Leaving Moscow

Riding Day:  Moscow — Vladimir (290 km)

Feature Image:  A Russian made watch in its display.  I was debating on buying one of these astronaut inspired watches — they were not expensive — but it’s just another thing to go nowhere in my collection of crap so I settled for the picture.  Feroz, the Sri Lankan dude bought one.

Driving into our hotels road for the night after a days ride out of Moscow, I could what’s in store for tonight — and it isn’t that great.  Not that our Moscow hotel was anything to write home about, but this place is located off the main drag in Vladimir, Russia and into a bit of a shit hole side way, tucked in from some broken down wooden structures, a fragmented road and lots of dirt.  No big deal, its the way it’s going to be from here on in is my best guess.

I was pretty upset with myself this morning that I didn’t bring out my GoPro to record the ride out of Moscow from our hotel, through the city and then suburbs — leading into the countryside.  Moscow is a big city area wise so it took us a good hour to get out of town and at first, it seemed like the city could be any European city with its old buildings, wide main streets with cars dodging in all directions, roundabouts and some sense of a modern surrounding.  I wouldn’t say that Moscow is Paris by no stretch of the imagination, but there are some similarities I guess.  None of the buildings are higher than 15 floors or so —  at least less than a handful fit that distinction.  I don’t recall a single glass modern structure at all — they are all in a utilitarian way, useful to house whatever it is there to house be it office, residential or government.  There are no cranes that stand out saying this is a city with huge investment in infrastructure, not at all.  Seemingly, its been the same for a long time, but inside the walls of these buildings, definitely modernization has occurred an Moscow has matured and there is no doubt that all of the money earned in Russia goes into this one city.

But I will say that people who live in the center of Moscow seem happy and not at all moody or seemingly grey or discontent — That is my very uneducated view after only a two and half day visit.  Definitely in the center of town, it absolutely could be any of the big European cities in terms of being somewhat heading into the digital age.  I view Europe as 50% that of the United States when it comes to being an easy life in the bigger cities.  Moscow is 40% that of a great US city so only a few notches down.  Let’s face it, some cities in Italy, Portugal or a ton of other countries are still backwards — Moscow looks like a better place to live than those.  But as you move out the onion layers of the city, it shows the truth and it starts to get a bit ugly.  I’m not sure how the people feel, but they are definitely smiling, dressing in western gear like any modern town, but its the living conditions that stand out.  Apartments are the way of life, and they are bleak.  Always rectangular and always warn down.  I don’t recall a new building or repainted building or anything which says comfort — lets assume the opposite, inside these places are junk and people learn to live in them.

After the second hour of riding, still the outside surroundings were ok, but getting worn for sure.  Houses were popping up made of scrap wood and the first thing that came to my mind was… What happens in the winter?  These shacks are not air tight and held together with string.  The apartments are more worn if that’s possible.  The roads are ok, but there is traffic.  At least unlike South America and Asia, the drivers were not crazy morons, they were patient and in their own lanes,  We kept riding until we go to an old military site really off the beat and path and where there were barracks’s now converted to peoples homes and a giant missile mounted on a concrete platform.  It was a little silly, but I took a picture of George in front of the missile and we moved on.

The rest of the days ride was pretty mundane, and we stopped a couple of times for fuel, coffee and into a small town for lunch.  I ate a Canadian Burger Club meat patty made of something strange in a bun.  The format for this lunch stop was funny — it looked like a franchise of some sorts, located in the very back of an old building in a department store, on the second floor, tucked behind the mountain of product from the 1970’s, including a stack of old remotes from TV’s which probably had a tube at one time.  Anyway, the Burger Club, with the notable Canadian Maple Leaf had wallpaper all written in English which is a bit strange since in this part of Russia, maybe one in one hundred speak the language.  Anyway, I gobbled down the sad surprise meat patty and we moved on for the day.

It was a great ride in terms of comfort because the temperature was in the high 60’s, totally comfortable for riders.  But there was no doubt, we were leaving a more comfortable life behind.  Stopping for lunch, gas or any grocery stores means that the notion of buying Diet Coke, or Coke Zero is gone unless you get to a very modern gas station where you might have a chance… No more Sugar Free Red Bull either which has been a staple in my daily nutrition to keep me alert.  Yep, the comforts of life are fading.

We did stop for a half hour in a tiny little town where we were probably the only outsiders to visit in the last ten years at least — and its Saturday — they were celebrating some kind of festival although it was skimpy and very simple, it seemed as if the entire town showed up.  It was so much fun wandering this festival knowing that everyone there knew each other and I was watched as an outsider — the police stared inquisitively but were respectful and they went back to their own personal conversations killing time.  They had a tiny miniature reindeer, but I found the lady offering rides on this little creature more interesting than the animal.  A candy area with colored pop corn but unfortunately, it looked as if the treat has been there since the last festival.  All signs were written by hand — nothing fancy anywhere.  Rides for kids were on plastic cars which you may find at Target for $25 or so.  It was interesting to see that money can’t buy happiness and in this case, I dont know whats inside the minds of these locals, but outside, the simple things were keeping them entertained.

Our last stop was our hotel in Vasily, Russia.  Some dinner with the entire group, which included me watching Cliff get in fights with a few people — almost uncomfortable but others we’re just drinking and having fun.  Cliff is a piece of work — he is either angry with someone or some issue or he is thinking too much about any topic that he thinks should be elevated to Defcon One.  His method of thinking is outside his brain and through his mouth in his form of logical steps.  He wants to show everyone that he is a deep thinker and tells us that probably twenty times a day.  If you disagree, he gets angry so nobody tells him so.  I’m watching Mark, our guide leader here at dinner tell Cliff to chill and give it a break — they are quietly having this conversation and Cliff is looking in disbelief that Mark is giving him this advice.  I can see how this is going to turn out — Cliff will now see Mark as an enemy.  A conversation then opened about a rain suit that Cliff bought and somehow for some reason Cliff said it was pink as a joke — German Marten explained to Cliff that his is not acceptable when we get into China — Cliff looked at Marten as if he could kill him any second — crazed and in disbelief.  The two went at it and I sat back watching the show.  I keep my mouth shut if you can believe that — I’m not into being the forth or fifth to get into a verbal brawl with Cliff.  Every other sole so far in this group seems to be into the ride easy going and absolutely without confrontation and fun living.  One exception was that German Marten yesterday went after Sri Lankan Feroz for talking while Mark was briefing during out team meeting.   Feroz does that all the time and I like Feroz, he is aggressive in a very nice way and I see him as a funny dude.  He laughs at his own jokes better than anyone else could and often talks about stuff while other conversations are going down that have nothing to do with the current conversation — its like watching a Quintin Tarantino film with multiple plots injected by Feroz.  Marten is as serious as they come and super strong in his disposition and opinion — he will not have it that some inferior Sri Lankan will talk over anyone.  I’m probably being hard on Marten who has a liking for this Phil, but its fun to see a pit bull go after a shocked nice man and observe the retaliation — and Feroz did confront Marten asking him to please back off — Marten did.  The rest of the group watched and we moved on — no harm done.

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