Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Tour of Swinjouscie, Q is for Quarantine, and Breaking Out Early

Day: Lost track of time in Swinjouscie, Poland

Average Speed: Idle 

Distance Moved: 15 sq. meters

Distance moved Total: 883 km (548 Miles) + 15 sq. meters

Mood: Really... upset.

Google Image. Not My Pic.

Swinjouscie, Poland. 

I’ve been here so long that I no longer question my spelling of “Swinjouscie.”

Please, allow me to give you the grand tour, should you choose to spend some time here:

The Beach of Swinjouscie

The Beach: 

Once you’ve laid down on a Swinjouscie beach, you’re unlikely to ever get up. In fact, the residents here help to make sure of that. 

View At Night
With Special Lighting

View During Day
The Scenic Vistas:

If you look closely enough, sometimes you can just make out the blurred figures of people going about their daily lives. And don’t worry- it’s even better at night. They keep it well lit out there so darkness doesn’t bring pessimism into your psyche. Thank goodness there’s no window shade or anything so that one isn’t tempted to block out all of the wonders Swinjouscie has to offer at 3 AM.

The Waterfalls of Swinjouscie
The Water Parks:

If you’re into water adventures, then Swinjouscie is rife with all kinds of fun! The whirlpool itself is lots of fun to play in, but if that’s not your speed, then hop into the waterfall! You have ultimate control in this waterfall as you and you alone are tasked with holding the water source. And Swinjouscie does everything big. Puny towels are for wimps. Bedsheets on the other hand? Now that’s the Swinjouscie way to pat yourself dry. 

I think I should go into travel writing. Because if I can describe this place as even remotely enjoyable to stay at…

The first time I visited the Swinjouscie Resort (a.k.a. hospital) seems so long ago. It was a quick visit. Apparently, if you have a pulse, that's good enough to send you on your way with a simple scrip or two. They also gave me a "ticket" to the Emergency Room should I feel the need to come back. 

Well, I felt the need to come back. And I haven't left. 

The second time they took me a bit more seriously (even though my 104 degree fever the first time didn't seem to raise any cause for concern). 

This time, they hooked me up to an I.V. and eventually my new 105 degree fever came back down to earth. I am thankful for at least that much. I was becoming delusional and I could barely talk. I was dehydrated because drinking anything caused me to vomit. 

I was a tad surprised when they wanted to keep me overnight, especially since the first time I’d visited they sent me on my way with some glorified Advil and an electrolyte replacement drink mix (a drink that I can only describe as tasting like a unicorn's teardrops). 

I was even more surprised when they told me that they wanted to keep me for 4-5 more days after that. Stunned. I figured I was fighting a quick bug, but it was morphing. To be sure, I don’t get sick often, and I don’t remember ever feeling this ill except, perhaps, that time my appendix ruptured in fourth grade (mom and dad thought I was playing sick then too in order to get out of a spelling test or something- I never let them forget that). 

But at least they decided to give me the royal treatment: My own private room. Ooh la la. I figured perhaps they were trying to impress the uninsured foreigner with over-the-top hospitality. 

Sign on My Room Door. I Don't Know What It Means...
But I'm Pretty Sure It's Not "Welcome!"
In due time, however, I realized I was not allowed to leave this room. A doctor (approximately the same age as Doogie Howser) explained:

“We would prefer if you stay in your room, because we have this room just for you! There is no need for you to come out. If there is emergency, then yes come out… otherwise, we’re not sure what you have so…”

“So, I’m being quarantined?” I asked.


I’ve been trying to look on the bright side here. I really have been. But it’s difficult. Although I’ve turned up the charm to 11, the nurses I’ve had are impervious to it. They’re cold, and I’d say downright rude. 

The doctor only visits upon request- and that visit lasts approximately 20 seconds. Nothing substantial is explained during that time. 

I haven’t eaten since Monday, and no matter who I explain this to (doctors and nurses alike), people simply nod or shrug. *Update- they fed me today. I was rather adamant about my disgust that no one seems to care that a patient hasn't eaten in 6 days. 

