Bored of Borders

Yesterday evening we had a late meeting and decided that we should make a better use of the limited daylight by starting the ride earlier. Nobody was particularly excited about the prospects of getting up even earlier and being grumpy all day, so we agreed upon shortening our morning rituals. To accomplish this we started our morning following a strict schedule – breakfast at 6:40 and start at 7:30, no delays and no excuses. It doesn’t matter if you can’t find one shoe, at 7:30 you have to be on your bike. This plan worked surprisingly good – at 7:35 all four riders left our camp and even with both shoes on. The last 50 kilometers of our route on the Polish ground was a narrow road following the course of the river, which marks the border between Poland and Ukraine. It seemed that Polish people don’t like Ukraine that much, because as we were getting closer to the border crossing the cleared part of the road became more and more narrow. After an hour of pedaling Roberts approached the van and through the thick layer of icicles on his mask declared, that this is the coldest day yet. Our van agreed with this observation by slowly dropping the engine temperature to 80 degrees. Seemed like it had finally adapted to the nice weather and gone into some kind of hibernation. Probably the reason for -18 degrees feeling like gazillion degrees below zero was the freezing wind and lack of sunlight. The only source of warmth in this winter wonderland didn’t show it’s face today. Maybe in Poland the sun doesn’t work on Saturdays. Crossing the Ukrainian border was like going back in time – we had already happily forgot the hurly-burly of dealing with charming border control officers who are always keen on helping travelers. Our frozen four got through with only 15 minutes of jumping around and waving arms like penguins trying to take off, but the support crew had to freeze their asses for more than an hour only because of the professionalism of the border control officers. Ukraine greeted us with a rough head wind that almost instantly turned cyclists’ breath into ice popsicles. Fighting their way against the head breeze our pedalers couldn’t brake the speed barrier of 17km/h. A nice speed for a 200 kilometers long journey, but Karlis B. and Roberts took this challenge with a song on their frozen lips. By the look of it Ukrainian road cleaners are paid only half salary because half of the road surface was covered with snow and ice which caused the first fall. After slipping on a lane of ice Karlis B. safely landed on the Ukrainian land, making the closest possible contact with this magical country. It’s a good thing that he’s carrying children’s drawings and not a porcelain service. To make things a bit more interesting we set up our portable kitchen in a bus-stop by a cemetery and became the object of interest for the passengers getting in and out at this stop. Karlis P. arrived to lunch with a flat tire, so the guys had to use the spare wheel once again. The second leg of today’s route turned a bit to the South transforming the maniac head wind into a killer side wind. This didn’t make things warmer for the riders but at least allowed them to increase their speed. After getting into lee created by a thick forest the cyclists managed to increase their speed to 25 km/h. Of course the nightfall and remaining 40 kilometers to the hotel were a strong inspiration for the crazy bunch. At some point Karlis P. tried to resign by falling down in the driveway of a gas-station, but his resignation was not accepted by the council of wheels. All four human icicles pushed on because there are no quitters in the “Pedal for no Medal” team.

What we would learn about Ukraine only from the observations today:

  • The drivers make crazy maneuvers pass our procession;
  • Ice fishing is in style;
  • Old Soviet cars are in style;
  • Walking on a dark road in black clothes is in style.

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