Crash in Novosibirsk – the Real Story

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Well it’s now time to come clean on an defining-moment event that took place in Siberia just outside Novosibirsk on Wednesday morning, August 29th…on my actual post I only mentioned a mechanical issue that required some local support – while most of the details I posted were accurate, the bike falling off the center kick stand was not.  Again, my mom is going through treatments in her battle with cancer, and I just couldn’t post all the details of my accident.

The following was from my actual post from August 29 – 31 – everything is accurate except for the “minor event”:

Wednesday started out like most of my Rally mornings except this day changed the entire flow with such a seemingly minor event.

While at my fuel stop just outside of Novosibirsk, I rolled my bike up on the center kick stand only to have it turn over in the parking lot breaking both the clutch lever and adjustment ferrule making it impossible to ride.

After some thought and not having a clue as to where I might get parts, I turned to my contact list provided by Max Karnarsky, president & CEO of Multi-Radiance – the list included biker club contacts across Russia. Max works in the healthcare business like me and was born in Belarus and after coming to the US many years ago, has remained in contact with many folks in that part of the world.

I reached to Kirill in Novosibirsk with the Siberian Bears and he and a friend, Andre, drove out 40 miles within the hour with a trailer to load the bike and return to their body shop…Let the hunt for parts begin!

Before I go there, Kirill also provided me with the keys to a 7th floor apartment in downtown Novosibirsk as my place to stay…newly renovated it was the perfect spot and belonged to his friend, Vitaliy, a member if the Siberian Bears in Omsk. I was wondering to myself why Kirill provided me with the apartment so early and it wasn’t long after I realized why…

As an aside, the reason for no blog updates is I had no web access….

There are no Suzuki dealers in Novosibirsk and very few dealers of motorcycles for that matter…we spent one and a half days visiting bike shop after bike shop trying to come up with a replacement parts solution and as as luck would have it, the last place came up with a used part match that would work.

Both Kirill and bis wife Mikasha were wonderful hosts treating me to breakfast, lunch & dinners and hauling me around town in my parts quest.

The actual details of the “minor event”:

While making my way across Siberia I had been searching for that defining moment for my trip around the world and I got what I’d been looking for from an unfortunate event that took place at about 9:30 in the morning on Wednesday, August 29th about 60 kilometers outside Novosibirsk.  It was one of those typical mornings on my ride and I was traveling about 100 kph or about 65 mph, when I noticed a vehicle, a YaG – 2206 (old Soviet miliary vehicle), moving slowly ahead on the 2-lane highway.  I signaled left and moved into the left oncoming lane of traffic to pass when I noticed the vehicle begin to make a left turn into my lane.  I immediately began to apply my brakes and turn to the left to avoid a collision and unfortunately I struck his left front bumper and fender with my right rear pannier.  While it was somewhat of a glancing blow, the impact at about 45 mph sent me to the pavement, road shoulder and field.  I impacted the ground face-first and on my left shoulder finally coming to rest several hundred feet from the road.

Those of you that have been in a similar situation often note that the event typically seems to occur in slow motion and this one followed suit.  Just as I struck the vehicle, I remember saying to myself, “I’m in a tight spot” from the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou” knowing that I was having a collision with a Russian national in the middle of Siberia and the outcome could be nothing but dismal at best.  Secondly, as I impacted the ground, I thought, “Man, that was a tough shot” since I hit the ground quite hard and lastly, I as stood up in the field looking at the roadway and other vehicle and saying to myself once more, “I’m in a tight spot”.

The next sequence of events can only be attributed to either fate or the Forrest Gump Effect with things seemingly beginning to go in my favor.

As I stood up to begin my assessment of the situation, which quite frankly didn’t seem very favorable, two young men on dual sport bikes like the one I was riding came running down into the field to ask me if I was alright and to help pick up the bike.  Both spoke good English and were from Moscow on holiday on their bikes in Siberia – there names were Mike & Max – both were professionals with Mike working for a software company and Max for a telecom company in technical support.

For the next 5 and a half hours both Mike & Max remained on the scene to translate for the police, sign documents and advise me…this was fast becoming my defining moment given they were a 3 day ride back home to Moscow and each having no obligation to help me.  Since that day I have had many, many thoughts about what the outcome might have been without their assistance and the only scenario I can come up with is bleak at best.  Many of the other details of that day were correctly reported in my blog, with Mike reaching out to Kirill with the Siberian Bears and both he and Andre also driving the 40 miles with their trailer to transport the bike back to Novosibirsk.

However, Mike, Max & Kirill also spoke with the local police on scene which took almost 2 hours for them to arrive.  They answered questions on my behalf, assisted the police with diagramming the accident and attended my hearing with the the police commissoner, that’s right a hearing to determine who was at fault in the accident – felt like I was on the TV show, “Siberian Justice with Judge Yuri”.  Do you not think that the word Gulag came my mind as events of the day continued to unfold.

