Day 51 - Lviv to Przemysl: The final frontier - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

March 7, 2015

Day 51 - Lviv to Przemysl: The final frontier

With Chernobyl cancelled and the weather forecast looking good, I was off to Poland. New additions to the bike included a fresh set of brake pads, a sprig of pussy willow catkins, and some women's day flowers proudly presented to me by a crazy Ukrainian soldier at the hostel. Leaving Lviv, after the first terrible stretch of cobbles AND tram tracks--good thing it was a quiet Saturday morning--the road was fine, and I followed the M11 to the border I was allowed to cross by bicycle (Medyka is the name of the Polish side).

The highway was smooth with wide lanes and traffic was light enough. Aside from the usual dearth of stopping and sitting and eating places, it's no problem to bike this road. There were some hills that I thought would ease me back into hilly terrain but the last 20km before the border was constant up and down. Still racing the sunset on a daily basis (I usually win) and facing a border crossing known to be slow and a near 100km day, I at one point asked the road, "Don't you know I have a border to cross today??"

Finally reached the border, my last formal border crossing before I go home. It's Schengen all the way from here, baby. The cyclist/pedestrian entrance was hard to find, just before and to the right of the vehicle crossing. It wasn't busy and I got through the Ukrainian side quickly and started toward the Polish side, passing several people who were inexplicably loitering in that enclosed bit of no man's land. Piece of cake, I was thinking.

Then I saw the mass of people crowded around the All Passports line. I dutifully took my place at the back, but several people told me to go to the EU line, which was empty. So I wheeled the bike up to the friendly guards, flashed my non-EU passport, and was promptly ushered into the immigration building, EU side. Not the first time I've skipped the line, but I wasn't expecting that in the EU. From what I've read, this is a major cigarette smuggling route, and indeed, everyone was getting searched--purses and pat-downs. I was merely asked if I had alcohol or cigarettes. It's good to be an obvious tourist at border crossings. Or smell bad. I'm not sure which one applied to me.

Well, that was easy. One more step, immigration, it'll be a breeze, I thought. So it threw me off to encounter the stern immigration officer who wanted to delve deep into my psyche.

"Do you speak Polish?"
"Why not?"
*thinking* Huh? Um...
The standard questions about why am I here and where am I going. Then:
"You are travelling alone?"
*thinking* Because nobody is crazy enough to go with me.
"...because I usually travel alone?"
"Why are you doing this now? It's cold out."
*thinking of my standard, slightly condescending response* No it isn't.
", it's okay for me..."
Obviously I need to work on the 'why' questions, as 'why not?' is not an acceptable answer.

Then he looked at my Uzbekistan visa again. For some reason that one had caught his eye, and not because it was all pretty and shiny. I do wonder why a place like Uzbekistan is suspicious. Everyone knows all the Afghani drugs flow through Tajikistan.

Finally he stamped my passport and I was once again turned loose in the Schengen zone--not smuggling any cigarettes, not looking for work, just spending my tourist money, and likely breaking an occasional traffic law.

On my way into Przemysl, I had the pleasure of using a proper bike path, that is, until I spotted a gap between road and curb a bit too late and slammed into it fast enough to knock half the air out of my tire. So I walked until I finally found a hotel. I wondered if the valve that I hate (on the tubes that came with the bike) was being a problem again, so I decided to see if the tire would hold air overnight, filled it, and forgot about it. (I'll spare you the suspense: it was flat in the morning.)

It's Saturday afternoon and this town is dead. Good to know Poland is closed on the weekend; I'll be sure to stock up on food. I'm the type of person who has a knack for arriving places unawares during major holidays. I could tell you some stories, but this is a bike touring site, not a bribing people for bus tickets site.

Photo of the day. Because it's the only photo. Getting close to the Ukrainian border.
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Today's ride: 98 km (61 miles)
Total: 2,205 km (1,369 miles)

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