Tekirdag, Turkey: Today unfolded in a way I never wildly would have predicted. Often on this journey I visualized my arrival in Istanbul, triumphant and jubilant, to keep me going. I never remotely visualized the conditions I faced today, and if I had it’s quite possible I would have turned around a few thousand kilometers ago. Here’s what happened…
I awoke early this morning, just before the 6am prayers and after a stormy night with wind and rain producing the kind of noises I associate with typhoons. I checked the hourly weather forecasts on multiple websites. While the forecasts weren’t pretty, the forecasts suggested more of the same kind of weather as yesterday, which I survived. So I decided to stick with the original plan and trudge to the outskirts of Istanbul. I called John in Istanbul to update him on this plan.
I left Tekirdag in the cold, windy and wet Monday rush hour. Shortly after I got out of the city bad weather became nasty weather. I fought against powerful cross winds for control of the bike, pedaling hard to go downhill. Visibility was bad; I couldn’t see with my glasses on and I couldn’t see with my glasses off. As I stopped at a gas station there was thunder and lightning. This was not unpleasant; this was dangerous. I needed shelter, and once again service station attendants provided it. Frustrated that I had only progressed 12.5 kilometers, I watched in disbelief as the storm raged. After about an hour of this, I realized there was probably no way I could safely get to my intended destination of Silivri today. I decided to abort, and immediately called John back with a further update.
Here’s where the story gets interesting.
While waiting in the gas station, I strike up a conversation with Ugur, the regional manager, who speaks English. He suggested I go to his restaurant next door to wait out the storm, and even offered complimentary transportation for me and bike back to Tekirdag. I appreciated the offer, and never ever remotely expected to take him up on that. The rain eventually eased but the wind did not, and after two efforts to get on the bike and pedal back from where I started this morning, I just couldn’t do it. I am out of juice and out of spirit.
I took Ugur up on his offer. For the first time in two continental crossings, I voluntarily hitched a ride, and I checked back into the warmth of the Golden Yat Hotel six hours after checking out this morning.
I’ll try again tomorrow.
If there’s one indelible memory of this trip, it’s the considerable kindness, assistance, support and encouragement I have received from many along the way, often from strangers. These random acts of kindness range from supportive honks by motorists to the provision of shelter in a time of need. This generosity and willingness to lend a helping hand fills my heart with warmth on a blustery October day. In truth this is not a solo cycling expedition across Europe. There is a large cast of supporters and enablers that make this journey possible. I’m just the wet guy on the bike.
Day 80: Tekirdag, Turkey
Countdown to Istanbul:
Remaining Days: ?
Remaining Distance: ~ 140 kilometers
TransEuropa 2011 Expedition Summary:
Distance: 5,689.87 kilometers
Ascent: 40,400 meters
Countries: 16: Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey
Incidents: 6: flat tires on Days 45, 53 and 56; police reprimand on Day 2; two terrorizing right-on-my-heels dog chases on Day 71