Every trip, at about a week on the road, I hit a wall. One where I think, “Why am I doing this to myself?” A wall where I think, “I can’t do this”. A wall where I’m just ready to go home. Every trip at this point I know that wall’s coming, and I just have to push through it.
This trip took longer to get there. I had two days at the beginning in Istanbul where there wasn’t any cycling. I normally leave the city I land in; since I’m cycling in a circle I visit at the end of the trip. Before I arrived in Sunny Beach I was beat, and sick. Then I had two days on medical leave in Sunny Beach, feeling miserable and physically ill. I’ve rarely been that sick, and never on tour.
Most of my tours have been 3-4 weeks, with few issues. I’ve never really had gear trouble. I’ve never really had anything stolen. I’ve never really been sick. I knew going into this trip that more issues would arise, because statistically it was more likely with four trips worth of time, and because riding a lot of miles between maintenance / replacements means more likelihood of equipment issues. But I wasn’t planning on packing those issues into the first two weeks!
Yesterday was awesome. Today, cycling mostly downhill, again with beautiful weather, I thought to myself, “This blog is about to get really boring.” Reporting, “Yup, bicycled again today, nothing happened.”
So much for that plan.
Packed up and left this morning, successfully not leaving anything behind. Uphill out of the local village, and expecting more across the day as I cycled along the edge of the mountains, but still following water and rail lines, so mostly downhill. Reality exceeded expectations, and the day was a whole lot of cycling flat and down. The roads were tricky, but light traffic permitted me to weave back and forth missing the potholes and breaks in the pavement (mostly).
I stopped for lunch at a water point, propping my bike up against the wall. Bulgaria (and Turkey to a lesser extent) have water points along the road at (semi-) regular intervals. Not consistently so that I can rely on them, but a staple of the local culture. Locals use them for everything from water for their local household (filling up jugs), to watering horses, to washing their cars. I believe the water is coming from local springs.
My bike doesn’t have a kickstand – a combination of weight reduction, and kickstands don’t work in soft ground anyway. Instead of a kickstand I use a combination of propping up against the panniers, and using the pedal as a kickstand against the curb. I always lean my bike against the right side, so my gear aligns to that when I’m thinking about it – the things I need for lunch are on the left side.
Onward I traveled, making regular stops for water and snacks, leaning my bike up against whatever was handy: wall or guard rail. At one point, munching away on a nectarine, I passed a mule tied to the side of the road, and thought about giving him half, but decided not to stop because of nowhere to prop up the bike. Within the next minute, I slammed into a break in the road. While I managed to stay upright, and not blow the tube, I dropped the tangerine. Figures. Sorry mule.
Shortly thereafter I stopped at a shop to resupply. When I came back out, I realized my right front pannier was gone.
I looked around quickly, but the two elderly gentlemen near by seemed non-suspicious. I realized I’d made a brief pitstop about 4 km outside of town, and likely my pannier detached and I hadn’t noticed. I dashed back at high speed (nearly leaving my hat!), but the pannier wasn’t there. I retraced my steps all the way back to lunch (through about three stops and 15 km), but no luck. I’m positive I had that pannier at lunch. I’m actaully positive I had it at every stop, because it’s part of my routing. Sad and depressed, I headed back to be on the road again. As I passed that selfsame mule, I remembered that bike-jarring lurch, and only ~200 m from where I initially realized the pannier was missing. I scoured that area, to no avail. I’ll bet the pannier was still there initially but in my mad initial dash I missed it.
And there things stand. I’m confident the pannier was jarred off the bike. I must not have locked it on well this morning. Someone along the way found it by the side of the road and picked it up. I staying in the area, cycling back and forth for a while, on the off chance someone would see me and put two and two together. I also tried to explain to the two local shops that I’d offer a reward, but language in those small towns is a real challenge, where the population is generally 65+.
One of the questions I’m oft asked is, “what will you do if your bike/gear gets stolen,” and my answer is that I’ll either go home, or replace the gear. Well, I’m not going home.
I know exactly what’s missing. I re-ordered the missing gear tonight. Most of that gear was brand-new replacing worn out gear (*sigh*, so at least some of the reorder wasn’t difficult. That pannier carried my inclement weather gear; as long as the weather doesn’t turn cold or rainy I should be ok. Sadly it also had my camera.
The cargo space I lose from that pannier, and other space I lose to reorganize will be the biggest pain in the interim. Once everything arrives at the house, Marnie and I will figure out where I’ll be, and ship the gear in front of me.
Marnie laughed at me for losing a pair or underwear this trip, and pondered whether by the end I’d be cycling naked. I’m beginning to thing she’s not far wrong.