Vladivostok, Russia – Day 26

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Wednesday, 22 August 2012 Vladivostok, Russia (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hours riding

Weather Temperature in the upper 50’s & lower 60’s with driving wind and rain

NOTE Expect to be back on the road tomorrow following the Siberian Railroad route to Moscow…good possibility I’ll have some limited access to phone & internet services over the next 2 weeks. Please continue to check my blog daily for all updates.

Expected Schedule
23 August – Khabarovsk
24/25 August – Skovorodino
26 August – Chita
27 August – Irkutsk
28 August – Krasnoyarsk
29 August – Novosibirsk
30 August – Omsk
31 August – Tyumen
1 September – Ufa
2 September – Novgorod
3 September – Moscow
3/4 September – Russian/Latvian Border

Awakened this morning by driving heavy rains & winds – sounds like a train going by outside my hotel room…decided to just relax most of the day and prepare my gear for the bike.

After finishing lunch at the hotel cafe, I walked down to the train station to snap a few pictures of the Siberian Railroad train and pose in front of the monument marking the end of the line for the historic train in Vladivostok – 9288 kilometers and the basic route I’ll be taking beginning tomorrow. I met a couple from Australia, Malcolm & Jan, the evening before that had just completed the Moscow to Vladivostok trip and mentioned the monument – just had to get my picture at that historic spot…of course I did!

Just after 3pm, Svetlana with Links, Ltd stopped by the hotel to pick me up for our appointment with the customs office…she also said she needed to swing by the ferry terminal and pick two people for the same purpose. After arriving at the customs office, I introduced myself and learned they were from Argentina – their names are Julian & Lorena along with their riding partner, Trico, who they picked up in Spain 9 years ago. Trico even carries a passport from Spain – there are countries like Japan that require a 6 month quarantine period and he is forced to live with relatives from time to time…you just can’t make this stuff up!

Together, they have been on the road for about 10 years working from country to country…some 80 plus often camping or staying with people they meet along their journey.

The customs process took about 3 hours…seems just about everything takes about 3 hours in Russia!

For dinner I had traditional Siberian dumplings & a Jack on the rocks to help commemorate the beginning of a ride I have dreamed about & planned for several years…many hours of thought, sweat, money now comes down to the next few weeks…I’m excited and blessed to have family, friends and co-workers supporting me – without them, I would not be at this place in time. Can’t help but think of an old song from the 80’s by Phil Collins that sums things up, “In the Air Tonight”…I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.

Tomorrow morning I am meeting Svetlana at the terminal to pick up the bike, pay my customs & port fees and hit the road bound for Kharabovsk…this is for Isabel, Adrianna, Amelia and all kids struggling in this fight against cancer…Rally On!

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!

Vladivostok, Russia – Day 25

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Tuesday, 21 August 2012 Vladivostok, Russia (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hours riding

Weather Temperature in the low 80’s and humid with heavy fog in the morning and clearing to party cloudy skies

First night in Vladivostok went fine even with the interesting accomodations…no A/C and a bit humid with the bed at an all time best for hardness!  Anyhow, Shanon made a great suggestion that I just add my camping mattress to the bed…that sure beats sleeping on the ground somewhere!  Also, I was updating my blog last night in the hall of the 8th floor near the salon and the mosquitoes were having a field day on my legs – enough so that I went back to the room for some insect repellent…I may also need to pitch the tent on the ajoining twin bed for added mosquito protection – you just can’t make this stuff up!

The salon was still open for business late last night past 11 pm with their TV blasting & folks enjoying their favorite cigarettes…like a late night gathering spot.  Most people on the floor left their doors open for venilation playing games, listening the the TV & drinking…college dorm living at its best seems to most accurately describe the evening.

Culturally a number of things are a bit different in this part of the world and one is the hotel entertainment spot  – just off the restaurant entrance, is a hotel club with neon lights: Billiards, Karaoke, Strip Club, Sauna & Casino…guess that bout covers it – every vice in one tightly wrapped package!

Was up about 5:30 this morning and had breakfast at the hotel restaurant Summit…the meal is included in the hotel stay and the place was quite busy with guests…the buckwheat, porage oats & diced hot dogs were to die for – probably going to have a difficult time sleeping tonight with all the anticipation on what’s instore for the next mornings dining experience.

Decided to get out & about and tour the city and its best to described Vladivostok as a port city with a strong European flare.  People are neatly dressed in contemporary attire for the most part; not unlike what you might find in the US…the city is thriving and going through quite a bit of urban renewal with the upcoming APEC Summit in just under a month; the city is also putting the finishing touches on what will be the largest suspension bridge in the world  The city of about 600,000 & founded in 1860 is a huge naval port for the Russian navy supporting its Pacific fleet and is the largest port of entry for a wide range of goods from around the world on the Russian east coast.

I also made a trip back to the ship passenger terminal hoping to get a glimpse of my bike in the customs yard, but instead, watched a bit as they unloaded excavator after excavator and car after car from the DBS Ferry…quite incredible how many vehicles were transported in the bottom of that vessel – some 70 cars, 20 containers and an untold number of excavators.

Decided to have an early dinner just above the port and below the hotel at a patio restaurant and, unfortunately, I was unable to translate the Russian letters…the manager did pronounce it for me a couple of time, but I just couldn’t quite connect.  I have to say it was one of the better meals I’ve had since leaving on my  trip and being that it was also outside overlooking the city and water, it was more to my taste.  It was a contemporary spot with modern music and a broad menu.  I decided on the Greek salad, pork rib, sauteed vegetables, sliced potatoes broiled with parmasean cheese & spices and all topped off with a 0.5L draft beer.

