Chita - July 14, 2015
Beautiful ride to Chita today through wide open rolling grasslands like I've never really seen before. And a bit hillier places as well. Getting into the hustle and bustle of Chita only made me realize what a beautiful stretch I've had over the past few days. Early difficulties aside, this has just been a most glorious experience. I think I am really going to miss this area. But Mongolia will be beautiful too, so there is still much to look forward to. I guess this is one of the downsides to going east to west... the most beautiful parts are over all too soon.
OK, so I have an embarrassing story. I think my last disptach left off where I was headed out to the store because I couldn't face struggling with the handwritten menu in the cafe. Well, I wasn't born yesterday, so I thought, hey, this hotel is nice enough that they probably have the menu in that little booklet that hotels have in each room. Sure enough, I open it up and there it is, all printed out. Great, now I can slowly go through it and look things up, then just go down and order. So I start to scan through it and see Schoptka. Schoptka! That's the absolutely fabulous salad I had in Bulgaria. And the price is so reasonable. 65 rubles... that's like a buck-fifty. Then I see something that begins with K and I'm thinking OK, OK, potatoes... awesome. So my mouth is really watering at this point as these are both things I haven't had for quite a while. Then I look farther down and I see Futbalka. Futbalka? A futbalka is a T-shirt. Then I start seeing other words I know. Crap. This isn't a menu. It's the damn laundry price list. No salads, no potatoes. Double crap. And that wasn't schoptka. It was schopka - hat. Frig.
Anyway, I got thinking that I didn't waste all that time studying Russian and even more importantly didn't waste all of Tiiu's time teaching me Russian only to bail and go to the store. So I went down to the cafe anyway and asked in my best Russian "Do you have any salads without meat?" Yes, cabbage. Great. I figure cabbage salad is coleslaw so bring it on. Very nice coleslaw... but apparently that was the only one they had without loads of meat.
So encouraged by that, I went down this morning for breakfast. I'd like two fried eggs, please. No eggs. OK, bliny? Pancakes? Yes. Bliny, koffe and cok, juice please. So that worked pretty well too. Then a young Russian couple came in with their little kid and I thought hey, I wonder what kind of spread they're going to be able to order? If I only knew Russian better, I'd eat better. So as I was taking my dirty dishes back I walked round to their table and had a quick peek... bliny, koffe and cok. They didn't do any better than I did... and they speak the language! I think that's all the cafe had. Bliny, koffe and cok.
And buying in the markets is not all that easy anyway. Most of them are like the old general stores you see in cowboy movies with all the goods behind the counter. So I can't really see what I'm buying, and if I do see something, don't know the name for it. I just have to point and say naprava, naleva, right, left. Sometimes its a surprise. I thought I was pointing to a cup of noodles the other day. Got back to the hotel and opened it up and it was powdered mashed potatoes. Oh well, at least it wasn't dried up something else.
Wednesday, July 15
So the racks helds up yesterday after their repair in Chernychevsk, but one of the handles on one of the sidecases themselves is starting to come of. That can't happen as tying the handles to each other is one of the main means by which the bags stay on the bike. I don't want a repeat of the Turkey experience, where I looked back and one of the bags was gone. Enough ditch hunting for me. Anyway, I started a repair in the hotel room last night using a small hand-drill. Took more than an hour to drill the hole, but I'll see when I get access to the bike if I can find a bolt long enough and skinny enough to use. If not, I have an alternate plan B using a wire that at least might get the bag to Ulan-Ude.
I have plans now to meet with the older (than me!) Australian couple, Ken and Carol Duval. They've been traveling for years all over. They've had such bike problems recently that I have now caught up with them. We'll discuss travel plans as they are headed to Mongolia as well. They are expecting a solo female rider to show up in UU today as well, so we might make a group for a while. I would feel better doing that at least for a while as The Duval's bike is not reliable right now and Mongolia is not a good place to get stuck alone. I could use the company as well. We'll all meet tonight tonight and figure out what's happening.
So after breakfast here, buffet I hope, I'm off. It will be long day through what is supposed to be quite gorgeous. Unfortunately, it is very smokey due to forst fires. Like really smokey. I think I only took one picture yesterday, then gave up. The picture came out all baby blue.