Day 42: Belyov, Russia to Kaluga, Russia

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Start: Belyov, Russia
End: Kaluga, Russia
Distance: 98.9km
Elevation Gain: 2669ft
Elevation Loss: 2560ft
Time: 7h05m
Reading Material:Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Nerdist (Paul Feig interview); Russia – The Wild East – BBC/Martin Sixsmith; Diane Rehm

Bugs! The bugs in Russia are way more intense than anywhere else on the tour. In addition to swarms of flies which encase me in a bubble, I am now getting stung by large horseflies who know exactly which part of your shoulder blade it is impossible to reach while riding. Most pernicious are the suckers who find a way inside my shirt. Due to the heat, I’m usually riding with my shirt mostly unzipped. Twice bugs (a bee and a horsefly) have hit me at high speed and then become stuck in my shirt. They like to sting as they tumble around and I flail wildly. Must look interesting to the passing drivers.

Passed a nature preserve and got some good open landscape views before having to join up with the motorway again. Drank 1.5L of water and nearly 2L of apple juice (heat is not abating). Learned a new trick from Andrew yesterday. Most rural Russia villages have multiple communal water pumps along the road. The water is probably safe to drink (though, often has a slight metallic taste). But, more importantly: it’s cold! Frequent water pump showers are a great way to keep cool while riding.

For lunch I was joined by a pack of hungry and hot dogs looking for handouts. They had such sad faces but I didn’t have nearly enough extra banana to go around so decided to let them fend for themselves.

Kaluga is another medium-sized Russia city (~300,000 pop). Historically, the city served as a choke point for attacking Napoleon troops in retreat. But, more recently, it has become the center of Russia’s automobile industry. And, Kaluga was the home of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, widely credited as the father of rocket science who published theoretical articles on space propulsion as early as 1881 (also, strange philosophical articles on futurism and eugenics). An eccentric recluse who lived on the outskirts of town, he taught mathematics and generally confused normal people. It is claimed that Tsiolkovsky was the inspiration for the Aeolia Schenberg character on Mobile Suite Gundam.

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