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Old 02-21-2014, 12:49 AM   #31
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Old 02-21-2014, 03:03 AM   #32
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Old 02-21-2014, 08:04 AM   #33
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Cool adventure!
How much did you get paid to babysit the "kid"?
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Old 02-21-2014, 06:10 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Bob View Post
Cool adventure!
How much did you get paid to babysit the "kid"?
Trust me, Not enough! I nearly left him in Mongolia until I figured it out, I'll get to it later in the thread!
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Old 02-23-2014, 05:17 PM   #35
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There was also, I discovered a KTM dealership not too far away, so I thought it worth a look to see if I could get another large sidestand foot.

I left armed with a map and some directions saved as images onto my phone and off we went, we stopped briefly to photograph some Russian pussy that was strutting it's stuff in one of the parks along our way.

Finding the Metro station was a breeze as was buying the ticket, there was an english language option on the ticket machine and a few Roubles later we went to pass the turnstile.

I went through with no issue but turned to see Ed insert his ticket before finding the turnstile 'locked up' on him - Doh!, he tried again - Doh!!, by the third attempt he decided more speed was required and I watched as he sort of impaled his own testicles on the turnstile bars, a member of staff rushed over whilst ed's eyes slowly crossed, she seized the ticket and then inserted it into the card reader on the other side of his turnstile

After that moment of levity the ride on the Metro was efficient quiet and painless. We walked to the dealership through a run down area of apartments, old drunks were sprawled by some of the chess boards in the green spaces around the place, I saw used hypodermics and overall the feel was one of a different side to Moscow, so naturally the KTM brand fitted right into this location.

I also saw a biker down, the twisted remains of a Fireblade,a police car and a light truck that had been at the other end of the collision, bad ju ju

Through a bit of google translate, and armed with the part number I eventually got my sidestand foot, strangely after finding the part I had to stroll to another part of the store to pay in the armoured cashiers booth, before returning with the paperwork to collect the item from the parts counter, I think I gave three signatures to make the purchase??

We had some experience of this kind of weird set up, the process for buying petrol is cash in advance, the easiest way to do this assuming you want a full tank but don't know how much fuel you will take exactly.

Park next to pump
Remove nozzle and put in tank
Walk to cashier and give money (was about a tenner a tank)
Say 'Nyet Ruskie' and do your best hand signal suggesting full tank whilst saying Da Da
Fill bike
go and get change

Pretty simple for the most part, I did have a moment after giving one cashier 450 roubles, the bike took 406 and the cashier was talking at me in Russian before suggesting I needed to give him a further 10, I thought he was trying to fleece me the 50 and we had an argument with neither of us speaking the others language through the cash drawer in his window.
I stood my ground, I mean we were talking about a whole 1 but it was the principle...I felt pretty stupid when I got the 44 roubles change in 2 rouble coins
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Old 02-23-2014, 05:20 PM   #36
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The final day in Moscow was a lazy one for me, but Ed had to change his front tyre, he walked down armed with his levers, tyre and tools, but soon popped back up to the hostel to tell me he had a problem.

I gained an insight into quite why his bag was so damn heavy when he showed me that the 14mm hex key socket he had brought to remove the front wheel was 3/8" but the full size ratchet handle he had was 1/2"

Ignoring the obvious WTF have you got that for I suggested that we needed to find the required tool, not being able to remove the front wheel was not an option, the chances of not getting punctures in the next 10,000 miles was pretty slim and if we couldn't find the tool in the capital city then chances are we couldn't find one.

Ed had a quick google and off he went in search of a tool shop on his own (I felt it best after the bag game) he came back a couple of hours later empty handed, he had eventually found the place on the 3rd floor of an apartment block but no tool.

Ed settled for borrowing some tools from the Mongol rallyists car just to get the job done, he came back a while later to report having pinched the tube and so I thought that as he had shown willing I should stop being so hard on him and share my experience and help a little, it was now early evening.

So now we were both there, and as we set to work a KTM 690smc on an open Akrapovic pulled up beside us.
The rider demounted and introduced himself as Nikita, after a brief conversation it seems he had seen Ed working on the same problem hours before and wondered if he could help
We explained our need for this tool and he told me that just a couple of kilometres away there was a Ducati shop and they would probably have it, and he went on to suggest I should follow him there.