The World's Largest Towel.
Complimentary with Stay at Club Swinjouscie
If the kind people at the hotel where I was staying hadn’t sent my luggage over, I’d be without my basic toiletries since I had not planned on an extended visit. I mean, here at Club Swinjouscie, they offered me a bed sheet instead of a towel after hesitatingly agreeing to let me shower… do you think they stock a spare toothbrush?

I think the complete lack of attempt at communication is what is most bothersome. I realize there’s a language barrier, but that is no reason to avoid trying to explain what medications are being given and why. Or to avoid talking to me in general. 

It's lonely in this room. 

The prison guards- err- nurses don't exactly go out of the way to make you feel at home. 

The best explanations I’ve gotten as to what is going on with me is by sending pictures of my blood work results (I had to specifically ask for these) to my mom. If she and her friends were not in the medical profession, I’d still be clueless. 

White blood cells low. Platelets low. Bacterial or viral infection likely. Will take time to heal. 

No activity for time being. 

I can do that. 

Now will somebody please get me out of here?

Oh. Look at that. 

This Guy to the Rescue.

Prayer answered. 

This is Daryl. He's an American expat living in Berlin. I'm attending his wedding soon. But right now, he's Superman- and he's helping me break out. 
That's Better.

And we were even fortunate enough to get one decent view of Swinjouscie. 

To be clear, I'm not fully recovered. It may be a while. It looks like cycling for July is a done deal. I'm really sad about that. I'm hoping I'll be good to continue on in August.

August 3rd to be exact. 

Come back and visit then. 

And I'm going to have some company. 

It should be a good time.

Thanks for your support so far. 


The Microsoft Translate App Takes a Dark Turn 
When an Aide Tries to Explain the Doctor's Whereabouts:

I Wonder How I Would've Been Described....

Thursday, July 13, 2017

COPSenhagen, Malmö Hospitality, and Chills in Poland

Day: 8, 9, and 10 Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö, Sweden to Ystad, Sweden to Swinoujscie, Poland

Average Speed: 14.5 km/hour (9 mph) 

Distance Cycled in Last Three Days: 119 km (74 Miles) 

Distance Cycled Total: 883 km (548 Miles)

Mood: Sick... and tired

To be certain, it was my fault. 

On my way out of Copenhagen, a lady cycling in front of me stopped short to allow bus passengers to board. 

Leaving Copenhagen
I tried to hit my brakes. I really did. I just... missed. 

I rear-ended her quite hard, with my front tire firmly greeting her left leg. 

Now, I've made more than a few women angry in my day, but this-- wow. 

Whatever she was screaming, I'm sure it isn't covered on Day 1 of Rosetta Stone's course in Danish. 

Incensed. Furious. Fit to be tied. Irate. Downright pissed.

It's the kind of anger I usually reserve for twenty minutes into my period 3 class. 

I felt awful, but the only thing my apologies did was to let her know that she needed to continue her rant in English. 
Felicia Calls the Cops
Note: See Tire Stain- Left Leg

"I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," I repeated incessantly.

To which she replied "I DON'T GIVE SH*T! I DON'T GIVE SH*T! I DON'T GIVE SH*T!" just as incessantly. 

And although I thought it, this was no time for an English grammar lesson on the use of the indefinite article "a" between "give" and "sh*t."    

She started complaining of a headache, and dizziness, and pains in her neck, and decided to call the police. 

"Don't worry, it's not like your country. I don't want to sue you like everybody does in America. I just want your name on record because you are crazy."

Fair enough.

It was an awkward 40 minutes waiting for the police to arrive, and I attempted to humanize myself during my last minutes as a free man by making idle conversation. 

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Felicia," she responded, before launching into another lengthy admonition. 

"Where were you headed?" I asked.

"I am going to interview people who want a job at my company," she said, before condemning my entire existence on this earth for ten more minutes. 

