Thoughts at the Vilnius AP

Sat Jun 15
Days on the road 35
Hot and sunny (again)
Saddle Time
Total Dist 3334.5
Temp 20-32
Elev gain
Max gradient

I’m at the airport. The Lufthansa check-in lady saw me 5th in line and asked if I had pre-booked my bike. I said no I didn’t know it was a requirement and please please would she do it for me. OK that snag solved. She checked me in, took me to the over size luggage security area with the bike and then told me to go upstairs to the office to pay the fee. This time 200€! The bike fee goes up every time I fly. Before 2007 it used to be free ie just your second bag. In 2008 I paid 100$ for the first time.

It’s good to be in my sofa again.

Notes for next time:

1. Dual pedals. SPD clips are good for long distance. Shoes better for being a tourist in big cities.

2. Trail vs roads. Trails are safer from cars but more treturous in other ways. Longer, more windy, more turns, more bike/pedestrian idiots vs car idiots and more difficult because of riding with one hand while navigating. Roads are straighter and more direct. Less navigating so you can see the information signs when entering towns and cities. On my next trip I won’t be going on trails except possibly in big cities.

3. On Google maps navigation. Good tool for navigating, no one uses paper maps any more. If you don’t have a data plan for the country you are in then you can set up your route on the hotel/restaurant wifi before you leave. Set up your route to your destination using the bicycle icon or car icon (but make sure you select “no motorways”) and a blue line of your route will appear. Just follow it. If you lose your route during the ride, go back 1 or 2 clicks and if that doesn’t get your route back you can go to car mode and enter your destination and a car route appears from the downloaded map. Which is a good fail safe.

4. Next time I will get a European phone card. I needed one this time but was too cheap. It helps with the navigation and location finding. You also need a local phone for calling hotels, Airbnb, guesthouses etc. The smaller hotels and guest houses are unmanned and require you to call and they will come to book your room. Airbnb requires a phone to text you a booking pin.

My box and panniers at Vilnius AP

Frankfurt AP tunnel between terminals

The last day in Paneriai

Fri Jun 14
Days on the road 35
Hot and sunny (again)
Saddle Time 01.37.18
Dist 30.6
Total Dist 3334.5
Temp 20-32 (hottest day yet)
Elev gain 201
Max gradient 8%

After breakfast I headed out on my last ride in Lithuania. Headed west 15 k to the Paneriai Memorial. As an amateur WWII historian these sites always fascinate me. This is the mass killing site where 100,000 people were lined up and shot and fell into pits. Men, women and children. Jews, Roma, intellectuals, partisans and POWs. According to the museum attendant this was the site of the first mass exterminations carried out by the Nazis. On my ride there with about 2 k to go I past a lone walker, an older man in sandles and carrying a plastic bag. At the site he came to me and started talking like he knew the place. Turns out he was the museum/site attendant. He said he gets about 120 people a day. In my 2 h there I was the only one.

Packed up my bike. Easy with this huge box. Only had to take off the peddles and turn the handle bars. Usually I have to take off the rack and the fenders which is a real pain. The panniers was another matter I had to construct a box out of a bike box. That was tough and used a lot of tape. And I packed my shaving stuff so I will have a 6 day scruff for Canada Customs and Nadia!

Next year I plan on Bucharest to Minsk. About 1600 k . If anyone wants to join me let me know.

Selfie with the museum attendant. He was really happy to have someone to talk to.

Execution pit where.people.wete lined up and shot.

House on the road to Paneriai

A memorial to the 70,000 Jews that were killed here

And on a happier note these are the local bixey bikes.

Site seeing in Vilnius

Thurs Jun 13
Days on the road 34
Hot and sunny (again)
Saddle Time
Dist 13.6
Total Dist 3303.9
Temp 20-41 (hottest day yet)
Elev gain
Max gradient 8%

Went to many sites today. Starting with the Gates of Dawn the first and only remaining city gate, built in the 16th century. Then to Vilnius Cathederal and Gediminas Castle Tower to name a few.

Next stop the Museum of Occupations and Freedom. This was in the old KGB building. Wow what a museum. Mostly about the Lithuanian long struggle for independence 1918-20 and 1938-91. The KGB interrogation chambers, and execution chamber where a chilling reminder of the horrors we can do to each other. After that sobering experience I thought I’d lighten the mood and go to the Frank Zappa memorial. What you ask? Why is there a Zappa memorial here in Vilnius- he’s not Lithuanian, nor is his ancestry, and he never came here. Turns out he has a huge fan base here because of his rebellious and anti-establishment songs (this was important during the waining Soviet era) that they built this monument just after he died in 1993. Lithuanian independence came in 1991. Next up another sobering experience at the Holocaust Museum. More gruesome pictures and history. If anyone needs a refresher they should come here.

