Start: Borovichi, Russia End: Okulovka, Russia Distance: 39.7km Elevation Gain: 947ft Elevation Loss: 650ft Time: 2h52m Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg Audio Material: Nerdist (GRRM interview); Bullseye
Making excellent time, so another short day. Left Borovichi in the shadow of Russia’s first arch bridge (1905; currently under repair) and off of the P8 road onto a regional one heading west. Decent surface and some of the first climbing in quite a while. Nothing big, but some sustained grade for more than several kms.
My destination of Okulovka is a small-ish town (~12,000 pop) but with a station on the original Moscow-Saint Petersburg rail line (completed 1851). It was never occupied by German troops in WW2 but situated very close to the front lines. Not sure if it was actually bombed, but the train station was considered a strategic structure and I found this German aerial reconnaissance photo from the war with detailed diagram of the rail-yard.
Dinner was some tasty shashlik in a small roadside stop. In honor of my English, they switched the TV to the BBC World broadcast. There was a story about the Peking-to-Paris classic car rally. I got a chuckle from a participant describing the the “grueling” nature of the race and how they had to spend their “rest” day in Russia doing car repairs. I’m sure the race element adds an extra challenge but try powering the vehicle with your body….
Start: Shchukina Gora, Russia End: Borovichi, Russia Distance: 98.1km Elevation Gain: 1266ft Elevation Loss: 1459ft Time: 7h01m Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg Audio Material: WBUR’s Only a Game; EconTalk; Nerdist podcast; Low Times (The Most 90s song of the 90s — too bad these guys don’t have NPR affiliation, they can talk about music but can’t legally play any)
If we’re being honest, today was kinda boring biking. It was nice being on a low traffic road but scenery was consistent forest and nearly no habitation I could see for 80km. Skies were cloudy all night but no rain until a slight mist while packing up camp.
Passed a big garbage dump ~20km from Borovichi (roadside garbage has been pretty common but this was the first landfill I found). While taking some pics, was waved over by the proprietor. Some hand signal communication and he ushered me into the trailer “office” where he hung out with a woman (Leana?) and a younger man. I don’t think they were family but not sure. Super friendly, I was plied with coffee, soup, a sausage sandwich and a Kit Kat! The office featured some excellent Mad Max style-furnishings: couches, a cock-pit area with laptop, phone holster, two video screens (one playing violent Russian movies) and several jerry-rigged rear-view mirrors which allowed one to survey the entire landfill from the couch. I was offered a ride into town and a place to stay for the night (I think, we had very minimal language overlap) but I declined. Felt sorry but I already had a place lined up tonight in Borovichi and could use some rest after a few long days. Said goodbye and biked off into the Russian landscape.
Start: Ustyuzhna, Russia End: Shchukina Gora, Russia Distance: 82.6km Elevation Gain: 1511ft Elevation Loss: 1284ft Time: 7h27m Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg Audio Material: Fresh Air Weekend; Diane Rehm (US mortgage market); Planet Money (Detroit episode); Nerdist (Joss Whedon interview); WTF (Judy Gold interview)
After two long days, slept in an extra hour and only planned to travel 50km. Some of the roughest road conditions I’ve seen since Ukraine kept the pace slow early on, including a 2km section of roadway covered in sand in what I think was an attempt to fill in potholes.
Reached Pestovo where I heard rumors of a possible guesthouse. Stumbled into a large fair which included both an indoor chess room *and* an outdoor boxing ring. I guess the Soviet maxim of keeping both mind and body strong is still in effect. Several friendly people tried to point me in the way of lodging, but after biking circles, couldn’t find it. Opted for a nice hot meal at a roadside cafe (always remember, the difference between a Russian кафе and a Russia ресторан: in a cafe you order first at the counter…it’s embarrassing to sit and wait for service at a cafe table, the waitress will just look at you funny but not stop to help.).
Continued up the road keeping an eye out for a nice wild camp spot. Some forest but nothing appealing until a turnoff yielded a nice creek and flat resting spot for the night.
Here in Borovichi they have a professional Bandy team. Bandy, a prehistoric version of hockey which originated in Russia in the 1700s, looks like a mashup of soccer and field hockey on a giant ice surface with 10 players per side + a goaltender (without stick and defending a huge goal). Heading earns you a 5 minute penalty!
Start: Cherepovets, Russia End: Ustyuzhna, Russia Distance: 128.0km Elevation Gain: 1110ft Elevation Loss: 1216ft Time: 7h56m Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg Audio Material: Diane Rehm news roundups; On The Media (interview with “eclectic” Charlie Nesson!); Planet Money; Stuff You Should Know podcast; WTF podcast (Thom Yorke interview)
Set an aggressive distance goal and was aided by a tailwind (finally!) and nearly 100km on newly created road. I’m sure this sub-artery on the way from Cherepovets to Saint Petersburg previously existed, however, the sides of the road have been recently cleared of trees and road crews have freshly paved a long stretch. I made excellent time with smooth riding.
The first 15km out of Cherepovets was a huge industrial zone with smokestacks, open flames and giant buildings. Gave way to some very peaceful looking forests. Crossed the Mologa River and turned south towards Ustyuzhna to pick up road P8 which I will follow towards Veliky Novgorod. Road kharma caught up to me and the connecting piece was crumbling concrete. Hopefully the trip onward will be smooth.
Folks in Ustyuzhna were friendly with several stopping to chat from car windows and a mini-escort helping to point a place to eat and stay for the night.