UPDATED October 25th, 2019 — this is a dispatch from my cycle tour of Ukraine and surroundings this past Summer with my partner Nastia, an open project on an Autumn/Winter hiatus — check out the project page more information, and sign up for my newsletter if you would like to be notified when it resumes 🙂
As you read this, i’m officially back on the road — and one day earlier than my latest projected departure! I’m nailing this :p
Nastia is starting tomorrow — hitchhiking — we’ll meet in Poland in a couple of days to pick up her bicycle, strap her backpack onto it, then head back to Ukraine to get the rest of our luggage and begin our exploration of the country. The working title i’m giving to this project is the intentionally mistaken translation of “у країні” (meaning, in the country), a play on words with “Україна” (Ukraine) — unfortunately, declensions in English and Ukrainian don’t quite map into each other, so i had to take some liberty 😉 (UPDATED October 12th, 2019 — as i traveled through “the country” and experienced a few of its multitudes, trials, and uncertainties, i decided to relax the definite article, settling on “In a Countrie” for the eventual project title, and leaving this post otherwise unchanged for “historical” reasons)
I have much to thank Nastia for the push to leave today — “Go” — “It’s OK, i can leave tomorrow and help you a bit more” — “Go — you wanted this so much, and now you’re ready — i’ll have plenty of time to catch up with you, i’m hitchhiking.”
It’s fitting that our journey together will start like this, and i’m curious about this little experiment — i anticipate some anxiety about whether she found a ride already — is she safe? — has she managed to cross the border? — has she even left home or is she still looking for a place to dump our last bucket of organic waste — and somebody interested in adopting the homeless container?
I believe Nastia will also be nervous — “has he been hit by a truck? — is he eating well? — is he paralyzed endlessly re-editing this newsletter at a gas station along his way?”
I’m indeed overthinking, but not at a gas station — i’m at Liubomyr and Anastasiia’s, in Drohobych!
Liubomyr was riding in the opposite direction — recreationally — “I’m retired,” he later told me. We waved at each other. This always puts a smile on my face — in Ukraine, roads are still monopolized by motorized vehicles, and i believe cyclists of any appetite are some of the few to notice each other.
While i rode the next 10km, Liubomyr rode the 30 between where we met, his turning point, and where he eventually caught back up with me. (Sorry, i should have mentioned at the beginning that you might want to have a pen and paper handy for this one.)
I was at first disquieted by the little space between him and the edge of the road. That being my first day back on the road, my cycle touring rig and i were not yet one — it will probably take a couple of riding/sleeping cycles before i’ve once again internalized the classical mechanics and fluid dynamics of a heavily — and somewhat unevenly — loaded bicycle.
It didn’t take much for that to develop into my present circumstances. I managed to explain i needed a bit more space, and a conversation started. “What’s your goal for today?” — “Somewhere between Drohobych and Sambir — i’ll look for a place to pitch my tent by the river” — “Do you have friends there?” — “No” — “It’s going to rain” — “How much time do you think i have before it comes?” — “Maybe a couple of hours?”
Should i ask this guy if i could spend the night at his place? I’m going to ask him if i can spend the night at his place. “Can i spend the night at your place?” He wasn’t quite expecting that — “Hm, let me think.” It was a longshot — “Sure — it will be better than your tent.”
Anastasiia happens to be a cycling coach. We chatted in fellowship to the limits of my Ukrainian and her English over the meal and beer they offered. I was impressed with Liubomyr’s patience to follow my pace given that he can seemingly ride at least three times faster — when we said goodnight, i learned he’s is planning to ride with me again on my way out tomorrow morning.
I couldn’t think of a more serendipitously privileged way to start a tour than this — even without my partner Nastia, i’m still not alone.
My plan for the next few weeks/months is to share weekly updates from the road on my newsletter — call it delaygram, if you like 😉 I’m not quite sure what shape this will take though. I’ll try to find time to cross post it here on the website as well, so it’s easier for those of you who may want to share it, but the priority will be the newsletter. You’re invited to sign up for it if you would like to follow it more regularly 🙂
Whatever develops, i hope you’ll enjoy it, and feel welcome to share your reaction by commenting below or writing directly to me — i’ll read and eventually respond to all of it, and possibly even incorporate some of that into my process!
It’s bedtime now — have a great week and remember to breathe!
Featured photo: moving out!
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