Frank Zappa memorial

Execution chamber in the old KGB building

The gates of Dawn. At 9.00 am before the crowds start

The Holocaust Museum was almost impossible to find.

I promised to never send pictures of food. My 5€ breakfast included caviar! Never had it before. It didn’t turn me on.

This is the second bike shop from yesterday. I passed it about 6 times even though my GPS said it was here. No sign. Nothing to indicate it’s a bike store. They were all equally hard to find.

A hot day in Vilnius

Wed Jun 12
Days on the road 33
Hot and sunny (now I’m hoping for a cool day)
Saddle Time 07.30.28
Dist 143
Total Dist 3290.3
Temp 20-41 (hottest day yet)
Elev gain 405
Max gradient 8%

I got off to an early 5.30 start today. I knew it would be hot so I wanted to get a good early start. I was all day in the roasting sun watching my thighs sear to a bright red and there was nothing I could do about it. No amount of sun screen would help. I started off on a minor country road and ended up riding on the autobahn for increase speed and shorter distance. Apparently it’s allowed here, the police just drove past me. This is much safer than the country roads. Great for riding on- a 3 m shoulder (nice and wide and clean of debris) and the cars and trucks stay in their lane. No drafting trucks today they are not close enough.

In Vilnius I tried 3 hotels before I found one with an available room. As if riding 143 k wasn’t enough I now rode to BalticCycling to check for bike boxes and they have some that are pretty warn out. Talked to the owner’s wife (a Canadian from Etobico). Then went to Cycling Home and they said try Lithuanian Bikes store just one block from my hotel. He had great boxes, some of the biggest I’ve seen, from ebikes he said. I think the airlines will have a problem with these. So I got a regular big box. That problem solved. Now to find a box for my panniers. Finally got to sit down and eat at 7. I’m pooped!

A stork’s nest on an electrical pole

My private lane on the autobahn. As you can see not busy and the lane is wide, clean and in good repair.

Entering Vilnius the capital of Lithuania. This used to be in Poland until the borders were moved after WWII

A nice restaurant facade

Where is Panevėžys, Lithuania?

Tues Jun 11
Days on the road 32
Hot and sunny (again)
Saddle Time 08.25.30
Dist 153
Total Dist 3147.3
Temp 18-36 (it was a scorcher)
Elev gain 221
Max gradient 4%

Great riding day except the headwind was worse than yesterday. Continued riding south and made it to the Lithuanian border by 11.30. It was a gruelling hot day. Almost a boring day just put your head down, let your brain go in circles and let your legs spin round and round! God I hate trucks, now I love them. During my mental haze I figured out how to use them to fight the headwind. Watch in the mirror or listen for them and when they are nose to nose with you start pedalling a little harder and all of a suddenly you are doing 4 kph faster. The good news is the effect lasts until the truck is 200 m ahead of you and then you will feel the blast of the headwind. Even better if there is a convoy of 3 or 4 my speed would go from 16 to 22/24! What a relief that was.

I saw a lot of storks today, and when I went into the woods to fertilize a tree I almost stepped on a snake. It was black with yellow throat patches. They are hard to photograph.

At about 3/4 finished I stopped at a roadside restaurant for a sweet drink boost. As I was preparing to leave a group of 4 guys and a woman asked about my trip and showed real interest in my bike. Turns out they were returning from a Bergen to Oslo bike ride. Now that would have been hilly and tough. The one guy, Valentinas, had completed a Greece to Beijing ride. Impressive! They gave me details of a friend who runs a bike tour shop called that can help me get bike boxes. Hopefully that solves that problem. Thanks guys! Follow: Valentinas Kabasiniskas on Facebook. I just did great photos of their trip.

These last long days of pedalling gave me lots of time to think, about when and where to end this trip. Vilnius is a day away and then to Gdansk is about 7 more days, or Vilnius to Kiev is about 10 more days. I ended my 2015 trip in Gdansk so no burning desire there. Love to do Kiev but I think I’ll save that for next year. So I booked a flight out of Vilnius for Saturday. Be back home on Saturday!

