Cycling Europe Day 36: Mean Motorists

All it takes to ruin someone’s day is a few mean motorists, a ride longer than 100 km, and many very steep hills.

I’ve had an awful day.

It all started as I was navigating myself out of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. An idiot motorist intentionally swerved into me to scare me. I knew what he was trying to do. He was trying to make a point. I shouldn’t be on the road. I should be on the sidewalk-bike-path.

I’ve been generally avoiding those paths in every country I’ve been in. They are always very poorly maintained: full of cracks and potholes. They also twist and turn and you have to cycle up and down curbs. If I were city cycling, going on a short errand with my bike, they would be acceptable. But when I’m on a road bike with 15kg of weight needing to get from one city to the next, they are useless.

So this idiot swerves into me. Nothing happens. I’m cycling slowly because I’m trying to figure out directions. He did not frighten me but I did get upset. He had to stop at the traffic light just ahead, so I maneuvered myself to the back of his car, knocked on the back window, and shook my finger at him (it gets worse..I’m so useless at spur of the moment anger). I then went to his window and told him, as he rolled down the window, “That’s not nice!”

He started to tell me I am supposed to be on the sidewalk. I told him, “I have a long road!” (that will tell him!). He gave me a long lecture about how I had a sidewalk to cycle on and that it would be bad for me if the police caught me. The guy spoke very fluent English. I started to say, “If I’m wrong….” when the light turned green. As he headed off I said, “You, you, you…” and managed to yell at the back of his car, “You shouldn’t try to kill people!”

That whole episode went very differently in my head shortly afterwards. In one scenario I said, “That is NOT a way to treat tourists in your country!” In another scenario I said, “That is NOT a way to show respect to a lady, you fuckwad!” In yet another scenario I said, “If I’m doing something wrong it does NOT give you the right to try to scare, intimidate, or kill me, dick!”

Anyway. I did not say any of that. I couldn’t think it up quickly enough. I resolved not to let this episode upset me. He was one idiot Slovenian among a nation full of nice people, I told myself.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, it was warm, I was cycling into the mountains again and the views were breathtaking. I was thinking I didn’t want to have to leave this country as soon as I would.

I knew I had two long climbs today: one 20km climb and another 10km climb. Both turned out to be very reasonable and gradual. I stopped after the first for a huge kabab sandwich. I was feeling good and strong. I continued on my way.

At some point while passing through a very small town, a female motorist stopped just in front of me and yelled at me. She was very angry. There was one of those silly sidewalks in that one-kilometer-long town and she was apparently upset I wasn’t using it. She spoke in Slovene so I have no idea what she said. I started to feel exasperated by these motorists. Several trucks also drove past me during the day closer than is comfortable. This was in between towns where there were no sidewalks. On one narrow road, I heard a truck behind me wanting to pass and waiting for a break in the traffic on the other side of the single carriageway so it could pass me. I stopped and took a side so he wouldn’t have to wait and looked behind me at him. He gave me an icy cold stare before he passed. I am certain that by night he is a paid killer.

When I reached 100km I was getting tired. I had assumed I had finished the hills. The reality was that the big ones were still ahead. For the next 20km I had sudden, very steep hills to climb. Up and down, up and down. It wouldn’t end. I wanted to cry. As I neared Maribor, I couldn’t figure out which road to take to get into the city. I chose a wrong road and suddenly found myself on a highway. It wasn’t the motorway. I was sure of that. But it was a highway. EVERY SINGLE MOTORIST honked very angry honks at me as they passed. Every single one. I did not want to be on that road. I was on it for no more than five minutes. But it was a miserable experience. They couldn’t just let it go. I had made a mistake. I was a tourist; you could tell that from the panniers. They couldn’t just give a tourist who made a mistake a break.

This was nothing like cycling on the autovia in Spain for 80km and getting friendly honks from the drivers, encouraging me along. Nor was it like being on busy italian roads and feeling like the car drivers were telling me not to worry and that they had my back. Slovenes gave me the impression today that they were unforgiving, selfish drivers. It was awful.

This morning I didn’t want to leave the country so early. Now I can’t wait to be out of here to go somewhere there are drivers who are more accepting of cyclists who share the roads with them.

I’m not posting any nice pictures of Slovenia today. I’m too upset with it.

Total distance traveled: 138km
Total ascent: 883 m (yesterday it was 1168m)
Total descent: 883 m
Calories burned: 3424

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