I never would have found it alone, far from a shiny glass fronted dealership it transpired to be a proper old fashioned workshop full of gorgeous pimped out Ducatis down a back alley.

Nikita explained to the guys there our predicament and it was at this point the penny dropped, he was trying to borrow the tool for us, I apologised for his time and said I was looking to buy one.

One moment please!, some kebab style meat was being put onto a 'George Foreman' grill. Are you Hungry?

I said that I wasn't, being all reserved and English suggesting It was too hot for me to eat

Then perhaps I can get you some water?

the hospitality was impressive and throughout a young lady was asking me about our trip, she herself having just returned from N Italy aboard her monster

Before long I was given a sliding T-Bar, I asked what I could pay for this

Nyet Nyet, you take this one please and good luck with your trip, we would be pleased if can join us tonight, we have a bar nearby!

Regrettably I had to decline, we were shipping out at 6 in the morning, keen to avoid the ring road traffic, but I sure would have liked to have shared a beer in such good company, definitely touched by the generosity and sense of biker camaraderie that transcended borders and politics.

Front tyre fitted and all was good until we noticed this on Ed's bike, thank heavens he did at least have a spare

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Old 02-24-2014, 07:52 AM   #37
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Keep it coming bro!

From your experience could your trip be done on a road bike? RSV Mille for example?
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Old 02-24-2014, 04:53 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by DanVFR View Post
Keep it coming bro!

From your experience could your trip be done on a road bike? RSV Mille for example?
to Irkutsk, and then down to Ulan Bataar, yes, and I would encourage it, there are some rough bits here and there but also some great twisties, or alternatively go down toward Barnaul and take time to enjoy the Altai region of Russia, here you have silky ribbons of asphalt crying out for an awesome bike like the Mille.

Actually from Ulan Bataar you could get out to the monastry at Tsetserleg as well as to the statue of Chinggis Khan if you keep eyes front for potholes

After that I'm afraid I went looking for trouble* and although I think most bikes would get round eventually I'm not sure I'd choose a litre sportsbike LOL

however one very sensible option if you are set on using your bike would be to ride to UB, then buy a local 200cc for some off road exploring, selling it shortly afterwards for a very small loss then riding or taking the train back

*Hence ignoring all well meant advice and taking the Northern Route
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Old 02-25-2014, 08:49 AM   #39
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0600hrs came round way too fast, but I was washed, dressed, and loaded before my body really knew what was going on, and for the most part we avoided much of the traffic as we left Moscow heading East along the road towards Nizhy Novgorod.

During the cold war NN was a closed city, Automobiles, Armoured Personnel Carriers, trucks were manufactured and all manner of heavy industry went on there, and passing NN by on the Volga river was anything that would be shipped along this strategically vital watercourse, of the 20 largest cities in Russia, 11 are on the banks of the Volga.

The road was of good quality construction but beat up for the most part, hammered down and rutted by an endless stream of cars and lorries, along the road I saw stalls of giant cuddly toys, inflatable beds and boats for sale, presumably manufactured locally, the bright pink fur of 4ft high bunny rabbits contrasting sharply against the grey concrete buildings beneath the black haze that hung along the road from the countless ancient Kamaz lorries that ploughed there way along the roads, spewing out acrid low grade diesel fumes. I passed by an enormous convoy of military trucks under police escort, the backs of these 4 tonne trucks full of fresh faced youngsters about to be brutalised for the first time as they were processed by the military machine of mother Russia, and a reminder that although the bear is sleeping she is still very much alive and it's probably best not to poke her too much.

I came to learn that in Russia dogs didn't belong to anyone, they just sort of lived at petrol stations and ate from the generosity of the passing truck drivers, but they rarely were a cause for concern to us.