I do feel sorry for the candidates who were looking for a position. I'm sure I didn't help them in any way. Collateral damage. 

Investigation 2017- Bicyclegate
I thought I had softened her up a bit, but when three police officers finally showed up at the crime scene, she made me seem like I was a member of the lesser-known Hell's Angels sect that creates mayhem one pedal at a time. 

"He was hysterical! He had been behind me, and I saw him jumping onto pedestrian curbs, and giving me mean looks because I was going too slow. Look at him, he is professional cyclist who wants to be in race!"

While I was flattered that someone would equate me to a professional cyclist, none of this was even remotely true. 

Didn't take long for "Run-In with Police" to get marked off!
To kick off the investigation, the officers looked for evidence of a collision. They looked at her bicycle for damage. There was none. They looked at my bicycle for damage. There was none. They looked at her clothes for damage. There was a huge tire mark on her left pant leg that Felicia hadn't seen yet. 

They chose to ignore it and not break the news to her. 

Two of the officers pulled me aside, where I thought for sure I was going to be cuffed. Instead, they offered their perspective:

"Look. This lady is a bit crazy. We are going to give her time to vent her anger. It's going to be okay. We're going to talk to you over here so that it looks like you're in trouble."

And that's what they did. One officer asked the Usual Questions, while another (literally) scribbled in a notepad. 

After about five minutes, we all reconvened, and Felicia offered one more, level-headed correction of my erratic behavior. 

Then, she shook my hand firmly and sincerely and wished me luck. 

Then, she pulled me in for a loving, long, tight embrace. 

I think that part shocked us all, but she saw that I was just as shaken (if not more so) than she was, and this tiny gesture made all the difference. 

Nonetheless, I was happy to continue on my way, still a free man. 

To be certain, it was my fault. I missed my brakes. But still...

Bye, Felicia. 

Oh, and I left my helmet at scene in my desperate hurry to leave, so... there's another mark on the card. 

Buying New Helmet. Ugh. 

My next stop was the Apple store in Malmö, Sweden. There are three such stores in all of Scandanavia, and this one just happened to be on my way. 

The repair was fully covered under warranty (if they ever amend their policy to exclude damage due to being transported via bicycle, I assure you it's my fault. I had the same problem in Utah last year), and it involved pretty much replacing every part of my computer. Problem was it would take two days. 

No matter. There's worse places to be stuck than Malmö. 

It's a town that is old-fashioned and reminiscent of a quintessential European town:

Quintessential Square in a Quintessential Town

And modern and unique with creative architecture:
"The Turning Torso"

Beautiful and well-kept parks abound in Malmö, and I pitched a tent in the midst of some oak trees, where I thought I'd be hidden from view. 

Camping laws in Scandanavia are very lax. You can pretty much camp anywhere (including on someone's private property (!)) without breaking any laws, but when a woman approached me while I was setting up my tent I got nervous once again. I wasn't in the mood for more police visits. 

Shhh! No one will see me here!
It turns out Helena saw me making camp from her apartment while she and her daughter ate dinner, and curiosity got the better of her. She simply wanted to introduce herself and see if I needed anything. After a bit of conversation, she promised coffee and breakfast at 8 AM the following morning. 

The 104 degree fever that I currently have started that night. A fitful sleep interrupted by bizarre dreams of me being deported from Poland and cold sweats resulted in my drowsiness when Helena came to greet me (right on time!) and ask me up to her apartment.

Helena- my "Neighbor for the Night"
It was hard to ignore the headache and focus on Helena's kindness, which I am so grateful for, but I managed. Residents of Malmö do take a lot of pride in their town, even though it is widely regarded by right-wing conservative groups as an example to why immigration should be stopped. Helena explained that those types of groups skew data to further their agenda and put needless scars on a wonderful town.

True Pride: Bartender's Tattoo of "Turning Torso"

By the time my computer was ready for pickup at 2 PM, I was full on sick. 

Throbbing headache, the chills, sore throat, fever, and constant vomiting. 

