Being flexible

Last night as we were getting ready to sleep, we got the news that the 19th, 20th and 21st stages had been cancelled due to weather (rain). Predictions for locations on our route were for 150mm (6″) per day. Instead we would ride in the vans to Tirana, Albania. All through the night it rained hard but just before 7 in the morning it let up for us to ride over to the campsite with our bags.

We had breakfast and Wilbert gave us the plan: take 17 of the riders to Tirana, then come back for the other 8 in a second stage. When I had looked late at night it was a bit over 4 hours one way, but in the morning it was saying 5+. It ended up taking over 8 hours. We packed up and the decision of who goes was settled by registration order, that is, signing up for the trip earlier is better. We piled bikes and bags in and took off in rain at 8:45.

Loading the back of our van
As we drove around Kotor Bay and through Kotor, the rain increased until it was pretty amazing

After a while the rain let up, then started massively again. We stopped for a snack, then continued. Finally we got to the border and immediately we could see there was a problem. A long line of vehicles, end not visible, not moving. At all. While it wasn’t raining too much I walked up the line, over the border, but it ended up taking 90 minutes or so – no explanation, just slow.

An Albanian car and one from Montenegro, waiting in line to say Good bye to Montenegro

We drove on, through periods of massive rain, I passed out for a while, then we stopped for a snack. Tom and Graham and Peter and I just had beers, then back in the van for more fun.

Liquid lunch

I passed out some more then woke up in a traffic jam in the suburbs of Tirana. It took forever but we finally arrived at the Hotel New York which turned out to be a pretty great place. Beer is cheap, the rooms are nice, it’s not crowded and they will even bring in food. First, Bike Dreams provided a bunch of snacks which was great, then we ordered dinner. My pizza came pretty quickly and was surprisingly good. Others were also impressed with their dinners, especially in weight per cost.

View from our lounge/bar at Hotel New York, Tirana, Albania

We have a rest day tomorrow and rain is predicted to stay strong all day. There is a plan to get everyone else here tomorrow, then we all have a rest day the next day.

Balkan Stage 18 Dubrovnik, Croatia to Kotor, Montenegro

Sept 25, 2022

Stage 18 of 36, day 21 of 43: 84.7 km, 1125m climb, 3:48 Moving, 4:36 Total,  64.4 kph max

CountryDistanceClimbing
Slovenia352.25149
Italy29.3346
Croatia950.911,430
Bosnia & Herzegovina211.01444
Montenegro29.3185
Total1573.718.754

Today marked the halfway point of the Balkan Boulevard tour in terms of ride stages, 18 out of 36. We crossed into our 5th country, Montenegro, number 64 for me. The weather forecasts have been the exact opposite of what you want to see: huge rain, coming inevitably. But even with a pretty late start today, we ended up only having a few small showers to ride through.

The route took us first into the Old City of Dubrovnik, which may have startled some tourists, but it wasn’t really crowded yet

Then we headed south with a fair amount of up and down. We had some roads with lots of traffic and some without any. One really nice section was up high, around 350m, with masses of cypress trees around and a good view down to the sea.

Cypress trees over the Adriatic

We came to Ype and Henk just setting up for lunch at the 50 km mark. Even though it felt like every minute of non-raining time we wasted at lunch would be traded for riding in the rain later, it was great to stop and refuel.

Another day at the lunch room

Soon after lunch we came to the border. Getting out of Croatia took a few minutes, then maybe 2 km of no-mans land, then a similar wait to get into Montenegro. Arriving by road is nice and we haven’t had any South American style border crossing woes.

Leaving Croatia for the last time on this trip
Waiting to enter Montenegro

There were two small climbs but mostly fast cruising along the coastline, in and out of little bays, dodging people walking, riding or driving. As we got closer and closer to the goal, the speed crept up. Soon we were averaging 32, then 34, then 36. Blasting along in a tight line at nearly 40 kph was just great.

