Day 103 - Jurbarkas to Silute: A rocky ride - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

April 28, 2015

Day 103 - Jurbarkas to Silute: A rocky ride

It's a good thing the rain came back today because I noticed I'm developing some really weird tan lines around my gloves: dark finger ends, wristbands, and a round patch near the base of each thumb. What's really weird is that my hands are tanning instead of burning. My face is still burning if I get careless about applying sunblock, even at this relatively northern latitude.

Despite the promise of rain, I was full of anticipation this morning. After months of looking obliquely at Russia, through ex-Soviet countries, through news of Putin, through crumbling communist apartment buildings, through statues of Lenin, through Ladas, after circling Russia for so long, I was finally going to get a glimpse. I took a detour into Smalininkai, found the river, and eagerly looked across. I saw trees. The same kind of trees they had in Lithuania.

Surprisingly satisfied with this, I turned my attention back to rocks and all the ways they are used and displayed in Lithuania. (If you haven't already, go back and read the previous two days.) Sculptures all seem to incorporate rocks, more or less unaltered, though I did see one with a square hole in it. Then there are driveway markers, some with reflectors. There's landscaping, of course. I decided to take photos of some of the most well-presented. First is the water level measuring station, composed of rock, and designated as a national monument of significance:

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Next we have a fence and several guard rocks outside a house:

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Here is a particularly elaborate bit of landscaping:

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I suddenly realized that what I hadn't seen was a single rock just lying around unused. This concerned me, and I started to wonder what became of them all. I soon got an answer in the form of a large memorial rock I passed.

With apologies to the family of Augustinas Povilaitis for incorporating his memorial rock into a joke.
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My Lithuanian is pretty bad, but I think this translates as: This memorial rock is dedicated to the wild rocks of Lithuania. Prized for their especially rock-like qualities, they have been harvested for centuries, greatly enriching the cultural heritage of Lithuania. Unfortunately, as demand grew, wild rocks were severely over-harvested. They became scarcer and scarcer, and it is believed the last wild rock was harvested in 2003. There are over a million rocks in captivity in Lithuania. An earlier program to reintroduce captive rocks into the wild failed due to widespread poaching, for although the value of a wild rock is low on the black market, there are currently no laws against poaching wild rocks.

I was really entertaining myself with rock-spotting until I smelled something burning, which drew this to my attention:

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Fast forward a few hours because nothing happened in between, except rain, and I arrived in front of the tourist office in Silute, in search of a better price than the one the hotel had quoted. The sign on the door said they close at 17:00. I checked my watch: 16:59. I ran inside before they could lock the door, but they said there were no cheaper options except for the tourism school. I gladly went to the tourism school, but it was closed. Back to the hotel, where I had to wait outside the now-locked door. I rang the bell, nobody came, but I delayed going to the restaurant entrance because I could see, in the glass in front me, the reflection of all the people walking past on the sidewalk. And what those people were invariably doing was staring at me, intently and thoroughly. They don't do that when they think I can see them. Interesting. And kind of funny that I could watch them unnoticed while they watched me, while they thought they were watching me unnoticed.

I'll be sure to scream in terror on the way down
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Another smooth transition from bike path to road
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Today's ride: 102 km (63 miles)
Total: 5,395 km (3,350 miles)

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