After one last dirty parade through the lobby of our Corinth hotel, we rode off under grey but mercifully dry skies heading east along the coast. Our destination for the day was Piraeus, the port town of Athens. From there we would catch a ferry to Crete.
We listened to music the whole way, sprinting happily over the easy rolling hills before us. We covered the first half of our 85km day in just under two hours! When our road split in two and we weren't sure which to take, a friendly young man came over and directed us towards the safest, most traffic-free path and then welcomed us to Greece. Thanks!
Later while stopped for a snack, we saw many old rusting ships bobbing around an inlet. The abandoned vessels were like floating ghost town! One of them, which was very close to shore, had tipped over on its side and was half beached, half submerged in water.
About twenty kilometers from our intended destination, the road we were following abruptly ended due to construction, forcing us directly onto the freeway. Though riding on the interstate is one of my least favorite aspects of the trip, I didn't mind too much today. In a matter of minutes we reached a bottleneck where the speeding race of cars and trucks ground to a snail's pace in a tangled, smoggy mess of exits and merges.
Since traffic was hardly moving, we zipped through the small spaces between cars and trucks, semis and the curb. This delicate balancing act and close proximity to massive mechanical beasts that could squish me like a bug used to terrify me to no end. I would often wobble, bump my panniers on cars, or lose my balance trying to steer clear of doors, rear view mirrors, patchy concrete, potholes, or the curb. More often than not, I was at a standstill along with the traffic.
Over the last ten months I have come a very long way. Today, I didn't think twice as I maneuvered my way through the maze of vehicles, squeezing through the parade of narrow spaces before me without hesitation. At one point while skirting our way through the traffic jam, I turned to see if Tyler was still behind me.
To my surprise, I found him expertly coasting along, holding his handlebars with one hand, and our camera with the other. One eye squinted shut, he was watching the road through our Nikon D60 and snapping photos as we rode! "I cannot believe you just went through that!" he shouted, beaming with pride as the shutter fired away.
By the time we reached the ferry port it was starting to get dark. We were tired and very glad to be done for the day as we wheeled up to the ticket booth. There we bought two of our cheapest ferry tickets yet (19 euro apiece for an overnight ferry ride) and rode over to the passenger terminal to wait.
Like many terminals in the US, this one featured a Starbucks. It offered the most ridiculously overpriced beverages I have seen in a long time: €4.50 for a hot chocolate! We did not buy anything, but sat outside listening to noises of the port.
The lights of the outdoor waiting area, combined with fog in the air and jazzy music emanating from the Starbucks' speakers made for a strange atmosphere. It felt a bit like we were in a movie! I asked Tyler to record it so we could capture the feeling for all time:
As I prepared backpacks full of snacks, iPods, passports, etc. for the ferry ride, Tyler worked on some projects for his clients. When I was done, I joined him and sat in peaceful observation. People repeatedly approached us selling all manner of pirated DVDs, fake gold jewelry, and giant 6-inch lighters. Thankfully they were not persistent and a simple "no thank you" or "I don't speak Greek" seemed to suffice.
When it was time to board we wheeled our bikes into the garage area without a hitch, bungeed them to a railing, and made our way upstairs. Soon we were off, on our way to Crete! As the ferry pulled away I went for a walk around the outdoor deck, enjoying the wind in my face and the sound of the seawater splashing as we coursed through it.
It was so windy that the puddles and wet footprints on the floor shimmered and danced and skidded around in ripples. I loved the colors of the ferry floor—turquoises and greens, deep blues and shades of purple, contrasted with bright yellow and rusty orange. It reminded be of what I most love to paint: bright blotches of inspiring color.
Back inside the warm ship, we laid down on a cushioned bench and fell fast asleep.