The Crimson Trail - Ashes of Empires

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by The Rolling Hobo, Mar 3, 2017.

  1. The Rolling Hobo

    The Rolling Hobo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    Oddometer:
    246
    Location:
    Tallinn, Estonia.
    INTRODUCTION
    In the summer of 2015 I decided to ride in my home turf, Europe. It offers fantastic possibilities for the adventure enduro rider, but for some reason most riders stick to the bigger roads of Central and Western Europe. My focus was on the dirt trails of Eastern Europe.

    [​IMG]


    ASHES OF EMPIRES
    Europe has always been turbulent and a frequent theatre of war and clashing ideologies. Eastern Europe has perhaps suffered the most, and still holds many bitter memories.

    The Crimson Trail is a dirt track through the ashes of empires. A journey through our not so distant past, when Europe was still divided. If ever there was a time for this ride, it is now, as the superpowers flex their muscles and the embers of war have been relit.

    THE CRIMSON TRAIL
    The priorities of designing the route were remote and spectacular dirt tracks mixed with abandoned sites of the near history of Eastern Europe. Abandoned nuclear missile silos, military bases, villages and decayed Communist monuments contrast the beauty of The Carpathian and Balkan Mountains, The Dinaric Alps and the vastness of the North European Plain.

    This was the planned rough route, and conditions eventually dictated which trail to take. Rigid plans do not exist on rides like these. Only flexibility, creativity and a stern will to keep moving forward.

    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. The Rolling Hobo

    The Rolling Hobo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    Oddometer:
    246
    Location:
    Tallinn, Estonia.
    DAY 1 / THE TRANSITION

    20.7.2015 / Helsinki – Tallinn – Hara submarine docks – Rohu nuclear missile base / 187 km and ferry across the Gulf of Finland.

    I was not quite there. My limbs felt sluggish and a veil swayed between perception and reaction. I had been burning the candle at both ends for too long and was now paying the price. Riding a KTM 690 Enduro R in traffic was not the smartest thing to do, but I had a ferry to catch. In fact a strange rattle from the front sprocket worried me considerably more than the possibility of a traffic accident.

    The previous three days had been a blur of flying from Berlin to Helsinki, final service work on the bike and packing up. The wrenching had been an uphill battle of my own making; after putting everything together, the bike wouldn’t start. So I had torn the bike apart, gone through everything and even replaced the fuel pump and injector before realising that the spark plug lead had come off accidentally at some point. Although it was a relief to hear the bike sputter to life, my stupidity had put me behind schedule and very low on sleep and food.

    Once the bike was up and running, packing the gear was a frantic last minute operation. I was due to meet two Swedish riders in Estonia a few hours later, and I didn’t want them having to sit around waiting for me. Not that the ferry would wait for me either way. Instead, it would go its merry way and I’d be left sitting on the dock, desperately trying to score a ticket for the bike and myself in the middle of the high season of the Nordic holidays.

    [​IMG]

    Fortunately I pulled up to the queue of bikes, waiting to board the ferry, in time. On queue it started to rain, and I took shelter from it under a gangway. It always rained during the first day of every ride for some reason, but I was hoping for better weather on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. My concerns with the weather soon dissipated as I mentally went through all gear and wondered if I had forgotten something. I had never left for a long ride in such a hurry, and it felt odd. Also due to the fact, that I would not be returning to Finland, but instead hopefully finishing the ride in my new home in Germany. Everything had changed after Eastern Dirt 14. I had since sold my business and moved to Berlin with my much better half. The last thing left in Finland was the 690, and it too would soon sail over the Baltic with me.

    Eventually the queue of bikes, most consisting of Harley Davidson’s, roared to life. The exhaust note of my 690 single cylinder drowned under the loud pipes of the V-twin engines, carrying their chubby leather-clad operators and passengers into the bowels of the ferry. I’ve always found the whole Harley scene rather comical. The stereotypes seem to carry an air of harmless threat or unfounded superiority, despite the fact that telling the men and women apart is almost impossible. Either way, we were all part of the same fraternity of riders and, exchanged polite greetings and route inquiries while strapping our bikes down to the steel deck of the ship. However, they seemed to eye my banged up adventure enduro with pity in their eyes.

    The car deck was off limits during the two hour crossing, so I made my home in a quiet corner of the public area. I was very hungry, but exhaustion took the best of me and I soon drifted in and out of consciousness. The crossing was uneventful, but it was a very real divider between what was behind and what was to be. However, due to the exhaustion, I was not in the correct mindset yet. Everything still seemed….obscure.

