Riding out of hilly Stip was a wonderful thing. Once we left the city limits, we were treated to a ever-so-slight downhill that lasted almost all day. A sky full of puffy clouds vacillated between looking gorgeous and somewhat menacing.
After about thirty kilometers of gentle coasting, I spotted a particularly striking field. A man riding a tractor traced a path in the green grass, and I thought the scene would make for a spectacular photo. So, Tyler held my bike while I hopped off, clamored up a steep berm, and made my way to the top of the green hill. By the time I got there, the farmer was gone, but I did get to snap some pictures of an incoming front.
As I was taking photos, a different man walked up to me and introduced himself. He was Ivan, the farmer's son, and explained that they lived in the nearby town. We talked about our trip, and about what sorts of things they grow on their farm (wheat mostly). Our conversation came to an abrupt halt when the darkening clouds overhead began to sprinkle. I said a hasty goodbye, and ran down the hill, camera shoved under my shirt.
Back by the bikes, Tyler was ready and waiting for me, rain jackets in hand. Just before the sprinkles turned into a full-on downpour, we both successfully got our jackets on and our loose belongings covered.
It felt so good to be out riding in the storm. Unlike a few days ago when we had a cold and bone-soaking rain all day long, today was warm and the shower smelled of springtime, fresh dirt, and green things growing. When the clouds really rolled in, I stopped to photograph the lightning piercing the sky while Tyler recorded the crashing thunder.
About twenty kilometers from Kumanovo, we met a fellow cyclist named Marjan. Trained in mathematics, for which there is no work in Macedonia, he scrapes a living together playing the accordion. He spends his free time cycling, covering roughly 50km every day!
We enjoyed chatting and coasting over the gently rolling hills together. When the three of us were passed by a racing cyclist heading in the opposite direction, the racer did a quick about-face and joined our little group. He was the "Champion of Macedonia" and had trained extensively in Switzerland!
About eight kilometers from Kumanovo, we decided to stop for a rest and a snack, so we said farewell to our afternoon's riding partners. It was so nice to meet you both!
We were tired and ready to be done with the day as we headed through the city of Kumanovo near dusk, hoping to find a free-camp on the other side. Of course, the only hefty hill of the day was just at the edge of town. It worked out though. We made it out of the city and easily found a great free-camp in a secluded field behind a line of trees (though at first, I was not 100% sold on it, hence the weird, worried look on my face after spotting a few people across the way)…
…and opened The Can for dinner. While I heated up supper, Tyler was busily fixing a minor problem for one of his clients.
We both finished around the same time. "The Can" turned out to be goulash, and was remarkably good! It tasted just like Jodi's (Tyler's mom's) beef stew. YUM!
Tomorrow we head to Serbia!