Knowing that our ride today was going to have just as many busy roads and steep climbs as yesterday, we though we’d get on the road as early as possible when the traffic is quiet and the day still cool to help things go as smoothly as possible. We were rolling out of camp by 7:30 and the morning air was perfect. No need for a jacket and cool enough to be comfortable as we climbed.
Truth be told, we should probably start ever day this early because without a doubt, I am a morning person. Tasks that would overwhelm me at 2:00 in the afternoon are no more than a nuisance at 8:00. Even though we knew we had a hard ride ahead, we were both quite cheerful as we pedaled and were glad to be putting some miles in before it got any warmer.
As anticipated, the traffic was almost non-existent as we coasted through the town of Isola and up the steep mountain towards Koper. Our legs were certainly not as fresh as we would have liked, but our first climb went pretty quickly and soon we were rolling on flat land again through Koper. We passed apartments and hotels and some industrial shipping yards before rounding yet another peninsula, back over the Italian border (just until tomorrow) into Trieste.
By 9:30, the coast was already filling in with beach-goers on the makeshift beaches that mostly consisted of cement blocks poured right into the water for sun-bathing. We had to laugh as we passed one particular beach that had a tiny coffee stand next to it. Crowds of bikini clad people were crowded around it in the hot sun sipping their steaming breakfast coffee as though it were the dead of winter.
Just outside of Trieste we made a quick Italian grocery stop where we can always count on inexpensive fresh pasta and cartons of gelato. Fully loaded with food for the next couple of days, we paused outside for Ben to drink his traditional liter of milk and to split our carton of gelato. We were getting some funny looks as we ate all that ice cream in the parking lot at what what couldn’t have been later than 10:00 AM, but we could hardly have cared.
Our next order of business was to locate an ATM since we will be back to using Euros in Slovenia for the next little while, but our debit cards have an annoying black out period from 11 PM-4 AM Mountain time which is coincidentally the time we usually need things to work over here (7 AM – 12 PM), but since we were well within that blackout period we made a note to try again later.
To get out of Trieste though, we had to climb the plateau situated just behind the large port city. The first little while was not too steep and we made slow but steady progress until suddenly we reached the inevitable, impossibly steep road that rivaled even yesterday’s record-setting route. Once again, I had to bail off and push my bike just to keep my front wheel on the ground (since I don’t have any panniers on the front) and Ben motored straight uphill without hardly a second thought. I’m fairly convinced he could pilot his bike straight up the side of a wall if given the opportunity!
As I was pushing, an Italian cyclist coming down the hill stopped to attempt to give me directions, but without speaking a word of English, I had pretty much no idea what he was talking about. Since he actually didn’t know where we were going, I’m not sure what he was trying to tell us at all!
Once we finally submitted the hill, we decided to give up on the ridiculously steep side roads for a while and ride on the highway that didn’t look too busy, knowing it would probably make for some easier cycling to the top of the plateau. Sure enough, the road flattened out significantly until we reached a tangle of bridges and tunnels far above the valley floor that got us headed in the right direction.
Finally, around noon we rolled into the town of Opicina where we had marked a campground on our map, but it was nowhere to be seen. We rolled through town, stopping to ask for directions and was pointed by a young adolescent boy who translated for a local shopkeeper quite a way out of town. Not knowing what else to do, we headed out, still a bit unsure where we were actually going. We had to stop a second time and ask another guy on the street where it was, but eventually we found our strange little campground in pretty much the middle of nowhere. The place has a big swimming pool and blow up toys and all kinds of sports courts and near as we can tell, people come here for no other reason than to utilize them. I feel a bit like we are camping next to the rec center or something!
The bad news was that the campsite’s credit card machine was down, mandating that we head back into town to try again on withdrawing cash. Back in Opicina, Ben put our card in and the ATM totally froze, locking the machine up, and eating his card. Not good. We punched all the buttons, waited for what felt like forever, and nothing happened. The bank was closed for the day and there was absolutely no number to call or anything. Eventually, we gave up, leaving the machine in search of another ATM in which we would try my backup card.
The next two banks we came to were also closed, with their ATMS locked inside, and the third didn’t accept cards that don’t have a chip as are common here. It wasn’t until the sixth bank we visited, which was hidden in an inconspicuous building next to a playground that we were able to pull any cash out at all. We were getting worried we might be stuck here for days until we could figure out another way to pay our campsite!
Majorly relieved and a bit agitated, we headed over to a cafe that had told me they had wifi so that we could report the card lost, or more accurately, stolen by the ATM (again, we have no phone), but once we bought our gelato to share, they told me that they did have wifi, but no one knew that password to log onto the network. Once again, we were out of luck.
By this point, we were both exasperated! We deflatedly ate our little cup of sub-par ice cream and headed back to our sporty campground, now busy with some children’s birthday parties, to get dinner started.
Although our ride today had been warm in the direct sun, the afternoon and evening cooled down really fast and soon I was dressed in long pants and long sleeves as we made our dinner together. As we were hanging out on our stools, a silvery green beetle appeared and we watched it crawl all over the gravel and we were talking about why when we flick a bug off of something that is really tall compared to the size of the bug, it isn’t crushed like a human would be. Near as we can guess (without access to a search engine at our disposal all the time) perhaps it has to do with their exoskeleton or low mass to surface area ratio… I’m telling you, sometimes our conversations are riveting…
We spend so much time outside these days though, I feel like every day is a science lesson. I have never noticed all the different bugs and birds or noticed the subtleties of the wind before because it has never impacted me so greatly. For some reason though, when it comes to things generally science related, apparently Ben knows about absolutely everything. He knows all about the weather, is a walking encyclopedia of animals, and seems to know about every geographical feature known to man. No matter what tidbit he shares about the earth on any given day, I always ask him where he learned it and he always answers “junior high”.
It has become a bit of an inside joke at this point because seriously I went to junior high too and was a 4.0 student. Apparently I slept through the whole three years because I’ve never heard of any of this stuff!