Day 26 - Debar to Gostivar: I'm not in the mood - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

February 10, 2015

Day 26 - Debar to Gostivar: I'm not in the mood

The night was cold. I had to put my down jacket in my sleeping bag, around my feet, to ensure I still had toes in the morning. That worked really well and I'm glad I finally used it for something. I used it again before the day was over, but as the jacket it was intended to be.

Despite the chill, I started the day in my bike shoes, with my feet double bagged for warmth. I soon switched to one plastic bag per foot because two bags were too bulky and restricted circulation. Still, my feet were cold. Kids, don't try this at home. If I wasn't so experienced at freezing my feet in winter, letting my feet get that cold would be really risky. I almost had to switch to my hiking boots but the weather finally warmed up enough.

My water was mostly frozen. Luckily there were numerous taps in the national park for frequent refills and I didn't have to waste precious daylight melting ice. There were many icy and/or slushy patches on the road, most of them okay to ride through. Or would be okay if not for the slush freezing on my brakes and rims, making me glad it was all uphill. Actually, the hill made things worse because the standard advice is to use the brakes to clean slush off the rims, which is no easy task when Gravity is hanging around.

Just like yesterday, the road followed a river, upstream this time. But not really. It soared way above the river, plunged back down, and repeated that pattern incessantly. Like yesterday, the views were nice, though not immediately. The first section of the road surface from Debar was terrible, the quality improving dramatically at the entrance to Mavrovo National Park, the scenery following an hour later. Without leaves on the trees to obscure the rock, the mountains are even more impressive.

After a relatively gradual climb, the road became steep and I spent a lot of time walking. It started snowing before I reached the lake, which marked the end of the hard part (or so I thought), so I was really glad to reach the lake and its village. More accurately, I was really glad to reach the restaurant where I wolfed down a big meal. I think eating that much in the middle of a bike ride is frowned upon, but I've been enjoying big lunches and intend to keep eating them on hilly days.

I'm not sure if this comes across in the journal, writing it from the comfort of the end of the day, but I get *cranky* when I'm tired and the road is still going up. Especially with cold rain or snow blowing in my face. Miserable enough that if I wasn't solo at the start, I would be by now. So the steady stream of people trying to stop me so they can talk, particularly when I am struggling up a hill and they are driving right beside me, gets irritating fast. Particularly so because most of them just want to gawk or tell me it's too cold to bike ("But it's minus 3!! Don't you know it's cold out?"). There are occasional offers of help, often while I'm pedalling.

At the restaurant, I waited a while for the snow to stop, gave up, biked a few more kilometres, and started a long, steep, hypothermia-inducing descent. The first part, with snow and slush on the road, was stressful because the potholes were just about invisible. I had to go really slowly when all I wanted was to be out of the mountains before the temperature dropped and the road got slippery. Without the potholes, the road conditions would've been no problem, though the guy who drove his car into a snowbank might disagree.

My hands, squeezing the brake levers hard, were freezing and tired, but stopping wasn't much of an option until I reached the main road. By that point, my brain was frozen and I had to take a few minutes to warm up before I continued the descent. Not much I could do to keep my head (needing to be able to hear and see traffic, I couldn't wear my hood) and hands (I don't have pogies, which are wonderful) warm in those conditions given my current gear. Before I reached Gostivar proper, I stopped at the first place I saw, which was a reasonably priced and well-heated hotel, and stayed there and lay in bed watching TV all evening.

In Mavrovo NP
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Today's ride: 60 km (37 miles)
Total: 1,210 km (751 miles)

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