Somewhere early on I also passed the enormous factory of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and then Leibherr forklifts, proudly flying both Russian and German flags at its entrance. It was odd to see such well known brands in their smart livery so far from a backdrop that was conventional to my eyes

By about lunchtime, as the days heat was at it's highest we took a catnap in a field

Between Nizhy Novgorod and Vladimir

note Eds luggage in its new and improved state :p

Another sight that we hadn't seen before Russia were the Police stations beside the road, essentially everybody has to slow down and they will pull anyone they like over to check them out, the lorries all must go through a weighbridge set up as well, of course we also saw numerous police cars waiting beside the road, some with radar guns, others had a floor level box about the size of a gatso head placed on the floor which relayed back to their car a mile or so up the road and on one occasion what appeared to be big military style binoculars on a mount screwed to the dash inside the car, possibly a laser speed detector but judging by the size of the lense body with a hefty old range.

The oncoming traffic would generally flash a few times to warn you but on such bumpy roads and such rattly old Ladas now replacing the Luxury saloons of the Moscow elite it was sometimes hard to tell if you were being flashed or not.

I set the pace to slow, about 90 kmph, I'd heard the police were fanatical about fines if you crossed a solid line, and that the roads up until the Urals were quite heavily policed, this latter fact did indeed appear to be true though we weren't stopped at all.

We just kept plodding along until we passed Kazan, a large city at the confluence of the Volga and the Kazanka rivers which we passed over in the darkness and then, when some 60-100 or so miles past here we turned onto a track beside the road, followed it through the darkness for a few hundred metres before descending off it onto a field full of corn stubble which would be our home for the night, and feeling all luxuriant we erected our tents for the first time so far in this trip, it was nice not to just lay in the dirt for a change

Our 'Campsite' just after Kazan

Nobody came to disturb us, though I think we may have been visited by gremlins in the night!

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Old 02-25-2014, 09:23 AM   #40
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We had done nearly 600 miles since Moscow, this seemed a healthy amount of miles given the moderate speeds, heavy traffic and potholed roads, In fact with the exception of our hours catnap we had pretty much ridden through all the available daylight hours and then some.

The side effect of this was that we didn't stir until mid morning, Utilising my my Ipood for the first time to dig a hole.

I took care of business, which with general ablutions and breaking camp took a little time, but adding on the ritual of Ed's 20 bungee luggage mountain meant we weren't on the road till after lunch, which was another Snickers bar in this case.

I pottered off, back to the main road and turned East but after 5 minutes it became apparent that Ed was nowhere behind me? I was starting to get irritated by his slothful approach to everything, I waited a couple more minutes uncomfortably on the gravel of a narrow hard shoulder as a procession of heavily laden lorries rocked me as they roared past.

I turned 180 and rode the couple miles back towards our camp only to find him on the hard shoulder, his bike had stopped running just as he had pulled out in front of an 18 wheeler and he had to dive into the hard shoulder to avoid being roadkill

Whats the problem?
I dunno, it was fine and then it just stopped running??

Dammit I'd hoped it would be something straightforward like a puncture !

The bike was turning over but not catching, I'm not a mechanic so my thoughts are, always start with the basics! and so assuming there was nothing to really impede the flow of air into the engine we were left with fuel, spark or compression.

There was definitely fuel in the tank and as we had filled from the same pumps I figured the fuel filter should be clear, the bike had been serviced recently.

Ed said he had been a little down on power before now, but he wasn't sure if it was just a reaction to the lower octane fuel (92) he asked me if I felt a difference but given that we had been travelling at 90kmph and I was on a litre twin I couldn't say I had needed 50% of the power available and so no I hadn't noticed anything.

I checked the plug cap and noticed a bit of blow-by on his spark plug so I changed that but there wasn't much wrong with the plug itself and I doubted it was a factor so unfortunately we had to remove all of Ed's luggage mountain and I had to get my tools out as his were to deeply entombed in all his bags

Ed's Spark plug

Below is me being a regular chuckles about his bike, the first drops of a rainstorm were falling as we start to pull off the luggage on the side of the busy main road.
Truth Is I was actually pretty nervous working here because the slower lorries kept pulling into the slip road we had used to join the carriageway to let faster vehicles pass but as it was over a blind crest we were 'danger close' on a few occasions despite Ed running up to put a hazard marker up the road

Once the seat was off we had a look around the visible parts of the loom after realising one of the fuses had blown, digging out the manual revealed it was the fuel pump fuse.

So after waiting another age for the luggage to go back on we proceeded down the road until we stopped for petrol further down the road, the bike was running fine and reportedly a bit healthier for a correctly fitted spark plug too, but when Ed went to leave the pump we were back to square one!

