Day29: Urziceni to Calarasi,RO: My last day in Romania

I'm now in a town on the Danube and tomorrow morning I will take a ferry across the Danube to get to Bulgaria. My routing was simple again today. I rode 60 km east/southeast to Slobozia, had lunch, and then rode 45 km due south to Calasari. The roads I rode were two lane roads with, mostly, a foot or two wide shoulder. Traffic was heavy in burst of half a dozen vehicles - often large trucks - at a time. The ride to Slobozia was slowed, and cooled, by moderate head/side winds. The ride to Calarasi had a moderate tail wind. It also had long stretch being paved which proved to be a problem for me.

I had a nice, cool night in Urziceni. Breakfast was good, but it was already quite warm outside. When I started riding, I was comfortable because I was back to having a headwind. It wasn't usually a strong headwind, so I was able to maintain a reasonable pace 15 to 20 kph, but I almost always had wind enough to keep me comfortable in this hot weather. I rode 40 km, stopped at a store to get some bananas and apples and a small can of coke for my first break, then rode 30 more km to Slobozia. Yesterday I could do 40 km between breaks because of the tail wind, but yesterday, and the day before, were much less pleasant riding because of the tail wind.

Heading out, direction Slobozia

The wind blasts from truck convoys were bad

The shoulder was usually fine

In my second 30 km segment, another accident happened close enough that I head the sound of sliding tires and could see that it was coming from a group of cars ahead of me. To be fair to Romania, this the third time I've ridden across this rather large country and I saw no accidents the first two times. As I rode on, I saw cars stopping on the other side of the road ahead of me. I didn't know what had happened, so I rode by those cars as people were getting out of them and crossing the highway to get to the car that had crashed. When I saw the looks on their faces, I looked to see what they were looking at. I get very focused on the road when I'm riding into traffic issues like cars stopped on the highway, so I didn't realize what had happened until I saw a car sitting upon its passenger side not far from the road. Then I connected the sliding tire sounds with the stopped cars.

I think it was a single car accident, although, given the driving patterns here and the fact that I saw a group of cars, another vehicle might have been involved. The car did not appear to have hit another vehicle. It was not seriously damaged and, unless someone had been thrown out and crushed by the car, it didn't look nearly as serious as the accident I saw on D2. As I passed that accident scene I heard no sounds from the car. This time I heard a child whimpering. I also saw the look on the face of a man, dressed in a suit, who was crossing to the accident as I passed by it.

I want to apologize for my 'rubber necking' comment I made about the previous accident. The folks that had stopped and were at the car or trying to get to the car, were there to help. Unlike most folks in the US, most Romanians don't live in a voyeur society where the reaction to an accident is morbid curiosity and fear of getting involved.

One of my earliest memories is waking up stretched across the laps of three men I didn't know in the back seat of a car on its way to a hospital. I didn't realize it at the time, but I, who was almost six years old, had run headlong into the side of a car going about 50 mph. My head hit the door handle on the passenger side and damaged it so badly that the door had to be replaced. When I got that hospital, they put over 100 stitches in my head and, only hours later, did they realize that one of my legs had both lower bones broken. I could easily have bled to death and I'm sure I ruined the clothing those men were wearing and the upholstery of the back seat of that car. I don't even know who they were or who was driving the car I was riding in. I just know that, like the folks at that accident today, they stopped and helped, and probably saved my life.

My other personal involvement is that, as a bicyclist, I am aware that there are places I bicycle, like Romania, but also like some of the places I bicycle near my home in western North Carolina, where, if I were lying by the side of the road, the first person who came along would stop to help me. And there are places, even nearer where I live, where the normal reaction would be to drive on because of fear of getting involved. I'm sure that is also true in big city Romania.

I cried a bit as I rode on after that accident. The first ambulance passed me, headed for the accident, less than five minutes later. A second ambulance wasn't far behind. Hopefully there were no really serious injuries.

Tunnel of trees

Baling hay

Loading the bales on a truck

Traffic was heavy in bursts

Wheat harvest with combine cutting wheat
and grain trucks waiting to be filled from the combine

Slobozia is the first place on this tour in Romania that I have been before. Despite having spent the night there five years ago, I really didn't recognize much of it. On that tour I cam in from the east and, I think, went out to the north. This time I came in from the west and went out to the south. There was some overlap in the middle, but not too much.

Sunflowers and trees at other end of tunnel of trees

Same road with not much shoulder
it came and went, but was mostly adequate

Sunflowers and road with rough but rideable shoulder

Harvest over, three band in a big field
Top band: farm and sunflower field
Middle band is stubble of harvested wheat
Bottom band has been plowed in same field
The white spots are birds feeding in freshly plowed field

When I headed south, my camera started doing really bad over exposures. It would still do video OK, but not still images. I knew the battery was low - and, when I got here I changed the battery and everything seems OK again - and, frankly there wasn't much scenery worth taking pictures of, so I didn't stop and dig out my other camera. The only image I really missed getting was of four neat biplanes parked in a field. I did take a video of that.

Riding south was more stressful than riding southeast had been because of heavy, fast, traffic. I wondered why all those vehicles were heading for Bulgaria, but then realized that they were headed for the big autoroute about half way to the Danube. A few km before that autoroute, everything was stopped waiting on a train crossing. I rode around the stopped cars and trucks and crossed the tracks after looking both ways carefully. I did hear a train horn later, but I made it across the autoroute before all those vehicles caught up with me, which made my riding more pleasant.

After I got across the autoroute, there were signs warning about road work. Soon I was stopped in a short line of cars and trucks waiting for a one way section of road to be open for our way. One lane was being paved. When we got to go, I cranked down that road at 28 kph, letting the other vehicles pass pass me at 50 kph. The speed limit was 40. The paving went on and on and I was all alone, pedalling my heart out. Finally, when I could actually see the end, traffic started coming from the other direction. The first car came too close for comfort and I could see much bigger vehicles coming my way. I bailed out across the freshly paved lane to get to the shoulder, which had not been paved, on the other side.

That worked, but both of my tires acquired a thick coating of asphalt. It made them feel like Marathon Pluses ;-} and, since the shoulder on the other side was covered with lose gravel from the paving process, my tires acquired another layer of gravel. As I rode down the shoulder, gravel was spraying from my tires in all directions. Thanks to fenders, it wasn't hitting me but it was not good for my ride or for the tires. I rode on till after the paving - at least a km or two more - and then stopped to clean the tires. It took me about half an hour, working with a piece of rock to get most of the asphalt and gravel off the tires. Then I rode on into Calarasi.

I'm at a busy pension in Calarasi where I think I made a mistake accepting the room next to the front door. It really made bringing my luggage in easy, but it really is noisy. The room has an air conditioner, but no remote control for it and it won't work without the remote control. It, like the refrigerator in the room, may not work at all. I'd rather do without air conditioning tonight and I think the temperature will be OK, although it is still pretty hot in here at 9:30 PM. Noise may be more of a problem, but I do have industrial strength ear plugs.