Pedaling 70 km of relatively flat land to reach my next destination would not normally be a big deal... but doing it while sick like this? Torture. 

I had to stop every 5 km or so and rest with my head between my legs. I took naps in town squares. I vomited some more. And a trip that should've taken me 3 hours took 8 instead. I barely made it to my 10:30 ferry departure to Poland.

Route to Ferry

Definitely NOT a cruise ship. Don't be jealous.
And once on the ferry, I curled up on the floor behind some passenger seats and slept. For the entire 8 hour trip. 

This is the kind of sick where it takes too much energy to turn to the other side in order to find comfort. The kind of sick that makes you question whether it's really important for you to get up and go to the bathroom, or if you can just hold it. The kind of sick where solving a crossword or blogging is out of the question. 

When the ferry docked in Swinoujscie, Poland the next morning, I immediately found a cheap hotel and stumbled my way there, delirious and defeated. 

Never too sick to take an awful pic of my hospital room!
I don't know what happened to that day. I spent the entirety of it in bed, except for a quick hospital visit about 7 PM when things were still on the decline. 

There was a brief discrepancy over health insurance as the receptionist noted I'd have to pay out of pocket for the visit. 100 Polish zloty. 25 bucks. 

The doctor gave me a shot in the ass and a scrip and sent me on my way. They never did charge me for the visit. Perhaps I'll get a bill in the mail at home. Good luck getting me to pay that one. 

It's really hard to believe that it's Thursday when Wednesday ceased to exist. I'm on the mend, but staying here at least one more night.

There's nothing fun or even remotely enjoyable about cycling while sick, and I can't shake the chills.

Week 2 has been slow going- I doubt I'm going to make my original goal of Prague by the 18th. But hey, now that I'm a professional cyclist, who knows? Anything's possible!


Your Daily Dose of "Awwwww!"

Yes, the audience was abuzz with the question "Where are the parents?"

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Ferry, Some Fury, and a Friend (#4)

Day: 7 + a Rest Day... Mölle, Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark

Average Speed: Does it matter?

Distance Cycled in Last Two Days: 102.3 km (64 Miles) 

Distance Cycled Total: 763 km (411 Miles)


Bye-Bye, Sweden!

I get a bit nervous when it comes to big mass transportation stations. I don't know why. It's always a scary experience for me. There's too much noise, and there's too much that can go... wrong. Airports, bus terminals, trains stations- all of them give me a bit of a panic attack, which I try to hide. 

I've got the NYC Subway system down pat. But Grand Central and Penn Station still raise my blood pressure. 

So when I entered the ferry terminal / train station / bus terminal in Helsingborg, Sweden, I was overwhelmed. And I was the only person in the busy station with a fully loaded bicycle. 

You know when a squirrel runs into the road? And then it freezes? And then its eyes dart around? And then it runs one way? And then the other? And then it freezes again? And then its eyes dart? And then you think it's the stupidest animal in the world? 

I empathize with the damn squirrel. 

Eventually, I realized that in order to board the ferry, I needed to head to the top floor of the terminal. I knew this because there were kindergarten-style pictures of a boat with an "up" arrow next to them.

But my bicycle would not fit in the elevator, and the escalator was out of service, so I needed to take three separate trips up two flights in order to get where I thought I needed to be. 

The lady at the ticket counter was nice enough:

"You can't bring bicycles this way. Follow the bicycle signs outside the station," she said,
Hello, Denmark!
smiling politely.

"Oh. I didn't see any bicycle signs," I said.

"That's because you're inside. The signs are outside," she said, smiling politely. 

"Are you sure I can't board here? It was a lot of work bringing this bike up here," I said. 

"The elevators are specifically designed to discourage people from bringing bicycles up here," she said, smiling politely. 

"So I guess I'll go back downstairs then? Is that what you mean?" I said, hoping she'd empathize with the squirrel. 

"Yes. That is what I mean," she said, smiling politely. 

"Okay. Sorry about that," I said, defeatedly. 

"You're not the first!" she said, smiling politely. 

