Getting a visa to visit Russia was not an easy task. The Russian
Embassy in Washington, D.C. had no interest in the New Millennium Ride
and refused to give me time to petition their favors. New York, Chicago,
Los Angeles... none of the Consular Offices would issue a visa.
The rules and regulations are stringent and those who sit at the desks
in those offices are not given to flexing the standard operating procedures.
If you aren't traveling to Russia to visit someone (a person who is willing
to be your sponsor, meeting you at the port of entry, responsible for your
movements until you leave, and seeing you off at the point of departure),
if you aren't part of an established tour with a specific travel itinerary
and hotel reservations, if you aren't on a business trip (again with a
sponsor), then the Russian foreign service men and women operating the
Russian visa offices in the US will not consider your application.
I left the US and embarked upon the New Millennium Ride, knowing I was
going to bike across Russia, even though a year of petitions for a Russian
visa had not landed me the necessary prize.
In Mongolia, where time proceeds at an earthbound
rate and people are more likely to have time for people, I got a visa for
Russia 24 hours after I applied for it at the Russian Embassy. Thank
you Tatiana Klimova, Branch Manager of Red Star Travel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
for your interest in the New Millennium Ride and for your willingness to
facilitate my passage to Russia by making the necessary introductions at
the Russian Embassy. And, thank you Michael I. Gorbunov, Secretary
of the Consular Department, for meeting with me and granting me permission
to visit your wonderful country.
I arrived in Ulaan Ude, capital city of Buryatia Province, on the day it
was celebrating its 333rd Birthday Anniversary. Thank you to the
following good people who adopted me for the day: Tanya Alekseiva, Victoriya
Mesheryxgina, and Irina Vetrova. You showed me around the Old
Town, pressed me to enter the main square where 100,000 people had gathered
to watch the performances, and after the show you took me to the local
chapter of Baha'i
Faith, managed by your friends, Luda and Andrey.
The celebratory mood had people dancing, and singing and welcoming strangers.
Before I knew it, Pan and I were on the main stage, Lenin's head towered
above and behind me and I was addressing the multitude gathered below.
I was led around the square and shook hundreds of hands, was kissed by
toothless babushkas and young maidens. Thank you Good People of
Ulaan Ude - I can still hear your cheers and see your smiling faces
A local TV station got its interview. A newspaperman asked me some
questions. His photographer took a bunch of pictures. Dmitri
Matreev, DJ for a local radio station, thank you for insisting I say
a few words on the air during your live coverage of the festivities (I'm
sure my voice is still being used to broadcast the station call numbers!).
It was a magical day. You all made me feel like a celebrity.
My 15 minutes of fame was well spent. Thank you.
Thank you Luda and Andrey Erofeevy - Zakharovskiye for inviting
me to stay in your apartment that night.
Thank you Mr. Mayor (of Ulaan Ude) for stopping me on the road to
Irkutsk a few days later. Your yummy gifts of food and drink were
a welcome treat indeed.
Maps of Russia are not easy to come by. I wasn't able to get a decent
road map of Russia anywhere. Just before reaching Lake Baikal, I
stopped one afternoon by a roadside magazine (convenience store).
While slurping some electrolytes and inhaling a bag of cookies I was approached
by a man with a road atlas. You wanted to know where I had come from.
I oriented myself and then told him my story. I asked where I might
find such a book. You insisted I take yours. Thank you, Sir,
for your spontaneous and most useful gift. Your atlas (a 1989
CCCP Atlas) guided me all the way to Finland!
Katya Vershinskaya, thank you for giving me shelter and several
cups of hot tea when all outside was cold and rainy. Your little
kiosk had a very warm, cozy feeling and I am happy to say that I will never
forget your smiling face and gentle ways. Thank you also for introducing
me to your friends. I am sorry I was not able to spend more time
in Sadova, because you and your friends, Sasha, his family and friends,
all impressed me as being very friendly. Thank you.
Thank you 15 year old Alexander (Sasha) Bulatov for befriending
me at Katya's cafe and insisting that I follow you late one rainy afternoon
to your grandparents' dacha in Sadova. I will never forget
the banya, the hot soup, the fresh veggies and warm hospitality.
Thank you Viktor and
Nellie Barzov for welcoming me into
your home and inviting me to stay the night. Sasha, I fully expect
you to ride your bike across the USA someday. May I recommend you
start at my home in Maine?
Olga Konsnova, thank you for welcoming me to the Baha'i Faith center
in Irkutsk. You had an apartment full of students and travelers from
far away and you made room for me. Then you introduced me to instructors
and teachers at local universities and the Angara - Baikal Region Women's
Union. I couldn't have had a more gracious and informative hostess
in Irkutsk. Thank you.
Thank you Lyda Isaeva for your company and assistance with Russian
as I toured Irkutsk. I hope you have found employment as a guide
for visitors from abroad - you are a natural.
