Tag Archives: adopted family


Day 31: Starokostyantyniv, Ukraine to Molochky, Ukraine

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Start: Starokostyantyniv, Ukraine
End: Molochky, Ukraine
Distance: 81.2km
Elevation Gain: 1221ft
Elevation Loss: 1218ft
Time: 6h05m
Reading Material: The Good Soldier Švejk – Jaroslav Hašek; Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Transom; Game Theory Podcast (yay new episode, but don’t eat cookies on mic guys!)

Today I learned what it is like to be a dolphin stranded in a tidal pool.

Most of the day’s ride was spent under threatening skies but no real rain. As I reached the 75km mark, I spied a good-sized lake nearby on the map and decided to scope it out for camping spots. This ploy goes against most guidelines for “wild camping” since the lake, as you might expect, is the center of the farming village making it difficult to find a secluded spot. I rode around most of the lake (on one stretch had to run a gauntlet of small but loud dogs who couldn’t quite figure out how to stop a bicycle) but returned to a central spot with a nice, flat grassy “beach” area. Hung out for an hour and read while gauging foot traffic. There were a couple of cows grazing and a few people going by, but the spot was so nice and no one seemed to mind my presence that I decided to make camp.

Two 7 year-old twin brothers ran by on their way to fish. They gawked at my tent and bashfully watched from a distance. I tried to say hello but with communication failure, resorted to sharing some chocolate Princess Leia / Ewok style. They didn’t warn of approaching Stormtroopers but also didn’t seem to mind my presence.

Thunderclouds were gathering, so I tried to quickly get everything setup and batten down the hatches. A group of three guys came over to and using hand gestures and a few common words was able to describe my bike trip. One of them, Anatoyli said that he does long-distance motobiking trips. The rain started, so I retreated into the tent.

After about 30 minutes of hard rain, skies cleared and I emerged to make dinner (Tesco canned spaghetti O’s, and spicy lime ramen) in the interlude. Just as I finished, a real thunder and lightning storm started. I got ready for bed, and figured to read and turn in early. A few minutes later, I heard a “Hello, Mikhail?” Anatoyli had returned. He was worried about me in the storm. I was confused but followed him out of my tent and into his car.

Anatoyli had brought beer, hot borscht, bread, onions and pork for me. Amazing! Double dinner never hurt and as I ate we tried to talk. It was hard work communicating but we did OK. Bonded over music as he professed his love for Rammstein and “heavy metal” and we rocked out to Mutter. Never underestimate the power of music. We couldn’t speak a common language and I was far from home, but Rammstein communicated far more.

The rain let up and Anatoyli tried to say something about fish. He wanted to invite me back to his house but I had already setup the tent and got ready for the night. I got out of the car (roll down the window, reach out and open the passenger door from the outside, “Soviet” says Anatoyli with a laugh).

Ten minutes later Anatoyli was back with more beer and firewood. While wet, we got to work on making a fire. And, then his friends returned and we all sat around eating peanuts and drinking beer for several hours. Camera phones were used to show pictures of family, friends and generally make sense of what everyone was trying to say. Around 10pm his friends left again with something about fish that I didn’t quite catch. It was past my bedtime, and I was smokey and wet. Around 11pm, his friends returned…with a large carp they had just caught and a cast iron pot and spit. They proceeded to cook fresh fish stew and at 1230am, I had dinner #3.

They could tell I was tired, so we said goodbyes, but again something about fish. I slept pretty well for the tent, but was awoken around 430am by the sound of car. Anatoyli and his red Soviet beater had returned to catch me fish for breakfast! While I tried to get some more sleep, Anatoyli started a fire, setup his lines and had breakfast-just-outside-bed ready by 730am.

It was like I was an exotic dolphin that had somehow washed ashore on the beach of a lake and Anatoyli and his friends had decided to take care of me until I could return to the sea. Now, the attention, friendship and food was appreciated. However, it is also hardwork being a stranded dolphin that doesn’t speak Ukrainian and I didn’t really get a chance to relax (or sleep!).

The entire group returned around 8am, and we finished up breakfast as I started to try and prep camp for takedown and packing. I was given another care package and (including the items from the Yatsuks) I think I have an entire pannier filled with cured pork. I think it was time for them to go to work, so we said goodbyes (“to my new Ukrainian brother!”) and prepared to head off for the day.