Riding the Montenegro coastline with Niek

We pulled into the campsite, a bit short of Kotor itself. Bob and I had booked an apartment nearby due to the weather. We rode over (about 400m) and checked in. It’s a modern, nice place, very inexpensive, I guess because they close for the end of the season in two days. We got our keys and then rode back for a lots of snacks and hot leek soup and drinks and stuff. Somehow on cool days I just don’t drink enough, so I had lots of orange juice, peanuts, along with cheese-bread, sour gummies, pretzels and the soup. A full meal is just what’s needed after these rides.

A view of part of our apartment

Back at the apartment we had showers and regretted having no dirty clothes to wash in our washing machine! I was on dinner duty so had to be back at camp at 5:30. After a couple of hours it was time to go and still, amazingly not raining much.

Dinner tonight started with pasta salad with avocado and pineapple and basil. The main course was rice with a quite spicy sauce with lots of smoked tofu and veggies, flavored with lemongrass. Each plate had two big prawns on top. Dessert was cake with whipped cream and pomegranate. Choice of red or white wine (white FTW this time).

Dry dinner

After dinner Wilbert described the ride tomorrow (wet and long) and then Chris gave the marmot presentation. He sang a Swiss song that was very well received, then passed the marmot on to Graham for having the nicest smile of anyone. Nice job!

On the plus side, basically just one hill tomorrow

Then I helped wash a million dishes and utensils and it was time to ride the 400m “home”. Unfortunately the rain kicked up to torrential and we just couldn’t stomach it. I suggested we try it naked since the human body is inherently waterproof but Bob rejected the idea. We hung around and then, during a lull, went for it. It was super dark and rainy and as soon as we arrived it started dumping even more. Now we have to make a judgement call: is relaxing in warm, dry comfort, listening to rain all night worth $26 each? We could’ve spent the night making sure nothing touches the tent walls and trying to not go out to pee. I think we did the right thing.

Rest day in Dubrovnik

Sept 24, 2022

Even though it was a rest day, Niek, Bob and I were first in to breakfast when it opened at 6:59am. It was sumptuous and delicious, best yet on the trip. We ate massively then caught an uber to the old town. Our plan was to see the sights before it got too crowded, especially the famous walk around the old town walls.

It worked pretty well and was cool and uncrowded as we entered and climbed up to the wall. The view was great as we slowly made our way around the whole perimeter.

Looking through a hole in the wall
Across to the fortress
Niek and I looking out over the Adriatic
The view south
No crowds early in the morning
Panorama

After a full circumnavigation, we walked through the Rector’s Palace, checked out a couple of museums, then headed up to the cable car up Mt Srd.

The view up over 400m to Mt Srd
The ride takes only 4 minutes and suddenly you have an amazing view of Dubrovnik.
Panorama

We had a good look around, then explored the Homeland War Museum, then started down, hiking the rocky trail back to town.

The view north on one of the switchbacks
Looking down to the old town

Once we were back down, Bob and I had lunch at a small restaurant then he wanted more museums and I wanted to relax. So I walked back to the hotel, gave my bike some love in the garage, then hung out for a couple of hours until it was time to plan out dinner. I found a place nearby and at 6:30 the three of us, plus our new Danish rider, Per, walked over and had a very nice dinner with wine, in the open air.

We walked back and then made another ice cream stop to try and use up all our kunas. I still have 20 left (about $2.50) so I can have another ice cream or drink during the ride to Montenegro tomorrow – we won’t cross the border until lunch time or so.

I love rest days, especially in great places like this. From here we have 2 nights in Montenegro, a night in Albania, then we arrive in the capital of Albania, Tirana, for our next rest day. Unfortunately the weather is forecast to be really wet during those days, but we’ve survived that before.

Balkan Stage 17 Mostar, Bosnia to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Sept 23, 2022

Stage 17 of 36, day 19 of 43: 146.4 km, 699m climb, 6:24 Moving, 7:52 Total,  62.4 kph max

CountryDistanceClimbing
Slovenia352.25149
Italy29.3346
Croatia896.510,490
Bosnia & Herzegovina211.01444
Total1489.017,629

Well, today was a tough but very fun day. We had two options, gravel and paved, and I’d say about half the people raised their hands at breakfast when asked if they were taking gravel. But in the end, nobody actually did the whole gravel track, and just a few of us did most of it. We left Mostar just before 8am, on a busy road with no shoulder. But soon we were cranking along on mostly empty roads in the cool morning air. I rode with the Dutch team to the gravel turn-off, then caught up with Bob and then the two routes converged and diverged a few times so we rode with various people.

