Bored of Borders

Because of the time difference between Poland and Ukraine this morning we can afford to sleep half an hour longer than yesterday. Under normal circumstances these extra 30 minutes would seem irrelevant, but after 11 hours bike ride every minute of rest counts. While the planned delay was only half an hour, the actual start time got pushed forward for a whole hour, so our Sunday bicycle ride started at 8:30 just in time for the last ruby rays of the rising winter sun. At last we could actually feel that our course is taking us South – the morning came much warmer than before and coddled the cyclists in a comfortable -14 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately the songs of joy got blowed away by the strong dead-wind that made the actual temperature reading seam like a cruel joke and tried to blow the four easy riders back to Poland all day long. The frosty wind whiffed whirls of snow over the surface of the road in a furry, but our cyclists didn’t blink an eye. Of course one reason for this could be that their eyelashes were frozen to the brows but let’s assume that this was a pure act of determination. To protect his vital life signs Roberts decided to wear an extra wind-stopper jacket, but it took him some time to get into this sophisticated piece of clothing mainly because he was trying to put it on upside down. This is what Ukrainian cold does to your common sense. In one of the rest-stops Roberts was joking with a half frozen banana in his hand that based on their speed they are paid extra for overtime. Of course the only payment the guys are getting is the frost bites and the adventure itself. During the first part of the day we crossed the city of Rivne whose name in a rough translation suggests that this city should be flat, but there’s nothing flat about it. For almost 30 kilometers our gang was struggling against steep slopes followed by short downhill descents. This part of today’s route was the most challenging for our cycling team and took a lot of strength and energy. After this route leg Roberts approached the van and drank the whole energy mixture bottle in one take straight from the bottleneck to get a new energy boost. Today Karlis B. continued his tradition and again went down like a Christmas-tree in late December. This time he managed to hitch his handlebar to Robert’s bike and down he went, fortunately not taking his companion with him. After 110 kilometers of frozen asphalt we made a lunch brake during which the supporting crew got a chance to experience the comfort of outdoor activities. Have to say that after an hour of slow dancing around the gas stove and guarding the fire against the traitorous wind, the cooking department was a bit stiff. Aigars even gathered all his courage and asked the cyclists if they have some spare feet warmers. I guess it’s needless to say, that his question was received as a joke, because there’s no spare anything that’s related to keeping warm. After lunch, the guys got back on the road at 14:40 with somewhat vague confidence that reaching the next planned hotel in Zhytomir is a realistic task for today, because the city was 138 kilometers away. After all, our pedalers are not some cyborgs and have their human limits. After approx. 160 kilometers Roberts admitted that for the first time during this trip his leg muscles have become tight. During the last stretch of today’s route it was obvious that the jolly gang is running low on power, because the trips to the van for energy supplies in a form of chocolate, cookie, energy bar or just a sip of soda became more and more frequent. By the way – today we reached the first thousand kilometers mark, but nobody even noticed. After riding 200 kilometers the gang decided to end this jolly day, so for the first time we had to put our bikes on the van roof mounts and drive to the nearest hotel. This means that tomorrow morning will start with a short drive back to the starting line.

Today’s fun fact: On the highway Lviv – Zhytomir – Kyiv not only can you buy diesel but also sell some. Today we spotted several parked cars with signs saying “I’m buying diesel fuel.”

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