Day 47, Robert Mink's house to Szczecin, PL

I'm in Szczecin, a town on the Polish side of the German/Polish border about 100 km south of the Baltic. I 'rode' here today on the train from Wroclaw and I will ride out of here tomorrow on my bike, headed for Hamburg. I'm staying at an over priced *** hotel near the center of town - that double the price when you stay in town syndrome - where I just a had an excellent light supper. I think I'll have a good night here even though it it is over priced and doesn't have the internet access - even wireless - it claimed to have ;-{. That is not a big deal since I've had excellent net access the past several days while staying with Robert Mink.

I got to Robert's house early Friday afternoon and today, Monday, Robert and I rode to the railway station a few miles from his house and took the train to Wroclaw. That ride and rail trip is now part of Roberts standard commute. After we got to Wroclaw, Robert was kind enough to help me purchase the tickets for me and my bike to Szczecin. That sort of thing is doable but difficult in Poland if you don't know Polish. It is really good to have Polish speaking friend at the train station.

My trip today was not uneventful. some of the events occurred while waiting for the train - which was delayed by and hour and a half by some problem - accident? - east of Wroclaw. Robert was kind enough, and had a flexible enough schedule today so that he could, wait with me for most of that time. During our wait he also bought me food for my trip. Robert is a very generous host. He is also a heck of a tourist and a really fascinting guy.

The other events of the day happened while getting on the train in Wroclaw and getting off in Szcsecin. I barely caught the train because it came in sooner that they said it would and because it didn't have a bike car. I didn't realize until literally the last minute that it was the train I needed to be on. I rushed over, with my bike, and spoke to the conductor just as the trian was strting to pull away. He initially said "you can't be on this train, we don't have a bike car" but, when I showed him my ticket, he stopped the train and we ran together down the train to the last car, which was where my seat was located, and I, running with my loaded bike like it was a cyclecross bike, got my bike on the train at the front of that car. The conductor said to leave it there, so I did. The only problem that led to was some minor damage to my front fender extension where I mount my compass. The extension is flexible plastic glued to rack hoop and the fender and it was partially torn loose from the hoop. I re-glued it tonight.

At the other end of the trip, I had to get my bike out of the car by myself and then carry it up and over a three flight stairway that went over the tracks. Getting it out was tricky since I almost had to drop it and catch it - the train only stays in the station for a minute or two and the stair down from the car is very steep - and carrying it over the train track was really hard work.

Tonight, after supper, when I had a hard time straightening my lower back, I realized that somewhere in this process - probably getting the bike off the train or carrying it over the train tracks, I did some harm to my back. Train travel with a loaded bike can be dangerous for your back...

This was my third visit with Robert and his wife Marta. The first two visits were in Debica, a town in southeastern Poland. Robert recenty moved his family to a lovely home in a village north of Wroclaw so he could spend more time at home with his wife, Marta and their two year old daughter. That home is surrounded by a beautiful state forest and is in an area that has long been a place where wealthy people from Wroclaw built 'get-away'villas. Its is very pretty abd very peacful, but only half an hour away from Wroclaw which is one of the nicest cities in Poland, and the most German city.

I didn't mention it in my web page / ride report about getting to Robert's house, but about 10 km before I got there, the bolt holding the bottom of the left siide of my lowrider rack to the fork broke. Since I have a lowrider rack with a hoop, which meant ther are three bolts holding each side of the rack to the fork, I only noticed the break when my front fender started rubbing the tire. The left side fender stays were mounted with that same bolt.

The bolt broke because it was a low quality bolt, which was what was available to me in Hungary to replace the high quality bolts that BA lost when they transported, and abused, my bike. Given the amount of abuse I have given those racks on this trip, I'm very thankful it didn't break in the Balkans or on that truly awful 512 in northern Poland.

I re-adjusted the other sides fender stay so that the fender didn't rub and rode on, trying not to hit too many bumps. The bolt had broken off in such a way that there was no way to get the broken part out except to drill it, so, on Friday, Robert and I worked on with the drill bits he had available, but they were not up to the job. On Saturday, we went into Wroclaw and Robert bought a couple of bits that we used on Sunday to get the broken part out. We were lucky that we managed to do that without wiping out the threads, but Robert insisted that I use a longer high quality bolt with a nut and washer on the inside of the brazeon to make sure the repair was strong enough to last. I also replaced the low quality bolt in the same position on the other side with a high quality bolt from Robert's stock. All of the tools and parts we used were provide by Robert who has a well equipped 'bike' shop and more than three decades of bicycle experience.

If I hadn't been about to stop at Robert's house, I would have kluged some temporary repair using steel wire that I carry for just such things, but then I would have had to deal with this problem when I got back to Europe next year. It is really nice to have been able, with Robert's help, to fix it properly so I don't have to worry about it later. While I was there, I also trued my front wheel using Roberts truing stand and readjusted my brakes to compensate for the, roughly 5000 km of wear on the brake pads. Neither of these things 'needed' to be done to complete this tour, but both of them are good things to have done now, rather than next year.

Finally, I just want to thank Robert for being such a interesting - we have great conversations about a wide range of topics - and generous host. I had a delightful time and a good break from my tour, and Robert just made it all happen at the same time that he was dealing with a sick child - Friday - and a sick wife - Sunday - and his wife's sister, her husband, and their two children who came on Saturday and will leave on Wednesday.

Robert has been on the Warm Showers List for more than a decade. I hope the nice things I've said about visiting him help spark your interest in touring in Poland and visiting Robert. If it has, contact him though that list.

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