We had a small argument as Ed didn't want to go through the luggage rigmarole once again, he was insisting we should look at the spark plug, but I knew it was his optimism speaking over any logical reasoning and sure enough it was the same fuse, we replaced it and before putting bags back on killed the engine and tried a restart, nope blown fuse, so now we were all out of fuses having robbed my helmet cam charger and heated vest of the 10amp mini blades he needed (I only had spare Maxi blade fuses for my bike)

At this point Ed had decided his trip was over and that I should continue alone, I suggested we could bridge the fuse at the risk of a fire and or destroying something more expensive or I could run a direct 12v feed direct to his fuel pump but it was his call, I had no idea what the issue was, or the likelihood of further problems. Ed's bike had been subject to an attempted theft earlier in the UK and his ignition barrel was rattling and loose so I wondered if the vibrations of the road hadn't had a play up there.

He was feeling defeated, and consoling himself that for him the trip was over (And I was letting him stew in it, after all we had been clear I wouldn't let his poor prep cancel my dream ride, and I felt like I'd been dragging him behind me all these miles so far)

The beautiful irony was that he had been spouting some gibberish about dodgy KTM electrics whilst feeling smug about his ( albeit Italian built) Japanese machine.

So in a respite of levity I suggested he appease the Gods of Karma and apologise to my bike for saying nasty things about her electrics.

Ed apologises to the KTM
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Old 02-25-2014, 10:10 AM   #41
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We went with bridging the fuse with a solid piece of wire and to ride back to Kazan together, at least that way I could piss on him if he did catch fire, after all he was a mate!

We also thought that as we had lost much of the day it might be worth finding a motel for WiFi and trying to garner some fresh thinking about the problem.

Later on we had some good advice from this very forum but first we had to find Wifi

The first Motel, and the only one I had a waypoint for wouldn't permit non Russians to stay, probably just as well as I started to realise its purpose for being there, to accommodate Russian drivers who had been stopped at one of the police checkpoints (on a bridge crossing the Volga so you pretty much have to go past this bottleneck)
If unable to provide the correct documents the police impounded vehicles on the spot and next to the motel was a yard full of cars, it all had a slightly edgy 'vibe' to it.

This Motel is for Russians only!!

There were good smells coming from a cafe round the corner, so I suggested we hide from the rain and get some warm food, it was tasty, cheap and washed down with three coffees

Pork, potatoes, spicy carrot and stuff

Ed was texting home to England, his mum located the address of, and after installing google earth on her computer the Co-ordinates for a hotel that was definitely open to foreign nationals, and so now, fuelled up on porky doodads and caffeine we set off into the dark to find the Ibis hotel in Kazan

Coming into the city, navigating it, keeping an eye out for potholes and tramlines, and not being run down by cars that knew where they were going in the dark and wet night was interesting, I saw a Mcdonalds shining brightly in the gloom and saved its location to the satnav, of course writing Mcdonalds-Kazan into a garmin whilst doing all the above is even more fun, but I was soaked and dreaming of fluffy pillows and crisp linen and wasn't stopping for anything

well anything apart from to admire the Kremlin here which I later learned was a UNESCO world heritage sight

One day I'd like to take time to explore Kazan

Kazan Kremlin

Getting booked into the Ibis was a protracted affair as we both had to produce not only our passports but our vehicle documents and driving licences, we were then escorted to an underground garage before we could go to our room

The whole affair seemed a bit old school with a twist, now there was a sign on reception to inform me all voice conversations were being recorded! clearly the internet was being monitored too, it was incredibly slow and went through the Ibis's own portal making it all but impossible to use, I felt 'watched' and so made sure to take of all my clothes in front of the large mirror that could have been one way and sort of do the truffle shuffle while typing 'the FSB are all sluts' into the search engine of my internet connection With all the news of governments spying on their people I like to try and make it fun for all!

The next day we stirred to a brighter day and with fresh resolve and some pointers from a forum cry for help I went back to the previously spotted Mcdonalds where I could get fresh coffee and steal wifi as I turned their car park into my workshop. I told Ed that before I sent him off to find a dealer and left him I could afford half a day or so trying to sort things out.