And although she said that last part in English, the translation was clear: "There's lots of idiots in the world! And I get to see so many of them!"

"To be or not to be that idiot who takes pictures
whilst holding up traffic..."
I figured it out. 

Don't worry. 

And once on the ferry, I leaned my bike up against the gate that lowers to allow all cars to leave. So I apologize to all the people who were delayed by ten minutes after we arrived in Denmark because the gate couldn't be lowered due to the bicycle that no crew member wanted to handle.

I was too busy taking pictures of Hamlet's castle from the upper deck. 

It was a lazy, gray day pedaling into Copenhagen, but once I was there, the clouds lifted, the sun shone, and everything was right. 

Here's the route I took:

Elevation Profile

My Route

My first impression of Copenhagen: I could live here. 

At every turn, there is something that to see. 

It's clean. 
Canal. Yup. That's the caption. Just "Canal."

It's historic. 

It's beautiful. 

Bicycles rule the streets. They're everywhere. Literally. It's actually difficult to remember that cars share the same road. You know those signs that say "Share the Road" in the USA, which are intended to make motorists aware of cyclists? That same sign would have the opposite meaning here, reminding cyclists that pedestrians and cars still exist. 

Somewhat ashamedly, I took one of those touristy boat tours when I got here. No regrets. Solo-passenger-in-a-too-tight-green-jersey-unprepared-for-sudden-cold and still, no regrets. 

Besides, I could here the strains of "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?" meeting us when we docked, and I felt at home. It's jazz-fest here in Copenhagen. And I found the source of the music. Old people sitting on lawn chairs listening to New Orleans style jazz- now that's my crowd.

And although Europeans still have not figured out the secret of clapping on beats 2 and 4 rather than 1 and 3, it was still a good time. Just ask this guy:

Issues* with my (brand new) MacBook kept it from being a stress free night- but I took advantage of the rest day. *Issues persist by the way... it's not easy typing this now!

First stop- Christiania. 

Norway is impeccably neat and tidy. 

Sweden lets its hair down a bit. 

And Denmark says "Screw it. Let's have fun." 

This sentiment is epitomized in the now-defunct commune of Christiania (or "Free Town"), which is now a semi-quasi-tourist attraction / marijuana peddling site. 
Danish Cows Let their Freak Flag Fly

The motto is "Peace, Brother... Unless Your Bicycle has a GoPro Camera on its Handlebars... in Which Case, You Will be Accosted by some Scary Dudes." 

So enjoy it. 

Don't inhale too much of the air. 

And whatever you do, don't wear a camera around your neck (or on your handlebars) when you enter, because there's a limit to the chillax-ness that is Christiania. 

My bones are still intact. But I was surrounded by three toughs, and said bones were threatened. It was scarier than being at a ferry terminal for sure. No, really. I was scared.
(Video forthcoming once Mac issues are figured out)

Mike Kerschnar, from San Francisco, painted this in an afternoon.
Apparently, I couldn't be bothered to move my thumb.

Jonas Bünger (AKA "Ginger") About to stick a landing

Still, fun artist hippies abound. Including an artist from San Francisco, and a fearless teenaged skateboarder christening his masterpiece. 

Lastly, I had my fourth reunion in seven days. This time with a guy I haven't seen in 18 years. 

Anders (pronounced "On-us") Iversen is yet another Up with People alumnus whom I traveled with as a student. 

He is still unfailingly kind, soft spoken, and humble. 

We reminisced together for a while, and he brought up the time when we were rooming with a host family together in Great Falls, Montana. 

It's a memory I've repressed.

Let's just say it involves Anders being deflowered as I tried to fall asleep on the couch in the adjacent room.

Anders and Me
There's so much more to it than that. 

A mechanical bull is involved.


That's life on the road at 19. 

I know you have questions about this. 

They're going to go unanswered. 

It's late and I have to prepare myself for mass transit tomorrow.

I'm nervous.


Here's a guy who wears his prison number with pride...

A true prisoner of love.