Tag Archives: vodka


Day 39: Hlukhiv, Ukraine to Zheleznogorsk, Russia

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Start: Hlukhiv, Ukraine
End: Zheleznogorsk, Russia
Distance: 132.0km
Elevation Gain: 2546ft
Elevation Loss: 2254ft
Time: 9h48m
Reading Material:None, too tired
Audio Material: Diane Rehm Friday News Roundups; On The Media; Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me; WTF podcast (Iggy Pop interview); PRI’s World in Words

Oh man, so tired. A long day and a long distance covered.

Started the day 30km from the Russian border. Hearty homemade three egg fried egg breakfast to get me on my way. A good 2km line of trucks at the border but private cars (and bicycles) could weave the line and approach the border directly. Mostly confusion with little in the way of formal lines. At one point I tried to traverse the fenced-in pedestrian lane but was directed back to the regular car lanes. No questions, no inspection and I was across the border and in Russia.

About 2km later, the road surface degraded drastically from smooth pavement to slab concrete which stayed constant for the next 100km. Also, the flies in Russia are way more intense than Ukraine and Europe. At points, I felt like Pig-Pen with a full swarm for flies hovering around my moving bubble. At around 20km/hr the flies are unable to keep up but on bad pavement you need a really nice downhill to gather that kind of speed.

Went for nearly 60km without any road services. Drank nearly 2L of liquid (grapefruit juice, water) and was running on empty for a while before reaching the outskirts of Zheleznogorsk. Rode through what I only imagine was a large high school graduation before finding a hotel in central Zheleznogorsk, a town formed in 1957 to support a burgeoning iron mining industry in the region. Benefit of staying at the hotel is getting official registration for my Russian visa (or at least I hope that’s why they kept my passport at the front desk).

During dinner offered a glass of white wine by a slightly sloshed party nearby. It seems one of the members is originally from Israel. Participated in one round of vodka toasts but begged off to fall asleep. Evidently, I must have lost an hour when crossing the border and it’s still light out at 11pm.


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).