Riding Full Circle: faux husband and wife fight their way around the world

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ridingfullcircle, Mar 27, 2016.

  1. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    Wow, that sounds like it was pretty tricky riding you guys had. That road when wet is slick as snot :( We'd also like to ride the new highway up, you should keep us in mind if you want company :)
    Phoenix101 likes this.
  2. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    Dave's Dashed Dreams

    Only four days after the guys had left Irkutsk for the BAM road, things took a wrong turn for Dave. With everything we’d put our bikes through to get this far, it was inevitable they’d break down along the way. But nothing could have been more inconvenient or disappointing for Dave than breaking his rear shock just before things were about to get fun. (And for what ‘fun’ looks like on the BAM, see this link.)

    I got a Skype call from Dave on Aug. 12 from a small town called Severobaikalsk and he told me what had happened.

    Although the bike-breaking sections of the BAM didn’t officially start until after Severobaikalsk and east to Tynda, the roads leading to Severobaikalsk were dirt and gravel with large, embedded rocks—rough. Especially when you’re travelling at speeds of 80-100 kmph (50-60 mph).

    Somewhere along the way, Dave felt his bike behaving erratically. He stopped to see if it was a flat tire but it wasn’t. As he rode on his bike started to feel like a pogo stick. It was obvious something was wrong with his suspension.

    In Severobaikalsk, Dave and the Latvians found a mechanic to fix the shock or at least get it working well enough for Dave to continue. When he called me in Chita, where Brian and I were now, there was a lot of metal-clanking noise in the background. Throughout our conversation, Dave was disgruntled but still hopeful his bike would be ridable soon.
    [​IMG]
    Trying to fix the rear shock on Dave's bike.
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    Dave looking a little pissed off.

    Dave was in good hands with the Russian-speaking Latvians. They could help him immensely in a situation like this. The question was, how long was Adventure Team Latvia going to stick around and wait for an outcome. They all had a flight out of Magadan on Aug. 31, which was only two weeks and over 5,000 km (3,100 mi) away. There wasn’t much time to spare. Although these guys were as helpful as possible, waiting around for a friend, who wasn’t actually part of their sponsored team, wasn’t their first priority.

    During my conversation with Dave, Oskars could be heard in the background asking Dave various questions about what he wanted to do. During the day, it was discovered the malfunction was coming from internally. Inside the shock are two pistons, one for compression and one for rebound. The O-rings on both pistons, which keep the lubricating oil inside, had deteriorated to the point they could no longer do their job.

    Unfortunately for Dave, his shock problem was a lack-of-maintenance issue. When we were in Germany a few months earlier, we went to a Touratech (TT) event in Neidereschen, where TT has its headquarters. Dave could have had his shock serviced there but because of the event, it wasn’t possible for them to find the time that weekend. As we travelled onward, we knew of no other TT stores or servicing and certainly not once we’d gotten into Russia. Sadly, it was now a significant problem at the worst time.

    Dave had options, none of which were good: the Latvians could help him find a truck going back to Irkutsk, about 800 km (500 mi) south, or Dave could try and get on a train going east to Tynda with his bike. Either city was a place where he could have parts shipped. The thought of bumping along the fairly rough road back to Irkutsk in a truck with his bike bouncing around in the back not only didn’t appeal to Dave but could damage his bike even worse. Getting on a train crossing alongside the very terrain he’d come here to ride was also unthinkable. And what if he could get parts sent? How long would he have to wait for something arriving from Germany?

    Dave asked Oskars what he thought if he continued to ride his bike in this state. Oskars at first thought it might be OK and that Dave would just have to ride carefully. I thought about Dave saying his bike was riding like a pogo stick and imagined him trying to get across waist-deep rivers like this. How do you ride ‘carefully’ on the BAM road?

    The mechanic’s advice was to definitely not ride it but Dave didn’t take him seriously. He’d beaten the shit out of Dave’s shock and although he’d helped to diagnose the issue, he not only wasn’t able to fix it, he damaged the shock far worse in the process and then charged Dave $180 for his time. In Russia, that’s a little steep. The Latvians eventually urged Dave to take the mechanic's advice and not ride. I felt this was good advice but Dave stewed over the decision for 24 hours. Finally, he reluctantly agreed to put his bike on a train to Tynda. He still regrets his decision to this day and thinks he could have ridden on but that’s a hard sell; even if he could grit through the sheer discomfort of no rear shock on such a brutal road, he would likely have damaged other bike and body parts in the process.

    There wasn’t much that could be done from Severobaikalsk. In a larger city, Dave could spend a few days looking for a replacement stock shock off used bikes in Moscow or Vladivostok, and have it shipped to him. Then we could at least ride on to Magadan together. But what to do next? If Dave couldn’t find a replacement shock, what would the end of our trip look like? Would we have to ride into Vladivostok, ending two years of moto travel on the pavement of a main highway? Would I be putting my bike, also in need of repairs, on a train as well? Although I’d heard the road to Magadan was tough, especially if one includes a 400 km (250 mi) section called the Old Summer Road (the last remaining section of the original Road of Bones), there was something about the word Magadan that sounded totally bad-ass and foreign and, therefore, was a more exciting place for our trips’ finale.

    On Aug. 13, the day after hearing about his shock, I got a message from Dave that said, “On train but I think it doesn't go through. No idea what I'm doing.” Followed several hours later with, “On [another] train with bike on my way to Tynda. Will arrive tomorrow afternoon.”

    Looks like Brian and I would have to pick up the pace. Chita, where we were, was over 1,000 km (620 mi) west of Tynda. We hadn’t expected to meet up with Dave and the Latvians for another five days or so, but in lieu of the rear shock event, things had fast forwarded.

    To be honest, the relaxation of the past week was needed and nice, but Brian and I were both getting a little bored toddling along and spending so much time in hotels together. We left the next morning and made it to Mogocha, 592 km (376 mi) east. Along the way, we’d found Roland again at a café along the road, eating lunch.

    [​IMG]
    Brian (left) and Roland, my touring friends while Dave rode with Adventure Team Latvia.[​IMG]
    Brian (left), from Australia, and Roland, from Germany.[​IMG]
    Roland enjoying the pavement along Russia's Trans-Siberian highway.[​IMG]
    Brian just laid those rubber marks on the pavement. OK, no he didn't.[​IMG]
    A run-away lane for trucks along Russia's Trans-Siberian.[​IMG]
    Brian and Roland riding east along the Trans-Siberian highway.

    The three of us rode on together to Mogocha, finding a place for the night. We spent the evening in town drinking beer beside our bikes, watching cats and kids roam the playground beside us. There was a great discovery that night when I noticed my Staubwolke rear wheel grips were not only handy as tie downs spots but served as beer bottle openers as well.
    [​IMG]
    Roland (left) and Brian enjoying cheap, Russian beer at one of our hotels.
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    One of Roland's hard-cases filled with stickers of places he's ridden around the world.[​IMG]
    A cat.[​IMG]
    I should have bought one of these stickers

    Having Roland in the mix was a fun addition to the evening’s chit chat and we had a lot of laughs over dinner. I wondered what Dave’s mood would be like when I saw him again, knowing he’d been so excited about the BAM and now his dreams were dashed.

    On Aug. 15, Brian and I arrived in Tynda around 6:00 p.m. The last 160 km (100 mi) had taken three grueling hours. For the last seven days Brian and I had been riding together over approximately 2,000 km (1,200 mi). I didn’t have to worry much about my forks, which were still looking to be repaired in Tynda. At the quirkily-named town called Never, Brian and I would take a junction leading north to Tynda, while Roland would continue east to Vladivostok. The road from the junction was new and perfectly paved. For about 10 km. Shortly after we turned off at a sign directing us to Tynda, the road became choppy pavement, then complete dirt. To top it off, it’d started pouring rain harder than I’d seen in a long time. The dirt road became incredibly slick. I had a Shinko rear tire that proved itself useless in mud and tension replaced my relaxation as I stood on the pegs, trying to keep control of the bike. It was a tricky dance between going slow enough not to pound my broken suspension into a pothole, yet fast enough to stay afloat in the mud.

    Brian and I found a small town where we could buy fuel and stay under shelter for a bit to see if the rain would stop. After 20 mins or so we got going again. It was still raining but dissipating and it looked like the skies were brightening up. At the gas station, I’d sent Dave a message on my InReach saying we were about 150 km away but that the going was slow. Brian had kindly stayed behind me the whole way in case I had problems with my bike. By the time we arrived in Tynda, we were both exhausted, not expecting such a sporty end to an otherwise uneventful day.

    I checked my InReach to see if there was a message from Dave. Surprisingly there was nothing. Using Brian’s phone as a hot spot, I logged in online to our InReach site and saw Dave’s location was 300 km west of where we were. Just then, a message came in on my InReach device saying. “Come Back. I've been trying to message you.” The time of the message said 3 p.m. Oh no, I thought, he didn’t make it to Tynda and was telling us to come back, but to where? I sent Dave an e-mail saying we were in Tynda and needed to find a hotel before I could figure out what to do next. In the message, I’d sent Brian’s cell number. Brian and I were on the side of the road and attracting a lot of unwanted attention from a drunk guy who came over to chat. I wanted to find a bed, shower and food immediately.