Riding under an incomplete bridge
Morning riding

Around 42 km, there was a decisive split, where the gravel got serious and many people tried a few meters and gave up. Bob and I continued, and that section ended up being about 20 km long, consistently climbing, on a very rocky railroad bed without the rails, but with all the rocks you could ever want. We went through 12 tunnels, and over half of them required a headlight. Luckily I had one, not great but just good enough so that the two of us could ride every tunnel.

Start of 20 km of gravel excitement
The tunnels looked like this at the start, pitch black inside

There were many deep road cuts and a few amazing rickety old bridges that were somewhat scary and if they had failed (as it looked like they would at any time), we would die. But we kept going. Bob bloodied himself massively on some kind of pricker bush, I was stung by a bee and stabbed in the foot by a branch that my wheel kicked up. Rocks were flying everywhere. We laughed a lot though, and it was actually really fun, once we resigned ourselves to going no more than 13 kph.

Riding the first of a few interesting bridges
Fall through here and it’s 40m to your death
We had to ride 100%
This is your ideal tunnel bike
Bob heading into yet another tunnel

After a really long time, we came to a paved road, and then just had to pass it and stick with the rocks for another several km, then finally onto a paved road, then just a few more km to lunch. We assumed we would be dead last due to taking SO long climbing all that way, but no, all the fast guys who took the road were still there when we arrived. We ate long and hard, and a couple more gravel-heads arrived. Then it was time to go. We still were not half way, so had a LONG way to go.

Lunch stop, very Andes Trail-esque
After lunch there was one more tunnel and gravel section. This photo is a 100% accurate representation of what it looked like. This tunnel had bats flying around inside as well as suspicious soft sections that seemed like mud but were probably bat guano.

After a short, steep climb, we got back on the rail path and cruised a really long way. 70 km, 80 km, 90 km, 100 km, 110 km, etc, repeat until done. Around 135 km we topped out on a hill and then cruised down to the Croatia border. We got out of Bosnia pretty easily, then after a 250m no-man’s land, the line to get into Croatia was pretty long. So we just coasted down past all the cars to the front and pushed in and were through quickly.

The view 300m down to Dubrovnik after we reentered Croatia

Then we had a great descent, steep and fun, to Dubrovnik. After a final 5 km through town we arrived at the hotel to find Caroline had made smoothies for everyone. She is awesome. We got our room, and took perfect awesome showers, did laundry, and even took a rest for a few minutes.

But soon it was 5:30 and time to go out with our craft beer-loving friends. We walked 1.5 km along the harbor to a nice place I had found online. We had decent IPA and other beers, then Niek, Bob, Liz and I decided a real dinner was required. Now. So we walked back, tried one place then settled on a pizzeria that was pretty good. An ice-cream stop on the way home and we were all set.

What a day! The most adventurous of the tour by far, but will it be beat later on?

Hanging out at Dubrovnik Beer Company, vitamin-replacement therapy

Balkan Stage 16 Međugorje to Mostar, Bosnia

Sept 22, 2022

Stage 16 of 36, day 18 of 43: 48.2 km, 425m climb, 2:03 Moving, 2:55 Total,  55.7 kph max

CountryDistanceClimbing
Slovenia352.25149
Italy29.3346
Croatia882.410,417
Bosnia & Herzegovina78.7818
Total1342.616,930

Today was a super mellow ride, scenic and nice. For the first time on the tour though, it was actually not warm at breakfast.

Boy am I glad I zipped my tent last night with these guys wandering around!
In the campground ready to ride

By the time we started riding at 8, everyone was standing around carefully in the sun, and no one was in short sleeves. I even brought out my full-fingered gloves for the first part of the day.

Simo says Hi

After cruising through town for a while, we slowly climbed a bit, then had a fun descent to a deep, shadowed valley. It was cool, definitely below 10C. We were on a sort of main road to Mostar but the traffic was light. Around 20 km we turned off and headed up some side roads, warmer. We had seen that it was an out-and-back to something but didn’t know what. Then I saw a sign “Dervish House 2 km”.

