UK - LT on May 2016 by bike

Discussion in 'Member's Travelogues' started by OMG, 16 Oct 2016.

  1. OMG

    OMG Veteran


    A trip by road bike UK to Lithuania … again ! You will think - why did she do this, it must be the same. Nope, it was totally different. This year I wasn’t so keen to go as fast as I can as it was in 2014. This year’s trip was almost 50/50 by bike/trains. Due to weather and my laziness etc. I also crossed all Germany by trains due to safety.

    Time of a year: last days of May.

    Route: Dunkerque (FR) - Antwerpen (BE) - Dusseldorf (D) - by trains to Gorzow Wielkopolski (PL) - Bydgoszcz (PL) - Olsztyn (PL) - Suwalki (PL) - Lazdijai (LT). Lazdijai - Kaunas by bus, Kaunas - my village by car (driven by my mother).

    Let’s start.

    Port of Calais has got it’s illegals, port of Dunkerque has got nothing and nobody similar to Calais. But it’s got solidarity and due to this the very port of Dunkerque itself has got a labyrinth of safety fences, gates etc. All that puzzle of metal works perfectly for cars and motorbikes and buses and HGVs etc but …. not for cyclists ! So it took me 20 minutes to find the main gates leading out of the port and then - surprise! - I am too light for the gates. Or invisible. Who knows. Crap. There’s a CCTV monitoring the gates, so I had a chance to look at it starting to wave my arms politely and finishing my show with all possible monkey’s face mimics and gestures and sounds. Still no sign of any live creature in this bloody port. Ok, let’s cycle around looking for a hole in that fence. About 5 minutes later I’ve finally seen a sign of life - a car. Security car. Going to me with all Xmas essentials - lights on, sound on. Erm … I have done nothing !!! Yet … No, I didn’t cut any hole in that fence.

    My show in front of CCTV was not unseen … It was actually monitored by security guys… So they saw my show. The good thing was that I have had my own escort car going in front of me (that made me feel very solemnly) and finally I was led out from that bloody gates.

    At least it wasn’t raining as in 2014. But it was very windy and later I was swearing and cursing that bloody wind in all known languages (and I can swear in many languages...).

    Dunkerque to Bruges: nothing interesting. Well, except quite strong side wind and a bit cool weather. +15’C, if my memory doesn’t cheat.

    The route of the very first day was identical to the route 2014. When I came to Bruges, I was blinded by one incredible thing. One street was a normal 2-way street in 2014. This year it is … one way! Why? Because the other half of the street is given for cyclists. Council or other authority took one lane and simple draw a cycle path. Only because there was no space on footpath. I was trying to imagine this thing to be done in LT - a civil war would be guaranteed as drivers are kings of the roads with no responsibilities.

    It was about 11 am when I went into Bruges. Sunday. And mama mia, tens of cyclists, more than cars in the streets. All kind of cyclists: ladies and gentlemen with seriously looking faces, people with crap bikes probably going to work, children, teenagers and lycra guys even with TT bikes. Somehow all that crowd found space in a cycle path for themselves. I’ve never seen a traffic jam of cyclists before.

    A good lunch at Damme town few miles from Bruges. That tasty lasagne dissappeared in few minutes - I was starving.

    I’ve made a mistake when I decided to reach a hotel in Antwerpen using shortest route which ment to cross all city. It took me about 4 hours to do that. At least I’ve already known that I will have to cross the river using a special tunnel so this save me a little bit of time. As soon as I came into surface my lovely bastard peanut Garmin 800 has done the same trick as in 2014 - he lost the signal. Just too many high buildings around. I sat on a bench and have the same peaceful thought as 2 years ago - my dear Garmin, should I break you into the nearest wall? But that didn’t make it to wake up. That disaster of electronics somehow knew that this time I don’t need to go to wc urgently as in 2014. Bastard. Ok, let’s use the maps in my mobile phone … As soon as I escaped those skyscrapers Garmin woke up and guided me to hotel with no surprises.

    We have special feelings to each other, Garmin and me. Love and hate, anger and peace ... Is it legal to marry an electronic device in UK?