    While searching for a hotel in Tynda, a guy pulled up beside us in a pimped-out sedan, asking if we needed help. Brian said, “Hotel?” and the guy motioned for us to follow. He took us to a place a little out of the city centre, up a hill. I went inside and asked the lady with my translation app, if there were two single beds available. She said no. As I was leaving I had a flash that Dave was in that hotel but it wasn’t something I paid close attention to. Besides, there was no bike parked in the lot. Brian and I followed this guy around the city for a while longer, all while wondering why Dave hadn’t replied or called yet. We turned down an alley and although the apartments and cars looked sketchy, there was a playground with kids giggling freely, so how bad could it be?

    Our voluntary hotel guide stopped by a darkened doorway. We were all used to staying in sketchy looking places in Russia that turned out to be pleasant, so I thought nothing of it. Brian pulled into a parking stall while I stayed behind the guy in the car. I saw him wave his hand at the doorway and figured he was asking someone if there was a room to rent. A woman in heels and jeans started walking toward the car but our guy waved his hand and pointed again. Another woman came forth, bent to the driver’s side window and then walked around the car. Before she got into the passenger’s seat, she looked back at me and smiled a little too eerily, more like a sneer. Our guy yelled out his car window back at me, “Come! Let’s go to hotel!”

    He’d just stopped to pick up a prostitute and was now perhaps thinking we’d all go find a hotel together. I wasn’t that adventurous so pulled up beside Brian. He was talking into his helmet and I realized he had Dave on the phone. The guy and the prostitute had given up on us and driven off with squealing tires. I was happy we had word from Dave as I was starting to think I’d misunderstood that he’d even arrived in Tynda. But I was also annoyed at the lack of communication.

    Brian programmed Dave’s whereabouts into his GPS and we set off, only to end up back at the first hotel—the one I’d had a premonition that Dave was already at. Weird! We didn’t see his bike because it was in a shop down the street. Dave had replied to some of our messages but they didn’t come through until several hours later. When he’d messaged for us to come back, he’d meant to the hotel.

    Frustrated and tired, we just wanted a bed. Earlier in the day, Dave had thought he’d reserved two more beds for that night (which was why there was no room when I asked earlier) but now the lady was telling us there wasn’t any room. After a lot of translation app messages back and forth, Dave called Max, a guy who’d hooked him up with a shop to work on his bike and who spoke English. Max talked to the front desk and found out the reason there was 'no room' was it was a male dormitory, and they were concerned I'd be in there with three guys. We assured her this wasn't a problem for us if it wasn't for the Russian, and finally all was sorted.

    Over dinner, Dave told the exciting story of how he’d gotten himself and his bike on the train. Apparently, it was not a cargo train, so popping a large motorcycle on board was not an easy task. Dave was able to bribe some train guys to lift it on (sadly there are no photos as Dave was busy helping to lift his bike aboard). After the bike was securely tied down, Dave left to go buy a ticket but as he was trying to do this, the train started to leave the station.

    Panicked at seeing his bike ride off without him, Dave enlisted the help of some policemen, who escorted him to a taxi driver. The cops told the driver to get Dave to the next town and fast. Dave hopped in and braced himself for a harrowing ride 25 km east to beat the train. It was the only time he was grateful for crazy Russian driving.

    The taxi got there before the train pulled into the station. Dave bought a ticket and got onboard. He spent much of the next 36 hours in a state of mild dehydration and starvation (what did I say in the last post???) as he’d had no time to get anything except a litre of apple juice. He also had a Snickers bar, which was one of a few things I’d added to his luggage when he left Irkutsk a week before. There was nothing available to by onboard the train. When the train finally arrived in Tynda late the next day, the platform was somehow higher than the train, so the doors wouldn’t open all the way. Now, Dave and some train guys had to lower his bike down to the ground from the train car 4 feet above. 6 guys to lower a 500+ lbs bike out of a train. You gotta love the ingenuity of Russians.

    While Dave was telling this story, Oskars called. Team Latvia was only 300 km (180 mi) away and expected to be in Tynda the next day. Could we reserve them three beds? Dave’s face told it all for the rest of the night. He was even more pissed to have missed out on the BAM now that it was clear the going was much easier than anyone had thought. That the Latvians had completed the entire 1,300 km (800 mi) track in a mere three days was not helping. None of us wanted the Latvians to have been injured on the BAM but perhaps if hadn’t appeared to be so do-able, Dave would have seen Fate had stopped him for a reason. During his train ride, Dave could see the BAM road easily in spots. All but two river crossings were crossable by bike and when they weren’t, that was the place riders used the train bridge to cross. The road had been dry and flat. He also said it was very beautiful.

    Now Dave was even more amped up about missing out.

    (The photos below were supplied by Adventure Team Latvia. This is what parts of the BAM road was like during their travels.)

    [​IMG]
    The kind of bridge quality you can expect on the BAM.
    [​IMG]

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    And when it's too deep, stick it in a truck.
    [​IMG]
    ... and hope your bike doesn't drown.
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    There are 'balconies' to the left of the bridge for hiding in when the train goes by and you're still on the track.
    [​IMG]
    Another great bridge on the BAM.
    [​IMG]
    Riding across water on the BAM. It's where the road goes!

    Next post: Dave finds a spare rear shock but will have to ride over 1,000 km (600 mi) on his pogo-stick before he can get it.
    Phoenix101 likes this.
  3. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    Crashing On Gravel Roads And Other Lasting Impressions En Route to Magadan

    Dave, Brian and I spent another day in Tynda, this time with Adventure Team Latvia fresh (well, not so fresh, actually) off the BAM road, feeling their aches and pains from the effort. Their bikes seemed to have fared pretty well, for the most part, aside from Sandijis’ front tire, which looked super sketchy.

    [​IMG]
    Sandijis' sketchy front tire after riding the BAM road.

    [​IMG]
    Everybody on the team needs to pull their own weight.

    Nevertheless, everyone was now in a good place to get busy fixing bikes and that’s what we did. At long last, after riding so carefully for three weeks and nearly 4,000 km (2,400 mi) with the busted forks on my bike, Dave had finally been able to put the new seals and wipers in after the correct parts were sent from Moscow, over 7,000 km (4,300 mi) and six times zones away. I was excited and relieved to be riding a bike with normal-functioning suspension again.

    But now Dave’s bike was not up to par, with its broken rear shock. Our increasingly valuable resource, Denis, in Moscow, was able to source out a used one, but of course that meant it also had to come from Moscow. We didn’t want to wait for the rear shock to arrive in Tynda so asked for it to be sent to Yakutsk, 1,000 km (620 mi) away, where we were told it would be more pleasant to hang out and where the Latvians were planning to spend a few days celebrating what they called, “festival” with Yakutsk members of the Night Wolves, Russia’s notorious motorcycle club. This would give Dave time to receive and install his rear shock and I’m never one to turn down a few days off, so off to Yakutsk we rode.

    Riding east of Tynda to Yakutsk meant we were committed to riding to Magadan. Without question Dave wanted to ride to Magadan, including a 400 km (240 mi) detour section of the Road of Bones, along the Old Summer Road that is even more tricky than the BAM road and carries a sad history of gulag prisoners, who died while building the road and are buried just under its surface. I wanted to ride to Magadan because it was a more appealing place to end our two-year trip around the world than just some big city, but there was some temptation by this point to just ride to Vladivostok, for how easy it would be. We were both exhausted. I’d decided against the BAM so there was even less chance for me wanting to ride the ROB. The Latvians had planned on going, however, and this was another chance for Dave to tag along if he could fix his shock.

    We left Tynda the morning of Aug. 17. I couldn’t figure out whether to laugh hysterically at how Dave looked riding his “pogo-stick” motorcycle down the highway, or if I should be concerned. The road had dips and potholes—it’s a Russian roadway, so that hardly needs clarification. When Dave rode over even a slight depression in the road he’d still be bouncing half an hour later, as though a large hand from the sky was dribbling him like a basketball down the court. It was comical but disconcerting at the same time, especially once I pulled up behind him and could see the amount of pressure his rear wheel bearings and axel were absorbing in response to his busted rear shock. As we were coming to realize, having spent the better part of two years riding around the world on bikes, you sometimes just had to make do. And ‘make do’ meant forgoing riding a perfectly functioning bike at times. When I saw the pressure on the rear of Dave’s bike, it seemed his ultimate decision not to ride the BAM was a good call, although he was still angry about missing out.

    On Aug. 18, Dave and I left a town called Alden, along with Brian and the Latvians, where we’d spent the previous night after leaving Tynda. Everyone was pretty spread out right at the start, but after a few hours of riding, we all convened at a gas station and made a plan to meet up in Yakutsk that night.

    The road was not of the best quality but I was getting more comfortable keeping a much quicker pace on the loose gravel, now that my forks were fixed and my bike felt right again. I’d only begun riding two summer seasons before our trip started and as recently as a year ago, I would ride gravel roads at a maximum of 60 kmph (35 mph), desperately hating the way loose rocks would roll around under my tires like marbles. Now, I could average 80-90 kmph (50-55mph) and even over 100 (60) if the roadway was hard packed with no surprises.

