Monday, June 26, 2017

Wild Dogs and Angry Truckers, My Options in Macedonia

Now that I am done riding in Eastern Europe, I can say the scariest ride so far this trip was on a state highway that had no parallel superhighway. It was a twisty twelve-mile climb from Skopje, Macedonia, to the pass that marks the border with Kosovo. On the way up the mountain, two Semis got so close I was off the road and onto the foot-wide sand strip that constitutes a shoulder in Europe.  The second time the air from the truck pushed me far enough off the road that I had to stop.  I got right back on the road. Adrenaline. I really wanted to get to Kosovo.

When I got within sight of the border, I looked across the road and saw warning signs that drivers should watch for bicycles on the roadway on the way down. There were no signs on the way up. Maybe the truckers thought it meant open season on the climb.

The border was jammed with cars and trucks which could mean the bike/pedestrian crossing would be jammed also. Usually the bike crossing was better, but in Ukraine it was worse. I did not have enough time to cross and re-cross the border, so I turned around and rode as fast as I could down the mountain. After eight miles descending, I saw a sign pointing for bikes to take that road. The empty parallel road had weeds growing out of it.  At 27 mph (40 feet per second) I thought about taking the lumpy route the last four miles until I saw three dogs walking along the edge of the empty road.

Dog dinner or ride with Semis?

The lead dog had his head down and his tail seemed to be dragging. He looked hungry enough to eat an old bicyclist. Two days before on the ride toward Romania a dog shot out from under a bridge and sprinted at me. I sprinted and growled back. He gave up. These dogs looked more determined.

Given the choice between wild dogs and Semis, I stayed on the main road until I got back into the city. Then I pulled into a gas station and sat on the curb drinking a bottle of juice and calmed myself down.  I rolled back into Skopje on sidewalks and bike lanes.  The next day I could try to find a different route into Kosovo or go south toward Greece.  I went to Greece. Since that day, I only rode on state highways that have a parallel motorway. Otherwise I am on a narrow road with Semi after Semi.

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