    Riding out of the ship, I was met with sunshine and the wonderful heat of summer. The city gave smooth passage, and I was soon on my eastbound track through the northern coast of Estonia. It was mostly small tarmac roads, so nothing to get excited about, but the feeling of making progress was very welcome. Unfortunately the rattle from somewhere around the front sprocket was still there, so I stopped to investigate. The chain was hitting the Rally Raid sprocket guard, probably due to a worn out chain slide, or just because the chain was brand new. Either way, the noise only occurred during engine braking, so I switched to riding the 690 like a two stroke to counter the problem.

    The next pressing issue was fuel, both for the bike and myself. They were taken care of at a petrol station, and I was soon back on track towards my rendezvous with the Swedes. I’d sent them my track, and they had arrived earlier in Tallin with by a ferry from Stockholm and were ahead. I pushed on, and finally the tarmac road was replaced by a short section of dirt, spitting me to the edge of a bay. Across it, I immediately spotted two bikes, and the first attraction on The Crimson Trail; the abandoned Soviet submarine base with its derelict pier reaching out to the Hara bay. It seemed like a fitting location to rendezvous with the Swedes and dive right into the essence of the Crimson Trail; the Cold War.

    [​IMG]

    The two Swedes walked up to me from the pier. Perra was an old friend from cave diving, with whom I’d shared many good dives. Underwater he was one of the most reliable and cool headed divers I’d ever met, and I was looking forward to seeing how he operated in a non-lethal environment. To be honest, I had some reservations, as he apparently currently mostly consisted of titanium. Perra loved skiing and was passionate about bikes, which he had been riding for a long time. Mostly older Japanese dirt bikes, but on this ride he was on a first generation carbureted KTM 950 Adventure. His friend Johan, whom I’d never met, was on a Yamaha Super Tenere with street tyres, which I eyed with some concern. He seemed like a nice calm fellow with a good physique.

    [​IMG]

    After exchanging the usual pleasantries and receiving ten packs of the real black gold i.e. Swedish snus, or snuff, I headed out to the pier with Perra. The base was nothing too exciting, but with an interesting ambience and some old Soviet murals inside the buildings. The pier stretched out to sea and I walked to the end of it. The water was relatively calm and somewhere across it was where I had started earlier in the morning. Turning around and walking back to shore, the adventure was ahead and many things left permanently behind.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Our three bikes hummed across the flat Estonian countryside. We were still on tarmac, but after the town of Rakvere we finally hit dirt. The trail was mostly easy dual tracks and gravel roads, but it had recently rained and the ground was slippery here and there. It was easy riding on the 690 with MX tyres, but I was curious to see how the Swedes handled their big bikes, as I had never ridden with either one of them. They rode somewhat apprehensively, but both handled their heavy bikes impressively. They were clearly experienced riders, which was a relief.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Pushing further south, we were closing in on the rain clouds that had drenched the ground beneath us. I suggested we’d camp soon, to avoid getting wet, but an equally important reason for me was that I was just absolutely exhausted. I knew the next attraction on the Crimson Trail was not too far and we would probably find a good campsite there.

    As the dirt road turned into concrete slabs, I knew we were getting close to the Rohu rocket base. It was of course also of Soviet origin, and had been decommissioned in 1978, falling since into decay. It wasn’t especially impressive as such, but apparently it had been equipped with R-12 missiles. They were the famous medium range ballistic missiles with thermonuclear warheads, that covered Western Europe with the nuclear threat and gave the whole world a headache during the Cuban missile crisis. The instruments of death were long gone, but the ambience was strangely quiet and eerie. The surface launch pads were overgrown with moss and grass. Empty windows of roofless brick-houses stared at us from the surrounding forest. We decided to camp there.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A small derelict road led deeper into the forest. It was not really a road, but rather an old dirt track that had been retaken by the forest during the last four decades. We were a little off from the launch pads, so the trail would probably have been a guard road on the outer defence perimeter, as there was evidence of barbed wire mounts in the trees. My suspicion was confirmed when I rode along the trail and hit a fallen concrete pole, hidden by moss. The bike and I didn’t agree on the direction we were going so we went our separate ways, both falling over in the process. We had found our campsite for the night.