    [​IMG]
    Cruising along the gravel roads to Magadan.

    This was nothing compared to what the off-road racer Latvians were comfortable with while riding these types of roads, which was speeds in access of 110 kmph (65mph), even up to 130 (80) at times. I didn’t aspire to ride that fast. I wasn’t afraid of pushing myself to become a better rider but never has the difference between men’s and women’s survival instinct been so clear to me than on this trip, where I was often the only female.

    Dave was happy riding 100 kmph (60 mph) or more. Trying to ride close enough together in case someone had an issue, was a constant challenge for us, especially now that we were often riding with people much faster than I. The dynamic between us was tricky as a couple travelling together—we had a responsibility to each other. It was hard for Dave when he had the opportunity to ride with people who could challenge him but had to keep waiting for me to catch up. On the other hand, I had an almost daily feeling of being pressured to keep up. Dave wasn’t disguising his annoyance and I was hurt by his nuances that I was keeping him from having more fun with better riders.

    On this day travelling to Yakutsk, I was riding pretty confident. Some days just flow well and it seems like nothing could go wrong. My newly-repaired bike felt great and I was riding a little faster than normal. Still, there was a subtle tension in the air for the need to be efficient. We had over 600 km (370 mi) to ride and a ferry crossing at the end. The roads had long since been unpaved and we had no idea what to expect for quality.

    We had been leap-frogging Brian and the Latvian’s all morning and now they were ahead by a few miles. Dave and I were travelling close together at about 90 kmph and were just about to crest a hill. The road was hard-packed with a few patches of loose gravel. I couldn’t see well because of the dust from Dave’s bike so I moved over wide to the left to get a better sight-line. Suddenly, my bike started to lose control. This wasn’t as terrifying for me as it has been in the past. I’d hit lots of lose gravel piles on roads and knew to add steady throttle in order to straighten out the bike. I did so, calmly, knowing the bike would correct itself soon.

    But for some reason it didn’t work this time. My bike wouldn’t gain speed and started to fling from side to side like a fish tail. I started drifting sideways and very carefully tried to correct the steering to the other side but nothing was working. I had no idea what to do next or what was happening. Did I have a flat? Why couldn’t I get the rubber to grip the road? Then I had a thought—was it because of my rear tire? The Shinko pattern has no recess down the middle, even though it's categorized as a 50/50 tire. On the pavement, it's as good as a 50/50 tire can be but I'd ridden it on a muddy road a few days ago with Brian, coming out of a campground, and was sliding all over the place. I think it was playing a big part in why I couldn't get traction now.

    [​IMG]
    The first thing you'll probably notice in this photo is the license plate barely hanging on. I remember when my bike was new from Trail's End in Fairbanks, Alaska—less than a year old and she's a little worse for wear :( But I added this photo for the tire. Shinkos are no good on gravel roads and in the mud, as can be seen here. The middle tread has no recess, therefore any slippery surfaces have you slipping.

    The swerving carried on for what seemed like ages, with the bike jerking violently from side to side about a dozen times. I was now in the oncoming lane, heading for a steep embankment to my left and down about 10 ft to the forest. If I forced the bike down on the road, it was going to hurt. But if I didn’t correct the bike soon, I was going off the edge.

    The decision was made for me when I was suddenly flung from the bike, landing harshly on the right side of my body with a resounding crack through my helmet. I was immediately flipped over onto my stomach and slid for what seemed like a long time. Knowing I was about to slide off the embankment behind me, I dug my gloved fingers into the hard-packed road and raked myself to a stop. My upper thighs were burning from the friction. Luckily my riding jacket had been zipped into my riding pants or it would have been clear up over my ribs.

    I’d heard somewhere that if you ever come off your bike and are sliding, not to try and stand until you’re sure you’ve come to a complete stop. I lay there briefly, spread-eagled on my stomach and listening to my heart beating then slowly stood. Nothing hurt! I was elated and a let out a good yell, like someone who just summited a mountain. I hadn’t slid off the edge, my riding suit was only covered in dirt and had no rips, except a small one on the thigh, and my gloves were also rip-free, even after clawing myself to a stop.

    Then my stomach flipped. Where was my bike?

    I looked up the road and let out another happy yell. It was laying on its side about 50 ft ahead and only a few feet from going off the road. Even my panniers were still on board! I could practically see it taking heaving breathes after the ordeal. It was in the shoulder of the oncoming lane but there was enough road ahead for people to see me over the crest of the hill. Luckily the road was very wide and had hardly any traffic.

    I walked toward my poor bike. Dave, having crested the hill ahead of me, hadn’t seen me go down. Even if he was right in front of me, we were standing on the pegs riding this road so mirrors were of no use. As I got closer, I started to see bits of plastic and glass. Uh oh. I ran the rest of the way and approached my steed from the side. Nothing looked out of the ordinary until I came around to the front. Amazingly, the windscreen was in one piece, as was the headlight, thanks to the mesh guard protector, but my entire instrument panel (odometer, fuel gauge, etc.) was smashed and falling off due to the cracked head mount. There was a pile of gravel and dirt plowed up into the underside of the bike and also some fluid spilled around the bike. It wasn’t the radiator, thanks to another protector add-on, and I couldn’t smell gas.

    [​IMG]
    From the back, my bike looks fine, even the luggage is still on board! Notice the dent in my rear tire rim. A collection of broken parts is to the left.
    [​IMG]
    But, whoops, what have we here? My instrument panel—odometer, fuel gauge, etc—is trashed after the crash.

    While looking over my bike, a car came up from the direction I had originally been travelling. They stopped quickly and came running over but I walked toward them, putting up my hands to show I was fine. They wanted to help me lift my bike but I didn’t want anyone who didn’t know about bikes lifting it. I wasn’t sure what the damage was, and, having spent a few months now knowing how hard it is to get parts in Russia, I didn’t want to damage anything further. I convinced them to leave it where it was and to drive ahead and tell Dave to come back if they saw him. This was all explained on my Russian-to-English phone app.

    While waiting for Dave to return, I sussed the rest of the damage. The adrenaline rubbed off and I started to feel pretty worried. With the instrument panel broken, there was a few thousand dollars’ worth of repairs needed along with the other damages, like whatever the fluid leak was. The plastic on the top, left side by the BMW logo had a big crack through it with some foot-long scratches and my left indicator light was smashed. My helmet also had a crack in it on the right side, which was disconcerting and the crash bars were bent on both sides of the bike.

    [​IMG]
    The force of the crash caused my crash bars to bend but they saved the rest of my bike. Thanks Staubwolke! This photo is taken from the left side a few days later on a seldom-seen stretch of random pavement on the New Summer Road to Magadan.
    [​IMG]
    Rub marks on the left crash bar from gravel.

    When I was flung from the bike, it first smoked sideways into the ground on the right side, breaking the brake fluid reservoir, which is questionably positioned on top of the handlebars on BMW bikes, (this was the cause of the fluid leak).

    [​IMG]
    This is what the brake reservoir looks like on the BMW F800s. When my bike first hit the road on the right, it broke this reservoir, leaking out all the fluid and rendering my front brakes useless from that point on.
    [​IMG]
    Here's the obliterated remains of my brake reservoir, on the right side of the handlebars. Photo taken from the front of the bike.

    The impact of that first hit on the right crash bar was enough to project it back up and over to the left, where, again the crash bars took the hit, significantly bending them. This is where I have to say the bars definitely saved my bike from sustaining worse damage.

    I was truly glad I’d been flung clear from the bike. The panniers could have run over my legs, or, if I’d held on when the bike first touched down on the right, I would have had a high-side crash on the left. It wasn’t lost on me how much worse it could have been. I wasn’t hurt and didn’t find my bike off a cliff wrapped around a tree.

    I collected the parts of my bike off the road in case they were of any use in the repairs and while I was doing this, Dave came back over the crest. I made a point of showing him I was OK so he could get his bike turned around and park it before coming over to me. He was visibly spooked seeing my bike crashed on the side of the road and kept asking if I was OK. We picked up the bike and pushed it over to the other side of the road onto the shoulder. Dave got out his tool kit and removed my crushed panel and windscreen. We lashed it onto my luggage and I put any other bits and pieces inside my pannier while Dave got the bike fixed up as well as possible. Amazingly, it started when he turned the key. He asked again if I was sure I was OK, looking at the bent crash bars.

    Staubwolke Crash Bars

    Brian had now returned and was helping us. He and Dave had been waiting about 5 km (3 mi) down the road at a gas station and when I didn’t show up after the amount of time it would normally take me to pee or grab a photo, Dave got worried and rode back, telling Brian if he didn’t return soon, to come looking for us.

    After a 15-minute repair job, my bike was as rideable as it was going to be for the rest of the trip. There was nothing left to do but hop back on and ride. Looks like I’d have to get used to riding a malfunctioning bike again, damnit. Just as I was getting used to riding a fully-functioning bike!

