The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Riding through Siberia

I haven't posted anything since Djin and I left Moscow in the cold, miserable rain. That seems like ages ago. Since then, the weather has cleared up and it has gotten much warmer, especially after I crossed the Ural Mountains into Siberia. At first, riding through Siberia was like riding through Minnesota, tabletop flat with lots of bogs and lakes and trees growing in patches. Maybe because it was still early in the season, but there was nothing growing in the enormous fields. There were also no farmhouses. Instead, all the people were in small villages which were scattered from time to time along the road.

One of my favorite things has been meeting the people. The first thing they always seem to want to know is where I am from, and they are surprised to find out that I am from the USA, although the initials USA are meaningless to them, but they certainly understand when I say I am from America.

This tall young man wanted to practice his English with me, and talked with me for the longest time at a gas station.  The gas station lady came out and took our picture. I'm 6'2", so I am considered tall, but he is NBA material.

I stayed one night at a large lake which, they proudly told me, is considered "the little Bikal". By that time, my bike was filthy and I borrowed a bucket and washed it with lake water.

A family with two young kids stopped to talk with me. I let the kids sit on my bike. Aren't they cute?

My tires were starting to get some miles on them. They were still okay and would take me as far as Ulan Bator in Mongolia, but I got afraid that I would not be able to find tires there, and then what would I do.  I stopped in Barnaul, a huge city with about 20 motorcycle shops, none of which I could located. Not knowing what to do to find tires, I stopped in a hardware store to ask for directions. The staff there was so nice. They printed me out a map, gave me a gift of a key chain with a built in screwdriver, and finally the young co-owner got in his company car and led me out to look for tires. That's him, Alexander, on the right. I didn't get the name of the young lady behind the desk, but she was working at the first motorcycle shop we went to.

It turns out my bike requires a rather unusual size tire by Russian standards. The girl got on the phone and finally located what are apparently the only two tires of my size in that huge city. Alexander led me across town to find the shop, and I have to say that without his help I never would have located it. It was in the back of a building, up and concrete ramp into the building, and down a dark, dark hallway. It was the strangest ride I've ever done. The shop was a filthy looking place, but the old man who changed my tires (and oil) sure knew what he was doing with his primitive equipment.

The tires are knobbies, and this is the first time my motorcycle, Odysseus, has ever had shoes like that. The tires are 40% road and 60% off road tires, which I am told I will be glad I have once I get to Mongolia. I will say they handle fine on the tarmac and give me a lot more confidence when in the gravel.

As I left Barnaul, the road passed through deep forests. Soon I was riding through swarms of white butterflies.

Those guys committed suicide by the hundreds against various parts of both Odysseus and me.

I was passing along through the Altai District of Siberia which lies between Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Gradually the rode rose up out of the forests and followed a river higher and higher.

Soon I started seeing snow on the mountains.

At one mountain pass there were the souvenir stands that always seem to crop up at such places.

These two guys from Austria were taking a break there. They had just came from Ulan Bator by the northern route and were headed back to Moscow and on home to Austria. There are three routes across Mongolia. The northern route, they told me, is sandy desert with no marked roads and very little gas. They have me convinced to do the middle route.

All day long I have had to be careful rounding curves in the road because you never know what is going to be camped out in the middle of the road: horses, cows, sheep, goats, or even another vehicle. Gotta stay alert boy.

I am stopped for the night at the last town of any size before the Mongolian border. It has perhaps 10,000 inhabitants and absolutely no restaurants. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they had WiFi here. That is very rare in these small villages. My bedroom is fine, but I can't say there is a scenic view. That is a street down there, and every so often a car goes down it.

I have to say that the view from last night's window was better.

So, no more internet until I ride the 1,000 miles to Ulan Bator. I will post again from there, and maybe I will have some cool pictures.