Boat: Saint Petersburg, Russia to Lübeck, Germany

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Start: Saint Petersburg, Russia
End: Lübeck, Germany
Distance: 1532km
Time: 64 hours
Reading Material: Quicksilver (Baroque Cycle: Volume 1) – Neal Stephenson; War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Had a chance to live out my dream of being a shipping container. While not the fastest way to return to Germany, I figured a boat ride across the entire Baltic Sea would at least be a nice way to complete a big GPS track circle on the map. Also, shipping containers eat really well: three buffet meals a day!

Several lorry (aka truck) drivers stowed along and like a cat confronting a fish bowl, the natural road enemies traded wary stares across the mess hall.

Accomplished some good reading on the deck along with two lazy afternoon in a row. Met some new (non truck drivers) friends including a documentary filmmaker who recently completed a project driving her Lada Niva from Belgium to the Arctic Circle and a literature teacher relocating to Germany after spending 10 years teaching in Moscow.

After waiting for several trucks to unblock my bike, I road off the back of the boat ~1500km from Russia in Lübeck, Germany where three days of riding will take me back to Berlin.


Day 62: Trubnikov Bor, Russia to Saint Petersburg, Russia

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Start: Trubnikov Bor, Russia
End: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Distance: 125.0km
Elevation Gain: 1277ft
Elevation Loss: 1368ft
Time: 7h47m
Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg
Audio Material: Fresh Air Weekend; All Songs Considered; WTF podcast (Don Barris); EconTalk (Narlikar interview; very difficult to listen to as the interview never really got going); Ghost Tropic – Songs: Ohia; Together at the Bluebird Cafe – Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt & Guy Clark

A big, exciting day: I reached my destination and got hit by a truck for the first time!

Started with my last, quick stretch of highway. Then peeled off to the P41 secondary road. Some really nice riding with curves, small hills and minimal cars. There were a few unpaved sections but I’ll take that as a fitting homage on the last day to my time in Poland and Ukraine.

Then, P41 dead-ends at the Neva River where I figured I would have a nice, peaceful cruise all the way along the river to the center of Saint Petersburg. The Neva flows from Lake Ladoga (site of a frozen road used to ferry supplies during the second winter of the German siege of Leningrad) to the Gulf of Finland and while super short (75km of which I followed nearly half) is actually the third largest river in Europe by water flow.

I got a few river glimpses and passed some large shipyards (St Petersburg/Leningrad was the center of USSR shipbuilding activities) however the road was anything but a cruise. A busy two-lane road with narrow lanes, no shoulder and lots of trucks. Cars had no problems passing me but several times large trucks came very close to brushing and pinching me off of the road. A few honked angrily but I just ignored them and stuck to my little patch of pavement. Then, several loud toots from a truck who (based on sounds) was pretty far behind me but moving fast. He kept honking and I finally peeked over my shoulder to see a blue cab with large grey trailer bearing down on me at high speed! I guess the honking was his idea of courtesy since it didn’t appear he planned to take any evasive action. My peek caused a slight swerve and I knew I was in trouble. As the truck passed he gave me a heavy brush focused on the left rear pannier. It wasn’t enough to knock me over, and I immediately coasted off the road to a stop to assess the damage. The truck didn’t stop to check on me and I was so bewildered I didn’t even get a chance to give an angry gesture. No other vehicles stopped either and I’m going to conclude that Saint Petersburg drivers are the worse in all of Europe/Russia.

Luckily the damage was minimal. The pannier ripped off the rail but stayed attached to the bike thanks to bungees and my lock system. No damage to the bike or myself which I consider quite lucky for being tagged by a truck. I smelled something and thought maybe the fuel bottle was punctured but it wasn’t until I unpacked at the end of the day that I realized the truck had punctured my travel flask and drained the last of the Lavagulin 16yr (the smell of peated Islay whiskey and asphalt is evidently reminiscent of petrol…which I’m sure is not a new finding to Islay haters). Though, as the truck driver is probably aware, spirits are plentiful in Russia so I will have no problems finding a suitable replacement.

For the remainder of the ride, every time a vehicle honked my, I immediately asserted my space by riding the middle of the lane. If I was going to get a close pass, I was going to choose both the location and the speed (slow!) for the truck. No other real problems though I did get a chance to give a good tongue wag to an impatient Audi while queuing for a left in the city center.

So, I made it! 62 days of biking, over 5000km and 50,000ft of climbing. No injuries or bad bike damage and only one close brush with becoming a truck blini. After a few days of rest, I’ll gather some thoughts on the entire ride. Turns out I will be in Saint Petersburg for nearly three weeks, hosting a welcoming entourage from my mother and brother before hopping a slow ferry back to Germany. There will be a few more bike days at the very end from the ferry terminus all the way to the very spot I started in Berlin where I began in April. It’s important to close the loop on the map for symmetry. I’ll keep you updated.