    Dave warned me I’d have no front breaks (again), due to the brake reservoir being smashed, and I was still forced to start my bike in neutral all the time, because of my clutch problem from a few weeks ago. Now I had no way to know what gear I was in without my instrument panel up front.

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    This is what the front of my bike would look like for the rest of the trip. How fast am I going? Don't know. What gear am I in? Don't know. Ow, a rock just hit me in the face. My windscreen would have taken that for me. Why do I feel like I'm being blasted off my bike from wind speed. Oh yes, again with the windscreen. It's cold, I wonder what the temperature is. Don't know. How much fuel do I have? Don't know.
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    My bike looks pretty funny without its headset.

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    I’m not going to make myself sound bad-ass and say getting back on my bike didn’t mess with my head. I was pretty shaky for the rest of the day and couldn’t bring myself to ride more than 60-70 kmph for the next 200 km (120 mi) into Yakustk, which we reached at about 9:00 p.m., me with a missing dash and Dave still bouncing like a ball.

    Next post: a night out destressing with the Night Wolves and a little vodka almost never killed anyone.
    roadcapDen and Phoenix101 like this.
  4. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    And Then Russian Vodka Happened.

    When Dave and I pulled into Yakutsk late the night of Aug. 18, as the decrepit souls we were after my crash and Dave’s broken rear shock, we found Brian, who’d raced off ahead after helping us with my bike, and the Latvians already a few beers deep into their evening and surrounded by a couple of tough looking members from Russian’s largest motorcycle club, the Night Wolves.

    Despite their leather jackets, cut with the clubs’ patch and faded in such a way to epitomize a bad-ass from a motorcycle gang, the guys were disarming with their friendly smiles and handshakes. They were there to kindly help us find a room for the next five days, while we waited for Dave’s parts to arrive and fixed my bike.

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    The Night Wolves patch.

    It wasn’t as easy as you might think to just rock up to a city in eastern Russia and find accommodation. In fact, it was almost impossible. Not very many people come to these places as tourists, and affordable hotels—utilitarian and randomly placed—are mainly reserved for truckers and other people travelling through for work.

    The Latvian’s and Brian were going to stay at the clubhouse, but Dave and I wanted something a little less… debaucherous. Oskars had been talking for several days about ‘festival,’ which was apparently going to mean multi-day binge drinking with the club, so we thought we’d leave them to it.

    One of the members, a stout, muscly guy wearing camo-pants and his club jacket, told us to follow him. We rode away on three bikes, travelling a few miles up the main street in Yakutsk to a hotel where we could get a Night Wolves discount. As we rode, I enjoyed a scene when we stopped at a light and another rider rolled up beside the member’s bike. The young, skinny rider was covered in multi-coloured leathers, leaning over his race bike in what I’ve always thought must be the worst position for your neck and shoulders. The NW rider looked cool and relaxed with his grip hanging loosely off the handlebars. He slowly looked over at the racer beside him. There was never more of a clash in one commonality and I was sure the NW member would ignore this kid or give him the finger, but just before the light changed, the two of them fist-bumped.

    I wasn’t sure what kind of a hotel we might end up with where the NW’s had a discount, but when we walked into the lobby off a sketchy-looking dirt street, I was pleasantly surprised by the interior—bright, white décor with splashes of red for colour. We signed ourselves in and thanked the member for showing us the place then went to our room and promptly fell asleep.

    The next morning, we set about finding a brake reservoir for my bike, which seemed slightly important and not something I could put off repairing until my bike returned home to North America.

    Whenever we’ve needed something in Russia, the Russian’s were there. If they didn’t have what we needed, they’d set about finding it with an enthusiasm and resourcefulness that is a lost art in the world we know back home.

    Without even setting it up, another member of the NW, Victor—a guy in his 30s who had unexpectedly sweet eyes and a kind face—came by our hotel in the morning. He said he’d heard we needed some parts and was going to do everything he could to help. Dave and I were blown away. We didn’t even have to go find someone to help us, they just showed up!

    Outside by my bike, Victor took down some info and asked Dave to remove the bolt that sits between the reservoir cup and the hose that brings the fluid to the brakes. He needed this to reference some parts but it now meant there would be air in my brake line and there would be nothing clamping the brake pads to the rotors. We were committed to finding these brake parts before we left town.

    Victor left with a promise to contact us when he found anything. Dave and I then spent hours walking around the spread-out city trying to find a bolt that had fallen out of Dave’s forks. We went to several hardware stores but didn’t find what he needed until the fifth one.

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    While walking around Yakutsk, we notice this fantastically tangled mess of electrical wires that are actually in use.

    After so much walking, I was content to sit in the cheery hotel lobby and tuck into a blog post but Dave and I had been invited to a party that night at the Night Wolves clubhouse and felt we should go.

    I didn’t feel like a party. I didn’t even want to drink. We took a cab there and said to each other we’d only stay an hour or so.

    And then vodka happened.

    Have you ever experienced homemade Russian vodka? What about homemade Russian vodka at a Night Wolves clubhouse? Uh huh…it is unlike anything out there. Simply standing near a shot glass filled with Russian vodka is bad news. Its vapours release, come and find you then wrap around you like a cobra. Maybe you think it’s a warm, friendly hug. It’s not. It now has its power over you and that, along with the very ‘encouraging’ shot distributor, who will bequeath you with said vodka, means you’re screwed.

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    No one is safe from the lure of Russian vodka, even locals. Here, a woman drinks the venom while a man in the background makes an infamous Russian rice and meat feast for an evening snack.

    I tried, I really tired not to take two (double) shots (in a row) of this fume-filled liquid, which is like 10 shots when you factor in the crazy proof percentage, but minutes after I did, well, I can’t tell you what happened because there was just a bunch of white noise and flashes of light for the rest of the evening. Dave can’t tell you either because he was also under the spell and I’m pretty sure we kept going back for more, like dogs sniffing out a delicious-smelling discarded chicken wing in the trash.

    It wasn't even a large party, but I know we were on the stage at some point, god help us. The Night Wolves might have nearly killed us with their vodka-venom but they were very polite in doing so, as they welcomed Dave and I along with Brain and the Latvians to their city and there was a lot of cheering. For a moment I wondered if we'd just been patched-in but so far, we haven't received our leathers...

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    Adventure Team Latvia is called to the stage and welcomed to Yakutsk by a Night Wolves member. Dave and I are called up next along with Brian.

    There was also a hauntingly beautiful throat singer. He does all the sound himself, no added instruments. Google "throat singing russia" to read some cool info.

    Throat singer.

    I’ll let some of these photos do the rest of the talking for that evening, which I do remember ended up with me removing the vodka steadily from my system a few times during the evening and after our cab ride home. Dave was in fine shape for the night but the venom would surface for him the next morning, after he finally woke up at around noon. (I’ll have you know I was feeling just a hair over this side of fine in the morning and had already written a blog post by the time he got up).

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    Love the kid's bike parked in the row.

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    Brian and Dave with the Night Wolves logo in back.

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    A poor-quality photo but I really loved the metal work on the wolf.

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    A new NW member being initiated into the club.

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    So here, we see Brian (left) has that special vodka glow, while Oskars makes eyes at Dave and vice versa.

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    On stage at the NW party. I was afraid we'd been patched-in without knowing it.

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    Making new Russian friends.

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    That's the same shot glass as in the last photo and I did start pouring it out under the table by this point.

    When I went upstairs to our room the next afternoon to see if Dave had died in the night, I heard the unmistakable sounds of him removing his vodka as well in the bathroom. I called through the door and was asked if I could find him some bread. Walking across the street to a small café we’d eaten at the day before, I bought a freshly made loaf.

    When I returned, Victor was on his way to us. Dave had to rally.

    Victor had miraculously been able to find a reservoir for my brake fluid, so later that afternoon, Dave rode my bike to Victor’s shop, while Victor and I rode in his truck, and they put it all together. The hose Victor had found was too short so we had to use a connector part, which made it comically long. It looked absolutely stupid, along with my cheap Honda silver screw-on mirrors, (I was hoping we’d find ones with flames on them), my replacement Chinese clutch and brake lever and my license plate held on with bailing wire off the back. It was starting to feel like an episode of Top Gear where they start out with fully-functioning, nice vehicles and by the end of it, they’ve completely trashed them, all while trying to keep things together with duct-tape and bailing wire and finding hilarious replacement parts. My poor bike was only 10 months old and it had thus far suffered so much in its young life. But it was getting the job done!

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    Victor and Dave mounting the new brake reservoir on my bike.

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    Bleeding the brake line.

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    The new metal brake reservoir box with hose being attached. Dave is also trying to attached my original mirror but they won't thread into the new reservoir.

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    Lookin' good-ish!

    We thanked Victor for his help and then talked a bit about the NW party the night before. I hadn’t even seen him there.

    A few days later, on Aug. 21, Dave’s used rear shock arrived.

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    Dave's replacement rear shock, found used in Moscow.

    Again, out of nowhere, another gruff-looking guy showed up on a bike outside our hotel, telling us to follow him to his shop. Everyone seemed to have access to these ‘shops,’ which are more like storage units that Russians use to work out of and tinker. They are quite convenient.

