Day 40 of my cycle journey – June 9, 2022
A rainy day with overcast skies and the danger of thunderstorms let me make haste and try to reach a substantial mileage before breaking for camp. Cycling from Gidle to Dzibice (69 km) saw me climbing steep and longer gradients for the first time on this trip. Arriving in Dzibice on the verge of a massive thunderstorm outbreak I was kindly allowed to sleep in a military school campground.
The night in the tent was very interesting, to say the least. A thunderstorm of massive proportions had just settled over my tent, somewhere around midnight. It was the first time that I had witnessed the thunderstorm in a tent. Usually when a thunderstorm threatens, you go and seek shelter in a house or your apartment. Sometimes you are in a car when it hits, but you are always in a kind of shelter. The last time I encountered a thunderstorm outside with no shelter I cannot remember at all. My little tent is a very fickle shelter, on the one hand it keeps the rain out, and on the other hand it offers no protection should the storm break off a “widow-maker” branch and throw it onto me. I was laying in my sleeping bag and stared at the tent and the muted flickering of the lightning, followed immediately by the roaring thunder, which was so powerful and deafening that I could almost feel the vibrations in my body. Not that I was afraid, but the sheer raw power of the storm was something to admire. Well, I did not admire it very long, because my tired body required sleep and that was what I fell into after a few minutes.
The next morning, I had to deal with the aftermath of the thunderstorm and the enormous amounts of rain having come down during the night – molluscs. The rain fly and the inner tent fabric were overrun by an army of molluscs. I was dealing with slugs here, the ones without a shell, and leaving a nasty trail of slime behind them. I must have cleaned my tent for at least an hour, because when I had cleared the rainfly and went to the inner tent, there were already adventurous slugs invading my rain fly again. It is of utmost importance to get all slugs cleared before packing up your tent, because believe me, you don’t want a decomposing body of a slug stinking up the one place you are sleeping in almost every night.
Once all these housekeeping issues of a cycle tourer had been taken care of, I could set off for cycling. Except for the early morning hours, it was overcast, with the ominous growl of a thunder in the distance. The prediction had been for massive thunderstorms in the area I was going to cycle in, but somehow I was lucky because the thunders were somewhere else and the sky, although dark like to break any minute showered me only a few short times with rain. In the morning, when it was still a bit sunny, I had to deal with other side effects of the night’s thunderstorm, flooded cycleways. Coming to a railway underpass for cyclists I saw that the underpass was flooded with nasty, brown water. I couldn’t see what was under the water and was in the difficult position to decide cycling or walking through the brown liquid. Deciding to take my chances and to get dry-footed to the other side I cycled. Wrong decision! There was a huge pothole beneath the water into which I promptly cycled, and I almost got off my bike over the steering bar. I fell, off of course, but only my shoes, socks and shorts were soaked through. I am sure similar situations will happen to me in the future and I am interested which decision I will take then.
Cycling on, I came into the Jurassic landscapes north-west of Krakow. Here I wanted to do some extra days of cycling, but the weather forecast wasn’t brilliant, and I had to be in Prague at a special day, so I shortened my time here enormously. Nevertheless, the cycling became now slightly more challenging. Hills with rather steep inclines were waiting for me. Going up a gradient of 11% with a 50+ kg bike is no walk in the park, and 11% gradients are the maximum I can cycle for a short time, for now. There were a few instances where the inclines were steeper, and I had to push. I was looking with worries at these steep inclines, and on the ever darkening sky above me. It was only a question of time when all hell would break loose, and a massive thunderstorm would come in. I checked with Google Maps for a campground and surprisingly there was one 6 km away. I changed my route and went there to have some concrete shelter if the worst should happen. When I came there I saw a lot of young soldiers running around the facility. Suddenly, a man on his bicycle came to me and asked how he could help me. On my request to have a space for my tent he said that this is no ordinary camping ground, but one for military cadets, not for the public. I was devastated. However, he showed a heart and said I could camp there and even could get a shower, but I would have to be content being alone in this forest because he and all the cadets would leave in an hour.
I set up my tent, and as soon as I was finished with it a torrential rain started to come down. With the rain came the lightning and the thunders. By then, of course, I was already “housebroken” and the rain, the thunder and the lightning had no effects on me anymore and I fell asleep fast.