Category Archives: Road Report

A roundup report from a day on the bike with stats


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.


Day 61: Veliky Novgorod, Russia to Trubnikov Bor, Russia

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Start: Veliky Novgorod, Russia
End: Trubnikov Bor, Russia
Distance: 93.2km
Elevation Gain: 910ft
Elevation Loss: 637ft
Time: 6h23m
Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg
Audio Material: Diane Rehm Friday roundups; On The Media; World in Words; Stuff You Should Know; Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

Another full day of dispiriting highway. By visiting Novgorod, I kinda backed myself into a corner route-wise. The M10 motorway is really the only way to leave the city. There were a few nice stretches with wide lanes and new asphalt but then a long way of road construction with no shoulder and not enough room for trucks to pass me. I got a few angry honks but they only got exasperated hand gestures in return. Not much I could do given the conditions, they just had to wait for the road to widen to pass.

Luckily, only a short ~10km stretch tomorrow on the highway and then I can finally breakout and weave a nicer path into my final destination: Saint Petersburg!

Suffered my second flat today. A tiny metal thorn worked its way through the tread causing a slow leak that I finally noticed due to drag. Luckily I found the thorn before replacing the tube so no continued damage.

Frequency of WW2 memorials is increasing. Due to the proximity of the front lines from the German siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) every one of these has a large number of names inscribed. And, saw an old defense bunker. My first Soviet bunker since all the way back along the post-war Iron Curtain line in the Czech Republic. Design seems pretty similar.

Trubnikov is meant to be a country estate tended to by a Russia prince in the 1800s but today it’s mostly roadside cafes and auto services.


Day 60: Viny, Russia to Veliky Novgorod, Russia

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Start: Viny, Russia
End: Veliky Novgorod, Russia
Distance: 56.6km
Elevation Gain: 314ft
Elevation Loss: 467ft
Time: 2h55m
Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg
Audio Material: This American Life; Nerdist (Jeff Bridges interview)

Erg, today should have been an exciting day. The last major stop before St Petersburg but I finished feeling irritated. I think it was mostly related to riding the motorway the entire day and an especially brutal stretch which had been torn up in preparation for paving but without shoulders. So, I had to ride the main lane getting buzzed by trucks. The riding wasn’t difficult (nearly all downhill) but it was hard to relax. Anyhow….

Got a close up view of the famous marsh and swamplands which surround Veliky Novgorod and kept the Mongols from invading the several times they razed Kievian Rus. While Veliky Novgorod (“Novgorod the Great”) stayed out of foreign hands (most famously thanks to the efforts of Alexander Nevsky who fought off both the Swedes and the Germans) it was routinely captured by other Russian principalities eventually becoming subjugated to Moscow and losing influence during the rise of St Petersburg. Novgorod was occupied by the Nazis during WW2 losing many historic buildings and artifacts. I’ll spend a few days here and then only two more biking days until St Petersburg.


Day 59: Okulovka, Russia to Viny, Russia

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Start: Okulovka, Russia
End: Viny, Russia
Distance: 84.2km
Elevation Gain: 1440ft
Elevation Loss: 1882ft
Time: 5h12m
Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg
Audio Material: Marketplace; Stuff You Should Know (autobahn eps); 99% Invisible; Bullseye (someone has a crush on Fran Lebowitz, who was born in Morristown, NJ before fleeing to NYC)

Super Surprise: An unexpected resupply party waiting for me on the side of the road!

Two days back while passing through Pestovo, I met a friendly couple who provided some directions during the town fair. They passed along our meeting to some friends (perhaps their parents, I believe) and today while climbing a short hill I was waved over by a couple in front of an SUV.

Alexander and Elena were waiting for me with hot tea, vegetables and fruit. They even left me with a care package of meat patties and more veggies! I’m not sure if they were laying in-wait or simply spied me as they drove past, and I hope I didn’t end up with their lunch. Alexander and Elena also live in Pestovo, have traveled around the US (NYC, San Francisco, Las Vegas and the Luxor hotel) and have a son who lives in Rochester, NY. I got a picture before we both had to continue on our ways.

Some nice rolling hills for the first part of today before meeting up with the M10 motorway which I follow into Novgorod (and continues all the way to Saint Petersburg, though I’ll find a less busy way for myself into the big city). M10 has some big trucks but a nice shoulder and is mostly downhill. While I probably could have made it all the way to Novgorod in one (long) push, decided to rest for the night and tackle the final ~60km to Kievian Rus’ Second City tomorrow.