A new record

Hungary lost a few points today.

I met Stephen at the campground last night. From Budapest, he and a friend hand-built custom touring bikes (from a design in Australia) and decided to tour all the way around the border of Eastern Hungary. The recumbent bikes have front-wheel drive. Stephen brought up a point I had never thought of: The Danube almost perfectly divides Hungary, which affects most everything about Hungarian culture. Something to frame y experience here. They both looked recumbent and relaxed cycling away this morning.

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I said goodbye to the camp host, and he in turn filled my handlebar bag with peaches from his garden.

There’s not much between me and Budapest, so I had a simple plan – cycle directly 25 km west to Szeged (the third largest city in Hungary), take a look around, and then continue west and north, as the roads and wind blew me.  60 km and five hours later, I arrived in Szeged.

Flat, good (if unassuming) roads out of the campground would have led to a quick start, except the day included more strong headwinds. Not quite as strong as the weather report indicated, but strong.

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I can’t really brute-force headwinds; faster just means more resistance. No good place to turn away, I dialed everything down, and worked my way west, with traffic non-existent on the small road. I arrived at the ferry crossing five 5 km to the east of Szeged. Doesn’t look well-used, right? Everything in Hungary is a step up from Romania (which in turn was a step up from Bulgaria), so not a good sign.

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I came to my first ferry crossing like this in Scandanavia. A great day, pushed by a tail wind and zero traffic. Humming right along, the road ends… at a 3 car ferry. On the other side. I decide to wait to see what happens, as they’re unloading. Another car pulled up on my side as the ferry headed our way. When the ferry docked, the car on-board disembarked but the gentleman on the ferry shooed us away. The other waiting passenger determined the ferry only crossed every 30 minutes, so I pulled out lunch and talked to the other passenger before we continued on our way 30 minutes later. Unlikely in this case, but decided I would wait 45 minutes until noon, in case the ferry ran on an half-hour or hourly schedule.

The river I followed all the way from Brasov merges here with a larger river just downstream. Rivers to my left and right – boxed in. A non-operational ferry meant I had a few choices, all bad. I could backtrack all 20 km back to where I started, and take a bridge to the south to another small highway. I could also backtrack 10 km, and then work my way north to a  huge highway, and then come all the way back east again. When the ferry didn’t move (and in fact showed no signs of life at all), I took option three – the dike.

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The dike followed the course of the river. With a smooth surface, the dike would easily take me north to the bridge with no backtrack. If it didn’t, I’d be kilometers in the middle of nowhere. Someone had cut the grass recently, and initial testing showed a surface better than the road from earlier in the day. That plan worked exactly as expected until it didn’t.

The dike took me directly to the highway, with no access to the highway. I could keep going north 60 km to the next bridge, or use the GPS on small roads back to an on-ramp. An uneventful GPS-driven ride to the on-ramp, except that the highway was in fact a super-highway (motorway in European parlance) – no bikes. Every country tolerates bikes on highways, but the motorways are a different story. Given the speed limit is 130 km, where the normal speed limit is 70, I don’t want to be on motorways either!

That left north, into the headwind. And from that bridge across the river and back south.  By the time I arrived in Szeged, pushing headwinds for much of the day and my plan of a long-distance day shot, I started hunting for a closer campground, and found one nearby, all eco-friendly and naturist. End distance for the day? 70+ km. End actual distance for the day? About 30 km.
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