Monday, September 30, 2013

Vitim River crossing day. Taksimo to Kaunda

Aug. 15. Taksimo to Camping on the Kaunda River. 113 km
We had breakfast in the cafe attached to the hotel and got food in the grocery store. The first 40 or so km to the Vitim river turn off is a fast, sandy, wide graded road. But soon after the turn off, we started finding interesting bridges and flooded road. About 20 km from the Vitim, we met some local Russian guys in a Chevy Niva. Niva is the 4x4 Lada but apparently the new ones are Chevy? Who knows. We talked with these guys and told them our plans. They told us a German guy a motorcycle went into the Vitim and died a few weeks ago. It was an overblown story made from rumors. But still, not really the type of story you want to hear an hour before you ride the bridge. Luckily for Kim and I, Kurt was nice enough to dump his bike in a small rocky water crossing... he wanted to give us some time before the bridge. It had to much water in the exhaust to fire. We tried to lift the front tire but that didn't get enough out. He took the exhaust off at the 2 into 1 collector and the motor was able to push the water out and fire then. While he was working, I caught some huge fish in the pond next to the road. The best part of the whole thing? There was a road the went up by the RR track shown to us by a Russian couple on a Ural/sidecar combo. We could have avoided this crossing.

Kurt trying to dry out his bike. 

Huge Siberian fish. 

Soon we were at the bridge and we started walking across it. Within the first 100 feet someone had burned 3 of the ties leaving a gap big enough to swallow a bike. It made us all nervous so we kept walking. Some people get to the bridge and ride across with out walking. This is crazy to me. We found a few more broken ties but they were near the end. On our way back across the bridge, a crowd was gathered. A group of Russians were camping close to the bridge who were on holiday from Moscow. We got to work fixing the bridge. 4 ties in total we replaced. Then we sat and drank tea with the Russians. One of them was trying to offer vodka. Really dude? You want to give me vodka . moments before I ride a bridge that could easily end my life? This is Russia. Before we were ready to go, we insisted that we remove the side stand from Kim's motorcycle. It had been catching slightly on some of the previous bridges. We didn't want to take any chances with his side stand getting snagged and ending the trip.

Near the end. 

Someone decided to have a fire on the bridge near the start. 

Tea on the bridge

New friends

I went first. At first you are riding between the metal tie plates but after ¼ of the bridge, there are no more plates. This is when I stopped concentrating on where my tires were/keeping my balance. This is where I realized “oh fuck. I'm actually doing it. God damn that water is moving fast. I hear a train.. I want to look but I can't”. Then that moment lasts for much longer then you would think and soon you are at the middle. I pulled in the clutch, slowed down a little, let out the clutch as I started to climb the bump and rode off the other side. At this point I stopped being nervous This was what I was worried about. The last half of the bridge has wide gaps between the ties so you would think it would be more bumpy. I didn't notice much. Also there are wood planks on either side where 4x4 tires would be. This is no problem because you ride in the middle anyway. The last ¼ of the bridge has some messed up boards running parallel to the planks. They get very skinny. I was standing up the whole way across because otherwise I can't see my front tire/fender. There was one sketchy moment when I rubbed the boards on my right and had to lean the bike some. 100 feet from the end the boards stop and there was 1 more “widow maker” which you wont feel because you will be throttling to the gravel.

Kim then Kurt rode across with no problems. Soon we were riding through the town of Kaunda on the way to a great campsite on a bluff overlooking the Kaunda river. We were all happy and relieved to be done with the Vitim. We sat around a campfire spreading bullshit until after dark. We all slept well.

Our awesome camp spot

And finally, video of the crossing.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

BAM Part 1. Servobaikalsk to Taksimo

Aug. 11. Severobaikalsk to Novy Uoyan 237 km.
We got a late start leaving Servobaikalsk. We thought it would get to Novy Uoyan early so we would have time to change Kurt and Kim's tires. They were saving the nobbie tires for the offroad. It was only 183 km from Servobaikalsk but I would end up doing much more. Most of the day was paved road. We were making good time and about 1 in the afternoon I stopped on a bridge to wait for Kim and Kurt. We ate a nice lunch of smoked sardines, cheese, bread and some coffee cookie/cake things from the store we bought earlier. A Russian guy on a 2 stroke/sidecar combo pulled up and offered us coffee. Soon after a guy in a lifted Toyota truck pulled up. It seems we had quite the party on that bridge. We packed up and started to leave and that's when Kim noticed he had a flat tire. The patch that was put on a few days earlier had failed. I made Kim a rim strip from an old tube and he put his new Mitas C02 on the rear. While he was putting the tire back on, he noticed the front bolt for the link was snapped. It had worked its way out and destroyed the bearing. I took the link, bolt, bearing pieces and what was left of the bushing in to Novy Uoyan. I met a kid who took me to a store that had different bolts, bushings and bearings. Probably all for Lada, UAЗ, GAЗ or KAMAЗ. I was able to find a bushing that would go into the bearing correctly but it needed a bigger bolt. I got some stuff.. about $6 worth and hauled ass back to Kim and Kurt. Kim went to work filing the hole for the bolt so the new one would fit, I was repacking the bearings and cleaning the chunks of metal out, and Kurt filled the bushing down so it would fit between the tabs on the frame. Kim was cursing the BMW and he was in a bad place. We had the talk that it is what it is. You can fix it, we can help.. or.. well that's really the only option. Tonight/tomorrow we can decide if you continue. 45 minutes later the suspension was ready to put back together. Soon we were at a guest house where we could shower and find some food. We walked to a cafe/bar. The lady is not in a good mood. She was cute if she would smile. We try to joke but she isn't impressed. We try to order off the menu but she tells us what she has.. 1 salad, 1 main, 1 soup. 3 of each and 3 beers then. Only one other table used out of 10 or so. It is occupied by a group of 4 Russian guys in their 20s/30s drinking vodka, eating and muttering stuff under their breath loud enough so we can hear. I make out a few words that confirm to me that they don't want us here. We ignore them and have a good conversation and great food. We convinced Kim that the trip wasn't over for him and anything is possible to fix. We just have to find the right people in the morning. After the men left the girl is willing to joke with us. I know what this game is.. don't mess with the aliens while the locals are around. They will give you shit about it later. We all sleep well to the sound of the rain outside. 