    As the usual hustle and bustle of setting up camp ensued, I had a flashback from our first camp in Russia during Eastern Dirt 14. A derelict road, in the middle of nowhere, overgrown and wet. Unfortunately this time food was scarce as we hadn’t done any shopping. So I dug into my emergency rations in day one of the ride, but without too many misgivings.

    [​IMG]

    The evening was pleasant with hot food and good conversation. We sat there in our strange camp longer than I expected to stay awake. But when I finally crawled into my tent just after midnight, I was utterly spent. Still, one does not camp in a nuclear missile base every night, and it was mind-boggling to imagine the amount resources that were poured into preparing for a war that never happened. How seriously they took the threat of an enemy that never materialised, and how it was all just left to decay when the party was over. It was strange to camp in spot that would have been a tightly guarded military secret just forty years earlier. Having been in the same spot then, we would have most likely been interrogated, tortured and killed.
    #2
  3. hardwaregrrl

    hardwaregrrl ignore list Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    9,581
    Location:
    Atlanta
    In! Can't wait.....
    #3
  4. luloadventure

    luloadventure - LULO -

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2013
    Oddometer:
    201
    Location:
    South of England
    I was waiting can read this report! :*sip*:bubba:snore

    Cheers mate! :super:thumb:beer
    #4
  5. Hokem Malarky

    Hokem Malarky Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2006
    Oddometer:
    150
    Location:
    Kentucky
    :clap:clap:clap
    #5
  6. slowriding

    slowriding Dopeless Hope Fiend Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2012
    Oddometer:
    356
    Location:
    Geezerville, AZ
    In, this is gonna be good.
    #6
  7. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    4,014
    Location:
    LacLaBiche Alberta Canada
    INNNNNNN!!!!
    JJ
    #7
  8. SNOMED

    SNOMED Adv'rized

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2015
    Oddometer:
    32
    Location:
    Sweden
    Yesssss! :dukegirl

    Cheers
    Patrick
    #8
  9. agplant

    agplant Ride Fast Travel Slo

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    Oddometer:
    360
    Location:
    High Level, Alberta
    In :lurk
    #9
  10. levain

    levain STILL Jim Williams Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2005
    Oddometer:
    9,664
    Location:
    Providence, RI
    Oh man. Always been fascinated with cold war history. Can't wait for this one. On a related note, I'm almost finished with a book you might be interested in, considering your home and interest in this subject.
    #10
  11. RozzyCat

    RozzyCat Bleeds orange Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,147
    Location:
    Down by the river
    In. Street tires with The Hobo? This will be interesting! :nod
    #11
    ModalGuy likes this.
  12. mtncrawler

    mtncrawler Long timer

    Joined:
    May 17, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,470
    Location:
    Fort Collins, CO
    In...:thumb
    #12
  13. thumpididump

    thumpididump MacGyver

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,181
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    Subscribed
    #13
  14. Gale B.T.

    Gale B.T. Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,827
    Location:
    Pagosa Springs, CO.
    IN , gonna love this one. Do I ever have some great "snus" stories to share with you some day :)

    In 1991 , lots happening in Germany, Poland, Russia, etc , I rode a 1979 R100RT through Lithuania, Lativa , Estonia into Russia. I shall never forget the wonderful people/riders I met as I traveled this route at this time in history.

    I am looking forward to tagging alone on this trip with you , Perra and Johan.
    gale
    #14
  15. 515

    515 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Oddometer:
    93
    Location:
    South Pacific Workers Paradise
    This looks like a great trip report. Love the black and white photography.
    #15
  16. SS in Vzla.

    SS in Vzla. Totally Normal? I'm not!

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,231
    Location:
    Sugar Land, TX
    Awesome! Another one of The Rolling Hobo's stellar RR's :clap:clap
    I'm in.
    #16
  17. NAVIGATOR

    NAVIGATOR Wanderer

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,845
    Location:
    SOUTH OF THE USA BORDER(friendlier Mexico)
    I´m in, ready to read a great RR and see wonderful pics of not so known places:thumb
    #17
  18. TheNetworker

    TheNetworker Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2014
    Oddometer:
    267
    Location:
    Germany, Lower Saxony
    I am IN. Let the words flow....

    Looking forward for the story. Thanks in advance
    #18
  19. El Lobo

    El Lobo Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2015
    Oddometer:
    161
    Location:
    West Coast Finland
    Good reading as always with your stories! Those Cold war era places will go in gps for the summer trip. Thumbs up!
    #19
  20. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,640
    Location:
    Concord, CA
    Subscribed!! Looking forward to this!!


    Tahoe
    #20