After a handful of days spent getting mauled by the wind and local riders, I went out for a pedal today to see if any of the beatings had had a positive effect. For once the wind wasn’t howling; it was simply a steady 10-15 mph crosswind, unpleasant but far from horrific.
I retraced my steps to Slovakia and since I was by myself didn’t have to fall into the brutal pace of someone else. My thought was that I’d go easy for two hours then turn around and if I had to push it into the wind to get home, I’d do so. But none of this fire-all-your-bullets-in-the-first-hour nonsense. Under these conditions a 110 km spin before class would be no problem.
Things went great until I got to the ferry crossing, where I noticed a sign that said “Bicycles Free.”
“WTF?” I thought. “Those crooked Slovak ferrymen charged me a euro each way last time.”
The boat came across, I got on, we reached the other side, and the ferryman asked me to pay up. “Bikes are free,” I said.
“One euro,” he said, looking me straight in the eye.
“Bikes are free,” I repeated.
He shrugged and waved me over to the fare list which was posted on the little wall against the railing. “There,” I pointed, where it said in German and Slovak, “bikes are free.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “But the people are not. One euro.”
“How can the bike be free if the people have to pay?”
“The bike free only.” I noticed his broad shoulders, thick forearms, and large hands. “Adults over 15, one euro.” He pointed to the fare sheet, which did in fact say that. “Bike is free.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I said.
He lifted an eyebrow and waved me to get off the ferry. Then I realized we were in Slovakia, and in about an hour I’d be returning to that exact same place. What were the chances he’d let me back on? And if he didn’t, was I prepared to swim the river with my bike? The current was swift and my rental bike was heavy, and for all I knew it was infested with freshwater sharks.
I dug into my pocket and paid him the lousy euro.
He pocketed it. “Good choice,” he said.
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