Day 98 - Leipalingis to Spengla: When Soviets roamed the earth - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

April 23, 2015

Day 98 - Leipalingis to Spengla: When Soviets roamed the earth

I passed through Druskininkai early, stopping at a gas station to top up my tires. I have Presta valves, but my Warmshowers hosts in Austria introduced me to a little piece of magic I can screw onto the valve to fill the tire at gas stations. And the air pumps are amazing: enter the desired pressure, press the tire button, and watch it work. We don't have such sophistication at home, and I'd like to know why. Anyway, with the ease of perfectly filling a tire, it amused me to see a guy filling his bike tires in a very random way, sounding like he was losing as much air as he was adding. If I can figure out how to work that thing with its instructions in a language I don't understand, surely he can figure it out.

There was one stop I had to make en route to Vilnius: Gruto Parkas, a kitschy graveyard for Soviet statues. But it turned out to be not so kitschy. Sure, there were emus and alpacas wandering around in a faux-concentration camp, but there were also posters, pins, memorabilia, newspaper articles, information on elections, and a history lesson. But of course, the statues are the big draw. It's kind of funny because while they have tons of Lenins, I'm sure nobody goes to see them. Everyone goes there to see the Stalin. Poor Lenin. If you're in the area, it's worth a visit, though way overpriced for what you get. Maybe it's a throwback to good, old-fashioned, Soviet-style foreigner pricing.

I spent most of the day on the A4, the main highway from Belarus. I reasoned that there couldn't be that much traffic between Vilnius and Belarus, and I was right. So it was a pleasant day biking through pine forests. It was windy, but mostly a tailwind, so no problem. The road was good, so no problem. I even picked up a map of the Baltics, which very helpfully shows which roads are paved. I haven't used a proper paper map in a while, and I think I'm going to be really glad I have it.

I'm lost when it comes to supermarkets, though. There are none of the chains I've gotten used to in other countries, and very few signs telling me the next store is just 1.5 km to the right. But at least I'm using a familiar currency, one I can handle without checking the value of every coin I pull out: Lithuania was kind enough to switch to the Euro on January 1, making the next couple of borders total non-issues.

The whole day went very smoothly until it was time to look for accommodation. I went well out of my way to Varena and found the tourist office, which was open but locked and had nobody there. I checked around, but couldn't find a place to stay. So it was 6 km back to the highway, into the wind, and then I realized I had forgotten to get more water.

I really didn't want to camp last night. I really don't want to camp tonight. I tried very hard to find a place to stay, but in the end, it was back into the forest, and a quiet night for once.

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This is either a really grim waterpark or a really fun factory
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Gruto Parkas, the kitschy part
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A milestone moment!!
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Typical view today
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3107 miles I roam, just to make this dock my home
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Today's ride: 108 km (67 miles)
Total: 5,042 km (3,131 miles)

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