Day 33, Near Rzeszow to Nisko, PL

This morning in Rzeszow

[written this morning]

I'm near Rzeszow Poland, trying to take it easy this morning. There was heavy rain early - 5 AM - and it is now raining lightly. If it clears up before noon, I plan to ride on into Rzeszow and look for internet access. If not, I'll stay here and ride into Rzeszow tomorrow. I plan to ride through Zamosc and on to Chelm in the next couple of days. From Chelm, I'll ride north along the eastern edge of Poland.

Although yesterday was relatively short - 6 hrs of pedalling and 100 km - it did have a lot of climbing. My body is fatigued and, although I feel OK while riding, I'm so groggy at the end of each day that I have a hard time functioning. Last night I stopped riding around 4:30, cleaned up and rested before supper at around 6:30, then had to rest again after supper before I could work on the web page. I still haven't managed to take the rest day I've needed for the past four days.

My LHT is holding up better than I am ;-}. After over 2000 miles on this tour it has developed no mechanical problems. Other than the routine cleaning and lubing the chain - a five minute process with Extreme Lube - three times and adding air to the tires every week or two, I've done no maintenance and only made a few minor adjustments.

I do have some minor shifting problems, but I think they are the result of British Airways luggage abuse. They really beat up the drivetrain side of my bike. The big ring was bent inward beyond the middle ring, the shift lever was rotated 90 degrees, the chain stay was dented and, I'm guessing, there was some damage done to the rear derailleur.

If I were using indexed shifting, I'd be having serious problems, but since I don't use indexing, the rear shifts cleanly 99% of the time and I just have to adjust the shifter carefully when it acts up. The most annoying thing is it sometimes bounces back and forth between gears rather than shifting cleanly. I can always get a solid gear by carefully adjusting the shift lever, but sometimes it takes several adjustments.

The chain can skip when it goes back and for between gears and when that happens and I've had a foot come off a pedal. Yesterday, both feet came off when the chain skipped in the middle of a steep climb and I ended up standing on the pavement straddling the bike. I know that wouldn't have happened if I were clipped in, but I also know I would have crashed when my front tire slid out on me in Croatia if I had been clipped in. I'm definitely better off without clipless pedals or clips.

Speaking of pedals, I love the Keen Fisherman's Sandal - Crank Brothers 5050X pedal combination. This is, by far, the best shoe/pedal combination I have toured with. My feet stay in place - except under severe chain skip ;-{ - but I can move them forward or backward and in and out as I ride. Mostly, I ride with the pedal axles much farther back - under the front of my foot arch rather than under the ball of my foot - than I could with clipless pedals, but I sometimes pedal on the balls of my feet and other times on the arches. The stiff soles and superb footbeds of the sandals and the big platforms of the pedals, mean my feet are comfortable regardless of where the pedals are under my feet.

Shifting into the big ring can be a problem, but the granny and middle rings shift fine. I rarely need the big ring - I'm good to over 20 mph in the middle ring - so I haven't worried much about this. I can probably fix it by adjusting the derailleur stop, but then I risk having the chain shift off the outside of the big ring.

Other observations:

Both of my tires - Conti Contact (stock on LHT) on the front and Top Contact on the back - are holding up fine. The stock wheels, which I haven't touched, are also holding up fine, despite having to take a lot of abuse from bad roads.

I'm glad I don't have my handlebar bag mounted on my handlebar ;-}. It is better having it in the Townie pannier on the right rear. I keep the handlebar bag, a 1.5 l water bottle, my maps, and my food in that, open topped, pannier. Without the handlebar bag on the handlebar, the bike handles better and I have an unobstructed view of my front tire and my compass which is mounted just behind the front rack hoop. Being able to see the compass at all time has helped me detect several missed turns.

I have a bungie cord coming from the bottom of the rack up over the Townie pannier and hooked onto the left side rear of the rack top. This keeps every thing in place and, by moving the top attachment point of the bungie cord, allows easy access to that panniers contents.