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    Anatoli pulled all his bikes out of his shop so Dave could work on inserting his rear shock.

    Anatoli was scarier-looking than the other motorcycle guys we’d been hanging out with, but as soon as we were at his shop, he put me at ease by bestowing me with gifts: first it was a muffin, which he unwrapped and handed to me like a flower, then, while Dave worked away unbeknownst to all the fun stuff I was getting, Anatoli produced an ice cream treat for me from his little fridge in the corner. He spoke no English and we, no Russian, of course, but somehow, we all had a conversation with gestures and laughs. I liked him very much. He showed me photos of his young daughter and then told me in charades how he took her for rides. Later, when Dave was wrapping up, Anatoli gave me the coolest souvenir of my trip—a heavy belt buckle made from very solid steel with a skeleton etched on it.

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    A gift from Anatoli, a rider from Yakutsk, who helped Dave with shop space to replace his rear shock.

    When we left later on, after Anatoli made us tea, and he hugged us both goodbye.

    Now that our bikes were good to go, we were ready to keep heading east to the holy grail—Magadan!

    Before leaving, Victor came back to our hotel simply to say goodbye and wish us well. He offered these parting remarks:

    “The road to Magadan is scary. The road to here was, mmm, well, okay, but to there…it’s more like, holy shit.”


    Next post: our trip will officially finish on Aug. 26, 2017, and there’s plenty of excitement during that last four days.
    PapaDontPreach likes this.
  5. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    The Home Stretch—Part One

    On the morning of Aug. 22, Dave and I woke up at 6:30 a.m. in order to have enough time to catch the 9:00 a.m. ferry outside of Yakutsk that would plant us back on the New Summer Road heading east to Magadan.

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    On a rare stretch of pavement along the New Summer Road, a sign tells us it's 1,838 km to Magadan, the farthest east you can drive in Russia.

    Yakutsk is situated to the west of the main haul road and across the Lena River. We needed a ferry to get there and now we were returning.

    While drifting back to the New Summer Road from Yakutsk over the Lena River, Dave and I leaned against the railings on the boat and watched in disgust as two men beside us, who’d both climbed out of an SUV crammed full of women and children, shared a bottle of vodka between them. One of them was the driver.

    I was feeling edgy and scowled at the men, who wanted to talk to us about our bikes. Dave asked them to go back to their car.

    This was the first full riding day after my crash five days earlier and we’d been warned the road to Magadan—still almost 2,000 km (1,240 mi) away and 99 percent gravel—was sketchy. I was really starting to loath my rear tire, which I believed didn’t have a proper traction pattern down its middle to grip loose road surfaces.

    Days ago, back in Tynda, I’d told Dave my thoughts about the rear tire, a Shinko, after having ridden a few thousand kilomteres with it to that point with Brian. He and I had to do a mud section, where I was slipping all over the place and I would have swapped it out in a second, given the chance, but in eastern Russia, there aren’t many options for motorcycle tires.

    The tire was one of the reasons I had thought seriously about riding from Tynda to Vladivostok rather than to Magadan but Dave suggested if it came down to it, he’d swap his rear tire, a beefy, dirt-happy Motoz, with mine. Dave is a more confident rider than I and knows how to throw his bike around in the loose stuff so as to gain traction. I’m still learning this concept and often find myself drifting or fishtailing when I’d rather not be.

    Throughout our two-year trip we have gone through 26 tires and not once have I loathed a tire as much as my rear Shinko. In fact, I’ve barely noticed a difference between most of the dirt tires we’ve had, whereas Dave has often noticed little nuances and differences between all of them.

    The potential of swapping rear tires made me feel more comfortable with continuing on to Magadan but I should have trusted my gut and pushed for Dave to swap the tires then and there as a few days later, I crashed and believe the rear tire’s lack of traction played a large part in that.

    Now we were on the ferry getting back to ‘er after a few days off. I asked Dave if we could swap rear tires as he’d suggested several days ago. He said he’d do it later when we’d stopped for the night.

    The ferry docked and we rode off, stirring up 100-metre long dust clouds behind us for the next 380 km (236 mi) until we reached a second ferry crossing. The road had been okay to this point but I was off my game and couldn’t bring myself to average more than 60 kmph (35 mph) in the loose gravel. It was frustrating and, even after 90,000 km (55,900 mi), it felt like I’d been demoted back to my first days of learning to ride gravel.

    [​IMG]
    Along the dusty gravel of Russia's New Summer Road to Magadan.

    The second ferry took 1.5 hours and when we got off on the other side, it was dark. I’d long since stopped using my helmet’s visor as it was terribly scratched from thousands of miles of use. Dave and I used sunglasses or visors during the day to protect our eyes but in the dark, we had nothing covering our eyes and were constantly getting pelted by dust and bugs.

    [​IMG]
    I'm aware of how hideous this picture is and no, that is not goth make-up. It's grime from the road. Look at my lips! Gross! My eyeballs are also raw as sandpaper.

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    Dave looks like a crazy werewolf but he sports the dirty look a little better.

    We waited for some time after all the cars had disembarked the ferry and had gone ahead to let their dust settle. Then I waited for 5 mins after Dave went ahead, navigating us into the next town, about 50 km (30 mi) away, where we would spend the night.

    Despite watering eyeballs, it was peaceful riding slowly along the gravel road in the dark. That was until a vehicle would gain on me and I’d have to move over to the shoulder to let them pass, getting shot by loose gravel bits and inhaling lung-fulls of dust.

    Finally, we reached town around 9:30 p.m. and set about finding a place to sleep, tired and hacking up balls of dust-filled phlegm. We found a hotel but just as we were swinging our legs off our saddles, two SUVs came racing into the lot and a handful of Brits hurried up the hotel’s steps in front of Dave, who followed them inside. They must have known something we didn’t.

    While I stayed with the bikes, men came and went out the hotel doors, standing under a bare light bulb, where they smoked and spat on to the ground staring at me.

    Dave eventually came out, looking pissed. There were no rooms. The Brits had taken all the remaining beds.

    We rode off in a huff to try and find another place. No one knew of another hotel in town, although we did find a sign for a hotel that pointed us down a dark, vacant road. There was a building at the end that didn’t look like a hotel at all but there was a woman at the front door. We asked her about a hotel. She motioned for us to come inside. Dave went with her while I stayed with the bikes. He was in there a long time. When he finally emerged, he told me the woman had been calling around for us and that we were to wait here a little longer for a guy to show up, who had an apartment we could rent for the night. When he drove up, we followed him to one of Russia’s infamous, sketchy looking apartment housing complexes, where we parked in an alley we never would have left the bikes in at the beginning of our trip, and followed him up six flights of stairs with all our luggage. He opened the door to the apartment and we both breathed a sigh of relief. It was very basic and expensive for Russia—about $60 USD ($76 CAD) per night—but it was much-needed and the hour was now past 11:00 p.m. The fact that this man had answered a call at that time of night to house some foreigners was heartwarming. The Russians just kept proving their good-hearted nature again and again.

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    At last! A menu that's translated into English-ish. I'll have number #15, "Garbage with beef" please!! No wait, maybe the "Tsuivan with fork" sounds good. Or #13's "Fried fotato with beef"...

    The next morning, Aug. 23, after Dave swapped our rear tires, we rode towards Kyubeme, a small vacant-looking village 30 km (18 mi) or so west of where the Old Summer Road (OSR) connects to the Road of Bones (ROB). Keep in mind, we’re riding the New Summer Road (NSR), a far better haul road leading into Magadan, Russia’s eastern-most road-accessible city. Before the NSR was built, in 2008, the OSR was the only way to Magadan, and was heinous. Since the new road was built, the old road has been left unmaintained. There is still a 420 km (260 mi) section where the ROB continues to entice off-road adventurers.

    This was another part of the entire trip Dave was very much looking forward to and was hoping to do with the Latvians, but in Yakutsk, we’d learned from them that wasn’t in the cards. They had flights leaving from Magadan in 3 days and wouldn't have time.

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    A beautiful stretch along the New Summer Road to Magadan.

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    So far, the NSR had been scenic and uneventful, which was fine with me. It helped me get my confidence back after my crash but one of the scariest moments for me on the entire trip wasn’t the crash, in fact, but during a time I was trying to pass an 18-wheeler haul-truck on the NSR. The dust was badly billowing out his back end and I couldn’t manage to pass as I never seemed to have a good sightline into the on-coming lane. This game of edging forward to get close enough to pass but then dropping back realizing I couldn’t see a thing, continued for well over 10 minutes.

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    A place we stopped had lots of abandoned license plates. Dave kept one to remind us of this road.

    It had been an extremely dry summer and the dust was so fine it was like driving into baby powder. Anything moving at speed would stir up a dust cloud that swirled in every direction and hovered for ages before clearing.

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    Passing semis head on was better than passing them on our own side, though still dusty!

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    Even far off the road, the dust is still swirling.

    Passing a semi, and one that was going at a good clip, say over 80 kmph (50 mph), could be pretty nerve-wracking as the dust cloud would be so high and wide, it was impossible to see anything on-coming or in front of you.

