Slyudyanka – Babushkin Bike Ride
Thursday August 20, 2009
106 miles, 13.4 mph average
Rider’s notes follow the narrative.
This is what a sunrise looks over Lake Baikal from my tent this morning.
It’s pretty darn cold. 45 degrees. You can see your breath. Alexsey warms last night’s chicken and rice, and we eat it again for breakfast. He also hard boils some eggs on his little gas stove. Not as bad as it sounds. It rained a bit at night. The tent and fly are soaked. We pack it up and move out.
Maybe 10 miles into the day, I ride past a little village with this rocket statue along the main road. Russian towns and cities love big signs. I had to take the picture looking back because of the direction of the sun, but it’s still cool.
Once the sun comes up, things start warming rapidly, maybe 1 degree every 15 minutes. I start peeling off the layers…
This picture of a seemingly non-descript section of M55 might not seem like much to you, but this is the first decent (3 miles) stretch of almost straight, kinda flat road I’ve seen in two days. The trees on both sides are representative of the region. Most of the time I can’t see Baikal (Baikal = Lake Baikal) or the Trans Siberian Railway, which hugs the shore.
Another bit on, we come to this grand sign. Transitioning from the Irkutsk Region to the Bayat Region. I try my cell phone to call Lisa… no service.
I ride past a few little villages today. Maybe a couple/few dozen homes with fenced in gardens. These people don’t waste time on yards. It’s planted or gone to weed.
Yesterday I had lunch around 1pm at 43 miles. Today, same time, starting an hour later, and I’m at 63 miles. The rolling hills here sometimes climb steeply for a couple hundred feet, but it’s nothing like yesterday was. I ask Alexsey to find a pretty place for lunch and he locates us one next to the TSRR, along a little river.
(Side Note: Alexsey leaves off his shirt in the sun, with no lotion, and smokes lots of cigarettes each day. Russian males live to an average of only 61, while the women live to 73. At least he doesn’t vodka… the supermarkets are stocked with dozens of brands.)
Coming back on the M-55 after lunch, there’s a road sign indicating 224k to Ulan Ude, about 135 miles. Good news. And here’s a shot of a train going by while the tracks are next to the road.
Alexsey does a great job of supporting. He stops every 10-15 miles wherever he wants and waits by the side of the road. Here’s shots of me riding and him waiting, and a train going by. I like the trains….
Alexsey next waits at a little market in a little town about 10k before Babushkin. We go in and buy 4 smoked omul (the preferred (and very tasty) eating fish of Lake Baikal – skin one side, eat, pull out the spine, eat the other side), rice, tomatoes and – and two larger bottles of Stella Artois– for dinner. I send him off to see if he can find yogurt and fruit juice, and ride on. Maybe 12k east of town, we find a river, sneak under the TSRR, and find another excellent place to camp.
Though the dirt road under the bridge etc. to get here was crappy, there was/is a small community of seemingly upscale dachas less than 1k east of us. No wonder. It is a beautiful spot.
Lot’s of mosquitoes here, but Alexsey is in his swimming trunks getting our dinner together. I of course need to wash up in the cold, but stunningly clear water of Baikal.
Oh, and did I mention the two larger size bottles of Stella cooling in the lake?
All in all, a great/perfect day of riding and camping. Setting up/cooking dinner/cleaning takes an hour out of the day, as does taking down/cooking breakfast/cleaning up (we leave no trace in a land of trash) the next morning. However, if I could always camp like this, I would.
Both nights camping we are maybe .5k north of the TSRR. My guess is a train goes by every 15 minutes during the day, every half hour at night. Electric powered, mostly freight, lots of unit trains (coal, oil, funky containers), and occasional passenger. It’s so darn quiet here you can hear them from a ways out, and when they come closest, it’s like you’re camping right next to the tracks.
Rider’s notes: There’s a couple of moderate climbs coming out of Slyudyanka, but then it’s reasonable rollers (up to maybe 300 feet, 1 km) along the way. I forgot to recharge the Garmin (it only holds up for a day without a charge) last night, so I can’t give you good details. Be prepared to go an easy 30+ miles between any kind of gas station or café.