Beginning of the dark ages / I could not eat as much as I would like to vomit
Since my phone died in Riga (presumably through the Finnish moisture), I had switched to pen and paper to document the remainder of my trip back home. It’s only now, half a year later, that I finally come to transcribe those notes into posts.
Quick recap of the trip so far:
Soon after starting from Trondheim, my rear wheel made weird noises. After multiple stops to different workshops, it became apparent that the bearing of the wheel was shot and I preferably should get a new one. Thing is, those parts are hard to come by in the more remote areas I had travelled through, so I just had the little metal balls inside replaced two times.
Then I had reached Riga, where I was welcomed by Anete and Daina from the Erasmus Semester, who gave me a five star luxury treatment. I got moto-paced into the city early in the morning, got welcome cake and visited them and the city for the next days.
This is where the notes in my little booklet start, and which I will now use as a help for my memory to put the remaining trip into words.
My GPS watch was still working, at least most of the time. So there are still some records of where I cycled and where I slept.
The plan was that Anete and Ugis accompany me to the city border, from which on I’d be on my own again. Knowing that it would take me forever to pack my handful of things because of general laziness when leaving the comfort of friends and warm water, we had agreed to leave sometime early in the afternoon.
After Anete had watched me collecting my stuff and wrestling it into the bags, I carried my lazy ass downstairs so that we could get moving. But the moment I flung my leg over the bike and made the first pedal stroke, I heard a familiar “pling”… Another f***ing spoke had torn.
Not being the in best mood because of the good byes that were to be said and the aforementioned internal resistance against leaving the comfort of friends and a house, this incident was just the icing on the cake. I just stared at my wheel in disbelief with a pit of anger, frustration and defeat in my stomach…
Luckily Anete knew of a bike shop a couple blocks away, so I followed her and Ugis in a sullen mood. The mechanic was super welcoming and said he could manage to fix the wheel right away (Although I kinda had hoped for an excuse to stay longer). He was even going to replace all spokes, hoping that a completely rebuilt wheel would prevent any further spokes from breaking.
So we used the possibility to visit “Lido” again, a restaurant chain which is basically a huge buffet of Latvian foods.
With full bellies we went back to the bike shop a while later and started riding to the copy shop, where I printed out dozens of pages with turn-by-turn instructions and little maps of the upcoming 1600km before we finally headed for the border of the town, only a couple hours later than planned.
A couple kilometers later the inevitable good bye was due. Promises were made to meet each other again soon, but for now I was left to do what I had done the past weeks: Pushing the pedals, albeit with a heavier heart than before. And: No music… No podcasts… No distraction from the road.
Anete had given me her old phone, which in theory would be able to entertain me, but I wanted only to rely on it for potential emergencies.
So I set sight for the Lithuanian Border around 100km away and started following the flat road, which ran straight like an arrow through little clusters of houses in midst of forest and farmland.
But after only 40km I was about to be distracted from this monotony. After crossing a river in the town of Bauska, a small uphill forced me to shift down. And this is when the next disaster struck: The bike shop earlier that day had removed the white plastic disc between the cogs and the spokes. Usually it’s unnecessary and mostly just a pretty ugly thing to have on your bike. In my case though the rear derailleur wasn’t in the best of states anymore and sometimes pushed the chain too close to the spokes. This is when the disk would prevent the chain from dropping behind the cogs and cutting into the spokes. Would prevent. If it were still there… Which it wasn’t. Which is why at around 30km/h my rear wheel suddenly locked into place and I came to a skidding halt, feeling that pit of anger and frustration opening again in my stomach…
So I sat down at the sidewalk and started wrestling with the wheel and the chain. But the chain had wedged itself so far down between the spokes and the cog, that I wasn’t able to just pull it out again. Becoming angrier and angrier I started cursing at the damn chain, the derailleur, the injustice of the universe, all while pulling on various pieces of the bike and just covering myself in black dirty grease.
I briefly thought about calling Anete back in Riga, if she could arrange to pick me up. But on one hand I was too stubborn and wanted to survive on my own, on the other hand I was still way too mad at everything and didn’t want anyone I know to see me so defeated.
In the end I had opened the chain and unscrewed the derailleur from the frame to use it as a lever and grip. Positioning myself with the feet against the frame and yanking at the whole chain I finally managed to pull out the chain from its confinement.
There was no big moment of victory, just a small little sense of satisfaction that I won over the stupid bike. As I was about to put the bike back together, a man approached me and started talking in Latvian. He’d apparently seen me from his window and wanted to help me, but we didn’t have a common language to communicate. He started pointing at the little pulley wheels of my derailleur and said something about his mountain bike. He really wanted to help me, while I basically done and getting ready again to continue on. So we had a back and forth, until he came with his mobile phone and called his friend (who funnily enough lived on the Lofoten in Norway, which I had visited during my exchange semester) to translate for us. The friend was quite confused what the fuzz was about and told me, that the Latvian offers me parts of his mountain bike to replace parts on my bike he thinks are broken. Via translator I responded that this was way too kind of him, but that my bike was actually back in working condition.
He looked somewhat disappointed that he wasn’t able to help me, but invited me into his nearby house so that I could clean myself from all the grease. I gladly agreed and tried to thank him again multiple times, before I finally set off again.
I now had limited the gearing to around 4 gears, in order to prevent the same mishap again. But since for the foreseeable future the terrain was flat as a pancake, this wasn’t a problem and I was just glad to be moving again. It was maddening, that the new set of spokes merely lasted a couple of hours before getting partially cut again and I expected them to break any minute, but for now I just wanted to get as many kilometers in as possible in the rest of the day, as to not fall too far behind the 200km/day plan. I would deal with any further problems when they came up, all while being on a lookout for another bike shop…
The day ended at around 1:30 at night, behind some trees right next to the road.
Next Post: Day 17: Temporary Tourette