    Dave found a moment where the road curved around a long, right corner and the wind was in his favour, blowing the dust left. He made a quick decision to pass the truck on its right after making eye-contact with the driver and honking. Many vehicles in Russia, including this truck, are right-side drive.

    I could hear Dave on the intercom but it was cutting in and out. I couldn’t make out if he was saying the on-coming lane was clear or to wait until the on-coming vehicle cleared. Obviously, unsure if the pass would be safe, I hung back waiting for another opportunity, which I finally got. Here is a video to show how scary passing trucks on dusty roads can be.

    Passing a semi VIDEO

    Shortly after I almost smoked into the back of the semi after it stopped still encased in its cloak of dust, I heard Dave trying to connect with me on the Sena. I thought he might be asking if I’d passed the truck yet but the thing wouldn’t connect. Seconds later, I felt my heart race into my throat again for the second time in so many minutes when a huge wolf-like dog jumped out of the bushes to my right and started racing toward me. I grabbed a fistful of throttle and passed it by only a few feet. I’m never sure if these dogs that chase bikes have the intention to actually attack you or if they are just playing. Either way, you don’t want to hit a dog while riding a motorcycle.

    At some point that evening, when we were settled into our tent beside a river, I remember joking, but not really, that I might have post-traumatic stress disorder after this trip.

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    Our big tent eye looking at Dave's bike.
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    Russia's New Summer Road is very much like some of the scenery we rode through the year before in Alaska.
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    It looks like this might be some kind of carpet of lichen.
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    So cool to see this reminder of past campers when we pulled off to set up the tent for the night along the road to Magadan.

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    Although it looks like Dave is taking a leak, he said he was just admiring the scenery.


    Next post: as we get closer to Magadan, we have a more scenic, epic ride.
    TwilightZone likes this.
  6. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    Trucker’s Tea and Bear Bangers in Bear-less Eastern Russia

    The last few blog posts have given you an idea of some of the more intense moments along the roads to eastern Russia, but Dave and I still couldn’t figure out why so many people—even riders—told us not to bother going so far east. This was one of the more exciting routes along our trip and the scenery did not disappoint. It felt like rides we’d done the previous year along the Dempster and Dalton highways in the far north of the Yukon and Alaska, but without the bigger mountains.

    Sadly, there was litter. Truckers would fix flat tires on the side of the road, discarding the unusable rubber where it lay; each fuel station we stopped at had overflowing garbage cans (definitely no concern for bears), and what was most disturbing was the leftovers from both active and deactivated mines along the way. But after so many miles around the world, we tried not to focus on it and saw the surrounding nature instead.

    After a few days into riding the New Summer Road, the only oh shit moments now were oh shit it’s beautiful here.

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    "Don't go to Magadan," they said. "There's nothing there." But what about this?

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    A high road along the NSR takes us, well... high!

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    On the morning of Aug. 24, we packed up our camp by the river then I started off ahead while Dave finished strapping gear onto his bike. The road was vacant, narrow and gravel, and the landscape incredibly pretty. I felt like the only person in the world and even stopped to pee on the side of the road without bothering to find a bush or something to hide behind.

    After taking a few photos, I rode on but while topping out on a small hill, was very surprised to find two cyclists, a man and woman, coming at me from the east. Waving, I passed them in an instant but will forever remember those smiles; they both looked so happy and healthy. I still kick myself for not stopping to say hi and, more importantly, ask where they’d started and where they were riding to. Magadan was still almost 1,000 km (620 mi) in front of me and Yakutsk, the nearest large centre, was at least that far behind. It was cool seeing their thin tire tracks in the softer dirt on the road as I rode, though I lost them sometime later.

    Dave caught up to me and I pulled over to let him pass and get far enough ahead the dust could settle.

    [​IMG]
    He's gaining on me!
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    Paying for fuel in Eastern Russia. Yes... someone's in there.
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    Love the old-school fuel pumps.

    I was feeling reflective; if all went well, we’d be in Magadan in 48 hours or so. It was so hard to believe our round-the-world trip was coming to an end. So many questions went through my mind; did I feel satiated? Did we do everything we wanted? Was Dave getting over not doing some of the roads he wanted? What was next in our lives? We couldn’t live together when we got home due to being in different countries and had considerable red tape to sift through to do so.

    How would going home feel? So many days during our travels, we’d both longed for the luxuries and simplicity of life at home. Yet, once there, would we feel happy to be back or soon be craving more adventure?

    Another thought was transfixing me; what did my life as a rider look like now? I’d recently had a pretty bad crash where I was lucky not to be hurt. That had taken me back to what felt like the beginning of my riding career and I wondered if it, and some of the other heart-stopping moments, had left a deep enough scar to amputate the sport of adventure riding from my life completely.

    The day passed with Dave and I leap-frogging each other until around 7:00 p.m., when I saw him stopped in a pull-out off the road and down a little, talking to a trucker. When I rolled in, the man immediately came over with a big smile and an out-stretched hand. He asked if we wanted tea. It felt like a good omen to be in the middle of nowhere and have this random trucker invite us for tea, so we accepted, despite the day getting on and still needing to find a place to camp.

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    Hanging out with tea-drinkin' truckers on the haul road to Magadan.

    Dave and I spent over an hour talking with the trucker, (and by ‘talking,’ I mean gesturing and using our translation apps). He was incredibly jovial, which made his travelling companion, a grumpy-looking female, who didn’t set foot out of the truck the whole time Dave and I were there, seem a bit out of place.

    Before long, another trucker pulled his rig in. This guy was just as friendly, though a tad bit looped on vodka, it appeared, and I was glad both he, and we, were off the road for the night.

    While we hung out with these guys, the first (sober) trucker made us instant soup and fed us chocolate, all while continually topping up our mugs of tea. The second trucker chain-smoked beside us and smiled non-stop through a mouth clamped around his cigarette and eyes squinting against the smoky swirls going up into his face.

    It was a great road-side moment on the road to Magadan and as it got later, Dave and I begrudgingly had to get going as we needed to find a place to camp, which we hoped would be down a dirt road just off from the pull-out. Both men looked at us as though we were crazy when we gestured we’d be camping. The sober driver went off on a tangent. We didn’t have to know the language to understand he was talking about bears. In case there was any confusion, he pantomimed a giant man-eating grizzly, with his hands roaming to and fro above his head and deep growls coming from his tea-filled belly.

    Comforted by this vision, Dave and I rode off down the road, glancing a little nervously from side to side into the bush, which would soon be too dark to see into. We found an unceremonious spot in a huge gravel pit with rusty pools from leftover mine tailings. The view from our lodging for the night, however, was very nice, from what we could tell in the gathering darkness, and we set about putting up camp to the sounds of a nearby river.

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    Heading down the road to find camp for the night.
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    It looks like a moose or a bear but it's just a log.
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    The sun sets while we filter water from the river before finding a place to camp.
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    This gravel pit makes a nice home for the night.
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    Goodnight, bikes.

    Despite the trucker’s concern, we slept well and woke alive to a beautiful day.

    Just for fun, Dave set off one of the bear-bangers in the morning that we’d been travelling with since our friend Al Sova gave them to us in Moscow, worried about us riding through the “bear-packed” terrain on the way to Magadan. We had no bear spray as that had long since been confiscated at some border or another, and, of course, no guns. The bangers were our only hope if anything carnivorous decided to visit in the night; that and a knife we normally used to slice cheese, which offered some false sense of safety (and was kept on my side on the tent as Dave usually fell promptly to sleep while I stayed awake for hours listening to noises in the night).

    I didn’t know Dave was setting off the banger, so had a mild heart attack when he did so as I was stirring our instant oatmeal, my back to his shenanigans.

    Still in my reflective reverie from the day before, answering and then re-answering my own questions about life after the trip, I didn’t really notice Dave wasn’t around the camp site. When I stood up to stretch my back, I saw him over in the nearby marsh. His exploring around our environs wasn’t a new thing so I turned back to our oatmeal and shut off the camp stove.

    When he returned he had this sort of conflicting look: like mischief and the dying embers of adrenaline. Sheepishly he said, “I guess one of those bear bangers Al gave us was a flare…”

    I started to laugh.

    “What did you do?”

    “Well, I had to go over to the marsh and put out a fire.”

    "In the marsh?!"

    It was good thinking to shoot off the banger/flare into the wetlands but a little disconcerting that we might have launched it from our tent, had the occasion presented itself, and started a forest fire. A potential bear would have been the least of our worries.

    We both found it strange that everyone was talking about “the bears of Eastern Russia” though, like they were the supersized version of ours back home, but we never saw a single sign, let alone an actual bear. No prints in the mud along the rivers, no dashing fur across the roads, not even a smelly poop in the trees. Nothing.

    Brian and the three burly members of Adventure Team Latvia had opted to blast from town to far-off town through this whole stretch of road, as they were too worried about bears to camp. (This might have been exacerbated by an evening spent listening to local Russian stories and too much vodka). The Latvians were built like they could easily wrestle any bear into submission, but I smiled myself to sleep at night thinking about them all snuggled safely in their hotel beds, while Dave and I were out there in Supersized Russian Bear (less) country.

