Krasnoyarsk - August 15, 2015
I'm now in Krasnoyarsk, or at least that's what the GPS says. Just in the industrial outskirts, but it looks like I'll be driving through town today on my way to Novosibirsk. May not make it there today as it is 808 kms. However, this hotel is so nice that it is just begging for an extra day's stay.... but I've gotta be tough. Actually, there is no place to eat around here and only a gas station mini-mart within walking distance. God knows I don't want to drive anywhere!
So I think I last wrote from Ulan-Ude when the bike got damaged. Repairs to the windshield are holding up, but the mounting bracket that holds it to the handlebars broke. I think it was damaged in the original spill in Ulan-Ude way back when and the vibration finally caused a bolt to shear. So I was driving and suddenly the support on one side pops and the windshield starts to flex. So I grab that. Jesus, I don't want it to break again! I get stopped off the road one-handed. It seems to be OK as long as the pieces are held in place, and that is being done with a roadside repair using a zip-tie. So I think the windshield may go the distance. The mirror didn't however. That fix only lasted a day and then the mirror just flew off down the road. I pulled off and went back to look for it but unfortunately, that shattered the glass so that's a write-off. So yet another roadside repair session took place where I replaced both mirrors with a set I've been carrying with me since 2010. Different style, but good visibility. These are chrome instead of black, so now my bike looks like a Harley. Yuck. Too much bling.
Anyway, the road from Ulan-Ude has been very nice. I have to say that as I am now in the heart of Siberia, that it is pretty nice here. And only the odd mosquito! Coming around Lake Baikal was quite pretty, with lots of forested mountains coming right down to the water. I had read that Baikal was a real problem in building the Trans-Siberian Railway. Why... just go around it. Well, to get around it means that you have to get into the mountains as the mountains are so close. So that's the deal. Unfortunately, they were not thinking of tourists at the time and so in many places, the railway is right at the lake shore. That and the power plants and open mines, don't do much for the scenery enhancement in places. Ken and Carol, as well as the Korean kids went over to Oklon Island... a barely island that juts out into the lake. They all said that was very nice although there are 40 kms of crap road from the ferry to the town. I think that's what separated the motorcycles from the scooters in the Korean group. The scooter guys decided to bypass Mongolia after that experience. Too bad as they could have seen as much as I did from paved roads. But who knew at the time.
No, Siberia is really beautiful to drive through. I see why people say that the Trans-Siberian train is such a great experience. Leaving the hotel at Baikal the road climbed above the lake in a series of tight hairpins and up into the trees, and since then, it has just been a continuous change of dense yellow pines and birch forests, and open rolling hills, or huge fields of golden wheat. The birch forests are particularly nice as they often have ferns for undergrowth, and with the cold nights now, the ferns are changing colors. So you get these black and white tree trunks and green and yellow forest floor. Like a painting. Even the towns are interesting. Some are just muddy crap holes with roads to match, and others are simply cute little towns, all painted up, some with fabulous Orthodox churches. It really is quite the mix. It looks like the towns might be rather autonomous with little support from the state... and so some towns can pull it together and some can't.
Finding the hotel at Baikal was an experience. I had made a reservation on the internet and it gave the GPS coordinates. Well after the GPS tried to take me there on some non-existant roads (I've since corrected the database), I arrived at the spot at the end of a dead-end gravel road. There are houses around, all behind high solid-metal fences and all with yappy dogs, but no sign that there was a guesthouse there. So I honk my horn, which only set the dogs off more, but no one came out. So I wandered around on the bike for a while, but nothing. Finally asked some young woman walking along the road (all in Russian) if she knew of this place and she said to wait, she would "phone a friend". I think the friend was the girl who ran the guesthouse. So yes, it was there, it was the house with the flag. Oh, well I saw the flag, but didn't make the connection that a flag meant, yes, we are a guesthouse, come in. Why no sign? Dunno. But it was a nice place with a great view of the lake as long as you Photoshopped in your head all the crap out of the picture. I've decided to stop trying to get pictures with no cars or power lines in Russia. You just can't. Don't even bother trying.
Anyway, not much else to tell. No real disasters, no run-ins with the cops... just plugging away on the miles. The oil pressure light doesn't come on anymore and that had me worried a bit, but I've done some testing and it looks like it is probably just the bulb in the instrument cluster. It's shock-mounted but takes such a beating on the dirt roads. Its a separate unit that holds the speedometer, tachometer and all the warning lights. I also suction-cup my GPS to it. It just shakes like crazy on the gravel or when going through the construction sites. I'm amazed that anything works at all.
Haven't made a final decision on the Altai yet, but it is starting to get cold already. I'm thinking I should keep moving. The road comes out of Novosibirsk and it would be at leas a week out-and-back. So I'll have to decide soon. But is is noticeably colder now. I was wearing the electric vest and had the heated grips turned on most of yesterday. Unfortunately, it was quite the rainy afternoon yesterday... really heavy rain at times, and of course the vest failed just as the rain started. I've always had trouble with the electric cord on that vest and it broke again yesterday. Grrr. So I did yet another repair last night. We'll see how long it lasts. But it is an amazing device. When I get real cold, I just sort of buzz out and am oblivious to what's going on around me... flip the switch and I'm back into reality. Cold does strange things to you.
OK... miles to go... after breakfast here of course.