My shadow leading the way east to Varna
Another out of hotel experience tonight. I rode into Varna, tired, hot, and thirsty. I stopped at the first service station I came to to get something to drink. I debated between water and beer, and beer won. After opening the beer, I sat down next to a fellow who turned out to be the brother of one of the women working at the station. When one of the other workers asked me a question, I responded with my usual "I have only English and a bit of Deutsch" The fellow sitting next to me asked, in US English, where I was from. I said USA. We got talking and he invited me to spend the night at the apartment he shared with his sister. Now we are getting ready to go out to eat.
I got up about 7 and, after making a spartan breakfast from old bread and a little apple juice, broke camp and was on the road about 8. Last night I asked my host where I was, then I got him to show me on map. It looked like a 120 km -75 mile - ride to Varna with half of the riding on A2. It also looked like I might find somewhere to get breakfast about 25 km down the road.
25 km later, there was a restaurant on a lake. I stopped and asked if they were serving food and, since they were, I ordered scrambled eggs and a Mixup - eggs, cheese, peppers, and tomatoes - with a large beer to drink. While the were fixing my food, I got clean clothes and used their, quite nice, bathroom to clean up. After breakfast I brushed my teeth. The very good place I stayed last night did not have running water in its public bathroom because they were working on the plumbing. It felt really good to get clean again.
Riding was hilly, but not too hard, before I got to A2. There was a 30 mph downhill to the, current, end of A2, followed by miles of 17 mph downhill on A2. I began to wonder if this could go on all the way to the coast ;-}. Of course, it didn't and what did happen was series of ridges between big valleys. It reminded me a little of Nevada, but this ridges were much lower and the valleys contained wheat fields and other crops.
My bike in one of the valleys
At the end of the first long downhill, there was a very welcome sight, a service station. I needed to get provisons for the rest of the ride to Varna because I knew there would be no more services. The're no exits from A2 till a mile or so from Varna. I got 1.5 l of water, 1 l of fruit juice, and a sandwich for lunch. I used it all before I got to Varna.
There was a great tail wind through most of this ride. Great that is until I had to climb out of a valley. It was HOT, there was no shade, and my climbing speed roughly matched the wind speed. This caused a serious problem with over heating. I stopped several times to cool down. Finally, I stopped under an overpass and rested and cooled down for fifteen minutes. That helped, but I was still in pretty bad shape when I got to the last big valley.
A beautiful wheat field in the last valley
Looking back at the last big valley as I climbed out of it
The last big valley had a climb that went on most of the way across the valley and then the road turned and climbed up the far wall of the valley. I remove my helmet - that really helps, even with a fancy helmet - and reduced my energy output to try to keep from overheating. It was marginal until the road turned south to climb the far side if the valley. Then the tail wind became a side wind and I was able to cool down while I, slowly, climbed,
A2 climbed to the top of the ridge and then turned back east for a long descent into Varna. It was almost ten miles straight to Varna. the first five miles was a descent, now into the wind so it was slower, but also cooler. Then there was another several miles of grinding into the wind followed by few mies of gentle descent. I was out of water by that time and looking forward to getting to the first service station. There was a sign for it 10 km out of town, so I knew had far I had to go, but the riding, and the view was boring. For something to do, I took a picture of my shadow.
My new friend, Yordan, and his sister in their kitchen
My new friend, Yordan, is an electrician who, five years ago, won a lottery for a US green card. He lived in the US for two and a half years before, having just lost his job and therefore his health insurance, he injured his knee playing soccer. He came home several month ago to get his knee fixed and had just started a new job in Varna. He and his sister live in a nice apartment which his parents bought over 20 years ago. His mother died a few years ago and his father, who is my age - Yordan and his sister are also close in age to my two kids - now lives about 8 km away.
Their apartment - one of a thousand in a soviet style apartment complex - is on the top floor at one end of one the 35 buildings. Fortunately we were able to get my bike, loaded, and me into the elevator.
After visiting and cleaning up we had a very nice supper at a restaurant next to apartment complex. I learned a lot about Bulgaria, and about Yordan, during supper. Although we are very different in age and background, we quickly realized that we are very much the same in our values. It is always a little risky to commit to having someone in your home, or going to someone's home, who you have just met, but both of us felt comfortable with taking this risk with each other immediately.
After supper, we walked back to the apartment where, as Yordan said, we had a full house. Yordan's father called, while we were at the restaurant to say that he was at the apartment, and Yordan's sister had invited a friend over. We sat around the kitchen table, talking - Yordan doing the translation when I was involved - eating fruit that his father had brought over and drinking a strong peach brandy.
When it was time for bed, Yordan insisted that I sleep in his bedroom while he and his father slept in the living room. Thanks the the brandy, I went to sleep very quickly...