Sure enough, we rolled up to Tekija u Blagaju which is an old monastery-type place built under a giant overhanging limestone cliff. We paid the entry fee even though so far in Bosnia, the satisfaction to entry fee ratio has been low. They had a nice souvenir shop and bathroom, but weren’t allowed in the house itself (our shorts were too short). We took some photos, but the angle was much better below in the free zone.

The cave by the Dervish house
View from a bridge below
No smooching!

We rolled away soon, now dressed in short sleeves and fingerless gloves. Good thing too since Rob’s route soon had us taking a detour up a pretty steep climb on a tiny “road” that measured 19.2% at the steepest. That will warm you up. Then a nice descent and we were getting close to Mostar.

We stopped to take a photo of a mosque
Coming into town we drafted a truck pulling a grape trailer, but eventually had to pass him
We detoured to the famous “Old Bridge” in Mostar
View from the Old Bridge

We arrived in town at the hotel before noon and Bike Dreams had set up lunch outside, across the street. We ate, relaxed a few minutes then checked in. The hotel is new and nice. We had showers, then somehow we both fell fast asleep for a while. After a nap we worked out a plan with the rest of the “Craft Beer Lovers” WhatsApp group to meet at a local craft beer garden at 3pm. We headed over and the place was great.

Nice motto: Resist Corporate Beer
Living it up
After a few rounds we walked over to a restaurant for dinner
Outside the restaurant after dinner
View from the Old Bridge after dinner while eating gelato

All in all it was a really great day and I’m looking forward to more riding tomorrow. We still have two more days of good weather predicted. Good night!

Balkan Stage 15 Trpanj, Croatia to Međugorje, Bosnia

Sept 21, 2022

Stage 15 of 36, day 17 of 43: 66.5 km, 793m climb, 3:18 Moving, 6:12 Total,  63.8 kph max

CountryDistanceClimbing
Slovenia352.25149
Italy29.3346
Croatia882.410,417
Bosnia & Herzegovina30.5393
Total1294.416,505

I slept pretty well, considering. There are jackals on this island and at times in the night, one would start howling and that would set off the whole pack. They sound a little like coyotes on some drug that makes them crazier than usual. We had breakfast at the usual time and again, had the joy of packing up bone dry tents. We left before 8am and had a 2 km ride down to the ferry terminal.

Waiting for the 9am ferry
Panorama looking over to the mainland
We had a luxurious one hour ferry ride, so pleasant. It is our last one on this trip though.

On the mainland, we rode off, heading south for a while, then up a hill on a tiny road with no traffic. Then inland and pretty soon to a border crossing. But we turned north right at it, not quite leaving Croatia. We headed up a valley for a while then spotted the lunch truck at 36 km. We had a tasty lunch, and noticed our border crossing was just 100m ahead. We set out and the formalities were minor and the next thing we knew we were riding through Bosnia and Herzegovina – I’ll just call it Bosnia from now on.

Welcome to Bosnia

We had our choice again today: gravel or regular. I opted for gravel because it’s shorter by 10 km and because it’s gravel. A while after the border the routes split but came together at Kravica Waterfall. Bob and I were riding together and decided to pay the entry fee and ride in. It was 20 convertible Bosnian marks (km) each, euros and kuna not accepted. So I waved my credit card and made it happen, not knowing how much we were paying [turned out $10.13 each]. We rode in, down a hill, locked the bikes and hiked down to a pretty lagoon where people were swimming and looking at many waterfalls, all in the same area.

We locked up our Salsa Cutthroats
Very nice spot
At the lagoon

We rode back up, then about 20 km more to camp. The route was up and down, mostly all on deserted roads. At one point we rode over a giant ultra-modern looking motorway, which looked really weird with no cars on it in either direction. Finally we saw one. I wonder what the story is there.