Here are the 4 Lithuanian bike riders. Valentinas is in the blue shirt beside me.

The Lithuanian border sign

Finally a road sign saying stay 1.5 m away. Don’t know the meaning/intent of the broken leg bone is. I think injuries would be worse.

The famous tower on the Riga outskirts.

Made it to Riga, capital of Latvia

Mon Jun 10
Days on the road 31
Hot and sunny (again)
Saddle Time 09.19.07
Dist 170
Total Dist 2994.3
Temp 12-31
Elev gain 178
Max gradient 4%

Great riding day except the headwind was worse than yesterday. Continued riding south and made it to the Latvian border by 9.30. Two young girls were hitchhiking just at the Latvia sign. I guess that’s still a way to go.

Not much to say, it was a straight line again on the Hwy. Problems started at about 15 k to go with traffic jams, super speeds where there were no jams, trams and tram tracks to watch out for. Got a room at the Viktorija Hotel. A hotel which has seen better days like in the 20’s, it’s great with big rooms and it’s clean and has lots of atmosphere. As if the long cycling was not enough after supper I took a long walk through the old town. They are all starting to look the same. It has been a long day.

Starting to think about when to end this trip. It’s been hard going and I have finished 3000 k. Starting to get mentally tired, have lots of bruises especially the shins and getting saddle sores. The bike’s been through a lot too.

Selfie at the Baltic Sea in Latvia. Not many swimmers just a few sun bathers

This car was parked at the Reiumaa Motell. I saw it when I left at 6.00. Notice the 360 deg camera mounted on the spindle on top. I’d say doing Google work.

A straw mannequin.

The Prïvïbas pieminekis the Freedom Monument dedicate to the Latvians who died in the struggle for freedom between 1918-20

Decided to stop at the Reiumaa Motell in Uula

Sun Jun 9
Days on the road 30
Hot and sunny (again)
Saddle Time 07.28.46
Dist 140
Total Dist 2824.3
Temp 18-30
Elev gain 193
Max gradient 2%

Great riding day except the 10-20 k headwind. Would have made much better time if the wind was with me.

All on Hwy 4/E67 S to Riga. Makes it easy not having to check the map every turn. Decided to stop at the Reiumaa Motell in Uula. This again was a spur of the moment decision and a good one. The owner’s 7 year old daughter was playing bicycle on the street and saw me coming and ran in to tell her mom. She told me 10 min. So I sat down and got on wifi to check a few things and start my blog. I was just about to give up when she arrived. A beautiful stunning woman. She showed me the 35 and 40€ rooms, both huge. Finally, something not approaching 100€ I’ve been paying. She said they have 13 rooms and were full up on the weekend but only 3 rooms booked tonight. She would even cook me dinner for 6€. I’m in.

The Reiumaa Motell

The Reiumaa Motell backyard

A old bridge taken from the new bridge. Near Päärdu (I think)

One day of site seeing in Tallinn

Sat Jun 8
Days on the road 29
Devishly hot and sunny (again)
Saddle Time 02.49.39
Dist 25.8
Total Dist 2684.3
Temp 23-33
Elev gain
Max gradient

This hotel is awesome. When I checked in he said it included free admission to the water park. I thought big deal just a little pool for kids. Was I wrong. At 9.00 p with time to kill I went there to have a shower and maybe a hot tub soak and was I surprised: a brand new 50m Olympic spec pool! Even starting blocks. Not a kid’s pool. Also a sauna, hot tubs etc. So I enjoyed a easy 500 m swim.

Rode out to the Maarjamäe Kommunisimiohuirte Memoriaal a memorial dedicated to the 90,000 murdered Estonians during their fight for independence from Soviet occupation (1940-1991). Especially bad during WWII and the Stalin era. Also visited the famous Alexander Nevski Cathedral, wandered the old town, Toompea Castle etc. Like every guide book says Tallinn sure has a beautiful preserved old inner city.

Estonia is a small country with a pop of 1.3 million and Tallinn the capital with 400,000. Its latitude is 59 deg north, almost the 60 deg N of the southern NWT boundary. Today sun rises at 4.08 a and sunset at 22.32 p. Lots of daylight at this latitude. There are several famous Estonians: the 3 developers of Skype, Kelly Sidaru the youngest Olympian to win gold, Kerli a musician to name a few.

Fun With Flags (for Sheldon Cooper): the Estonian flag is blue (for blue sky, seas and lakes), black (for past oppression and bountiful soil) and white (virtue, winter snow and the long successful struggle for freedom and independence) The only other country with these colors is Bolivia.

