Day 10: Rzepin to Posnań.

  • Distance: 182km ☹️
  • Average Speed: 19.6km/h ☹️ - blame gravel, sand and roadworks
  • Legs: 😐
  • Undercarriage: 😐
  • Hands: ☹️ - making a new appearance as another part of my body which is getting destroyed.
  • Bike: 🙂
My friend Lee said yesterday “When I read your blog I sometimes think ‘Just stop’”.  Today as I vomited chunks of undigested pizza into a recycling bin in the forecourt of a trucker garage surrounded by the muscular smells of spilled diesel and blocked toilets I was close to stopping.

This wasn’t a day with good stories for the blog or interesting sights to take pictures of.  I’d planned a 120k route but an hour into the morning, I got an email from the hotel to say they were now going to be shut.  I suspect I was the only guest and they’d just decided to bin the whole “open a hotel for one sweaty cyclist” thing.  

I spent 15 minutes in a bus shelter with and it turned out that the next place which actually had a lot of hotels was Posnań.  Creating the route in Garmin Connect showed that rather than having a bit less than 100k to go, I now had 161k to go.  The bus shelter was treated to some inventive and extensive swearing. 

The new route started promisingly along the now traditional plumb-line straight farm roads.  But then it all got a bit pear shaped.  There were pointless detours and then a sandy wood path about 20cm wide.
Yes, this is a 10% slope.

Then I was thrown onto 3k of cobbled streets through an army counter insurgency training camp.

Yes, those cobbles are the size of shoe boxes.

I am sure this appeared in Top Gear once

Truly terrible roads, pointless detours, interesting landmarks.  This was all pointing to one thing.  Yes, the Garmin “popularity routing” algorithm had thrown me back on the EuroVelo route.  Sure enough after 2 hours of this pain, here was the smoking gun.
EuroVelo R1 and R2 are coincident for about 500km

Obviously all those fucking idiots adventurous souls who were doing the EuroVelo route had put down lots of Garmin tracks and made it “popular”.  I cursed the fact that my own Garmin track would contribute to the popularity of this pain-fest.

Eventually, Garmin gave up on the EuroVelo route and I was on my own with my Garmin route and a Garmin head unit which had…15% charge!  WTAF??  There was no way that would last another 140km and, without the Garmin navigation, I was going to be lost in the middle of Poland.  
Note to self:  after charging your Garmin, turn it off so it’s not spending all night repeatedly saying to itself “oh, I can’t find the satellites, I’d better turn the screen on and tell that sleeping, snoring lump in the bed that there’s no satellite coverage”.
The little villages are dense in Poland and each village has a name that looks like it’s been shotgunned with consonants and diacritics which makes them both difficult to pronounce but also difficult to remember.  They’re also quiet and without cafés and bars which was a problem.

Eventually as the Garmin dribbled down to 5% charge, Międzyrzecz turned up which was a largish town and it had a restaurant which looked open and relatively inviting.  I parked the bike up and asked for a coke and a power socket.  It became clear that a power socket only came free of charge with a pizza and, because it was going to take 45 minutes and I still had 110k to go, I thought I would change my normal nutrition strategy and eat at lunchtime.
All the major food groups.  Carbohydrate, cheese, ham.

The Garmin was at 60% charge, I was full of pizza and I was ready to go.  

The route took me onto very very busy roads
Sometimes this comforting hard shoulder was only 30cm wide

I pounded the kilometres out, mostly on roads like the one above, sometimes on Route 92 which is the main route from Posnań to Germany and this road was 20km of buttock-clenching terror as giant articulated trailer lorries carrying logs went from Poland to Germany where they were presumably made into Billy bookcases or something.  To give the lorry drivers their due, if they could pull out to overtake me they would but if there was another giant articulated trailer lorry coming in the other direction, there was only one loser and it was the bloke with the wobbly kidney-bean on the back of his bike whimpering in the 30cm wide hard shoulder.