Anyway, we rode through the town of Međugorje, Bob nearly crashed, then we made it to camp. It was so nice to arrive early and not sweaty at all. The temperature is about 18-19C, sunny and nice. I set some things charging in the truck, set up my tent in the spacious area that seemed to be just for us, then had some delicious soup and several other snacks plus a lot of orange juice. The showers were cold but Bike Dreams had evidently paid for us to use a small hotel next door. When I went over to find the place, a woman grabbed me and pulled me into a garage, “Please help us here.” Two very scruffy guys were in there with an ancient, dirty and crappy mountain bike. She points to one side of the shock, “Oil goes in here, true or false?” I said, “True on most shocks but I don’t know this one. We have an excellent mechanic who can help.” Then she gave me a hotel room with a tiny but hot shower. I washed my clothes and myself and came out very happy.

Pansion and Auto-Camping Verite in Međugorje, Bosnia

We have working WiFi all through camp and my phone works perfectly in Bosnia so far too. I wrote this up and chatted with Katie while she drove to the pool at 6am at home. While we do have a bunch of very challenging looking rides coming up, I checked tomorrow’s and it looks dead easy, to a hotel in Mostar, Bosnia. Then there’s a gravel option for the day after that reduces the ride to Dubrovnik to 147 km. Bring it on!

Later in the afternoon, I took a nap, read a little, then went to the bathroom and got locked in. Sigi got a real laugh when I stood on the toilet, just tall enough to see out the thin crack above the door, “Sigi, come over here for a minute please.” No inside door knob…he rescued me, then Henk made a warning sign for that door. Then we had a great dinner at 6:30 and for the first time on the whole trip it was actually a little chilly. I wore pants and socks with my flip-flops! Joop gave a really nice Marmot presentation, talking about seeing cultural differences through cycling. He concluded that he needed more research so we have to give him the marmot sometime near the end of the tour.

Balkan Stage 14 Korčula to Trpanj, Croatia

Sept 20, 2022

Stage 14 of 36, day 16 of 43: 38.3 km, 693m climb, 1:57 Moving, 2:47 Total,  62.4 kph max

CountryDistanceClimbing
Slovenia352.25149
Italy29.3346
Croatia846.410,217
Total1227.915,712

After such a fun, easy day yesterday, it really seemed like we’re cheating today to have an even easier day. We woke up to dry tents, clear skies and beauty everywhere.

The view from camp before leaving

Breakfast was normal at 7am and we left just before 8am. It was only 13 km to the ferry terminal – I led the way, curving around, a little climbing, and a scenic Rob detour through the touristy town of Korčula. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and relaxed until 9am when the ferry took off. It was a short ride over to Island Peljesac, gorgeous sitting on the top deck.

We started riding and it was a bit busier, the road was a little narrow, there was a headwind and it was up hill. There was a 400m climb over about 6 km, with amazing views to the right and somewhat scary traffic on the left.

Photo break with Niek on the climb

Once that was over, we headed inland on tiny roads with no traffic. The last part of the ride was just great, on a bike route, gorgeous and almost zero traffic. We had the typical big, steep descent into the town then arrived at the beach campsite.

Let’s coast down to camp

The trucks hadn’t arrived, so we hung out on the beach. The water is so clear here and there are no crowds – just great.

We unloaded the trucks after a while, set up camp, and I retired to the outdoor bar to write this and relax. We looked ahead to tomorrow’s route, bigger, but still relatively short, and the excitement of entering Bosnia and Herzegovina, a new country for me. Then there was a lunch plus soup interlude, plus more snacks.

Home sweet home for a night

I spent the afternoon lazily, I took a nap, hung out, had a couple of beers with the guys, then it was time for dinner. It was Graham’s birthday and we sang and he talked about the Bike Dreams family that he was happy to be part of. Dinner was nice, then Tom gave a nice Marmot talk, passing it off to Joop for tomorrow.

Balkan Stage 13 Split to Korčula, Croatia

58.6 km, 920m, 2:58 Moving, 64 kph max

No WiFi again in camp, so just a quick post. It was an easy day today but a fantastic day of riding. We dropped bags at the trucks at 8 so they could go get in the ferry line. Then a big hotel breakfast, hanging around for a while, then a short ride through Split to the ferry. Very relaxed, we boarded about 10 and started the 3 hour cruise to Vela Luka.