    I didn’t mention that all way Bruges to Antwerpen wind was blowing straight into my face. Strong wind. I was doing 11 - 12 mph and I was happy that I was able to keep that speed. And I was feeling very jealous for many youngsters who were training in different direction.

    Finally hotel. And what a miracle - a bath !!! Honestly, I was lying in hot water resting my poor knees and thinking - if I would have to search for a place to build the tent somewhere in the bushes … then try built it in such a bad weather… gosh, no no no. In that case I would hang myself on the handlebar. I am lazy and pampered creature and I need comfort. Hot bath also preferred.

    Though it was no hot sun on that day, it was windy and half of day’s distance was cycled into the headwind. And I have done something to my left knee tendons. For the next few months I was unable to cycle more than 100 miles without a pain in tendons and muscles of that knee. I just cannot do this route without any disasters, ha ha.

    Woke up at 5am. The weather was just lovely, it was heavy raining and very windy and I was unable to decide where’s the sky and where’s the land. They mixed with each other. To cycle or not cycle 130 miles in such a nice weather … that wasn’t a question. That stupid idea gone off my mind immediately and I fell asleep. Viva trains of Western Europe.

    Finally left the hotel at 10 am. Let’s go to train station. Weather is still crap, but rain turned into drizzle. Still feels sh*t. Puddles everywhere … brrrrr.

    It was about couple of miles to the main train station. It was old good peaceful Antwerpen in 2014. 2016 … soldiers with guns walking in city centre. They didn’t fit there …

    Quo vadis, Europa ? (in old Latin language - where do you go, Europe ? )

    Dusseldorf has been reached by trains with no adventures. Except a German shepherd dog who made so funny howl/bark/squeak noises that it was hard not to laugh. And we were laughing (it were only few people on that coach). The sun appeared only in Berlin where I had to change a train to PL town Gorzow Wielkopolski.

    We reached border town Kustrin - Kietz and yeah, adventure finally begins. Movement in train station, security, police, everyone is running around with no clue why they’re running. I understand Polish language and can communicate but not fluently. So being curious I asked train driver (I sat near his place in first coach) what’s going on.

    So somebody with strange sense of humor or lack of attention made a phone call to the train station of Gorzow Wielkopolski and told to the staff that he left a bomb over here. As those phone calls are quite usual in PL and LT, all emergencies have to deal as if it is real danger of a bomb. Though in Kustrin - Kietz station nobody believed that’s real bomb and everybody where just walking around and laughing or swearing, depends on their start or finish of a shift.

    Ok, Gorzow deals with non existing bomb but our train is allowed to move on slowly until it will be stopped. It’s about 30 miles from Kustrin - Kietz to Gorzow (damn the second word, not gonna write it, too long) so I wasn’t in a big panic (8pm already…) but others were. Train goes very slow and finally is stopped about 3 miles to Gorzow. But it’s a suburb of the town and this suburb has got tram railings. Tram arrives to pick up train passengers, I jumped on my bike and finally reached my hotel at 10 pm after all adventures.

    PL as PL, nothing bad to tell about this country. Really good roads (they use EU money properly, no corruption). Many main roads (like A roads in UK) have got wide hard shoulder where a cyclist feels very safe from traffic. I was cycling and feeling like I am in the paradise. “Orlen” petrol stations every 10 miles or so - you will never miss your lunch or run out of water.

    Due to my knee pain a part of route Gorzow - Olsztyn has been done by train. I have to mention that all days in PL were sunny and very hot, temperature 30 - 35’C. But that’s ok for me, I like hot weather. And! This time I had a big bottle of sun cream so no sunburn.

    Ok, I caught a train and went into the last coach which was specially designated for bikes or big luggage (PL buys trains from Germany so most of trains are really nice and new). And this coach already has got passengers … about 10 men. :biggrin: It looked like they’re going home from work. So blah blah as they realised I speak Polish. All windows are opened but it’s still very hot in the coach. Suddenly one man opens his bag and takes out a can of visibly cold beer. And that mmmmm sound when he opens it. Another very talkative man stood by the window. And he heard that sound. He slowly turns his head to the direction of beer owner, his eyes opens widely, his face turns into a big surprised something. A few seconds of silence. Then that surprised man tells with very offended voice but in a manner of joke (hard to explain though): “You know, it’s very hot here. And it’s not nice to take out a very cold beer and tease others”. It was a good laugh from everyone.

