I don’t understand people who have personalities like mine.
Why ON EARTH would anyone choose to cycle 115km in pouring rain for some eight hours?
Today the rain almost didn’t stop at all. It was cold rain. There was a headwind that made it colder. It also made the cycling harder. I’ll admit the more difficult cycling meant more body warmth for me in that cold weather. Cars and trucks splashed dirty, wet road spray on me all day. Visibility was poor because of the clouds and rain, made poorer by the multitude of water droplets on my glasses all day long.
When I reached 30km, I said out loud to myself, “How am I ever going to get to Wroclaw today?”
Yet, I kept cycling. At one point I roared (I’m not kidding) to push myself onwards.
At another point, I had this conversation in my head:
“Why did I have to turn out to be this sort of woman? Why couldn’t I be one of those women who turns her nose up at people who camp and do activities that involve energy and getting dirty? Why couldn’t I turn out to be the kind of woman who just wants to spend most of her day in the kitchen cooking good food for her family? Why couldn’t I be one of those women who walks around in fur coats?” That one stopped me in my tracks. “Wait a minute! I DO want to be the woman who has a fur coat! Why is it I don’t have one already??” And then I got all upset about a conversation I had about fur coats with my husband. He’s against them. All of them. Unless they are fake. We’ll have to have that discussion again.
Don’t get me wrong. I love cooking for my family. I also love luxury holidays when I’m fortunate enough to have one. I can be the laziest person on earth for weeks if I don’t feel like being a productive human being. I aspire to have a comfortable lifestyle. I don’t walk or cycle to the gym unless I absolutely must because I don’t have the car.
But then I go off and do crazy stuff like this. Why??
I asked myself that today. I had to. I told myself that I could stop, find a hotel somewhere, and get out of this crappy rain and cold. I was soaking and freezing and needed to pee for the fifth time, AND it was the first day of my period. Talking about issues female cyclists have to deal with! But Myself responded with a resolute NO. Myself would not stop. Myself would keep going until she absolutely could not. Myself COULD do this. So I shut up and let Myself take charge.
Myself explained, “Imagine the sense of achievement you’ll have, Nadia. You’re hardcore! You’ll know you can cycle over 100 km in the most miserable weather and bad road conditions. Imagine the amount of self-satisfaction you’ll have at the end of the day.”
“OK,” I replied. “I get that. Let’s do this! But can we please stay at a really nice hotel tonight?” “Are you kidding me?” Myself said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. After all this crap?? Fuck money when it comes to our comfort!”
So we’re staying in a really nice hotel tonight.
I did something REALLY bad today. REALLY REALLY bad. None of you will approve. Heck, I don’t approve. But I didn’t know what else to do.
I was cycling in the cold rain. I fixed things so that my upper body was warm enough and protected from getting wet. I had stopped by the side of the road a bit earlier and put on my light rain jacket on top of my cycling shirt and fleece and underneath my heavier rain jacket. I had also covered my head with my fleece hood and rain jacket hood; both underneath my cycling helmet. But I had two big problems: my feet were freezing and had started to get wet despite wearing my overshoes today. More importantly, I was starting to feel very cold because my below-knee cycling pants were absolutely soaking wet. I needed to change those pants. And I REALLY needed to pee. I decided I would stop at the next gas station to amend the situation. But I couldn’t find one and I desperately needed to get out of those wet pants. I had started shivering and I knew that if I got as cold as I did yesterday, I would not last long. I still had some 80-90km to go.
I spotted a small country-road bus stop. I was cycling on a semi-busy road. The bus stop was between villages. There was some sort of a small factory just up the road. It must have been for them. The bus stops I’ve seen here and in the Czech Republic on these sorts of roads are like little huts; I assume to protect those waiting from the elements. “That would suit just fine,” I thought to myself. “I can change my pants in the shelter of the bus stop and pee somewhere behind it.” So I go into the very small bus stop with my bike and dig around in my bags for my warmer cycling pants.
Mind you, the whole of the front of the bus stop is exposed. But I figured it was too dark outside for drivers to properly see what was happening inside. They’ll be driving by too fast anyways to have enough time to figure it all out. So, while seated, for extra discretion, I take off one pair of pants and put on the other. That’s not the bad part. The bad part was that there was absolutely nowhere private to pee behind the bus stop. There was another road behind it and cars were on it. “What am I going to do? What am I going to do??” I asked myself. “Should I wait till I find somewhere else more appropriate? Can I wait??” No was the answer. So, regretfully, I peed inside the bus stop. I positioned my bike to give me a bit of extra privacy from the road in front of me, I squatted, and peed, all the while saying, “I’m so sorry, Poland. I’m SO sorry!”
You know that guy we’ve all seen standing and peeing somewhere completely inappropriate and we shake our heads and tsk tsk in our all-high-and-mightiness, saying he should be able to hold it in like the rest of us but he’s too gross to do that? I’ve become that guy! And I really feel for him.
Wroclaw is actually pronounced “Vrotsof”. I only learned that this morning when I asked my hotel receptionist about directions to “Ro-claw”. I’ll not see more of this city than what I already have while cycling in and what I’ll see tomorrow morning cycling out. It’s still raining and I need to recover from today.
But I am generally liking what I am seeing of Poland while cycling, despite the awful weather since I arrived. There is something about Poland and its people. I’m not yet sure what it is. There is a sense of “normalness” here that I’m finding comforting. The villages I’ve passed through are quaint and middle class. The people sort of remind me of the Brits. Drivers seem generally conscientious. I get splashed with dirty road water by them because there’s just no avoiding it. But they give me my space to cycle, even on their busy roads, minus two truck drivers today who were way too close. The two towns I’ve stayed in also seem nice and middle class. I’ve still not been in any other European country but France where the outskirts of towns are completely run down and obviously poor while the inner parts are more affluent. The part I’ve seen so far in Poland seems generally middle class and, well, nice.
I really hope the weather gets better soon so I can appreciate the country more.
Wroclaw is beautiful. You must see the Ratusch in the center of the town.
I’ll see if I can cycle by it tomorrow. I’m really way too tired for sightseeing today. It was a miserable ride.
I like your candour. Peeing is a problem for both men and women but, admittedly, more of a challenge for women. And, menstrual periods while cycling is not openly discussed by women. I have travelled with women and understand how miserable it can be. Kudos to you for painting a realistic picture of life on the road. And, kudos to you for undertaking this trip on your own.
The sense of achievement is very gratifying indeed. I’ve been following you for a while now and your really an inspiration and you are too frank if I may say. Cut yourself some slack will you?