The marmot on the ferry

Scenic and relaxing, uncrowded and smooth. We chatted with a Finnish cyclist to pass the time. Close to docking we saw the famous Black Pearl which was amazing.

The real Black Pearl

Bob and I rode off the ferry and detoured down to the town and looked around for a while, then started the climb. Lunch was supposed to be within a couple of km, so I texted after about 17 km. One answer was that we needed to go just a little more, the other said we had missed it long ago. But we couldn’t tell who was lying, Niek or Bob J. In the end, we just continued and it was Niek lying so we made it to lunch just as the last person was leaving.

Ype was very patient while we ate, then Bob said we had to hammer to avoid being last. It was just gorgeous scenery, up and down with no traffic and awesome. Hammer we did and passed many. Team Salsa FTW!

Climbing

After an amazing steep 340m descent we made it to camp before 5pm and scored great spots in an olive orchard. Showers were good, then soup and snacks. Then a short rest to write this before dinner.

Dinner was a little later than usual since we arrived so late. It was dark when we finished but after the briefing for tomorrow, Wilbert asked, “Who has the Marmot?” So I stood up and said what an honor it was to carry the Marmot for two days and that it saw many funny things but I wanted to tell a true story about myself instead, one that included everyone.

Last night I had a dream that we were all riding through Croatia. We were trying to ride from lunch to camp when the wind picked up. We did make it but barely. It was like Patagonia. In the morning it was even worse and Wilbert said we couldn’t ride that day and would cancel the trip if it doesn’t get better. It got worse still, very scary. What we didn’t know was that the same thing was happening all over the world. Ocean waves got bigger and bigger and started flooding coastal towns. Soon we all died [massive groans]. But unlike my normal nightmares, it didn’t end there. I was watching the Earth from space and seeing many-kilometer high waves rush over every continent. Then I finally woke up. I was telling everyone about it at lunch the next day and Tom said ‘Wait a minute, that’s my dream!’ And told the rest of it which matched my dream exactly. Then I woke up Again and was in my bed in Split with Bob snoring. Questions about my dream were like “Do you have any more of those mushrooms left?” Etc. Funny that we had mushroom soup today. Anyway that was my dream that I shared. Good night, pleasant dreams!

Rest day in Split, Croatia

On these demanding bike tours, a rest day is like heaven. Make the location interesting and beautiful like Split, and it’s an excellent heaven. We started the day with a large breakfast at the hotel, then walked downtown later and checked out the famous Diocletian’s Palace. We had been through it a bit the night before going to dinner but took more time and saw more, but even in the second half of September, it’s super crowded. To the point where going to the more famous parts is basically impossible or too painful to contemplate. Maybe before 8am? Later I heard it was super crowded at 9am too.

The bell tower, shot over the heads of a million or so people
3500 year old Sphinx
Gregory of Nin

We walked past Gregory of Nin’s statue and through the Golden Gate back into the Palace. We ran into Donna and Elizabeth and decided to eat lunch together. I had a nice pizza and it was nice chatting. Donna is heading home to Canberra, Australia tomorrow. Bike Dreams trips are flexible – you can do the whole thing or just part. After lunch, Bob headed off to meet some relatives who happened to be in town and I looked around the Palace some more.

I walked back to the hotel and had a chat with Katie, then went swimming at the public swimming area next door – right in the Adriatic. The water was pretty warm, with choppy waves. It’s very salty so you can float really easily. The swimming area is great with showers and comfy shaded deck chairs – I relaxed for quite a while.

Public swimming area by our hotel

I went back in and it was almost dinner time. Niek and I walked back to the Corto Maltese Freestyle Restaurant where we had a reservation this time.

Nice scenery on the walk to town

Bob was there eating with his family too. The food was amazing, very fancy and tasty. I had “Ballad of the Salted Sea”. The dish names and notes on the menu were funny. We had a great local Zinfandel, then went back to Luca’s for another triple gelato extravaganza, all new flavors from last night.

All in all it was a great rest day and we’re looking forward to a fun and easy half day of riding tomorrow.

