Day21: Stryi to about 15 km before Ivano-Frankivisk, UA: A very hard, short day

After yesterdays long day, I figured I'd have an easier day to Ivano-Frankivisk which was about 100 km away. That didn't work out. I ended up stopping after 75 km, simply because I could stop, in the woods, and I didn't want to continue pushing my very tired, and somewhat beat up, body up those damned hills on bad roads in heavy traffic. N-10 (H-10 in cyrillic) is the road I will be riding for most of the rest of my time in Ukraine. It is, in terms of traffic, an expressway - the major route through this part of Ukraine. Some of the time, it has good pavement and even shoulders like the real expressways. Most of the time, it does not.

Nice N-10 at the start of the day

Not so nice N-10 heading east a few km later

When N-10 is bad, it isn't nearly as bad as the small roads I rode yesterday. But, on those small roads I could pick my path through the bad pavement. On N-10, I usually just have to take what is left on the edge of the road or go off the road onto the dirt lane beside it. As a result, both my bike and I took much more abuse today than yesterday even though the road was 'better'

This morning, after a tricky route through Styri, I crossed the river and rode an expressway south for 10 km or so. While I was crossing the bridge a young, fast, woman bicyclist saluted me as she flew past me. I think she knew what I was getting into.

Using my Gps to find the name of a city

Climbing out of that city


Entering Ivano Frankivisti 'county'

N-10 started as nice riding on smooth pavement with shoulders. Then N-10 left that road and the bad pavement began. It got better and worse and some times was even nice riding, but the only consistent thing was that good pavement never lasted and traffic kept increasing. There were long stretches where I simply rode in the dirt because the paved part I could ride on, if there was any, was much worse to ride than the dirt.

The contrast with yesterdays off expressway ride was obvious. I saw three hotels and at least than many cafes in Morshyn, the first city I rode through after I left Stryi. It also had a pedestrian mall and a big park. There were lots of folks out and about every where in Morshyn. Yesterday, going through only very small towns, I saw people working and people waiting for buses or walking to/from bus stops. Busses are the primary way people get around here. I saw no recreational walking and shopping activity like in Stryi or Morshyn.

Nice downhill after a LOT of climbing

Romanian type Haystack under construction
Where I took a snack break

Full Romanian type Haystack


Riding was flat, sort of along a river, before N-10 left the expressway out of Styri. after that it got progressively hillier till, at roughly 50 km, it reached a plateau and was flat for at least 5 km. It was also well paved and, as it often does, my mind decided that the hard climbing was over. Of course, just like good paving, flat riding never lasts in this area. I am, roughly, riding the piedmont next to mountains. Today, it seemed like I was riding a bit too close to the mountains. That made for beautiful views and lots of hard climbs.

Traffic builds up

Lots of deep valleys to cross

More pretty, 46 km and about five hours from where I started

Yet another, 2 km ,10% grade, climb

And another descent into a pretty city with very bumpy streets

Modern interpretation of traditional Ukranian Orthodox church

The climbs were typically about 2 km long at 8 to 10% grades. Doing that on a good road is hard enough, but doing it on broken pavement or in rocky dirt makes it harder. Of the top of my head - I wasn't counting - I'd say I climbed at least half a dozen of those 2 km ish climbs and many, many, smaller climbs. My legs feel like I've climbed a mile vertical today.

I did have two nice encounters with local folks on the road today. I also had good interactions with the hotel staff last night and this morning. The woman at the reception desk last night said the usual "I'm ukranian. I speak Ukraine." but then we easily worked out what I wanted, what it cost, where the bike would go, etc. She did put me in the worst - top floor far end - for wifi, even knowing that I would be using it ;-}. The staff this morning included one young woman who spoke some English, but, after giving me coffe and a menu with English open to breakfasts, she dissapeared. Two older women took my order, discusssed some complications, and served me a good breakfast.

When I stopped for lunch at a cafe in the last big town on my route, we had the same language issues, and I resolved part of them by pointing to food on another customers plate. The other thing I ordered was borscht - Ukrainian standard food - and pivo, beer. After I got my food, I realized that the dumpling were pierogi, Russian version, and that I can also use that word here.

My new front racks are really taking a beating today
So I moved a lot of weight - tools and stuff - out of them and onto the rear rack

Nice riding, but the pavement goes bad where that truck is

Another good section ends...

After lunch, riding on a not so good road, I overtook a local bicyclist of roughly my own age. Our speeds sort of matched, and he knew best paths through the patches and potholes, so it was good to follow him. We switched lead back and forth a few times and then he started talking as we rode. No common language, but it worked and finally we stopped so we could talk more easily.

As I said earlier, as I got closer to Ivano-Frankivisk, the traffic got heavier. Now, at 8 PM, it sounds like E40 did from my camp near the Polish border a few nights ago, Actually it sounds louder because the rough road causes trucks to make even more noise.

After climbing this hill, I started looking for a place to camp

Speaking of noise, I heard someone walk by my camp about 45 minutes ago. They couldn't miss seeing my tent. This area is pretty open under the canopy of big trees. I heard them pause briefly as they saw it and then walk on. I got here by a route through dense vegetation, but, after I got here, I realized that there is a small road coming off on N-100 about 100 ft away. I'm not visible from that road either, but it does provide easy foot access to this woods. In rural Ukraine, people walk a lot through the fields and the woods, and I was conscious of that fact when I tried to find a place which no one would walk by. I failed, but, given that I choose to trust people, the fact that this sort of camping is legal here, and that I think this is a polite and gentle culture, I'm not moving my camp. It is, other than noise from the road, a very nice place to camp. No great views, but very peaceful and completely shielded from N-10 by about 100 feet of dense vegetion. No one could see my tent from the road even if I had it lighted with a a high wattage light bulb. Tomorrow, I'll ride on into Ivano-Frankivisk for breakfast and then continue on east towards Chernivtsi, about 150 km away. Given that I'll be riding N-10 for most of the way, I won't make it there tomorrow. Hopefully, I can get close enough so that I can make it the next day and then go on into Romania