Day 101 - Vilnius to Kaunas: Well, that was easy - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

April 26, 2015

Day 101 - Vilnius to Kaunas: Well, that was easy

Today was supposed to be tough: 100 somewhat hilly kilometres on a busy highway into a partial headwind. I behaved accordingly last night and went to bed early so I could leave at 8:00, hopefully somewhat rested.

My Sunday morning departure strategy worked like a charm again, as I had no trouble negotiating the quiet streets, and the expressway interchanges that are usually not a good idea for cyclists were not a problem. Exiting Vilnius was far easier than entering, and it got even better when a massively wide shoulder started (I guess that's more of a breakdown lane than a shoulder).

Although the road was a bit hilly, with a smooth road and a huge buffer between me and traffic, I was able to take full advantage of the descents and thus made great time, particularly as the route was simple and I didn't have to stop to check the GPS. I went 60 km by noon, which is when the wind started to slow me down, but only a little.

Even with the intermittent headwind and a lakeside break where people stared at me, I was off the expressway by 14:30, about 90 km into the ride. So this is how it's done! I suddenly feel like I've moved up a notch in the touring world. No longer am I a foolish girl with no business being on a loaded bike, I am now a Touring Cyclist.

Of course, my newfound smugness didn't last long, because the headwind was much stronger in Kaunas and the roads were bad in the outskirts, as were the things that tried to pass themselves off as sidewalks. Not only was I suddenly moving quite slowly, I also managed to bike right into a gaping crack in the road while I was staring at a weird pile of suspended rocks.

And then there were the roundabouts. I think I've encountered two roundabouts in my entire driving career, complete with oh-no-a-roundabout-what-do-i-do moments, but on the bike, I've been enjoying them. They're far safer than making a left turn in traffic and far quicker than walking my bike on the pedestrian crossings. So Kaunas' multi-lane roundabouts came as a horrible, bewildering surprise. I think I've seen a few multi-lane roundabouts before, but either they've been in light traffic or there were bike lanes. In the end, I had to demote myself from Touring Cyclist to Pedestrian with Bicycle.

When I was a few kilometres from the centre, half a dozen men biked past on the sidewalk. One of them, with blond hair and wayfarer-type sunglasses--a common look in Lithuania for 20-somethings--struck up a conversation and biked with me on the road for a bit. He couldn't believe what I was doing and asked to take a photo with me because he wanted to remember meeting me. I agreed, and he went off to catch up with his friends and didn't come back, so I continued biking. They caught up with me when I was close to the hostel, and we took a group photo, then the guy who had talked to me earlier wanted a photo of the odometer on my bike computer. It was his birthday and they were going for beers. He asked if I wanted to join them, but I wanted to stop at the hostel first.

Walking around a couple hours later, tons of people sitting outside because it was the second warm day of the year, I passed by three of the guys who were still finishing up their drinks, the birthday boy seeming like he'd had a few more than the others. He grabbed a chair for me and asked what I wanted to drink. I said I'd try a Lithuanian beer. He turned to the waitress to order for me and said in English, "A Lithuanian beer!" I talked to them for a while, then they went off to the emergency room because the Russian had hurt his leg pretty badly on their earlier bike ride. Laid-back Lithuania: drinks first, urgent medical attention second.

"The stone will remind passers-by about the honorable profession and work of those who built our roads."
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The picnic area was in ruins and busy, but still a nice place to take a break now that all the trees have that spring-green sheen. Excuse the crooked horizon--screen brightness was too low for me to see the image.
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I dare you to stand under that
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Today's ride: 103 km (64 miles)
Total: 5,203 km (3,231 miles)

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