Novosibirsk - August 17, 2015
I'm now in Novosibirsk although I haven't been able to get a Spot out yet. Here on a rest/health/fix-bike day. I'm not in a real great place and so am looking forward to heading out again tomorrow.
Haven't written in a few days which exceeds my memory limit. Guess I was in Krasnoyarsk at that great hotel, then went to Tomsk... a bit off the normal route... then to here. I decided to head towards Tomsk because I read that Chekov (the writer, not the helmsman on Star Trek) said that it was a boring city occupied by boring people. So I had to check that out! To the contrary... a very pretty, old as in 1600's city, with lots of the old wood structures still standing and some very nice folks. I didn't have a hotel reservation which always makes it difficult driving around, avoiding traffic and looking for a hotel, but I did find a very nice mini-hotel on the second floor of an apartment building. Outside I met Robert, a guy from Jamaica going to Tomsk University and working on a Ph.D. in Engineering. Also met his Russian wife. Nice folks. Nice walk around town as well. Just down the street was a park where they had all the old rides I remember as a kid (bumper cars and the like) as well as a real midway. Also live music. Had a great evening.
Which actually contrasted well to my day getting to Tomsk. I checked in the atlas and it described it as a hard-surfaced road, and indeed it started out that way. Through some really picturesque villages with old painted houses, small family farms tucked between the trees... all very nice. Then I hit some gravel stretches like I've not seen. The holes and the dust were unbelievable. The pavement stopped so unexpectedly that I didn't really have time to slow down enough and hit the first hole so violently I thought I might go over the handlebars. Poor bike! But there were trucks on the road, and wind and dust. When a truck came by the other way, the dust was so bad that I almost had to stop as I could only creep along with 10-20 foot visibility. Anyway, this went on for about 30 kms or so, then I got back to good road. I figured there must be something political there. You could see that that stretch had been paved at one time, but had not had any maintenance in maybe 50 years. Nothing. When I asked Robert about it and he shouted out to his wife, "Hey, Sam took the crap road into town!". Yeah, no crap. Anyway, he said that yes, there is an ongoing dispute between two local districts as to who should maintain that stretch. So I guess no one does.
But after Tomsk, I came here. Had a hotel reservation, but it's not quite as advertised. No real sign again on the place. The sign they do have has letters 1 to 2 inches high, and just has the name... nothing else. Geez, no wonder there is no one here. Anyway, I think the young lady at the desk was pissed that I was able to prove that I had a bookings.com reservation with a lower price than what she wanted. So she stuck me in the peak of the attic, at the top of a 5-floor walk up. This one's a back killer for sure.
But I do need some time here. The bike runs well on the road, but often spits and stutters in the morning, and coming into town here in the heat of the day yesterday, in all the traffic, it must have quit 20 times. It seems to have quite the violent stop and so I'm thinking that the timing has wandered off and needs adjusted. Unfortunately, there's no good place to take it for a run after messing with it, without bucking another hour of traffic. The road tomorrow will be the test.
So I had a bit of a close one the other day. In a construction site, some tractor-trailer rig passed me on the right swinging his trailer around. Anyway, the gravel then converged onto a single lane strip of pavement with a drop on on the left and a string of plastic barriers on the right. The barriers were made out of that plastic stuff that kid's playground equipment is made out of. Each is about 2 meters long, almost a meter high and has a wide base. Anyway, I'm behind the truck, dropping back, and he's still swinging his trailer in front of me. So he clips one of these barriers and that sets it spinning out into my lane... the only lane. I'm on the brakes but the problem is that this thing is doing a random walk so not sure which way it's going. I go left which was a good guess and miss it but it winds up in the center of the lane. The car behind me was able to stop in time and so didn't nail it. But man, you never know what's gonna get you here. That would have been ugly. The drivers also seem to be getting more aggressive the farther west I go. Maybe closer big cities, maybe more rushed business traffic, I don't know. But they definitely drive here with both testicles on the wheel. Coming into town yesterday, it's pretty shocking how fast some people drive. You just can't drive like that and expect not to kill someone.
So I've decided not to head down to the Altai. I would have to divert from here, southeast. It would be a 1700 km diversion, coming back to where I am now. I'm sure it is absolutely spectacular down there, but I can't see everything I would like to see. Saint Petersburg from here, is just about the same distance as from Los Angeles to New York, And after that, I still have to get to London... quite a ways again farther. I just feel that with that much distance and time yet to go, that I'm pressing my luck to take another big side trip. Pressing my luck with the bike, with the traffic and with my energy level. If the diversion were near the end of the trip, then perhaps I would do it.... but to get back here and still have all that way to go... well, that just seems crazy. It's late in the season, I've seen a lot of great things and I need to focus on getting me and the bike back home in one piece. I've been very fortunate so far. I've gotten almost all the way across Siberia and around Mongolia with no real major disasters. Time to count my blessing, pack up and head home.
So if I get some time, I'll do a little sightseeing here, but bike repairs come first. I did find a couple of blocks away however, a supermarket the like of which I have never sen. We certainly don't have anything like that at home. I can only really compare it to the food floor at Harrod's in London which is similar, just bigger. Some things were expensive, some not. Fresh fruit like strawberries... $13 US/pint. But other stuff not so bad. The cheese section was fantastic, as were the baked good, prepared foods, salads, beer selection. Just unreal. All very classy presentation, nothing out of place on the shelf. Pretty rich clientele though you could tell. Glad I was wearing my suit jacket.
OK... that's about it. Oh, I heard from Ken and Carol that they made it out of Mongolia on the last day of their visas. Not sure if that was by luck or design. They didn't really comment on the trip across and I'm not sure where they are now. They must be close to here. And the Korean kids must me in Moscow by now. That's the motorcycle pair, I've lost touch with the scooter guys.