The Alexander Nevski Cathedral

The Maarjamäe Kommunisimiohuirte Memoriaal to the 90,000 victims of Soviet aggression

A view of medieval Tallinn and the modern port in the background

This building dates from 1372. Note how the wall appears to be rippled. It is.

The 50 m swimming pool! In a hotel!

Helsinki to Tallinn in 2 1/2 hours

Fri Jun 7
Days on the road 28
Devishly hot and sunny (again)
Saddle Time 01.00.00 (just a guess)
Dist 20 k (possibly)
Total Dist 2658.5
Temp 23-33
Elev gain
Max gradient

Today is another blisteringly hot day. It’s been a month since I landed in Munich. Where does the time go when I’m having so much fun? Every day seems to have different challenges. Had the morning to kill so I went for an 8 k walk down to the other shore and through Kaivopuisto park and along the shore and through some major construction. The Finns have an education system where all the children have to do classes outdoors no matter the weather. Even so I’m always amazed by the number of class activities outside in parks.

My ferry leaves at 14.15 so I’m just counting down. At the docks the bicycles had to stand in the car line in the boiling sun on fresh black ashfault (how do you spell that, it just looks wrong), my shoes and tires sticking to it. I met a long haired Swedish guy who was cycling to Greece. He had an old 1980s steel road bike with 14 gears and a small front handlebar pack and a sleeping bag under the seat. He was really traveling light! I thought I was good with 15 kg. There was a Finnish woman and her daughter, and 3 other guys. This time there were about 40 Italian Harleys on this trip.

About half way through the journey it started to get cold. Looking south toward Tallinn I could see thunder clouds developing. That’s all I need. To arrive in a thunderstorm. People are loading up on duty free. Went out on deck and everything is soaked. Hopefully that’s the end of the thunderstorm threat. It was.

Wasted about 1.5 hrs looking for a hotel. My first choice from Trivago/ didn’t exist, my second choice was a music studio. A local never heard of it. She told me there is another one down the street. Didn’t find that either. So I just rode around looking. Found a hostel for 11€ for a bed in a 16 man dorm. No thanks, not that desperate yet. Maybe at 10. Found 3 hotels and they were all 90€ so I took the best one. I hope I never have to ride on cobble stones again!They really hurt and are treturous. After dinner I went for a walk in the old town and came across a noisy street party with most guys wearing green. Irish. They are supporters of the Northern Ireland football team. N. Ireland plays Estonia tomorrow night. I should go just to annoy my brother who’s football mad! That’s the one thing he wanted to do on the trip – take me too a game.

Jere from Finland is biking to Greece. This is all he has. And half the pack is a book.

Lots of construction going on

In the hold. The last row isn’t fill with trucks yet. It was a tight squeeze when they drove in.

Crazy Irish men filling the square

Site seeing in Helsinki

Thurs Jun 6
Days on the road 27
Devishly hot and sunny
Saddle Time 02.35.46
Dist 21.9
Total Dist 2638.5
Temp 23-33
Elev gain
Max gradient

Almost like Saudi Arabia, instinctively I’m always looking for the shady side of the street. First priority: I have to book my passage to Tallin. They encourage you to do it online but I hesitate to do this because of security concerns and no printer. Found the Viking office with only a few wrong turns and bought my ticket and also a few questions like where is the loading dock and what time do I need to show up?

Rode my bike to a few sites: Temppeliaukion church, the Ateneum, the National Museum. The museum was interesting but I should have passed (I’m getting tired of them) it seems Finland was under the control of Imperial Russia or Sweden for much of its history only to become a nation after WW1. It somehow managed to not become snared in the Russian orbit behind the iron curtain after WW2. Finland introduced universal childcare in 1973, the first nation to do so

Took a long walk around the old town and the markets in the afternoon. The parks are full of sun worshippers now, the ocean side swimming pools are full. It’s a sun worship day. Watched garbage men ride bikes to the park garbage and dump it into the bin in front of their bikes. They’re fast and I’m slow so no photos. The gulls are very brazen and swoop down and grab your icecream out of your hand or the contents of your plate.

Right now I’m in the market square having a beer and writing my blog and listening to the French guys beside me. And watching people.

Bixby bikes all lined up and parked. These are well used.

Ocean side swimming pool is very busy

A view of one of the many harbors

Interesting bronze statues

The Baltics 2019