Fortunately, I was exonerated in the accident and the Russian driver was cited for not clearing the lane before making the left hand turn…I can only attribute the favorable outcome to the support I received from Mike, Max & Kirill on scene that day.  There was even a moment when the police asked if I had a gift for them and I, of course, reached deep into my panniers to give them a couple of Jack Daniels mini-bottles…hey, you play in Russia like the Russian’s play.  I doubt the fellas in the YaG had any gifts to offer and I’m sure that all played in my favor.

My defining moment was the extraordinary support I initially received from Mike & Max and, likewise, the support that followed with Kirill and Andre.  It has caused me to re-evaluate at what lengths I would go to support another person in a similar situation…be assured this event has changed me forever in that regard.  Their selflessness goes so far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life – this is the essence of truly giving on oneself to help another and transends simply writing a check to a charity with the belief you are somehow truly that giving as an example…these guys defined giving for me.

Here’s Part 2 to further exemplify that defining moment of what it truly means to give…

After saying my goodbyes to Mike & Max and thanking them over and over before they headed back to Moscow, I returned to Novosibirsk with Kirill and he insisted that I go to the hospital to get examined.  I was quite sore from waist to my shoulders with my ribs and chest being the most uncomfortable.  After x-rays and a consult with the doctor, I fortunately did not have any broken ribs, but was quite bruised and very uncomfortable.

Next Kirill took me to a very nice restaurant for some dinner and to meet his wife Mikasha.  While I was sipping on a cold draught beer and eating Russina Pelmeni, a dumpling originating in Siberia filled with ground meat and spices, I mentioned to Kirill what a bad day this was.  He raised his beer and say, “this is not a bad day, this is a good day.  You are having a cold beer, eating pelmini with friends and you are OK from your accident.”  I thought about what he said for a moment and realized for the first time that he was right…I was very fortunate to say the least.

After dinner, Kirill took me to an apartment in downtown Novosibirsk which was to become my home for the next two nights…it was newly renovated complete with new furniture and appliances.  Kirill said he would pick me up the next morning at 10 and we’d start looking for parts for the bike – keep in mind there are no Suzuki dealers in Siberia and no motorcycle dealers of new bikes for that matter.

The next morning Kirill arrived and we had a late breakfast with his wife – she actually works for the equivalent of a Google in Russia.  We drove all over Novosibirsk looking for parts at various motorcycle stores finally finding what we needed at the last spot at about 4:30 that afternoon…they were used parts that would work on the bike.

On to Andre’s shop and the first time I’d seen the bike since the accident, I was completely disheartened by what I saw – the bike was almost completely disassembled and I needed to be back on the road the following morning if I even had a chance of making London in time to drop the bike off for shipping back to North America.  Even with the language barrier, Kirill seemed to sense my disappointment but he kept saying he understood and that the bike would be completed.  I only wanted the bike serviceable for the ride to London and they continued to repair & straighten things I felt were totally unnecessary.  I wasn’t quite sure what was going on…could only imagine how much this was going to cost with several working diligently on the bike.  At midnight, Kirill said he would return in about an hour and I was left alone with Andre.  Once alone, I asked Andre how much I owed him and he said nothing…I continued to press him and he continued to saying that I owned him nothing.  At this point I was confused by his responses and waited for Kirill to return.

As he said, Kirill returned and with his 17 year old daughter Ann, who was in her first year of college…she had a command of English and he wanted me to not only meet her, but to have her translate some questions he had for me.  The main topic of discussion was the accident, insurance claims and other things he wanted clarified.  After about a half hour, we were on our way back to the apartment and I asked Kirill how much I owed him for all they had done for me these last 2 days and he responded, “Nothing”.  I was completely speechless for a moment – let’s see…feeding me for 2 days, allowing me to stay in an apartment for 2 days, driving all around the city looking for parts for a day, driving out to assist with the accident, transporting the bike back to Novosibirsk and finally repairing the bike – all for nothing!

I honestly felt upset with myself for even questioning their intentions.  I continued to press Kirill for an amount and he finally said, “100 dollars.”  I could hardly believe what I heard and instead I gave him $400…that’s $200 each for both Kirill and Andre – such a small price to pay for such extraordinary measures they took to take care of me.

I find myself constantly wondering just how I might ever repay Mike, Max, Kirill & Andre for their selflessness – they defined for me just what that truly means and the power & bond of the motorcycle community around the globe…utterly amazing.

The success of my around the world journey lies completely with the pivotal support I received on those 2 days in Siberia – without it, the outcome of Rally Around the World would have been different.  My sincerest & deepest thank you goes out to you – Mike, Max, Kirill & Andre and for enlightening me on what it means to truly give…you became the defining moment of my journey.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

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