To Birstonas With Love

Here is my primary impression of Lithuania at the moment: it is hot. I keep thinking of that line from “Good Morning Vietnam,” when Robin Williams does a fake weather report, and asks a guy (also played by Robin Williams) what it’s like out, and the guy goes, “It’s hot! Damn hot. Real hot. Hot enough in my shorts, I can cook things in them. A little crotch pot cookin’.”

Don’t worry — it hasn’t quite gotten to that point. But it is apparently the hottest summer Lithuania has had in recent memory, and we have been biking through it, during the prime daylight hours of 11am – 2pm. (To all my dermatologists, past and present, I am sorry.) I am religious about sunblock, and yet I have a definite farmer’s tan going on on my left leg. But that’s not as bad as Peter — he has several sunburned spots, plus a head cold. Poor guy.

But other than our various afflictions, we’re doing well. We spent yesterday in a town so small that it didn’t appear in either of our guidebooks, and stayed in a guest house — which we found through a special biking pamphlet, given to us by the bike shop owner in Vilnius  — that was just listed as someone’s first name. We were a little worried, but no need: it was amazing. Granted, at first we couldn’t find the right house, having been led astray by a man in a miniscule black bathing suit standing on his deck who gestured us toward his neighbor’s home, where an irascible dachshund loudly protested our arrival. Turns out that his neighbor did indeed have rooms, but she wasn’t the same person we’d spoken to earlier — our guest house was just down the road, on a street with the same name as the one we were on. (I still don’t quite get that logic.)

Anyway, the correct street and house were both located on the shore of a large lake, bordered by a small dock off of which were jumping a swarm of local children. It took approximately five minutes for us to join them, jumping in with our bike clothes still on (it was as close to a wash as they’ve gotten to recently). And immediately, the heat and fatigue of biking/dragging forty pounds of luggage melted away, as we paddled out to the the lake and stared at the pine forests on the opposite shore, the sound of happy children behind us.

When I did my post-college bike trip, I remember being amazed by the range of emotions I could go through in one day — or even five minutes. Exhaustion was a constant,  frustration common, and a feeling of despair certain every time we hit a hard hill — but then thirty seconds later we’d crest the top and start rolling down, and I’d think that biking was just about the best thing in the world. Then another hill and the cursing would begin again. And then, finally, the end of the day, when we got to take a much-deserved shower (or swim) and I would wonder what could possibly be better.

At the moment, I’m somewhere between those two points — very grateful that we’re doing this bike trip and also very grateful not to be biking at the moment. (Though side note to the diabetics out there: four hours of exercise per day gets you a free pass on an ice cream cone.) We’ve decided to take an extra day here to explore the local river, forest and (most excitingly) spa center and water park — which sounds like a great plan to me. Then it’s on to Kaunas, a bus to the Curonian Spit (which sounds amazing) and after that? Who knows. For now, I’m looking forward to some sleep.

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