Fireweed everywhere. 


What happens when the bolt breaks.

Doing surgery on the bearings.

Kim using a vicegrips on clamped onto a round file to make the holes big enough to accept a larger bolt. 

Done and packing. 

Sick new tire!

Safe place to park/sleep for the night. 
Aug. 12. Novy Uoyan to Camp spot. 101 km.
Kim and Kurt went to work changing their tires in the morning. Kim had a non DOT Mitas C-05 for the front. Combined with the C-02 on the rear, it looked like the bike could actually go somewhere. Kurt left a relatively new TKC80 on the front and put a Mitas E09 on the rear. While they were doing this, I went in search for a lath. The idea was to make a brass bushing with a grease cert and replace the bearing all together in the front of the linkage. I met a police who told me to follow him to a large sawmill yard. We went in a shop and met a Siberian machinist. I told him what I needed and I was not sure if he fully understood. I thought I would go to get Kim because he can speak Russian pretty well. When we got back, the machinist was gone. A few minutes later he pulled up with a chunk of brass. About an hour and 500p later we had a new bushing with cert ready to be installed. I wish I had taken pictures of the shop but I wasn't thinking. $15 for a bushing that will probably be better then the original as long as Kim kept pushing new grease in. We were ready to go after a quick lunch at the same cafe as the night before. The locals were there again but they didn't seem to want to be assholes like they were the night before. About 2 we finally left town. The road was soft wet sand. It had rained the night before so the sand was nice and tacky. Kim and Kurt both expressed they were glad it wasn't dry. It would be interesting on those 2 bikes. We stopped to check on Kims bike and found he had a new problem. The right side chain adjustment had broken. We took the one from the left and put it on the right. I began to look through my stuff to find something that would work. The KTM wrench would be perfect. I bent it to the right angle, used a washer, tightened the bolt and zip-tied it to keep it from going into the brake. This fix and the bushing would last until Kim shipped his bike back to France from Vladivostok. Soon it started to rain and we found a great camping spot next to a swollen river. We slept well but everything got wet. It rained all night.

Looks mean with new shoes.

Wet beach sand. Would have been sloppy if it was dry. 

Fixing the Dakar again. 

Finally found a use for the KTM axle wrench. 

Not about to try to ride it in the wet. 

Aug. 13. To Taksimo 191 km.
It rained most of the morning. We came to many bridges that were very slick. Not something we wanted to ride. Well, I wanted to ride them but I didn't want to end my trip in the bottom of a river. So we pushed across many of them. We ate in Severomuysk at a small cafe. Borscht and noodles with a liver meat sauce over them. The guys in this town were great and wanted to know all about our trip. We continued on to Taksimo. Wet bridges and rocky water crossings were the story of the day. We came to one river where 5 cars were waiting on either side. A Kamaz was pulling the cars through in each direction. We knew we would be taking the RR bridge. Someone had used a dozer to plow up every access to the RR grade for 5 km back to the west. There was a control house/substation with enough room between the fence and rocks set in place to make it so 4x4s can't get by. After the bridge it was less then 1 km to a road/RR crossing. Kurt ran out of fuel about 25 km out of Taksimo. I was riding with Kim because his headlight was not working. I don't know if it was from dripping in a river or vibration. I went back to find Kurt while Kim went ahead. He needed to get as far as possible while there was still light. Finally we got to Taksimo after dark. We went to 3 different hotels on the way points but all were full. Must have been because of the mining. We found the 4th hotel and they had a room. We ate chips, instant soup and beer for dinner because every place to buy food or eat was closed.

"Fun" wet bridges.

Kurt tried to do a Dale Earnhardt into the wall. 

Skidmarks into the wall. 

I tipped her over in the water. A little in the exhaust.. but she fired. 

There's a road here somewhere. 

Kurt getting it. 

They wanted a picture. 

Not sure why the bumpers were missing. 

The impossible river crossing. 

The bridge we crossed instead. 

This was the first "good" bridge we saw for a while

Aug. 14. Taksimo

We decided to take a day to dry out in Taksimo. We went to the more modern hotel in town which had internet. Our room had no windows and with our gear, it smelled very bad very quickly. It was hot as hell that night in there and none of us slept well. But, they did have internet. We cooked pelmeni and ate smoked fish with guys working in the mine. We drank beer and went to bed. Most of the night we left the door open to try and cool the stinky dungeon down. It didn't work very well. Kim and Kurt took turns snoring but i'm sure I joined in on the symphony when I was actually sleeping also.

And a video to go along with it.