With the fuel tank fully removed we quickly found the chafed wire that had been shorting out, the wires insulation had worn through as had the frames paint, it was fixed with a few pence worth of insulating tape

Ed's dodgy electrics, its cropped up a few times on this model apparenlty

Next as we headed out of Kazan I passed a little motorbike shop, I stopped and Ed went in to get some spare fuses' in the midst of this he met a young man called Oscar who said he was a mechanic and did ed need his oil changed or a service carried out

Ed went with the oil change but was then told we had to ride to the Workshop nearby, Oscar made some calls to check the oil was there and then we started to follow him through the traffic, which was like death race 2000 before we turned down into an area of run down lock-ups and I started to feel apprehensive that this was a trap, and as a Lada pulled in behind us, electro music blaring and blocking the road I was ready for whatever was to come next

Which turned out to be Oscar changing Ed's oil, badly, from a little lockup workshop, but we had some good banter, he warned us of all the counterfeit oil sold in some garages and to be careful (before filling Ed's bike from a previously opened Motul bottle) that he disliked Capitalism and Facebook but liked bikes and girls.

Oscar and the bike mechanics in Kazan

His boss wandered out, within two minutes he was enquiring as to why Ed had mounted his front tyre back to front and queried the rivet link in his drive chain, clearly a very observant fellow, He asked if I had spare inner tubes? how many? and why did I not need oil changing?) I had 10 litres in my rear fuel cans which would be used to hold fuel once in Mongolia but for now I wasn't sure I would find 10w50 fully synt in Russia and had brought my own.

We said goodbye and left Kazan in search of another stubble field to sleep in

The Ibis had been OK but 70 for the night was a thousand miles petrol we could ill afford

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Old 02-25-2014, 11:07 AM   #42
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Enjoying the report stickysidedown - keep it up please!
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Old 02-27-2014, 05:04 PM   #43
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The Next couple of days passed without too much incident, Russia is quite big BTW we slept one more night in a stubble field, just using our bivi bags and the next on the fringe of some forest where we put up our tents, we had the usual conversations with the locals as we stopped for petrol or broke camp of a morning, Well I say conversations, but that's misleading, more a case of exchanging information with an understanding reached via about 3 words and some pointing and hand gestures

top questions seemed to be

  • how many litres fuel per tank?
  • what economy do you get?
  • how fast does it go?
  • where are you from?
  • where are you going?

There was also some ooohing because my bike has two fuel tanks and some aaahing at the rather aggressive looking Michelin Desert tyres we had strapped on, I would point at the Heidanau's and say 'Russia roads' then at the Deserts and say 'roads Mongolie' to the satisfaction of the farmer in question

We also got numerous beeps and thumbs up from other cars and every once in a while some guy working on repairing the roads would clasp his hands together and raise them above his head in a gesture that sort of meant 'champion' I have no idea what the correct response to this was but it was clear that on the whole Russians seemed to like bikes and the fact we were travelling through their country

At one petrol station a man who I guessed to be in his mid 50's was trying to invite us to dinner in his home despite no common language
(I was lucky that of the little Polish I had picked up a few words were the same as Russian, 'Dom' for example for home but placing a triangular roof above your head with your hands is the universal sign language)

I declined his kind offer but we exchanged a coin each, mine was a 10 rouble coin with Gagarin on it and I gave him what I had which was a plain old 1 coin and he smiled and said 'Queen Angielskie?' I replied with Da.. Elizabeth which seemed to please him, there were a few times we were asked if we had any English coins, I would have taken a few more if I'd known but as it was I had left all my & € back in Poland.

We concluded things with a good handshake which was the first time I had noticed that he had lost several fingers at some point over the years, perhaps to the cold? but it struck home that all the kindness of spirit I was in receipt of was against a backdrop of what could well have been a difficult life for the countless ordinary Russians, and I wished I could understand more Russian, to know who were these people? how had their years been spent? and how had they dealt with such massive changes and reforms to government and politics through the years?
I counted my blessings whilst feeling a tinge of guilt for the seemingly extravagant manner of my folly in travelling towards Mongolia 'just because' before realising that meeting people, and sharing some rudimentary and friendly exchange across borders was actually quite an important responsibility.