    On the evening of Aug. 25, Dave and I rolled into a small town whose name I can’t recall but it was only 550 km (340 mi) from Magadan. It was worn-down and depressing and, I hoped, not what Magadan would be like.

    [​IMG]
    An idea of what eastern Russian towns look like.
    [​IMG]
    The garages where we stored our bikes for the night.

    We found the Latvians, who’d already secured a few ubiquitous garages to store their bikes in and a place to stay the night. They squeezed us in as well and after some socializing, I set up my mat and sleeping bag on the floor of the kitchen. It was the only place I could be alone and close the door.

    I felt extremely emotional coming to the end of our trip; almost panicky. It wasn't so much being scared to return to reality at home, it was that the final hours didn't feel right somehow. Dave was still in a pretty down state of mind about missing out on the BAM and Road of Bones and I felt like saying to him, come on, these are our last few miles, let's make them happy.

    It wasn’t like I expected to ride into Magadan weeping in joy and holding hands, (that would actually be quite difficult to do on a bike with panniers), but I wanted a more positive ending. We had come through so much together and were within 24 hours of our final destination—our monumental goal achieved. Did that not count for something? Hell, didn’t that count for everything?

    But I began to wonder... maybe it isn't possible to have an 'ideal ending' after completing something like this. Maybe no single outcome can leave you feeling satiated at its end. It's just too overwhelming to slap a standard label of feelings and emotions to.

    Both Dave and I were feeling anxious about the trip's end likely because, well, it was The End. There was no more time or miles left to make up for what we hadn't done yet. As we got closer to the end, we drew farther into ourselves, processing the scope of what we'd just completed together, separately. Perhaps this was the most perplexing of all.

    The final 24 hours would have Dave and I rolling into Magadan on more than just two wheels each, after one of the more eventful days yet, testing the boundaries of our optimism to its limits.

    Next post: what happens when both the Universe and the Devil catch a ride on Dave's bike...
    Saso, NSFW, roadcapDen and 1 other person like this.
  7. MrBob

    MrBob Knee-jerk liberal

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    12,976
    Location:
    Boulder, CO
    Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us, and thanks for making me late for work this morning. :lol3
    The only thing I could suggest would be to ditch those junky BMW’s and go with Suzukis.
  8. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    340
    Location:
    GTA, ON, CDA
    Most excellent, Thanks!
  9. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    Sorry for making you late for work. Hope your boss understood!

    The BMW's were excellent on the trip, perhaps a little hard to find parts for but never a problem with anything engine-wise or the computer wiring. I'm not sure which Suzuki you would point us to, but I'm pretty short and it's so far be very challenging to find a bike I can fit properly that can also take on, well, the world. The lowered suspension/seat combo on my F800 seems to work well for me and, frankly, is the only option I've found to meet my needs so far :)
  10. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    20,070
    Location:
    Burbank CA
    great to see this adventure moving along, though sorry about the mechanical issues.

    hoping for the better. take care and we'll keep you company.
  11. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    Thanks! Mechanical issues are unavoidable in some cases :)
  12. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123
    The End

    Aug. 26, 2017 was a momentous day.

    Not only was it the day Dave and I completed riding 16,660 km (10,352 mi) across the world’s largest country on the world’s longest highway over a period of 55 days through seven time zones, but we also reached our final point of the entire trip after riding 93,741 km (58,248 mi) through 40 countries around the world!

    [​IMG]

    Think of how you would want a journey like this to end.

    Maybe the last few miles rolling under your wheels would stir up tears of joy, or your energy would be so amped up, you’d cheer at the top of your lungs. Maybe you’d want it to happen slowly so you could take it all in, or fast so you could head to the nearest pub for a well-deserved adult beverage or six.

    Either way, it’s probably something you’d like to finish well. Not in some sort of blurry chaos, for example.

    Well, however Dave and I hoped the trip would finish up in the last few miles, it was decided for us.

    Two days before we arrived in Magadan, the rear tire on Dave’s bike sprung a leak. He fixed it with a patch and carried on to where we were staying that night. As the tire was still at the same PSI in the morning before setting off, the issue had been sorted and Dave felt sure he could easily get to Magadan on that patch.

    We set off the morning of the day we would finish the trip with conflicted feelings. In one sense, we wanted it to be over; we were ready to go home and cling to surroundings that didn’t change every day. On the other hand, we didn’t want it to be over; it had gone too fast in some ways.

    [​IMG]
    Here was our first day (Sept. 16, 2015), leaving my parent's house in Revelstoke, B.C. and trying to pack everything we thought we needed onto our bikes. So many unknowns at this point :)

    By the afternoon of the final day of our trip, we were over 200 km (185 mi) from Magadan, when Dave ran into more serious problems with the tire. I had been out ahead after he had stopped to do up the vents on his jacket, and was pulled over waiting as he hadn’t caught up yet. While stopped on the side of the road after a paved bridge, an SUV pulled up. I thought maybe they were going to tell me something about Dave but the 40-something couple inside gave me big smiles and four thumbs up. The man got out and came over to shake my hand, while the woman poured me a cup of tea from a thermos and handed me a big bag of unopened peanut M&M’s.

    “Wow, thank you!” I laughed, hoping Dave wouldn’t arrive before I could eat them all and pretend it never happened.

    While we all stood together trying to communicate, another car pulled up. Figuring we were about to have a road-side party, I removed my helmet. But this guy said something about my friend being stopped 40 kms back. Forty! I wondered if the guy was taking a bad guess at how far back Dave was to ensure I’d go far enough. I thanked the man, who drove off, and the couple, who also left, and strapped on my helmet. Just as I was checking my mirrors for a U-turn, Dave pulled in behind me. I don’t know how the math worked on that and the guy’s 40-km estimate, but he was here now, so I got off my bike and went over to him. He didn’t look happy. I showed him the M&M’s against my better judgement. It helped.

    He’d been stopping every few kms to add air to the tire as it kept going flat. Now that he’d caught up to me, he wanted to perform some more in-depth road-side surgery.

    He pulled the tire off and let out the air, popping the bead and removing the rubber. Inside he pulled out the tube, which looked sketchy. The hole had grown into a gash over an inch long. The tubing was poor quality and just kept splitting.

    [​IMG]

    I mentioned he was lucky he hadn’t had a blow-out. While Dave removed the old patch and rubbed the surface smooth to apply another one, I flagged down vehicles asking if they had any gash-patches. Of course, now, when we needed a haul truck for what they would surely have in their patch kits, there wasn’t one in sight.

    [​IMG]
    Changing flat tires along the New Summer Road to Magadan.
    [​IMG]
    Incidentally, this is how truckers sometimes fix flats. Melt some rubber from an old tire (of which you can find plenty discarded along the road), and use it to patch the hole.

    After about 30 mins, we had a range of patch sizes from passing vehicles Dave could use. It couldn’t be too small, obviously, but a patch that was too large could also be a problem if it didn’t fit well over the tube once it was inflated again. Dave chose one, glued it on and put everything together. As we got ready to continue riding, I suggested to Dave he ride ahead and stay under 90 kmph. We didn’t need to get to Magadan quickly, we just needed to get there.

    When we were about 100 km (60 mi) from Magadan, Dave pulled off for a leak and told me to keep riding. The patch seemed to be holding fine. I slowed my speed to let him catch up quicker. I don’t like not being able to see someone I'm travelling with in my mirrors or ahead of me. On gravel, we had to have distances between us for dust-control, but the road was now paved, although terribly. It had huge frost heaves with obscured potholes. Sometimes you’d hit a heave just right and it gave you a fun little bounce. Other times you’d come crashing back down onto your seat, helmet askew.

    We didn’t have far to go; at least not kilometer-wise.

    Magadan!

    About 5 mins after passing Dave, I got stopped at a construction line-up for almost 10 mins. Dave didn’t appear.

    A vision flashed through my head of him sliding across the pavement. I pushed the thought away. I worry too much. Wondering if he was at the end of the line, I pulled over and let the cars pass me. No Dave.

    I turned around and headed back where I’d come. As the time increased, so did my speed. I’d ridden for over 5 mins when I saw a flat-bed truck ahead, pulled over with his flashers on. The driver looked to be checking his tires so I almost blew right past until I saw Dave standing up in the back and his bike on board. I slid to a stop, my back end fishtailing at the suddenness, then turned back and came up behind the truck.

    Dave looked like he was either about to shout fuck as loud as he could or just break into tears. I jumped off my bike, and walked over quickly.

    “Are you OK?” I yelled through my helmet. He nodded.

    “WTF happened?”

    The tube had blown inside the tire while Dave was riding about 110 kmph (70 mph). The bead had popped on both sides but luckily the tire itself stayed on. Dave had been able to coast it to a stop without going down or wrecking the rim. He said it was the most scared he’s ever been on his bike.

    I couldn’t believe he hadn’t crashed with that blow-out and was very relieved this wasn’t the case, but I also wanted to ask, why were you going so fast? The patch was likely stressed beyond its job. Now wasn’t the time, though and I busied myself helping them secure the bike, which had been lifted very conveniently by a small crane attached to the truck.

