June 27 – Tuesday

The bus was supposed to leave Zagreb at 2 am but was almost an hour late arriving. I think it was going all the way from Belgrade to Firenza. There was room for the bike after the driver moved a couple of suitcases around, but he made sure to tell me (through a kind interpreter that had helped me locate the right platform earlier) that the bus company was not responsible if any damage was done to the bike and that the bus wasn’t really equipped to carry it. Then he only charged me an extra 5 euros (about $7.50) for he bike and all of the bags.

The person in the seat behind me was fairly ‘entertaining’ – I don’t think I’ve ever heard more bodily noises from one person in my life. He started out by ripping a very long fart, then coughed, blew his nose, horked something up from his throat – it just went on and on the whole time. He had shoulder length grey hair and it sounded like he was trying to cough up a hairball or something. And then every once in a while he would start talking loudly to no one in particular, then mutter to himself under his breath.

Stopped at the Slovenian border – everyone had to get off the bus to file into a building and present passports/ID to the Croatian guard, then back on the bus, drove about 100 meters to the Slovenian building and same thing – off bus, into building, present to guard (got another stamp) then back on bus.

Beautiful sunrise – considering how late we left Zagreb we were only about 15 minutes late getting to Trieste. Loaded up the bike to walk across the street to the train station – mister entertainment saw the bike and started talking with me – he wanted to have a cup of coffee before I got the train, but I didn’t know how much time I would have, and I was a little wary of him (and his noises).

The first of the five trains I need to take to get to Pinerolo didn’t leave for almost 2 hours, so sat in a cafe and had some tea and re-charged the ipad and my back bike light. Got a pannini to go so I won’t starve on the train. One of the train changes I need to make only gives me six minutes, and another only nine – not sure how I’ll make it with all my gear, as some of the stations are huge with dozens of platforms.

Exchanged my Croatian kunas for euros – they wouldn’t take the Bosnian money at all. Went to wait at the platform and saw a fellow with a travelling bike – only his has a motor. His name is Karl-Heinz and he’s from Germany. He did tell me that the airlines won’t take bikes with motors, so it wouldn’t have worked for me to get one, although whenever I ride up a hill I wish I had one. Karl-Heinz only stayed on until the first stop so he can hit the road in a slightly safer place to ride – apparently drivers in Trieste are especially bad.

Ate a bit of the pannini – not too bad, it had some nice sun-dried tomatoes and lots of creamy white cheese of some sort, as well as the mushiest broccolini ever – had to put most of it out. At least it was on a whole-grain bun.

A couple more cyclists got on – Lutz from Germany and Suzanna from Sweden. We all got off to change trains in Mestre, which was great fun. My bike wouldn’t fit in the elevator so two very kind young girls helped me get it down the stairs and under the tracks to the right one, but getting it up the stairs to the right track wasn’t so easy. Some apparently kind fellows grabbed my bike and one other guy helped Suzanna then when we got to the top of the stairs they asked for money – shouldn’t surprise me. I didn’t give them any – so tired of people acting like they are nice and offering kindness, then finding out all they want is money I don’t have. The girls didn’t ask for anything and they tried to be just as helpful.

The train to Verona arrived and Lutz, Suzanna and I got on the first car – no hangers for bikes, but a nice wide flat space so we just stood there with them. Along comes the ticket-checking lady and tells us we have to get off at the next stop – there is a bike car and the other end of the train but it is full. She said there’s another train to Milano on the same track in 10 minutes and it may or may not have a bike car, that may or may not be full – she didn’t care that the bikes all had their own tickets, or that I was going to miss my connecting train.

Got off at the next stop, then headed to the far end of the platform. Suzanna and I headed to the WC – not easy following the signs, but made it back in time for the next train. Luckily there was a bike car and it was empty – room to hang 4 bikes. Lutz noticed that a couple of things are going wrong on my front wheel, so I need to take it to a bike shop asap. They finished their train trip in Verona, so I went on alone to Milano. The train station was absolutely huge, but I actually found my train with no problem. I went to put my bike in the first car I came to that had a wide flat area, but a train guy stopped me and said no – other end – and it was such a long train. Turns out he’s the conductor, and didn’t mind if I didn’t hang it from a hook like you’re supposed to. One other guy got on with a bike and off we went. By the time we got to our next destination of Chivasso there were four more bikes, but because mine was taking up all of one side of the bike carriage no one else could hang theirs – everyone was very nice about it though and two black guys helped me get it down the very large step when we arrived at my station. Final train to Pinerolo – the end of the line. Got here an hour later than I should have because of being bumped from the one train, but I likely wouldn’t have made the six minute change anyway.

Rode out of Pinerolo following directions from some folks on the street – eventually found the place with the help of a fellow working on the grounds of a church – he hardly spoke English but got his point across. Arrived at the campground right before the rain started – got the tent up just in time.

Had a really welcome shower and asked about wi-fi. The hosts kind of laughed and said ‘not when its cloudy’. The lightening is brighter than the light in my tent and the thunder is right over my head. They’ve offered to let me move my tent under cover if the rain gets too bad, but its kind of like a garage and I likely won’t like the smell. I’m starting to think about it though as the rain is pounding and the lightening and thunder are so very close.

OK – I did end up moving to the covered space. I was so exhausted and the lightening was so close I was sure it was going to hit the tree above me and I’d be squashed flat. I was actually praying out loud to my guardian angels to save me. I grabbed everything I could and splashed my way to the garage thru a flood on the driveway to cover – took five or six trips, the last one with the tent still fully intact upside down over my head. By the time I was done I was so soaked it was like I just got out of the shower again. And I probably shouldn’t have bothered because, of course, shortly later the storm moved a bit – I could still see faint flashes of lightening and hear thunder but it was much further away. Then the wind picked up and the tent fly was flapping like mad but I was so tired I didn’t care. Sleep was wonderful, even though I was on a cement floor in a garage and all of my clothes were either wet or dirty or both. I had been travelling a total of 34 hours by the time I got here, and all I really cared about was sleep.

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