Just as I was challenging and overcoming my previously held stereotypes about the Russian people so too was I living proof that the English aren't a bunch of (insert stereotype here) well at least I hoped I was!

I think at this juncture I should reveal to you the true delight of the road miles through Russia, and some other pertinent stuff should you find yourself here.
Now as well as the the strange custom regarding buying fuel it's also necessary to understand that along with many stopping places serving awesome Shashlik (tasty kebab skewers cooked to order over a wood oven) and the various things you will need along the way because of the size of Russia, and the remoteness of some of its petrol stations, they errr well aren't all exactly connected to the mains drains.

Mind you earlier in the trip Ed had overtaken me and pulled into one petrol station before shouting across to me, I need a toilet, NOW!!, as he waddled off I filled up with motion lotion and he came back to tell me he had upset the toilet Babushka because he only had 4 roubles and not the 5 required to pay after using the facilities, I gave him another 2 rouble coin which he took back to her but she in turn didn't give him the 'ever so important' 1 rouble change (2p)
However she earned that tuppence, Ed asked me in a ponderous tone as he filled his tank "Do you think the toilets here are like Greece?" I said as I had never been to Greece I had no idea what he meant? "You know, they put the used paper in a bin next to the toilet rather than in the toilet, well thats what I did anyway?!?"

Erm Which cubicle did you use Ed??

Going in myself after and looking at the perfectly ordinary toilet with its classy Grohe fittings and flush I had to conclude the bin was for rubbish, "a bit like we have at home Ed, lets not stay here for food eh!"

But often no matter how suave and sophisticated the promise is on the sign (I mean this looks like it should be a longdrop used by 007 himself)

The reality inside is actually this

This coincidentally is one of the better ones, often once the door closes it would be a case of trying not to pass out whilst squatting down in total darkness and with flies for company, to keep the loos acceptable they pour loads of what smells like ammonia in to the hole as well, it's a pungent cocktail.

Oh and don't forget to take your own paper!

The more modern looking Service stations have the better toilets as a rule, but when you need to go you need to go

Another thing to consider is that if like me you are using a GPS bought in the UK the place names you will be seeing will be in the English alphabet not the Cyrillic one. Here I am photographing pages out of my atlas for quick reference (atlas was in my drybag and took time to reach) as the Atlas was a Russian one.

It's important that your maps have both spellings or at least Cyrillic ones.

Now as I am completely unable to read Cyrillic I struggled with the place names a little, for example Novosibirsk is actually Новосѝбирск

To help my tiny brain remember which signs to follow I made new names for all the cities along the way

Kazan = Каза́нь = Kebab
Omsk = Omck = Omsk
Novosibirsk = Новосѝбирск = Hobos Pecker
Kemerovo = Кемерово = Kenny's pogo
Kurgan = Курга́н = Kapla (from the Klingon) though I kept repeating lines from Highlander each time I read it
Irkutsk = Иркутск = Nip Tuck

Strange as it may seem that helped me enormously but I was still having some fun with the GPS, with only very high level mapping from basemap of which almost all was out of date we did sometimes get a little lost, somewhere near Chelyabinsk a Russian stopped to try and help us as I consulted the map in a failing light, he came back 5 mins later and led us to the road we needed. Chelyabinsk itself was not it seems a place tourists go camping, he knew that much!

As well as being heralded as the most polluted spot on the planet it is also interestingly twinned with Nottingham in the UK, a really tough break!

As each mile passed the spaces around us grew in size proportionate to the sense of adventure I was feeling, and before long we were at the Urals
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Old 02-27-2014, 05:40 PM   #44
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To help my tiny brain remember which signs to follow I made new names for all the cities along the way

Kazan = Каза́нь = Kebab
Omsk = Omck = Omsk
Novosibirsk = Новосѝбирск = Hobos Pecker
Kemerovo = Кемерово = Kenny's pogo
Kurgan = Курга́н = Kapla (from the Klingon) though I kept repeating lines from Highlander each time I read it
Irkutsk = Иркутск = Nip Tuck
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yeah, you made my night!

Eagerly awaiting the next episode
Moriunt omnes pauci vivunt
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Old 02-27-2014, 05:54 PM   #45
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Just a reminder that we are really enjoying your RR. Thanks!

We are advised to NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics.
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