George Johnston: June 29th

I wanted to stay a fourth day in Shkoder, which I really enjoyed, but the heat wave was on the way so I left for Tirane the day before it hit. It was the easiest travel day of the trip with few hills and interesting towns along the way with plenty of shops to keep supplied. I met a Spanish biker along the way and we rode together for most of the day. The police told us we could us the autostrada so we made good time until it ran out about an hour before Tirana. We stopped at a restaurant for a drink as a thunderstorm approached. Pedro decided to make a run and try to get past it, but I decided just to wait it out there. I parked the bike under cover of the building, put the rain cover on the baggage, ordered another lemonade .chatted with the waiter. The restaurant was large and attractive but wasn’t serving meals. It seemed they were just open as a bar and catered private parties. He spoke good English, and an 11 year old son of the owner came in and said hello. He had just finished sixth grade and said he had studied English since third grade and spoke pretty well. A few minutes later his older sister who had just finished her last year of pre-med at the university came in followed by her parents, so I met the whole family. I had brought a tomato and cheese sandwich so I ate that and shared some “American Cookies” a store brand of chocolate chip cookies that I enjoy. The rain ended and I continued into Tirane. Every shop along the way that sold household goods had their fans lined up in front of the shop so people could get ready for the heat wave. The rain kept things cool and a light drizzle lingered along the way. The GPS got me close enough to the hostel that I could find the entrance with a little help.

The next day I was packed and ready to roll after my French toast. The ride started with a steep climb out of the city center. After that I reached the first shopping mall being constructed in Albania and stopped at an Interspar hypermarket where I found store brand Gatorade for the first time in Albania. I got a large bottle of water also. The police let me on the autostrada again which made the trip to Elbasan just 41 km and about three hours. However after climbing a couple of hundred meters on a six percent grade tunnel security said I couldn’t go through and had to return to the last exit and go over the mountain. This took the trip to 57 km and meant climbing to 800 meters to get over the mountain. I took my time and walked lots of hills, but the grades were less than the six % going to the tunnel, so it was slow, but not too difficult. I passed two restaurants that were shut down, probably because of traffic moving to the new road, but at the very top I found a nice one open and got roast mutton and a salad so big I had to bring half of it with me. After lunch the road ran on a narrow ridge top for a good way and then started down. The only work I had to do after that was braking. I intersected with the road from Ohrid to Durres which completed my objective on the Adriatic Adventure. I rolled into Elbasan in about an hour for the last 20 km and GPS got me to the area of my rental next house. I couldn’t pin down the location, but I texted the owner and she came out and flagged me down. The compound had three houses I think. Mine has a large living room, bedroom, bath with washing , and a small kitchen. It looks recent remodelled but there in only a microwave, not A/C and the TV doesn’t work. It is a good place to work on my Facebook albums which was the plan, and costs only $16 a night. After lunch in the room, working and waiting out the heat I biked into the center. I went into the center and found a restaurant in the old fortress. I had been looking forward to a local speciality called the Elbasan Tava, or Tava Kosi in the rest of the country. The traditional restaurant in Tirane didn’t have it, but they did here. It is a stew of lamb in eggs and yogurt cooking a a clay pot. I enjoyed it checked it off as another objective met. Today I have to investigate transport to the Macedonian border. Bus schedules and departure points are vague. I could bike it, as it’s only 60 km, but it is all up hill so I’d rather get a bus at least a good part of the way.

I’m getting close to finishing my Camino de Santiago album so I hope I’ll get that done while hiding hiding out from the afternoon heat. I did get a small watermelon Thursday night so I chilled it and started on it yesterday.

Next stop Ohrid, North Macedonia, a new national name to make the Greeks happy. I have booked a room there for two nights and then be on a bus to Skopje. I may stay there for a couple of days or take the sleeper train to Belgrade. I have to be in Bekescsaba for a dentist appointment on July 12.

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