Darren Alff's Bike Tour Blog

My Most Challenging Day Of Bike Touring In Romania

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After more than thirty-two hours inside my tent I woke up and was ready to hit the road. I broke camp quickly and pushed my bicycle through the trees and back onto the dirt road I had ridden up two days before. This is where I hit my first major obstacle.

Because it had been raining for the previous 20+ hours, the dirt road I had cycled up two days prior had now turned to mud. Deep, sticky, unavoidable mud. I tried to walk around it, carry my bicycle over it, and even cycle straight through it. But there was no easy way to get out of the mess. I was stuck.

After only a few hundred meters of navigating down this muddy road, not only were my feet weighed down with an extra five to eight pounds of mud, but I could no longer push my bicycle because the build up of mud my between my tires and fenders had reached its limit. I had ten to fifteen+ pounds of mud on my bike and another five to eight pounds of mud on my feet. I wasn’t going anywhere!

I found the bone of some poor dead animal on the ground and used its curved shape to scrape at and remove the mud from my bicycle’s tires/fenders. Then I used the same tool to quickly remove the mud from my feet. Once I had done this, I continued down the muddy road again until I could once again no longer move. Again I would stop to clean off the mud from my tires, fenders and feet… and then I would continue down the road.

I repeated this process three times until I was out of the muddy swamp and back on paved road. I had gone less than half a kilometer and I was exhausted!

Luckily, the road stayed with me for a while. I cycled through a number of small quintessential Romanian villages, before coming across my next major obstacle.

Leading out of one small village the road came to an abrupt end. Actually, the road didn’t stop. It’s just that the maintenance of that road did. This new road looked like it had been victim to a bombing. There were massive potholes everywhere and most of those potholes were filled with water from the previous day’s rainstorm. Some of the road was paved, some of it was not. It was a long, bumpy ride, but also kind of fun.

I enjoy these kinds of roads because I like the technical aspects of navigating on the smooths parts of the road and avoiding the rocky areas. I also liked this road because there were few other vehicles or people on it. I enjoyed this road so much, in fact, that I stopped about half-way down the road to get some lunch and take it all in. I could have traveled down this road for days!

But I didn’t have to travel on that pothole covered road all day. At the edge of another small town the road became paved again and I shot through the village in just moments.

But at the edge of the village the road once again died away and returned to dirt and gravel nastiness.

Somewhere along the road I saw these two young boys running at me from a field to my right. They were supposed to be tending to the cows you see behind them in the photo below, but they were intent on speaking with me instead. They said a whole lot to me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. However, when I motioned to them that I’d like to take their picture, they knew in an instant what to do.

How do you say “cheese” in Romania? I have no freaking clue!

The next few obstacles I encountered involved walking or carrying my bicycle around large pools of water that had flooded the road completely. These were easy to get around, but they definitely added to the difficulty of the day.

Then my rear rack came apart and everything on it went crashing to the ground.

I was afraid that the rack was completely ruined (“Maybe it broke apart while I was cycling down this bumpy, rocky road?” I thought to myself), but that luckily wasn’t the case. Instead, I discovered that the two large bolts on the top of the rack had simply worked their way out over time. The bad news was that I did not have any replacement bolts of the correct size to repair the rack.

Believe it or not, but I found a bolt on the ground nearby that fit the rack perfectly (it was not the original bolt from the rack itself), so with one bolt now holding the rack together (and not two as there should be), I continued on my way with plans to purchase a new bolt of the correct size (and maybe a couple spares) once I reached the next major city.

After six hours of cycling I had gone just 40 kilometers. It was now just after 4 PM and the town I had wanted to reach for the night (Pitesti) was another 40 kilometers away. The good news, however, was that the road to Pitesti was paved the entire way and I figured that if I just put my head down, didn’t stop to take pictures and just rode, I might be able to reach the city by nightfall.

Two hours later I cycled into downtown Pitesti and began the search for a quality, but inexpensive hotel. The city center, however, proved to be the wrong place to look. The hotels there wanted 40-50 Euros per night ($52 – $65 USD) – much more than the $13 hotel rooms I had been paying for in Bulgaria. I knew that there were surely cheaper places to stay in town, but I also knew that I’d have to leave the city center in order to find them.

Before I left the center, however, I purchased a pizza from a shop where a beautiful young woman took my order and spoke with me in broken English about my journey. When my pizza was ready I strapped the pizza box onto the back of my bicycle and rode back the way I came less than an hour before.

About 5 kilometers before I cycled into the center Pitesti I had seen a hotel that looked nice… and I knew that because it was so far outside the city that it was surely less expensive than the places in the city center. So I booked it back to that hotel with a pizza bungee corded onto my rear rack and secured some lodging for the night for the cost of just $28 USD. Still more expensive than what I had been paying for in Bulgaria, but much less expensive than those hotels in the city center.

My room was great too! Large, clean and with fast wireless Internet. Above my bed was a drawing of a naked woman sitting in a chair and next to it was a picture of Jesus carrying the cross. in fact, the room was filled with both naked women and pictures of Jesus. “A strange combination,” I thought. “A strange combination indeed.”

About Darren Alff

Darren Alff is a world-renowned authority on bicycle touring and is the founder of BicycleTouringPro.com - the world's most popular bicycle touring website and how-to information source. He is the author of "The Bicycle Touring Blueprint" and three additional cycling books. Darren has dedicated his life to helping others conduct the bicycle tour of their dreams. His websites, books, email newsletter, products and public appearances now inspire and assist hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world.

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3 Comments

  1. Chris

    September 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    The first paragraphs of this post eerily echo a stealth camping experience I had twelve years ago!

    I was bike touring through southern Quebec, struggling with strong headwinds toward the campground symbol on my road map. Well, when I got there, there was no sign of a campground. No one in the area could even remember a campground being where the map showed.

    Great.

    I was exhausted and needed a place to camp for the night — fast. I recalled passing a corn field with a wooded area behind it, so I headed there. I was able to ride my bike along the edge of the field all the way to the trees and found a perfect site on the edge of the trees that was hidden by the tall mid-August corn. No one would be able to see me from the road. As I was setting up, the winds blew in a violent thunderstorm and I just barely got the tent fly on in time.

    I spent the evening in my tent, enjoying Mother Nature’s spectacular cloud and lightning show and fell asleep thinking how well my single-poled tent stood up to the wind.

    The next morning, I awoke to calm weather and sunny blue skies. Knowing that a great day for bicycle touring awaited, I excitedly struck camp and headed back to the road.

    You know exactly what happened next. The rain had turned the cornfield to slop. I literally could have taken your pictures of mud stuck between tire and fender! It was also caked all around the cleats of my cycling shoes.

    At least after cleaning up the best I could, the rest of the day was great and that night’s campground was more than a mapmaker’s hallucination!

    Enjoying your blog immensely!

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