I really miss now with a (still) sore back. My bike is in my 7th (8th in the US) story room, but I used the elevator to get it and my stuff up here. I needed to re-Goop my front rack. It broke loose in Ukraine after surviving miles of cobblestone in Portugal! This isn't serious - I have it wired in place as well as Gooped in place, but the Goop does keep it from moving around a bit. i also lubed my chain for only the second time on this tour. I've had very little riding in the rain, so I haven't needed to relube much.
The map, although expensive, is good because it shows the topography of Slovakia. It s very nice to be able to see, in detail, where I'm going to have to do some serious climbing! Speaking of climbing, todays ride was 90 miles in seven hours with 3100 feet of climbing. That is an average speed of 12.5 mph which is pretty good with that much climbing. The roads were good and the wind was mostly at my back today.