Day 04, Tour08, Near Beocin, SRB to Between Bijeljina and Tusla, BIH

A Sign at Fuska Gora National Park

Today was, by far, the best day of this tour, even though it started badly - waking up after too little sleep as the sun poured into my rip-off room. The winds this morning were really strong, creating some of the hardest riding conditions I've ever ridden in, but, even in those harsh conditions the riding itself was really special. When the riding was no longer special this afternoon, my body had switched into bicycling-machine mode which makes it much easier for me to just do what needs to be done.

There was no prospect of breakfast, or any other service, this morning, but the gate was unlocked so I left at 6:30. Traffic was bad - commuter traffic - until after Beocin. I had intended to ride into Beocin, but the traffic and the wind convinced me to skip it and just continue up the Danube. I was thinking I might ride into Croatia and then head south to Bosnia. Since I had had nothing to eat, except some great cherries Sandra had given me when I left Subotica, since lunch yesterday, I was looking for a place, hopefully like the bakery in Subotica ;-}, to get something to eat for breakfast.

Riding along the Danube above Beocin was great

I stopped twice at places that looked promising but, although every one I interacted with was friendly. found nothing to eat. Then I rode into a town, right on the Danube, where the road ran 'right into' a small grocery store. It was obviously a good place since lots of people were coming and going from it as I rode up. I went inside, bought bread, bananas, and yogurt for breakfast, and sat down outside, next to my bike, to eat and look at the map I bought yesterday in Novi Sad. I was looking at a route through Croatia when a man came up and asked me about my trip.

We didn't have much common language, but he taught me a few words in Serbian - left and right - and convinced me I should ride to Bosnia in Serbia rather than go through Croatia. He said "The map you have is wrong, so I'll make you a map that will work." Then he went into the store and came back with piece of paper on which he drew the route I should take. While drawing, and making sure that I understood what he was drawing, he mentioned Fuska Gora and a big hill, but I thoought he was saying I shouldn't go up that hill. That turned out not be the case.

My new map had me going three km further up the Danube, then turning left and going for ten km before I turned again. When I made that first left turn, I realised that I was turning right into the strong - 10 to 15 mph with higher gusts - wind. It was very slow riding - I was working hard to do 6 mph - and the thought occured to me that I should turn back and continue the much easier ride up the Danube. I didn't turn back because I'm stubborn, and becuase of the fact that the valley I was slowing grinding up was drop dead beautiful.

I had ten km to ride up that valley, and I figured it would take me an hour. In addition to wind, the road surface was slowing me down and beating me up. Still, it was great ride! After 7 km or so, the road turned 90 degrees and began climbing out of the valley and over a big ridge. That is when I saw the sign and realized that big ridge was Fuska Gora. The climb was steep - long sections of sustained 10% grade interspersed with gentler sections - but it was through a forest so tall and dense that it completely blocked the wind and the road surface was very good. I was very thankful that the wind was blocked since I don't think I could have climbed that grade into that wind on a rough road! I missed the lower gearing on my Cannondale, but the LHT was very stable climbing at 3.5 mph. There was very little traffic on that climb, but several car were obviously driving near their limits as they came by me fast and close. On the way up, I saw several memorials to folks who had exceeded their limits on that road.

Near the top of the climb on a section where the slope was less steep

When I got to the top., I was chilly and my shirt was soaked with sweat, so I put on my wind vest for the, equally steep, ride down the other side. However, there was a crossroads on the other side, a hundred feet or so from the top. My map called for me to turn there. I did and was confronted with more climbing ;-}. That part of the ride today felt like riding the Blue Ridge Parkway without most of the views. The few views that were there were really nice, as was a park like area I pulled of into to take a break and eat some bread and cherries. At the end of that section, I was instructed to turn left and ride back down to a town on the edge of the plains on the other side of Fruska Gora. It was a nice ride, which ended on long cobblestone street, and being back on the plain and headed west meant fast riding with a good wind, but I was sad to have to leave the beauty of Fuska Gora.

I rode east to Erdvik and, after failing to find anything to eat there ;-{, headed south towards Bosnia. The road was almost down to Romanian standards, but it got me to Kumin where, after another search for food, I managed to some Bureq and beer. Bureq is the traditional fast for Bosnia and it is quite good. After eating - sitting on the sidewalk in front of the hole-in-the-wall store - I rode on south towards the bordertown of Raca . That road was fantastic, the best road I've ridden in Serbia.

When a good road goes bad

The best road in Serbia goes to Bosnia

The border crossing was interesting, When I got to the Serbian side, one of the two custom men said something about 'Bravo' for bike touring. Serbians are really into bicycling, and that makes touring in Serbia easier. After I cleared the Serbian side, I had to ride over a big river on a railroad bridge! They are building a new car bridge, but the current bridge is a railroad bridge with pavement added on both sides of and between the tracks. I assume the old car bridge was destroyed in the war. On the Bosnian side, there is a very nice border station setup, but no other services, so I had no way to change money. I had to ride all the way to Bijeljina before I found a Bankomat to get Bosnian money from.

A new Orthodox church I rode by on the way to Bijeljina

In Bijeljina, I had a large restaurant meal. I looked at the available places to stay, but none of them appealed to me so I decided to ride on towards Tuzla. My waiter at the restaurant warned me that there was 400 m - over 1700 feet - ridge to climb over on the way, but I was feeling strong so I said 'No big deal.' As I rode through town, I saw there were storms to the south of town. I stopped at a service station just before the south end of town to ask about places to stay on the way to Tusla. They said it was 16 km to the first place, so I put the rain covers on my rear panniers and headed for Tusla.

The road south from Bijeljina

It was an exciting ride. My body was working well and the traffic wasn't too bad after the first five km or so. There were lightening strikes ahead and big trucks slipping by me while I rode on the, often bumpy and sometimes wet, edge of the road. Bosnians don't bicycle like the Serbs, so I was in a somewhat less bike friendly environment under conditions that would have been dangerous in the US - narrow road, heavy traffic, no shoulders, but weren't dangerous in Bosnia as long as none of us made a mistake ;-}. There was intermittent light rain and several miles of wet road in the first 15 km, but the rain had become steady before I saw the first Sobe (room) sign on a nice looking restaurant. I pulled in and, despite some language difficulties, got an inexpensive room for 15 E including breakfast. I also got, due to language limitations ;-}, a big meal I didn't need less than two hours after I had eaten in Bijeljina.

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