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Start: Obninsk, Russia
End: Moscow, Russia
Elevation Gain: 2222ft
Elevation Loss: 2294ft
Reading Material:Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Russia: The Wild East – BBC4/Martin Sixsmith
Moscow is the biggest metro area I approach on this tour and it lived up to expectations today. The day began with a drenching from some remnants of yesterday’s storms. Luckily, cloud cover remained for most of the morning keeping temps somewhat reasonable. Stopped for a roadside instant coffee from one of several small stands right before the urban sprawl began.
The approach to the city started a good 30km from the center — makes sense for a metropolis with 12M people. And, then the traffic started. Nearly 15km of full-on stopped traffic until I crossed the inner Garden Ring. At least on bike, I was able to make better time than many of the cars, but it was still an insane ride. At one point in a massive merge I got a bit squeezed between a car and a truck. They knew I was there, so didn’t risk getting completely squished but first time on the trip when I got to actually rub shoulders with the vehicles.
Biking in the city itself is not much fun. Bike culture has been increasing in Moscow, but the city is full of 8 lane roads with no stop lights or intersections (pedestrians cross underground allowing the cars to move nonstop…I guess this counts as pedestrian friendly but it’s not a very bike friendly way to build a city). Dodging cars and several times getting off the rig to play frogger crossing these massive roads, I eventually made it safely to my place on posh Novvy Arbat.
I’ll be here several days exploring Moscow before riding off to do part of the Golden Ring and then aiming north to Saint Petersburg!
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Start: Tarnów, Poland
End: Rzeszów, Poland
Elevation Gain: 2299ft
Elevation Loss: 2283ft
Reading Material: Red Cavalry and Other Stories – Isaac Babel
Audio Material: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me; Diane Rehm Friday news roundups; Love & Radio podcast; Murs for President – Murs; Man on the Moon: End of Day – Kid Cudi
Rain and mud! First day where I faced near constant rain. Gave me a good chance to bring out the rain gear. I made good progress on pavement until I hit some offroad tracks that had turned entirely to mud. Fenders work great in the rain but when you hit mud, the gap between the tire and the fender fills completely with mud and you end up sliding more than rolling. I had to get off and push in the mud for a good kilometer. It was kinda fun but everything got entirely mud caked.
Heading out of Tarnów, I got into a staring match with a driver. Sunday morning and the roads were empty. I was on an extremely wide, two-lane road with plenty of room for motorists to pass. There was a sidewalk but it was a rough surface, so I decided to stick with the road. The car honked at me as he passed and then we both came up to a redlight. I gave him a stare-down through the passenger window as I passed and then slowly rode in front of him looking over my shoulder until making a right-hand turn and heading on my way. In my mind, I won.
For the last 25km into Rzeszów, my route had me doing detours to avoid the E-40 motorway. But, given the offroad conditions, I decided not to risk it and just ride the motorway shoulder. The E-40 runs from Krakow to the Ukrainian border but is one step down from a highway (The A4 highway from Krakow to the border is currently being constructed). The cars gave me plenty of room and while it wasn’t relaxing riding it was safe and direct.
Spending the night in Rzeszów. More industrial than Tarnów but still a nice town square featuring a Sunday afternoon festival with a bouncy-house and a live singer on a stage backed by synths doing some horrible soft pop. A few tasteful monuments to those lost in WWII (Rzeszów was another town with over 30% Jewish population). I promised the front desk I wouldn’t track mud into the room but I’m not sure I’ll be able to comply.