Aug 21. Tynda to Svobodny. 628 km
After a quick (and shitty) breakfast of Mountain Dew and the Russian equivalent of “pigs in a blanket” Kim and I were headed south out of Tynda. Kurt left the hotel later than us but Kim and I weren't going to wait. We had some distance to cover. I had 4 days to cover about 1800 km to get to Sveta's house on Saturday night after she got done with work. The first 160 km were various stages of construction. There were a few fun twisty gravel passes to be done. As Kim put it, I was “riding in MX mode”. So late in the morning we got to a cafe in Never. This is the junction of M58 (Trans-Siberian) and M56 (Road to Tynda and Magadan). Kim went to work changing out his fron tire for the street tire he was carrying and I sent John a text. I knew he would be getting close to Never riding from Ullan Ude. He had the $14 auto decompress weight that I had sent to Ullanbaatar. I needed the part when I was in Irkutsk before I started the BAM. I knew my buddy Matthew Johnson was still in UB at the time and the plan was he would meet us in Tynda to ride to Magadan. He blew up his XR400 south of Ullan Ude so he gave the part to John who continued the relay. John was riding with a Croatian guy on an overloaded Africa twin would join Kim and I for a few days. We sat in the Cafe chatting for about 3 hours. John was very interested in the BAM. I gave him as much info as I could. He was riding a well sorted KTM 690 and he would be meeting up with his wife again in Irkutsk in a few weeks. Their website here http://intotheworld.eu/ He would end up doing the BAM successfully solo east to west. Prior to doing the BAM, I was apprehensive about going solo. But after seeing it and knowing my ability, I would have felt comfortable riding it solo. Some of the wet bridges at the start would have been a bit hairy. But all in all, I felt very comfortable in my riding ability and never really felt in danger. Kim and I along with our new Croatian friend continued east on the Trans Siberian Highway another 450 km to Svobodny. The afternoon dragged on forever. Long straight road with not much change in scenery. We covered more distance in 5 hours than we were in 3 days on the BAM. This was not adventure travel. This was necessity travel. Point A to point B. Sveta called her friend Sergey and he gave us a free place to say and eat. Again the Russian motorcycle community welcomed us with open arms and open vodka bottles. He was a great fabricator and he had some interesting motos. He hand built a faring for his KLR out of aluminum. I had 2 tanks and held 50 liters. The front take was 35L and the rear was 15L. It would not be my first choice of bike to start a project like this, but as KLRs go, this was the coolest one I have ever seen. I had seen pictures of this bike on the internet prior so it was cool to see it in person.
|2 beautiful well traveled KTM 690s.|
Aug 22. Svobodny to camping near Obluche. 443 km
Sergey welded some stuff on the Atwin and traded a road tire to Kim for the knobbie he had on the rear. Then we were off. After about 200 km it was raining hard and it was time for some lunch. When we hit gravel in some construction areas, it was very clear that the overloaded Atwin pilot was not comfortable offroad. Kim and I would stand up and keep a fast pace while our friend would slow to a crawl. Toward evening we met a guy in a VW/Toyota truck from Germany. We would all camp together in the rain. We got to share some stories for about a half hour around the camp fire before it really stared to rain hard.
Aug 23. To Khabarovsk. 312 km
Kim and I left the other 2 guys. They seemed to travel better together. When we got closer to Khabarovsk we started to see the flooding. The Amur river was very very high and getting higher. August in Siberia was very wet this year. All the rivers were either fast and high or flooding. We found a nice hotel with a hot shower and internet. Kim would be riding toward Vladivostok in the morning and I would be riding to Komsomolsk to see Sveta. We got way to stuffed on Chinese food and passed out soon after.
|Flooding near Khabarovsk|
Aug. 24. Khabarovsk to Komsomolsk Na Amur. 426 km
I was very excited to start riding. I knew after a short 400 km day I would be with Sveta again. So though, I became worried. I hit a road closing. Traffic was being re-routed around the flooded area adding about 15 km. I was worried this would continue. Close to Khabarovsk, there are many roads so re-routing isn't a problem. But near Komsomolsk, there are not alternative routes. I was beginning to be worried then I came to stopped traffic. I rode past 2 km of back up cars to the front of the line. The road was in a lake. They had put dirt berms on either side but this didn't keep the water from going onto the road. They were working to add dirt on top of the road to make a “dry” route in one lane. I was scared I would not be able to continue. The police were trying to tell me that the water was to deep for me. I tried to explain to them where I had just come from the week before. Finally I showed them pictures of some water crossing on the BAM and they understood. After and hour of waiting we were able to go through. At one point the water was about 1' deep but riding on pavement is easier then rocks. Plus, there was no current. Childs play. Before I got to Komsomolsk Na Amur, I found a field of beautiful purple wild flowers. I needed to be prepared to see Sveta again. I got to Komsomolsk in the evening and Sveta met me out side of her building. I had been waiting for this moment more than anything else over the previous 2 months since I watcher her ride away in Ullan Ude. My hopes were high for what was to come.
Aug. 24 to 28. Komsomolsk Na Amur.
|There's those eye's that I thought about all through Siberia and Mongolia.|
At first it was great to be with Sveta. On Sunday we rode into the mountains to a lake. She wanted to ride on my KTM with me instead of on her moto. Life was good. But I soon realized that it was not the same for her as it was when we were traveling together. I knew she would not say but I could feel it. The rain continued and the Amur river continued to rise. Soon the garage where the motorcycles were parked would be underwater. Originally the plan was for me to wait for my Carnett with Sveta. That is what she suggested I do. It was time to make a decision. If I stayed and the water continued to rise, It could be a whole month before I might be able to leave. Sveta and I talk and she said she only wanted to be friends with me. I asked if I learned Russian would she want to be with me? No. The dream died here.
|The Last pic I have with my beard. I was 2 weeks from a 1 year beard and the barber lady didn't understand that I wanted to keep it. I have started over now.|
|From the 1980 Olympics.|
|She was the most fitting person to sign Russia on my moto.|
Aug. 29. Komsomolsk to Vanino. 526 km
I left in the morning in the Rain. This was perfect for my mood (sarcasm). Soon though I was on the road toward Vanino and the pavement turned to crap and then there was gravel and construction. I was riding it stand up like I was riding in Mongolia. It felt good to stretch the Katriana's legs and work her suspension. I worse the road is, the more engaged you are. You don't have time to feel cold or to feel sorry for yourself about a girl who rejected you. You feel the bike and you feel the road. You think about the rock 20 feet in front of you. You can't let your mind wander because then your front tire will also wander. You will move from your line and you will be snatched back to reality when you feel and hear the "dooonnggg!!" of hitting a large rock with your front tire. All you can say is "foook!... sorry girl" and continue. You think "that was bad.." but then realize it was nothing compared to the one that cracked your rim so you continue. I was planning to find a hotel and a bar in Vanino to tie one on while waiting for the ferry to Sakhalin. When I got there I found there was a ferry leaving that night so I decided to take it. I made some friends with Russian truckers and Got a nap in. The ferry would leave at 3:00 AM.
|Catch a nap here while waiting.|
|The rain died and it cleared up just before the boat left.|