The Golden Rule of Long Distance Cycling Hydration is the following:  you’ve got two full water bottles and when the first one is empty, you stop at the very next place which sells water and fill your single empty bottle.  No thinking “oh, that shop looks a bit dismal, I’ll wait for the next quaint café”.  No, that quaint café  may not come for the next 50km so you have to have two full water bottles.  I had forgotten the golden rule and was running on fumes and the horrible flobby dribbles of water in my empty bidons (this is the cool-kids name for water bottles) when I saw a truck stop garage which looked rough and dirty but it was my only option.

I pulled in and bought two bottles of ice-cold peach-flavoured iced-tea (which I have become worryingly addicted to) and two large iced bottles of water.  I was so thirsty that I downed the first bottle of ice-cold iced-tea in one. As it hit my stomach, the all too predictable reaction happened.  The smells of diesel and blocked trucker-toilets, ice cold water on a massively dehydrated stomach filled with a thick knot of dough and cheese…I’m quietly proud that I made it to the recycling bin although I doubt anybody would want to recycle that pizza.

If I had been in the middle of a town with a railway station, I think I might have just taken the train-of-shame to Posnań or maybe, whisper it, Warsaw.  But that wasn’t an option so I screwed my courage to the sticking place and got back on the bike to turn my legs for another 70km.

Mostly the route was along those arrow-straight newly-surfaced roads.  A number of people on motorbikes and cars passed attempting the Polish land speed record and, at the inevitable (and hard to predict) bends, there were sad shrines to the young men who hadn’t made it.

All the shotgun-consonant villages were lovely and consisted of lots of new build detached and semi-detached houses filled with, it appeared, happy young families who invariably waved and cheered me on.  There is a real sense in Poland of progress, building, moving up in the world.  Something which was sadly lacking from the towns in Germany near the border.

More busy roads, more quiet roads, more roads that were well surfaced, more roads that were a pot-holed mess.  Sometimes there would be some well thought out cycling infrastructure with a nice path alongside a highway of death but then it would inexplicably end and I’d be thrown back into the maelstrom of heavy goods vehicles.  I looked at the map and it seemed (joy of joys) as if I was going to leave the busy roads and enter Poznań on quieter roads.  

I was happy — well not too despondent — on the potholed farm tracks but then I ended up on 10k of sandy paths.  

10km of the bike squirming around underneath me, the bean-of-instability making it’s baleful presence felt again.  It took me nearly an hour to go 10km and during that hour I had a bit of a sense-of-humour failure.

Not soon enough, my Strade Bianche (more correctly Strada della Disperazione) was over and I was back on the busy road going into Poznań.  Imagine my surprise when this led me over a motorway and it’s associated cloverleaf junction.  Sticking to the correct lane when there were cars going 120km/h on either side of me was another buttock-clenching moment.  Just when I would have given almost anything for some decent cycle infrastructure, the four lane highway into Poznań developed a perfect service road running alongside it filled with early evening cyclists whizzing about in their Lycra.  Sadly the joy of not being on the main road was somewhat reduced with the cycle path having speed bumps every 100m and when your legs, buttocks and arms are completely destroyed, a speed bump is a thing of loathing.

I was down to 3km to go to the hotel and I was cooked (“I think he’s been cooked for the past number of kilometres Carlton” said spectral Sean Kelly) but the route to Poznań  had one final sting in the tail.  

I had switched to Google Maps with the instructions on how to get to the hotel playing in my AirPods which has been my end-of-ride tactic for the past 10 days.  The Google Maps lady got very confused because entire centre of of the town is being dug up.
“Continue straight for 500 meters”.  Right.

That last 3k took me 30 minutes.  Google Map lady got very confused here.
My hotel is somewhere on the other side of that square.  Maybe.

I got to the hotel in the end and I’ve decided to have a rest day in the building site which is Poznań.  I had intended to have two easy days to get here but it’s been one brutal day and I think my mojo needs a bit of re-energising.  Poznań is supposed to be an interesting place and I’ve certainly enjoyed the speciality of the region which is “yeast dumpling with duck”.
This is exceptionally tasty.

Will do some route planning tomorrow.  A day off and then maybe 3 sub 150km days to Warsaw because, after 10 days in the saddle, anything over 150km in a day is very debilitating.  Today was not a good day but, after a couple of beers and a dumpling with duck, it doesn’t seem as bad as it did when I was doing it.


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