Day 39, Ketrzyn to Braniewie, PL

My hero today is my LHT, shown here shortly after riding the worst 20 km of road
I've ever ridden. Note that the Townie pannier is hanging by only its front hook.
The bungie cord, which is under the rain cover, has kept it from falling off

It wasn't the best of day of this tour - that may have been yesterday - or the worst day, but it was the day I rode 20km of road that was worse than the worst road I had ever ridden. It was also the day that I met and visited with two German and one Polish tourist and the day that I found a bus shelter, to kept me dry, just as the rain started.

Starting about 9:30

The day started very well with a good breakfast, the purchase of good pastries for snacks, and half an hour at the internet place which didn't open till 9 AM. I left Ketrzyn, headed for Bartoszyce, at 9:30. I had about 80 miles - 130 km - to ride today, with almost no services except at Bartoszyce and Braniewie. The weather was great, although there was a moderate south wind, and the road to Bartoszyce was newly paved and very smooth riding.

I stopped about 30 km out and ate one of the pastries. It had chocolate on it and my hands and face got messy. I was sitting on the gravel behind my bike, washing my hands and face when two, fully loaded , touring bikes went by. They said hello, and I looked up as they passed me. I called out and they stopped 20 feet down the road They were two, recently retired, Germans, one from Berlin and the other from near Tubingen where my daughter Adriane lives now. They were headed for Tallin, Estonia and had just tried, and failed, to go there via Kallingrad. Since they couldn't go through Kallingrad - a detached part of Russia - they were going around it. We talked for at least half an hour about touring. In particular, we talked about riding along the Baltic in Poland and Germany. They highly recommend that I ride the Baltic radweg on my way to Hamburg.

When I got to Bartoszyce, I looked for a place to eat, There wasn't much, so I settled for Pizza - Grill place that turned out to a fast food place. I did see a hotel in the centrum, so you could stay there, but it (and Braniewie) are not nearly as big or as fun as Ketrzyn.

Finding 512, the road I wanted heading west from Bartoszyce, was also a bit tricky, Fortunately my map does a good job of showing how the roads leading to a city are interconnected, so I was able to figure out that I needed to head north - towards Kallingrad - cross a river and then turn left. When I did I found that 512 was a bumpy small road.

The start of 512

I had over 30 miles to ride on 512, so I wasn't real pleased about the poor pavement. Little did I know that about 15 miles later, I would have been very thankful for some pavement as good as the start of 512.

The pavement on the first half of 512 usually looked like this

512 had light traffic which meant I could usually avoid the bumpy bits. It was a bit hilly and ran through wheat fields and woods - nice riding most of the time. There were a few trucks, but most of the light traffic was cars and caravans - European RVs. When I got roughly to the middle of 512, there was road going off to Kallingrad that about half of the traffic seemed to be taking. That traffic did include a TIR truck or two.

I was watching rain to the south as I rode the middle of 512. It looked like it was coming my way. As I rode a hill the rain reached me, but, simultaneously, reached a bus shelter at the top of the hill. I was ready for a break anyway, so I pulled into the shelter - it was a big one - and took my break while watching the rain. After half an hour and three waves of heavy rain, it cleared up from the south and I rode on in very light rain. There aren't many bus shelters on 512, so I was very lucky to have just when I needed it. After the rain there was no wind for a while. That was was also lucky for me because the wind had been coming across the road pretty strongly and I would have gotten hit by a lot more road spray if it hadn't died down.

A nice looking wheat field

Grain storage

The villages on the initial part of 512 did not look prosperous, but now the villages and small towns looked like they were doing well. The main economic base seem to be wheat and some cattle, but I also saw a large Spinal Cord Injury Rehab hospital near one of the towns.

Then I ran into this

And this
Then the pavement got much worse than this!

Then I saw a sign warning about bad pavement and the road surface simply disintegrated into a potholed and patched mess that was barely rideable. It periodically - usually in towns - got better for short stretches and then went to hell again for the rest of 512, some 20 km. The really bad parts probably totalled 10 km. On those parts the road was simply a mass of potholes and patches with NO continuous pavement. It was unbelievably bad. My bike and I took quite a beating for the next hour and a half. The LHT took it with no damage. I can't say the same for me since my seat area and my hands really got bruised.

The end of 512

When this particular bicycling hell finally ended, I stopped to rest and snack in Pleniezo. I took a picture of my bike to celebrate its durability and noticed that my Townie pannier was hanging down at the back. Its rear hook had come off the rack somewhere on that mess of a road but the bungee cord I use to hold it closed had kept that from causing a problem. I put the hook back on the rack and then I dropped my camera again as I sat down to snack. After that the TZ-3 wouldn't power on at all and I worried about how I was going to replace it in Poland. Fortunately, I worked on it after I got to Braniewie and it is now functional again. I hope it will last for the rest of this tour...

On my way to Braniewie, I met a Polish tourist who is 'riding around the edge of Poland.' We didn't have much common language, but he was doing most of what I had just done so I could tell him what roads to avoid - 512! - and what roads were really nice.

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