    Olsztyn - Suwalki, 130 miles. I decided to cycle all route without using trains. Cool and misty at 6am when I left hotel. It was misty almost till midday. Then woohoo - sun appeared, me in shorts and short sleeved jersey, la la la, life is good, country roads are empty …

    Then Garmin reminded about himself again. I had a choice - overtook one town by using normal roads (about 5 miles) or take a shortcut along a lake, about a mile long (shortcut, not a lake). When I saw that shortcut… Decision has been made immediately. It was the most sh*t track I’ve ever seen going between a very large lake and train railings. Adventure !! Let’s go ! First part of it went along the railings and then crossed a small river which went into that lake. The river was chocked with various boats and small ships - tourist attraction. I stood on the railroad bridge and looked at all those tourists below me, they looked at me with obviously surprised eyes (my road bike clearly didn’t fit to that environment).

    It was left about 50 miles to Suwalki when my knee reminded about himself. But sometimes I’m very stubborn. As I was on that day. Shut up knee, weather is sunny and hot and I’m not gonna catch a train. But it didn’t shut up. Last 10 miles was a real torture, pain was unbearable and I was cycling with crackling teeth.

    Hotel finally …

    Next day’s route was only about 30 miles. I knew when the buses leave Lazdijai so was cycling with no rush and enjoyed the last day of my trip. Reached Lazdijai, had a rest in a bus station, catch a bus, went to Kaunas by bus. P.s. some buses in LT take bikes legally, but you can board your bike almost in every bus, just ask the driver. It costs nothing.
  2. Thanks for the write up and photos. It gets me in the mood for next years planning.

    I have some questions about Apidura gear. I have the rear rack bag which I think is great and am now thinking of getting the rest of the ensemble for Christmas. The bag that sits on the crossbar is said not be waterproof. Did you test this to find out.?

    I will also be getting the front bar bag. Did it work OK for you?

    I am drawn to the pack under the crossbar. Is it an extra battery pack and if it is, did you have to untape it every night to charge it?

    I'm sorry for the lack of punctuation but I got a new PC from Germany yesterday and cant find anything on here. Putting the Z key where the Y key should be is driving me nuts.
    Last edited: 16 Oct 2016
  3. OP

    OMG Veteran

    Front bags are ok only for large frames. Mine is small (I am 5'6") and I've got a hole in a front pocket - bag because it touched front wheel. It's designated for light stuff in it only, anything heavier drags it down.
    The main front bag is a sleeve actually. It's ok if you pack something you don't need right now.
    The top tube bag kept my phone and/or pocket camera.
    Portable battery charger is under the top tube, it is that black something. This year I didn't need it actually as I was not using Garmin so much.
    Question about waterproof bags ... I don't know. It looks like being waterproof as they're made exactly from the same material as saddle bag which is waterproof.

    So in conclusion if you're taller than 5'6" - you can buy all Apidura bags with no doubt. Especially saddle bag is like teenager's throat - anything you put into it, all stuff disappears without a sign and you can put loads of things untill you will reach the top. Highly recommended.

    I've bought Vaude I Road handlebar bag. If I ever will be able to travel again - I will use it.

    Also though it looks different it's very easy to put on/off Apidura bags. No help needed. It used to take me about 5 mins to remove all bags. The same same with mounting them back on the bike.

    p.s. if you need a portable charger - I would highly recommend Anker. It's heavy but worth to take it.
    velovoice likes this.
  4. shouldbeinbed

    shouldbeinbed Rollin' along

    Manchester way
    That is a great read.
  5. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Fab! You've a gift for words ..,,
  6. Pat "5mph"

    Pat "5mph" A kilogrammicaly challenged woman Moderator

    Great write up @OMG, really enjoyed reading it.
    When are you and Garmin getting engaged? :laugh:
  7. uphillstruggler

    uphillstruggler Veteran

    Half way there
    great write up and fantastic photos.

    I love the differences in architecture across Europe - from simple things like electricity pylons to houses and stations.

    thanks for taking the time to write this up.
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