Ninety Miles to Sibiu

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We had a great debate yesterday: to ride all the way to Sibiu in one day, or to take it slow and ride it in two days? We were eager to get to “somewhere” for a rest day rather than hanging out in a town along the way, but 72 miles (I counted wrong, it was a 90 miler) seemed like a large undertaking for a day slated to be mercilessly hot. Still unsure about how we wanted the day to unfold, we got up early and were on the road by 7:15. All signs of rain had crept away while we slept.

We headed along at a decent pace, slowed a little by the rolling hills right outside of Brasov. The morning at least started off cool and the traffic surprisingly quiet as we took turns pulling up and down the foresty hills. I was feeling really great, our energy still good and my legs still unexpectedly fresh. Riding all the way to Sibiu seemed perfectly possible.

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By about 10:00 however, the heat of the day started to envelope itself all around us. Right about this same time, we reached the campground that marked the half way point between Brasov and Sibiu, the place where we’d probably want to call it quits if we weren’t going to finish the long day. Though the camping was complete with four pools and a water slide, it didn’t seem that appealing to either of us and it seemed strange to call it a day at 10:00 when we both felt fine. We stopped for a brief snack, made a quick grocery run, and hit the road under fiercely sunny skies, knowing we had a miserably hot day in front of us with another 4 or 5 hours of riding.

It was probably at that point that we lost interest in documenting anything we saw, the sun becoming unbearable anytime we stopped without the wind to cool us off. Instead, we pedaled steady and quick, picking off ten kilometers at a time. We maintained our pace and with 50 kilometers left to go, it occurred to me that if the wind decided to stay out of our way, we would actually probably make it! Then, twenty kilometers later, with the day steadily boosting its heat output, I started to feel awful.

Ben was already flagging, his body seemingly overwhelmed by the heat. His shirt was drenched from sweat and he was drinking water at more than twice his usual pace, looking positively miserable. I made him vow we would stop at the next bridge we came to so that we could cool off in the water. We soon came to a wide clear stream where Ben poured water over his head and I soaked my whole shirt. With water evaporating all around me and my heat problem at least temporarily solved, we were back in business. Now only my terrible chafing was left to haunt me.

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With twenty kilometers left, we hit a series of gentle hill climbs that normally might have been an easy grind, but slowing to a climbing pace felt positively crushing. Without the wind in our faces to cool us,I felt like I was being broiled for the whole climb. At the top, Ben waited for me in a tiny patch of shade. The way he crouched over his handlebars and hardly said anything left me worried. He did not look good and dehydration and heat seemed like the culprit. I nagged him to drink more water and then we headed down the other side of the hill, the air blowing in our faces so hot it felt like I was riding under a blow dryer.

From there, our last twenty kilometers were a slow hot slog, but we knew we were getting close and we even had a tiny bit of a tailwind! We lamented how we felt like we were being cooked the same way we sun dry tomatoes in the oven at home for hours on end. All this was an unfortunate setback since our legs felt actually pretty good. We needed to get out of the sun. Once we got into town, we made a brief stop to look closer at the GPS and to get a cold drink. Ben drank his liter of Coke sitting on the gas station curb, ecstatically telling me it was the best thing he’d ever consumed. Then, we buzzed through Sibiu to darling Pension Ela, built into a 14th century house. The street as we pulled up was picture perfect and we were thrilled to check into such a darling place.

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We took such cold showers that eventually we ran out of cold water, the faucet defaulting to an uncomfortable lukewarm. It was a long day but we are thrilled to finally be here.

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Ben –

Although today’s ride was brutal by the end, we were surprised at how pleasant the scenery and towns were that we passed through.  It felt a lot like riding in Austria (though a version in which the street sweepers haven’t been in service for a few years), with brightly colored houses interspersed with fields.  The domineering peaks of the Carpathians were only slightly visible in the distance through the heavy, hazy air.  The towns we rode through were actually quite charming – though with the heat and long miles ahead we just didn’t feel it worth the stop.

A general commentary on Sibiu: While we have seen a lot of charming towns all throughout Europe, we are both blown away at the character and the ubiquity of awesome that this city has.  We made a brief jaunt into the city center for groceries – and nearly every street we turn down is absolutely amazing (you’ll probably have to wait until tomorrow for pictures).  This city will easily rank among the top of our favorite cities.

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