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!

Dong Hae, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia – Day 24

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Monday, 20 August 2012 Dong Hae, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hours riding

Weather Temperature in the low 80’s and humid with clouds & rain

While underway on the DBS Ferry, I met two Russians at the bar: Alexey, who sells used cars in a city about 100km from Vladivostok and was in Korea buying Hyundai’s, KIA’s and other cars speaking some English and Victor, who’s in his early 20’s with a masters degree in sociology and speaks good English – great having someone to translate. We talked about just about everything including American politics – unbelievable how much people from other parts of the globe know about the US.

It had been a long day for all of us and we each decided to turn in for the evening.

Finally met my roomate after calling it a night at about 10 pm…since the DBS Ferry only provides one key per room & I was batting second, I had to go to the information desk several times to get a crew member to let me in – no sign of him…no bags although he was checked in and had the key.

About an hour after I got settled in the room, I heard the door open and this Russian man who looked to be in his mid 50’s & neatly dressed in a polo shirt and jeans, stepped inside turning the light on. I immediately popped up to introduce myself & asked if he spoke English.

“Very little”, he said with a strong Russian accent and that pretty much ended things for the night although I did ask his name…”Alexander”, he said. Even with a bit of uneasiness sleeping only a couple of feet from someone I knew so little about, I did manage to sleep pretty well…keep in mind I was in 1st Class with 2nd & 3rd Class offering 8 in a room & 72 in a room respectively.

At about 6 am I heard him stir and leave the room…after about 15 minutes or so, I got up for another one of my sponge baths since the men’s shower room was on the second deck and at the other end of the ship…one night without a shower didn’t make much difference to me.

For breakfast, I went to the bar and ordered the “American-style” breakfast…one egg over easy, quartered bread not toasted, some kind of SPAM-type meat lightly fried and lettuce & tomatoes – not quite sure where you might find that kind of breakfast in the US – surely not Waffle House, but it worked being I was out in the East Sea several thousand miles from Nashville.

Headed to a seating area on third deck and saw Alexander with a couple of Korean-Russians and asked if I could join them. Ends up that Alexander has been a truck driver for his entire life making many trips across the Siberian route – he was a huge source of information even with the language barrier. He dis keep smiling and giving me a thumbs up when we talked about my trek across Russia on the bike…I wasn’t sure whether that was a good or bad sign.

The ferry arrived promptly in port at 2 pm local time…I’m now 16 hours ahead of the central time zone by the way. I couldn’t help but think about one of my good friends from home, Chuck, when it came time to disembark the ferry…a mere 3 hours of aggravation to say the least. Given the language barrier and ship security only allowing people off in groups of about 25, it was shear agony. I couldn’t help but to question what I’d gotten myself into with this trip – I absolutely must have been smoking some Dutch Cleanser I thought to myself!

While standing in line, I gave Yuri Melnikov with Links, Ltd a call asking about my next steps on clearing the bike through customs over the next few days…he said he’d have his assistant meet me at the DBS Ferry office once I cleared customs.  Yuri Melnikov can be reached at Links, Ltd at +7-423-222-0887, +7-902-524-3447(mobile) or ymelnik@links-ltd.com

After finding the office and peeking my head inside, a young woman said, “You must be Brad Thompson”, in very good English – and she told me her name was Svetlana. She started by asking a couple of questions and first recommended that I cancel my hotel reservation for one much closer to the docks making it easier to collect the bike especially since she needed to pick me up to visit the customs office on Wednesday afternoon allowing me to complete the necessary documents & payments so I can get the bike on Thursday morning. She also arranged the hotel booking with the Azimut Hotel and drove me and my gear there to check in….are you kidding me, this all would be virtually impossible with their assistance!

Once checking into the hotel, I just sat in the crazy, busy lobby to just unwind…what a day it had been.

Ended up having dinner at the hotel…a buffet-style affair that wasn’t very impressive, but hey, I was hongry and didn’t have to leave the hotel.

Details on my deluxe, economy accommodations tomorrow…yeah, deluxe alright!

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!

Dong Hae, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia – Day 23

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Sunday, 19 August 2012 Dong Hae, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hours riding

Weather Temperature in the low 90’s and hot & humid with partly cloudy skies

Boarded the DBS Ferry, Eastern Dream bound for Vladivostok, Russia departing Dong Hae at 2 pm local time. The boarding process went very well and even had a crew member help carry my gear to my room. The room is a small two-bed cabin that I will be sharing with a Russian although I haven’t met him as of yet – just saw his name on his boarding pass left in the room.

The ferry has all the amenities including a restaurant, bar & night club…just a miniature version of the larger cruise ships most of us are accustomed to.

Was sitting at the bar having Jack Daniels on the Rocks with a tear in my eye to remind me of what it would be like to be home…starting to miss it quite a bit frankly, when a crew member came up to me saying I was needed down on the dock. Guess I was confused by Louis Kang’s instructions to meet him prior to boarding.

Anyhow, I’m not too difficult to spot with gray hair and a go-tee in this part of the world and when I got down on the dock, Louis was there to greet me – he needed me to ride the bike onboard and leave the key. At least now, I am absolutely sure it made it onboard.

Will most likely be out of picket for the 24 hours or so while at sea…I’m outta here!

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!