Tag Archives: bicycle touring


Day 57: Shchukina Gora, Russia to Borovichi, Russia

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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.


Day 56: Ustyuzhna, Russia to Shchukina Gora, Russia

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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.


Day 55: Cherepovets, Russia to Ustyuzhna, Russia

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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.


Day 54: Poshekhonye, Russia to Cherepovets, Russia

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Start: Poshekhonye, Russia
End: Cherepovets, Russia
Distance: 115.0km
Elevation Gain: 1461ft
Elevation Loss: 1466ft
Time: 8h26m
Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg
Audio Material: Stuff You Should Know podcast; Transom (Diary of a War Correspondent); EconTalk; Diane Rehm (Freelance Economy); Bullseye (Kasper Hauser interview)

Day two along the eastern shore of the Rybinsk Reservoir. Unfortunately, a triple whammy: still no real views of the water, slab road surface and a very strong headwind that I’m guessing was caused by the unseen water which caused a 2km/hr average speed loss over the course of the day.

Bike tourers in these parts are definitely rare, so have been getting some good looks. A few astonished folks at lunch and some friendly thumbs up and honks along the way.

Arrived in Cherepovets tired but decent spirits. Passed a huge railyard. Cherepovets is one of the major industrial cities in Russia. Home to the second largest steel plant and base for industrial metal giant Severstal which owns its own ice hockey, basketball and, yes, chess teams all based in Cherepovets. Fun facts: Cherepovets is the designated location to reform the Russian government in case nuclear strike threatens Moscow. Also, Cherepovets is sister city to Montclair, NJ — a town that has neither a steel plant nor a chance to host the US federal government (though, would probably feel some major carryover effects from any nuclear strike on New York City).


Day 53: Rybinsk, Russia to Poshekhonye, Russia

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Start: Rybinsk, Russia
End: Poshekhonye, Russia
Distance: 72.2km
Elevation Gain: 992ft
Elevation Loss: 936ft
Time: 5h16m
Reading Material:A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II – Gerhard L. Weinberg
Audio Material: Marketplace (Kai was pretty giddy about driving an RV); WTF podcast (Douglas Rushkoff interview, I haven’t read any of his books, but in the interview he comes off as a futurist of the worst kind: made up buzzwords with no elements of history or substance); World in Words; This American Life (summer camp episode; Adam Davidson’s English Israeli accent from 1998 is amazing); Acid Rap mix tape – Chance the Rapper

It’s nice to escape the tourist-land of the Golden Ring. Yes, this means dilapidated roads and rough evening accommodations. But, also the freedom to spend your time finding things which aren’t important historical sights in a guidebook, markets where they keep all the merchandise behind the counter (ok, not so good for non-native speakers) and tally your total with a wooden abacus, and people who are friendly and curious about your travels (I think in the tourist zone, once the locals see thousands of foreigners disembark huge buses every day and follow a woman around with a flag everywhere they kinda lose interest in the whole species).

While I’ve been following the shore of the Rybinsk Reservoir all day, I actually got minimal views of the water. Lots of log cabin homes (some in excellent shape and some missing most of their structure) and several whimsical yard displays.

Found a real abandoned brick church and cemetery. The steeple was at 45 degrees to the ground and several trees were growing in the anteroom. Outlines of frescoes were visible along with graffiti stuck in a rut of 90s bands (was hoping the setting would have inspired something more original).

Acquired shelter for the night in the tiny village of Poshekhonye for ~$10. Town center has mostly empty trading stalls watched over by Lenin and a nice little church. Need to get some good rest as tomorrow is a lengthy day to Cherepovets.