I started out with food in the front of the pannier, the handlebar bag in the middle and the water bottle in the back, but now I carry the water bottle in the front. I also moved the pannier forward on the rack to further improve the weight distribution. There is room for some food - two bananas or a small loaf of bread - beside the 1.5 l water bottle and for some small food items, or a liter bottle of cola or fruit juice, behind the handlebar bag. I carry bigger items, like a loaf of bread, in my other rear pannier, on top of the handlebar bag, or on top of the rear rack, held down by the bungie cord.

This setup works very well. I can refill my water bottles without getting off the bike, and when I do get off to take a break, I have food and water easily accessible at the rear of the bike. When I leave the bike, I can take the handlebar bag, but I usually just take the ziplock bag with my passport, wallet, etc. which normally rides in the handlebar bag. I leave the handlebar bag unzipped and rely on the bungie cord to keep it closed.

The Townie comes with a rain cover which is stored in a zippered pocket under the pannier. This has proven surprisingly effective, as has my improvised 25 lb bird food bag cover, with an open bottom and a velcro closing strap, for the other rear pannier.

Speaking of rain ;-}, it is now raining lightly here and it was raining hard half an hour ago. It looks like mother nature may be suggesting I spend the day here. That is probably a good idea. The cost, allowing for the weak dollar and strong zloty, is reasonable. The room is comfortable, has a good table and chair set up for using my computer, great sound isolation, and is very large. The restaurant is good, although food prices are at US levels. They used to be less than half US levels...

Oh well, I just checked and it seems that the big party is tonight so I must ride on, in the rain if it is still raining at noon. If it is, then I hope I can find another room in Rzeszow.

[written this evening]

I ended up riding about 70 km today, half of it in light rain. I did put on my rain covers, but I never put on my rain gear, but I also never took out my camera. so I have no images. Things did clear up a bit late in the afternoon, but then it started raining again. Now, at about 6 PM, there is heavy rain and wind.

Riding through Rzeszow was not too bad once I got past the main east-west bypass maybe 5 km from my motel. Before that it was a major traffic jam most of the way. The city was pretty, but there was nothing to keep me there. The locals acted like the rain was over, so so did I.

As I left the city on highway 19, I saw a bicycle shop and stopped to check out their stock. As I expected from having seen more recreational bicyclist on the roads, they had a much better selection of road bikes - costing up to $2500 - than a similar shop I checked out in Tarnow three years ago.

Most of today's ride was on 19, but, when the light rain stopped for a while, I tried riding a smaller road - 875 - towards Zamosc. It looked pretty good when I first got on it, but, after a few miles I turned around and went back to 19. The traffic level was way too high - about half that of 19 - and included a lot of big trucks. That small road was not built to take that kind of traffic and, as a result, was in very bad condition. The whole point of taking the small road was to have a more enjoyable ride, but it was really bad riding. 19 was quite variable, sometimes great, other times construction, sometimes good shoulders, sometimes narrow lanes with no shoulders, but it was never as bad as the small road.

Once I got started riding, my exhausted body wanted to keep riding. After lunch - at a fancy service station identical to one that I ate at right before I got sick the last time I was in Poland - I started looking for place to stop. I rode for another two hours before I found one. The first place I tried wanted 50 zloty for a room that was almost unlivable. The second place I tried was full. The third place, where I did stop, is overpriced - 100 zlotys for a small, not very well maintained, room - but it feels good and. having just eaten supper, it has an excellent restaurant. I think I shall sleep well tonight.

Tomorrow, I have decided to continue on 19. This section has no shoulder, but the pavement is excellent. I'm hoping that the shoulder will come back when I get to the next gimina (county). I can, and probably will, ride this highway all the way to Bialystok amd then take E67 north to Suwalki. I now expect to stop in Lublin tomorrow. I've been there (for that matter I've been here) before and I know where an internet cafe is. When I was in Lublin before. I stayed at a fancy hotel with ethernet ports in the room, but I don't think I'll do that now since everything costs at least twice as much...

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