In the morning, we decided to change the plan of the following days. The cunning plan so far had fallen into pieces. Instead of Kazan, I booked a hotel in Nizhni Nowgorod. Still a 900 km to do today. In the evening, we would decide on the next days.
We started at a quarter to eight and rode through the green landscape. Sunny weather, a relaxing ride. After an hour, I spooted a petrol station and we stopped there. I wanted to pre-pay the petrol in the little house, but nobody was there…finally I found two woman: “no petrol!”. John used his jerry can to be on the safe side. Soon we discovered a shiny, new station where we finally could fill up. The next three hours saw more and more traffic the closer we came to Moscow. I spotted a car on the hard shoulder with a lost wheel. While I was still wondering how this happened, I saw two guys after one kilometre rolling back the wheel! Unbelievable! I was glad not to be the victim of this exemplary driver.
With a hundred km to go to Moscow, we had to fill up again and found even a working air pump. I told John that we could visit the Red Square for a picture, despite the massive loss of time. John then told me that he would quit in Moscow.
Well, this didn’t come as a surprise. As much as John is an experienced IBA veteran and one of the few people capable of doing this ride under these circumstances, this is not the perfect time for him. He had a loss in his family that kept him focussed on that matter for quite a while. I understand perfectly well how this affects your mindset when you should focus on something else. All his preparations were delayed. I guess he felt under pressure the last four days. And this can drain the energy from your body. I think he couldn’t manage to really enjoy the ride, and then he realised that he probably had bitten off more than he could probably chew. His old bike and he himself are perfectly able to do this trip, but this would need more time. My concept of the trip was always “get through Russia as quickly as possible” and then enjoy the riding in Japan. But this requires a tough ride. With our modern bikes, this would be a walk in the park (not really, but…), but on these old bikes, this is a totally different story. I fully understand his decision and under these circumstances, it’s the best he can do.
We rode to the centre of Moscow and took THE picture so far.
John asked me to guide him to the hotel we had booked the day before, he wanted to stay there. He checked in and then it was time for goodbye. I am sure John will design a new Plan that will make this a memorable ride (Murmansk? Nordkapp?). Good luck, John!
It was already 3 p.m. and I still had to ride 420 km! The traffic in the inner ring of Moscow and getting past the outer of the three rings around Moscow took quite a while, lots of traffic, lots of filtering. Argh. I noticed that my chain needed some tightening. I stopped, had a drink and fixed this. Aaaah, this is different! The next four hours were a wild ride, mostly dual carriageways, but many red lights, lots of traffic and crazy drivers who thought they were race drivers (real race drivers don’t drive so aggressively, though). I pushed the XBR to a new speed window of 110 – 120 km/h (70 – 75 mph). In the rays of the setting sun, I filled up just before Nizhni Nowgorod. I had booked a plush hotel in the centre to relax and to have good facilities. I crossed the Volga in the dusk, but had no possibility to stop for a picture. It felt like crossing the Mississippi….I checked in at the hotel (the receptionist spoke English!), had a shower, washed my riding underwear under the shower and went to the restaurant.
They had Belgian Affligem beer (!), and I ordered Schtschi soup and a Beef Stroganoff. All very good. I tried to figure out a plan for the next days, but the only certain thing was the next day and the ride to Ufa. Nice hotel in Ufa booked. Went to bed after midnight. It was a tough day (900 km plus the centre of Moscow).