    With the bike lashed down, Dave got into the passenger seat and I followed them into the city, which was 85 bouncy kilometres ahead. It took us over two hours to get there as the truck had to go slow because of the terrible pavement and concern for Dave’s bike tied up in the back.

    Coasting along at around 40 kmph (25 mph), I wondered what arriving in Magadan in a truck would mean for Dave. There was already no small amount of tension due to some trip issues during the past few weeks, and it seemed this would top it off.

    I hoped he could see the good fortune he’d had not to crash and then how lucky it was to be able to flag down a truck with a crane just when we needed it most. He'd been riding fast, but not faster than his guardian angles could fly.

    I wondered if Dave would resent swapping out the rear tires on our bikes several days ago. If I’d still had that tire and this happened, I’m not sure I could have controlled the bike to an upright stop as he did. Then again, I might not have been riding that fast on a patch anyway. (The difference between men's and women's survival instincts was often apparent on this trip.)

    We rolled the last few miles down the highway into Magadan at dusk. It was anti-climactic. It didn’t feel right for me to be elated at this time. Dave was very somber when we stopped at a scrapyard, which was where we were going to keep the bikes. It, apparently, was the safest place in town due to an attack dog that would bite off your leg if it could get loose from its chain. The trucker wouldn't take any money when Dave offered (shown at the end of the video below).

    [​IMG]
    Truck arrival in Magadan with help from the Polar Owls, the local motorcycle club.

    (Sorry for the blurry vid below.)

    Dave gets roadside help from a trucker.

    Oskars, whom Dave had been talking to on his cell on the way in, had lined up a member of the Night Wolves chapter in Magadan, called the Polar Owls, to come and take us to where we were staying, which the Latvians also kindly set up for us. We loaded our luggage into the back of his car and left the yard.

    For some reason, we didn’t end up where Brian and the Latvians were, which seemed odd at first but after thinking about it, I figured they thought we’d want privacy. For weeks now, we’d all been camping out in rooms together. I liked that we were travelling with them to such a significant point of the trip. We’d spent more time travelling with Oskars, Didzis and Sandijis, than any other travellers or riders we’d met along our whole trip. Dave, however, wondered if the guys were getting tired of his issues. First the rear shock on the BAM and now this, not to mention all the translating help they'd been forced to do for us.

    We settled into our rented apartment in a cell-block housing department, common in Russia. We ate two boil-in-a-bag meals we’d been carrying since we left North America in February, had showers and went to bed, hoping things would feel better in the morning.

    And that was our final day of riding on the trip!

    Are you as depressed as we were?

    Well, wait until you hear what happened next. A few days later, Dave and I got crabs from a rusty bathtub...

    Oh, those kind of crabs!


    [​IMG]

    Things were starting to look up when we went back to the scrapyard to fix Dave’s tire. Oskars had given Dave a spare tube that was too big but would at least get him the few miles to where we would load the bikes into a shipping container destined for Vladivostok by sea. This had all been arranged hastily on our own after we were able to call a guy in Vlad, Yuri, who helps riders like us get out of Magadan with bikes.

    [​IMG]
    Dave putting in a new tube into his tire.
    [​IMG]
    Our sailor friend helps Dave replace the tube in his tire.

    While Dave was messing with the tire, an old sailor-type guy came wandering over. He was the watchman for the scrapyard and he and I were having a fun conversation through gestures and phone apps. He was grizzled but sweet as could be and after we were sorted and ready to ride off to the shipping yard, he stopped us and said, come, come, pointing to some tin sheds. Although we wanted to get going, we were curious so walked over with him. To our amazement, there were hundreds of huge crabs in crates getting dunked in a tub then lifted by pitch-fork into a giant cauldron of boiling water.

    [​IMG]
    The cauldron full of boiling water ready to cook the crabs is above the guy's head, left.
    [​IMG]
    Tossing them into the steam by the bucket-loads.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The old sailor gestured to us that we stay and eat some. We couldn’t pass this up. Dave and I smiled and looked at each other. This was what it was all about!

    [​IMG]
    Our old scrapyard sailor friend.
    [​IMG]
    Crabs taste better peppered with ash from a smoke.
    [​IMG]
    Fine-dining food in a scrapyard! And there's that rusty tub—would you eat from that?

    [​IMG]

    After a free feast of some of the best crab either of us have ever eaten, Dave and I thanked the men profusely and left, feeling our moods lifted and excited for the evening when we would meet up with Brian and the Latvians for a celebratory night out. Our bikes were sorted. They had been cleaned, packed with everything we owned except a few items we could carry onto our flights, and would leave Magadan in the next day or two by boat in a container to Vladivostok. Once there, Yuri would put them into another shipping container that would leave Vlad for Vancouver a week or two later. It was insanely easy, the best shipping experience we've had in five shipments and from a place we thought would be the most difficult. We didn't have to crate them or anything and they would be travelling with seven other adventure bikes.

    We joked the bikes had worked so hard for us we’d decided to give them a six-week cruise across the Pacific.

    Later that evening, when we met up with everyone at a very cool restaurant called Alaska Bar, or something, Dave rolled up one of the placemats for a souvenir. It said: Make Alaska Russia again. (Unfortunately, he left it in the Helsinki airport on his way home). The Latvians ordered crab. Dave and I said we had some earlier in the day. When their crabs arrived, they exclaimed about how good it was and offered us some. Dave and I pretended it was amazing and kept it to ourselves that it didn’t taste anywhere near as good and fresh as the crabs we’d had out of a rusty bathtub. From a scrapyard. Where a crusty, old sailor stuffed his burning cigarette between his lips and helped us break the legs and arms of our crustaceans.

    There’s a lot more to say about our five days in Magadan and how we felt at the end of the trip. Then about what we did afterward and adjusting to life once home again. But this is the end of our blog posts, for now.

    For those continual stories, I truly hope you’ll be encouraged to wait for a book I’ll be writing about our trip. This will not be our blog stories re-printed and pasted together into one binding. It will tell the story of the journey, of course, but through a delayed perspective that can only come once we have had considerable time to digest everything we saw, felt and did. It will speak more of what life is like on the road with someone you barely knew at the start; the challenges of personality types, finding the determination to push past barriers, the adjustment back into daily life and whatever else happens after all that.

    We took two years away from our lives and lived a lifetime of memories. We saw amazing scenes and had wonderful experiences. We also took that time to challenge ourselves more than either of us could ever have known or have expected (and we’ve done stuff!).

    It wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns out there but if I’m not mistaken, I believe you, as the readers of our adventure, will appreciate these reflections once we can take a step back and compile the good and the bad into a heartfelt and entertaining trip memoir.

    If you are interested in reserving a book ahead of time for a small deposit, please contact me for more information.

    Thank you to everyone who read this blog from Day 1 and to those of you who jumped on somewhere in between Day 1 and Day 708. We will never forget this adventure and how lucky we were to make it our reality and bring you a piece of it to experience as well.

    I hope somewhere along the line we were able to inspire you to challenge yourself, also.

    And if we didn’t, please don’t ask us to go out there and do it all again :)

    [​IMG]
    Magadan as seen from a monument to the Road of Bones, (Mask of Sorrow) high overlooking the city.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Down by the ocean.
    [​IMG]
    Brian checking out the monument for the Road of Bones, (Mask of Sorrow) where slaves died while building the road and are said to be buried under its surface, where they fell. The New Summer Road replaces much of the ROB, save for a 400-km unmaintained section.
    [​IMG]
    A beautiful church near our apartment we rented while staying in Magadan for 5 days.
    [​IMG]
    We ran into our friends while visiting the monument: from left, Sandijis, me, Dave, Brian and Didzis.
    [​IMG]
    I think we spent $40 here on the first day then went back almost everyday from then on.
    [​IMG]
    Market around town.
    [​IMG]
    While Dave and I were in Yakutsk, we went to a woolly mammoth museum and learned their tusks weigh 150 kgs each. Not pounds, kilos! That's like two Dave's hanging from each cheek! We saw this rusty beast on the shoreline in Magadan.
    [​IMG]
    A well-deserved kiss for my metal sweetheart.
    [​IMG]
    What a bike looks like BEFORE 93,741 km.
    [​IMG]
    What a bike looks like AFTER 93,741 km.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    The sign behind us proves it! "Magadan" in Russian. (We forgot to count one country in the initial sign... it was 40 in total). That's the end!
    roadcapDen, Phoenix101 and elron like this.
  13. KT MOTOMAN

    KT MOTOMAN Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2017
    Oddometer:
    31
    Location:
    Foothills, North Carolina
    Wow, what an amazing journey! Glad you took the time to share some of your experiences with us.
    Good luck with the book and your new life together as husband and wife.
    Kaleb
  14. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    20,070
    Location:
    Burbank CA
    your adventure is purely epic. lots of distances covered and meeting a lot of nice people in places that most of us will never see and experience.

    it's inspiring and will challenge those who follow you.

    congratulations and i can't wait to read your book.

    thanks for taking the time in posting your ride report.
  15. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123

    Thank you for following along!
  16. ridingfullcircle

    ridingfullcircle Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    123

    Thank you very much!