10 September 2003
123 km, 75 miles ***
In some sense it’s kind of a shame this trip is coming to an end. The whole europe2003 ride from Lisbon to Moscow has been healthy, educational and character building. On this last day of the last segment Charlie and I are really getting used to (resigned to) riding in nearly continuous bad conditions. We’re in great shape and cover flat ground at almost 20mph/32kph now. Maybe it was just a good night’s sleep in a decent place (the Russian Military Hotel outside Mozajsk) last night, but we’re both in good spirits.
We rode south out of the woods, into Mozajsk, turned east and headed toward Moscow on the same 2 lane country road we ended yesterday on. Now, for the first time, it had nice shoulders. There wasn’t much to photograph, so we did last day action shots of ourselves. Here’s Charlie and me around 9AM.
We rode the first 50km very quickly and skipped our break at 40km as Alexandr and Yuri had yet to catch up. We waited out some rain at a bus stop, without any drinking beverages, sharing a last and only Power-type-bar, then started out again. When the support caught up, we took a second break.
As we approached Moscow the road got heavily over-trafficked. Many of the side streets were mud and the entering heavy vehicles turned the pretty road above into potholed slop. About 30km from Red Square things became very urban (buildings, mostly multi-story, as far as you could see in all directions), the road switched to 4 lanes and got very busy. I took this shot of an arch which looked like a welcome to Moscow sign to me, but we were still out in the burbs.
Our road then merged with our old friend, the M1 and became about 8 lanes. The highways just flow into city roads, with traffic lights, driveways, bus stops, etc. right next to 60 mph traffic.
We passed by the new memorial park to “The Great Patriotic War” and stopped for a couple photos. Here’s Yuri and Charlie (under the usual cloudy wet skies). This park was just built in 1995 (after peristrokia). It’s huge, containing the oblisk, a large curved memorial, and apparently ships, tanks, cannon and other weapons of war from all the nationalities that fought scattered in the trees. The Russians lost 26,000,000 people in this war.
In approximately the same place we came upon both the Russian version of the Arch de Triumph (after Napoleon went to Moscow in 1812, the Russians marched into Paris in 1814) and the first Moscow sign we saw.
Alexandr and Yuri tried to kill us the last few miles. We rode through the most chaotic, highly-trafficked roads I’ve ever been on. It was like riding in a real-life action video game, with your life at stake – traffic from Rome on steroids.
It got so bad that the bikes became a much faster way through town than the Lada. We waited at an intersection while Alexandr ran up through traffic to give us final directions to Red Square, then ran back to the car.
We finally made it. Here’s Charlie and Bob at Red Square, followed by another shot of just me that shows St. Basils, Lenin’s Tomb and the Kremlin better.
Red Square was closed! Terrorists? George Bush Sr.’s planned visit (business trip) coming up that weekend? No one would tell us, but you couldn’t get within 1,000 feet of Lenin. After cokes, handshaking, looking around, we exited the square next to the Russian National History Museum…
(We were just behind the barricades at the lower right of the museum.) … and came to a metal monument embedded into the ground. People would stand in the middle of it, toss a coin over their shoulder and then one from a group of poor, little-old ladies would run up and pick up the coin.
Alexandr informed us that this was the “center of Russia” – a point from which all distances were measured. That sounded good, so we laid our bikes on it and took another photo.
Then it was a two mile ride back west to our hotel – the Marco Polo.
We’re back in civilization. **** accommodations and service. Great food. Warmth. Why did the sun come out as soon as we got off our bikes?
The last thing we did with Alexandr and Yuri was a dinner in “Red Square 1”, the restaurant in the basement of the Russian National History Museum (photo above) next to the Kremlin. More merriment. We signed into the Moscow Bike Touring Club giant book of memories and got little pennants onto which Alexandr wrote some Russian stuff.
This, I think, was the official end of the europe2003 ride.
I haven’t added up the actual mileage (3,400?) and days from Lisbon to Moscow, but know that we got to ride through 9 countries, four of which (Czech Republic, Poland, Belarus and Russia) that were new to me. We need to thank some people here:
– CHARLIE WALKER – who made it all the way with heart, spirit and stamina. It’s different riding with someone than alone, and there’s nobody better to ride with than Charlie.
– Other fellow riders: BRYAN LAWSON in Part I. The Big Team: LISA RENSTROM, SUSIE PERKOWITZ, STEVE DELVECCHIO, DAVE PERKOWITZ, BILL CAPPS, JASON CAPPS and DON “the man” HUDSON in part II.
– The Support: SYLVIA LEGUELLEC in Part II and ALEXANDER EROFEEV and YURI with the trusty Lada for the last 8 days of Part III. It wasn’t easy, but you guys did a great job. Also, to VLADIMIR FLIPPOV of the Russian Bicycle Touring Club for helping with the support arrangements in Belarus and Russia.
– THE AUDIENCE: The 130 of you who followed along on the website. Your comments and good cheer were like a mail from home during a war. Many of you are great friends or family to me, Charlie or one of the other riders. Thanks for enriching our lives.
– The immediate family: Lisa, Alex, Tom, and Betty, and Ada, and of course Tigger, Bugs, Mickey – for letting me go and supporting me throughout this and other somewhat irrational activities.
– The original family: I haven’t dedicated any of these rides, but will dedicate this one to DAD and MOM (William M. and Barbara S.) PERKOWITZ – 51 years of marriage and raising the big clan. Hang in there. Also Barb, Bill, Kathy, Dave, Ginny, Tom & Susie.
With love, friendship and respect. The End.
We need a last picture, don’t we?
We did spend 2 more days in Moscow during which we took a couple of tours, visited some museums, walked all over the place and ate in great restaurants. I have 50 pictures – from the White House where Yeltsin stood on the tank and proclaimed the end of the Communist era (wasn’t quite that simple) to this little kiosk selling shoe laces – with the Kremlin, the Armory (great museum in the Kremlin), St. Basil’s, the Seven Sisters (Stalin’s contribute to Moscow architecture) and lots of other things in between.
It’s cowboy capitalism in Moscow – a vibrant, edgy place, a world-class capital worth a visit. I’ll spare you the pictures and details, but if you’re interested in more let me know.
Thanks again and Bye. Bob