Balkan Stage 12 Krka National Park to Split, Croatia

Sept 17, 2022

Stage 12 of 36, day 13 of 43: 110.5 km, 1184m climb, 4:54 Moving, 6:11 Total,  66.2 kph max

CountryDistanceClimbing
Slovenia352.25149
Italy29.3346
Croatia748.58604
Total1130.014,099

Last night at dinner we had the usual “Marmot” ceremony. There is a little marmot doll that travels with the group. Each night in camp, whoever has it tells some stories from the day or whatever they feel like saying, then passes it on to another person. Last night Lex told some stories then mentioned that I had accidentally left my tent, packed up, leaning against a tree, some distance from the truck and it was a lucky thing someone saw it and it wasn’t left behind [this part was all true]. Then he explained that I hadn’t even used it that night – I had just been at the dance party next door, all night. And voila I was presented with the marmot.

The marmot rides in my bike bag

Today felt like things were really settling in and working well. It also marks the one-third point of the riding stages, 12 done, 24 to go. After a nice breakfast with pancakes, we packed up and started riding at 7:45. Everyone was looking at various weather and wind apps trying to figure out what it would be like – the consensus was bad headwinds all day and hard rain later in the day. We set out, into the wind, riding slow. But all that changed after just a kilometer. We turned and all was golden. Downhill with tailwinds! And scenic with no hint of rain! This went on for a long time, riding in a great group. I got out ahead with Simo for quite a while, then he dropped me on a hill.

A little later I was on a climb and realized I had made a wrong turn. I turned around and found a large group had made the same mistake. So we all corrected and rode up the big climb of the day together.

View back from the big climb

We rode past grapes growing (and ready or over ready to be picked). And figs, way over ripe on the tree – tasty as dried fruit. Marc and I opted out on a coffee stop and continued together to lunch at 65 km. The guys had a barren spot on the side of the road but the vans were strategically placed to make shade.

Shady lunch

We were about first there and had a lovely time, eating and chatting. After a while we took off. Marc’s Garmin had decided to stop working so he needed someone with directions. We had some great descents, riding through tiny villages, past a million olive trees and some steep but short climbs. We also rode through the town of Trogir which was mobbed with people but beautiful.

Trogir

After a while we could see Split ahead and around 90 km, we stopped at a little café for some Radler (Anita’s idea – she’s from Germany) – very good call.

The marmot at our Radler stop

Fortified, we cranked out the last 20 in a group of 6. Rob’s route ended with what looked like a detour, way around a peninsula but it looked like a park on the map so we followed. It turned out to be a perfect tree-shaded bike path, a great way to end the ride.

Nice view from the bike path

We pulled in by the hotel and there was a large city park. Caroline, our new cook, had set out a bunch of delicious food, and we laughed as we ate about how the weather forecasts had been so wrong. Then Katie texted and we had a great 50 minute call, me laying on my back looking at the sky and the trees. I SO love WhatsApp. After that it was dark and cloudy but still no rain. We all checked in to the hotel and I got a nice room with Bob and working A/C. Writing this now, after a nice shower, the first time in dry cool air for days…is super great! The day didn’t end up as we expected, but was super fun. Tomorrow is a rest day then the next day we have a 10:30 ferry to catch – everyone’s looking forward to time off the bikes, especially in a great city like Split. Our hotel is right on the water with swimming in a pool or the sea.

View from our balcony

Ok so then there was dinner. How do I even describe it? Bob carefully looked up an awesome sounding place and he and I went with Niek, early, and arrived to find most seats free.

The view of Split walking from our hotel

But no, it’s reservation only and we were SOL. It was rated 4.6 and looked awesome. But next door was a much smaller place, rated 4.7, with only 2 small tables outside and 3 inside. We asked and the owner said he’d have a free table in 10 minutes, drink these while you wait. So we did. Sure enough after 10 minutes we sat down, ordered a round of beers and then all the seafood things on the menu: squid w/fava beans, shrimp with barley and fried squid with vegetables. All very large portions, then a bottle of their finest white wine, and after dinner drinks on the house, so so fun. We were joined by a funny cellist from California – it was a grand gourmet experience. The cellist recommended a fantastic gelato place and we all indulged massively. This is truly fine living.

So so so good…