Road Magic: Part 1

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I don’t know exactly what our problem was this morning, but our motivation to put our things in our bags and go again was pretty low. We’re sluggish and grouchy, and feel strange and out of place in this fancy hotel room. I hardly dare touch anything for fear of getting it dirty.

A time change between Greece and Macedonia also leaves us a bit confused as to what time it is, but it is nearly eleven (or ten?) before we get to checking out. The hotel had promised to accept my Visa, but when we attempt to pay, the card is unexpectedly rejected. We do a bit of finagling, paying with the rest of our dinar and some leftover Euros and then take a time out in the lobby to call the credit card company who isn’t at all helpful, telling us that the card should work, which it obviously does not, and the issue does not get resolved. By the time all of this is done, I’m even less interested in the day than I was to start with. I hate it when we get a late start, I’m worried about our credit card, and I’m annoyed at how uncomfortable I feel in this hotel. I wish we’d been camping in the mountains instead.

Before we leave, the lady at the desk points us to breakfast, which was apparently included in the price of our “more than we usually spend” room, so we feel weirdly obligated to stay and eat even though lunch time is fast approaching and we had just eaten in our room. We arrive in the dining room, look at each other, and laugh. The restaurant is as fancy as anywhere we’ve ever eaten in our entire life and we’re wearing the same clothes we’ve been sporting for at least three days! Why are we here!?

Our poor hygiene notwithstanding, the food is made to order and we eat omelettes full of local cheese, bread, bacon, and fruit until my stomach feels uncomfortably tight. Then we stop upload some pictures to our computer before we leave, just because our need for hurry is totally gone. It is pushing noon before we get on the road.

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We’d debated whether we’d push through to the Bulgarian mountain town of Melnik today, nearly 50 miles and a good climb away, but the decision is pretty much made for us- we’ll never make it with our morning already used up. Instead, we catch the road at a leisurely pace.

You know you are cycling in Macedonia when suddenly you are no longer the slowest vehicle on the road. As we ride, we are frequently passing slow rusted tractors from eras past and horses pulling farm wagons loaded with hay. We are mesmerized by the variety of traffic keeping us company, but it is unclear whether we are more impressed by the local flavor we are witnessing or whether they by us! We roll along effortlessly and nearly everyone waves, says hello, or honks as they pass. One guy waves both arms from outside his barn yelling “Hello, how are you!?”

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The mountain scenery, the time worn culture, and the friendliness of the community crumble away the nagging sense that we don’t belong and soon I’m basically beaming as I try to take in this little slice of the world.

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