Jan and I arrived in Moscow on Sunday, tired but excited. The airport and immigration was a touch of what we'd see in Russia - masses of people, all shoving to get done whatever was needed. If you ain't pushing and trying, you must not really be interested in getting something done! Jan became a champ at this. I never really was successful. Even in St. Pete's airport at the end, I just followed Jan!
Moscow siteseeing was fun and we got to know the other riders a bit: Benita and Herbert from South Africa, Thor from Norway, Ginia and Roger, Anne and Roger, and Giles from the UK (Giles is currently an ex-pat in Moscow), Danny and Cory from San Fran, and two Vladimirs from Moscow - our wonderous ride leaders. Seemed to me that the city was a bit dirty. For certain, traffic was congested. Some amazing buildings and some ugly ones from the Soviet times. People are not friendly - too untrusting, a legacy from their past. When they know you though, absolutely delightful!
On July 14, Tuesday, we traveled to Rostov by bus, with the bikes in Andre's truck. The road was really bumpy and I had a time writing in my journal. The Russian countryside is beautiful and rich. Tall birches with lush undergrowth and brilliant flowers. Lots of tall hogweed with white, flat blooms. Many of the houses have intricate wood carvings and high contrast painted shingles and frames. Gorgeous. Most houses on the way were in good repair with some quite delapidated. You can 'see' the harshness of the winters, and feel it in the road surface. There are rolling hills and the growth is so dense, you can't see far into the forests.
Rostov is cute little town on a very large lake. There was an option to ride around the lake that afternoon. Quite an adventure. Turns out, you CAN'T ride around the lake! You can ride to the other side and turn around and come back! So Thor, Cory, Jan, Anne and me set off, down toward the lake and tried to ride on an imaginary road around the edge of the lake. The ride around the lake is on major highway to start (read here - LOTs of traffic!, hauling butt) and then on smaller roads. Finally found our way to the backside, with small hamlets, churches with onion domes, beautiful houses. We found a market and met up wtih Cory who had gone a different way, sorta and was ahead of us. Thor bought this huge bottle of beer that comes into play later. The five of us took this narrow road toward the lake (anyone would do this, given what we didn't know!) still thinking we could get by the lake to ride. This road turned into a 2-track grassy road with mud pits all over. Jan and Anne, being sane, turned back. I followed the boys. Well, it did go to the lake. On the way, I saw and old Babushka and I was still in the habit of saying hello to all the passersby (yep, silly me). I said Priviet to her (informal hello). Oh my word, did I hear about that! She was pissed off, big time. Thor told me I said f-you to her! Very funny, Thor. We saw a lady with her son and she stopped and talked to me about the lake and swimming - all in Russian of course! She was really nice and I have absolutely no idea what she said, even with the pantomiming. The lake turns out to be a huge silt pen with a few feet of water in it. Yuck. The guys were in there (I'm slow on this terrain, dodging mud holes and gravel) laughing it up, drinking the beer. I took off my shoes and went down, but it was so yucky, I took off back up the road. I knew they'd catch me. So, in dodging the mud holes, I was up on the top of one side of the tracks and decided I needed to walk through this particular spot, put my foot down on the outside ground and guess what? No ground, just lots of tall weeds. Ploughy. Down I went, bike over body, into the weeds and brambles. Ouch. Lots of nice burrs. I yelled. I could hear the guys - laughing in their beer-ness. They never heard me. I threw the bike up the hill and clawed my way up the weeds. Off I rode. They did catch and pass me. Back on the main road, we finally figured out we needed to head back. Lots of people told us this (consulting the map), but it took a long time for us to believe them... Then Thor and I, still thinking there was a way AROUND the lake, took off on this dirt road. OMG, what a mistake. It eventually sank into a bog with the perpetual mud holes and flies, flies, FLIES. Not nice, gentle, icky flies. Nope. Huge, ugly, biting, voracious flies. They could make a movie about these flies. Somehow, I am a fly and bee magnet. Swarms of these flies. I hate these flies. You should have seen the flies. Have I mentioned there were awful flies?! We finally head back. I'm thinking about a SAG. Yep. Thor and I have both run out of water. We stop at this little church and Thor, bless him, knocks on someones door and asks for water - we filled our bottles out of this huge barrel. Such nice folks to give us some water! Oh, did I mention I fell over because I couldn't unclip because there was SO much mud in my shoes from the mud pits and bogs where the flies were? Awful, awful flies. Their bites made me bleed. Seriously. On the way back, we passed by this stream where a lot of locals were swimming. Thor and I stopped and jumped in (fast, to avoid more flies). I kept my shoes on to get rid of some of the mud! Rest of the ride was uneventful. Nice place to stay in Rostov - beautiful garden. Decent food.
My first ride in Russia. It was awesome!