Day 17 - Stobi to Prilep: Into the mountains - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

February 1, 2015

Day 17 - Stobi to Prilep: Into the mountains

It was still raining when I woke up. I took my time eating and packing up, and it was still raining. I'm used to this by now.

Originally, I thought I'd go straight to Skopje. Then I remembered that having a bike is supposed to make things more accessible, not less. I wasn't going to let mountain passes or snow or snow on mountain passes get in my way: I was going to bike to Ohrid.

When I left 'camp', the rain almost immediately got heavier and the wind was in my face. My waterproof gloves are waterproof only in the sense that the fabric does not dissolve in water, but the insulation is enough to keep my fingers warm at that temperature, probably 5 degrees Celsius. And the plastic bags on my feet keep the wind off. I stopped at a gas station restaurant for a big, hearty meal and was offered soup. Not great mountain food, but at least it was cheap. I lingered until I realized the sun had come out and vapour clouds were coming off my bike. But literally the instant I got my second foot clipped in, the rain started again.

There was lots of flooding, even orchards and side roads were underwater. Oncoming cars had snow on them from wherever they were parked overnight. The road crawled up, and eventually the rain stopped and fortunately didn't start again. Slowly, up. The two lane road became a three lane road, which was great, but that disappeared for a while before it resumed closer to the pass.

I pulled into a small parking area for a break and was immediately set upon by two vocal dogs. But when I stopped moving, they stopped. When I got off the bike, one looked up at me adoringly and the other lay down and nuzzled my shoe. I don't understand how I went from intruder to alpha dog so quickly, but I'll take it.

This, my first mountain pass, was tough enough, but I had to deal with gusty headwinds, too! The wind stopped me completely a couple times, and I spent a lot of time pushing the bike. Without that wind, I doubt I would've been able to bike all the way to the top, but I would've biked more, for sure. Slow and extremely difficult. There was snow at this point, though the road was clear. There was lots of gravel on the road, which is a good sign--if there's a snowstorm, at least these main roads will be maintained.

The road went up for what felt like forever. Every time I thought I was getting close, I rounded a curve and saw more never-ending up. Finally near the top, I stopped at a restaurant and had that big meal I wanted earlier, and then continued, resigned to mostly pushing the bike. I reached the top just in time, as I was losing daylight quickly with the cloud cover and didn't want to be on that road in the dark.

Descended into Prilep, slowly because the wind was blowing me around, and found a cheap hotel. I had planned to camp but didn't want to be caught out tired and with wet gear because the temperature will probably drop below freezing--it was below freezing on the pass, but I was working so it wasn't an issue. Might have to deal with some icy cables in the morning. This is an untested bike--will water get into inconvenient places and then freeze? In just-below-freezing wet weather, will my cleats freeze to the pedals? Probably best to wear normal shoes if I get into that kind of weather...

I have mixed feelings about today. Wind, rain, and an endless climb vs very nice scenery, a firsthand look at a difficult winter, and the relief when I finally reached the top. I'm torn between being proud of myself for not turning back and scolding myself for doing something I knew was beyond my capabilities. Though now that I'm lying down I actually feel pretty good.

One down, four mountain passes to go.

I can sort of see the mountains looming
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Some of the flooding I saw
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Looking back near the pass
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I raised my arms not in victory, but so I could say I reached 1000m
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Scott AndersonHey, I have to remember that little trick. Nice!
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1 year ago

Today's ride: 57 km (35 miles)
Total: 936 km (581 miles)

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