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.


Day 58: Borovichi, Russia to Okulovka, Russia

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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….