Ukrainian hospitality is incredible. Worried about a dolphin far from home, they will offer you their home, food, time and friendship. Also, their Rammstein.


Day 30: Sviatets, Ukraine to Starokostyantyniv, Ukraine

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Start: Sviatets, Ukraine
End: Starokostyantyniv, Ukraine
Distance: 76.9km
Elevation Gain: 872ft
Elevation Loss: 972ft
Time: 6h18m
Reading Material: The Good Soldier Švejk – Jaroslav Hašek; Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Stuff You Should Know podcast; Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (not sure I’m a fan of Ken Jennings as a panelist); On The Media; The Nerdist podcast

Luckily the Yatsuk family doesn’t wake up early, so I was able to get an extra hour to try and sleep off the effects from last night. A quick note about Ukrainian pillows: they are big and dense and awesome. We had a hearty breakfast of borscht and coffee. I got an invite to come back after the bike trip to visit. Will have to see how to make that work.

I was given a flower garland by Ivan for good luck and pulled out of Sviatets. Feeling the after effects from last night, I was not in top form and struggled most of the day. This part of Ukraine is dotted by narrow lakes and I stopped by a beautiful one and dug into the goodie bag given to me by the Yatsuks for lunch. Fresh hardboiled eggs, green onions and a huge slab of cured pork. Thanks so much guys!

Passed a field that appeared to be growing vinyl records. Chased by more dogs (maybe getting more aggressive as I head east?). Decent distance covered by the time I made it to Starokostyantyniv, a medium-sized town of ~30,000 and impossible to spell, so I decided to rest for the night and get back at it tomorrow.


Day 29: Ternopil, Ukraine to Sviatets, Ukraine

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Start: Ternopil, Ukraine
End: Sviatets, Ukraine
Distance: 77.8km
Elevation Gain: 2145ft
Elevation Loss: 2380ft
Time: 6h15m
Reading Material: The Good Soldier Švejk – Jaroslav Hašek; Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Forget due to vodka intake

I was adopted by a family today! But, first the lead-in…

Heavy rain overnight on Pond Ternopil gave the morning some dread. Started out under overcast but dry sky. I kept the raingear off and was rewarded with a full drenching from 10 minutes of surprise heavy downpour. I felt sluggish (maybe after effects from the long ride yesterday) but kept plugging away. Around 3:30 (~70km) I decided to start preparing to find a camp spot for the night. I noticed a store with a group gathered on the patio and stopped planning to fill up on water for the night.

Before I could enter, I was called over to the group, given a seat and a glass of vodka. And, the toasting began. No real English speakers (I have absolutely no Ukrainian or Russian), but we did fine. Ivan, the ringleader, was celebrating his 45th birthday with friends. Lots of vodka, fresh cucumbers and sausage. The camera was passed around and we drank more to the toasts of “American Boy!” Ivan kept pointing up the road and giving the sleepy head signal. I was in need of a place to sleep, so decided to see where this would lead.

After about 2 hours the drinking party dispersed. My bike was loaded into a van, Ivan hopped on a moped and we drove around for a bit (could have been in circles, given the fact I had just hydrated my ride with a large amount of vodka). I got the bike out of the van and followed after Ivan’s moped (he only slid out of control once). And, we arrived at his house and I met my new, adopted family, the Yatsuk’s: Ivan (father, who gave himself the nickname “Ukrainian Alcoholic” to go with my “American Boy”), Valentine (mother), Victoria (sweet, 17 year-old daughter who recently graduated from school), Maria (Aunt, who made sure to underscore that she lived in Kiev), Nadia (camera-shy grandmother). They were fun to watch. It was pretty clear that Ivan often stumbled into trouble, but all the women found him lovable and helped fix whatever situation it was that he broke.

We hung out in their separate kitchen structure and did more drinking (schnaps added into rotation), eating (fresh green onions, borscht, bread, sausage, strawberries) and talking. As with many younger Ukrainians, Victoria understood English quite well and helped translate. I met all their different animals (cow, piglets, baby chicks, two rambunctious dogs and the cutest 2 month-old kitten ever). More pictures (except for grandmother who hid behind the kitten).

I got a warm bath around 10pm and was given Victoria’s room for the night while she made due with the couch in the living room. Everyone drifted off to sleep (or fitfully tossed for those of us unaccustomed to Ukrainian vodka).