Thank you Vyacheslav Kudryartsev for welcoming NMR to Baikal
Environmental Wave and for taking the time to introduce me to your
colleagues and tell me all about Baikal Environmental Wave and the pressing
environmental issues of the region.
To the ladies of Angara-Baikal
Region Women's Union, especially Albina Shjrobokova and Svetlana
Uralova, much thanks for your hospitality. Your positive energy
was shared with people I met all across Russia. The tote you gave
me was used as my bread bag. I will take it with me in 2000 when
I ride around Europe - it is necessary gear on the New Millennium Ride.
I am inspired by your works and share your commitment to equality of the
sexes. I wish you great success in your goal to educate men and women
to this end. I further wish you great success during your 2000 Forum
(7-12 July 2000): "Women for the Survival of the Planet."
Vladimir A. Scherbakov, thank you for providing a porthole for an
emergency package that was being sent to me in Russia. In the end,
I am glad you did not have to deal with the rigmarole that was involved
in getting that package. Thank you especially for the incredible
day trip to Lake Baikal and your dacha, the fresh barbecued fish,
the drinks, the boat trip up the western shore... and the weather.
What a perfect day! I know you come to Boston from time to time.
I truly hope you will let me know when you plan to visit. I am eager
to show you some of the unique treasures we have in New England.
We have nothing like Lake Baikal; but I assure you, you will find the coast
of Maine every bit as rugged and unique in its own beauty. Thank
you for sharing your backyard wilderness with me.
Irina Anatoliewna Demjanenko, thank you for giving up your Saturday
to join your boss and me on our day trip out onto Lake Baikal. It
was nice to have you along and I know our discussions where that much richer
thanks to your fantastic English speaking skills. 10 July 1999 will
always be remembered as a special day in large part because you were part
of the adventures we all shared. Thank you.
Thank you Alla Philippovna Markhandayeva, retired English teacher,
owner-operator of Kinder Surprise Kiosk, Kutulik, for the delicious meat
and vegetable pies. They were a delicious supplement to my diet and
carried me for a couple of days. I hope you are enjoying your new
business/hobby and that your delicious efforts are being well rewarded.
Vladimir Charlamov (doctor, father) and Charlamov Vladimir
(son), thank you for kidnapping me out of the rain for a few hours and
filling my stomach with hot tea, fresh green salad, fried fish, hot soup,
bread and cheese. Thank you for insisting that I stop long enough
to bathe - I guess I didn't know how much I needed a bath. The warm
water sure felt great. Thank you also for filling my plastic containers
with treats for the road. The fresh salad was the only fresh salad
I had during my nights of camping. I remember the zesty crunch of
fresh greens still. Thank you.
None of you spoke English. Babushka, you came to the magazine.
You heard an American teacher was passing through town. You took
me by the hand. I thought you were showing me to a place I could
pitch my tent. You took me to your humble home. There I met
your family: Alexie (son), Danya (daughter), Anya
(grand daughter), Rita (niece). I hope Alexie got the tractor
running - I have no doubt he did - because I know there was work to do
and the season was already passing quickly. You introduced me to your friendly
neighbor. He is the spitting image of George Burns. He took
me to see his garden: rows of healthy vegetables, flanked by bee hives.
You all took me inside and fed me a huge meal. I milked your nanny
goat and drank the sweet fresh milk. We shared pictures and managed
to talked late into the night. Your kindness could never be topped.
Know that I will always remember the magical night I spent in your home.
I am eternally grateful. Thank you all.
A very special thank you to my great friends Igor and Natasha
(Vladimirovich) Kislych and Sasha and SvetlanaKamakayev
We met, totally by chance, in a camp ground next to a lake in Uyar.
Friendship blossomed immediately. I shared your campsite and we picnicked
together. Little did I know then that we would spend the better part
of the following fortnight together.
Igor and "Tusha", thank you for offering me the
hospitality of your apartment. The days I spent there have blurred
into one long party. I am sure I gained 5 kilos that week!
I'll never forget our evening together at the "Gorilla Dacha", nor the
7 hours spent at Capt. Alexander's
banya. (I learned to take
a more serious whipping with birch boughs than was meted out there that
night; but, that was a perfect introduction to the art of the Russian sauna!)
Thank you for sharing Krasnoyarsk and the Yenesei River Valley with me
and for introducing me to your family and friends. Igor, please thank
your mother for the Russian-English pocket dictionary. You can't
imagine how useful it turned out to be. Thank you also for the policeman's
hat. It has proven to be a real hit in the US. Tusha, thanks
for the stacks of bline and other good foods you prepared.
I will always think of Krasnoyarsk as a rich oasis in the vast wilderness
Sasha, thank you for running interference on my
behalf, first tracking down the DHL package that had been sent to Irkutsk
and re-routed back to Europe, and then making sure it found its way to
Krasnoyarsk. Miraculously it arrived intact and the wheel was still
true. Thank you also for letting me use your computer to contact
NMR Headquarters and apprise Hollie of the situation. Thank you and
Sveta most of all for your wonderful hospitality during the second half
of my stay in Krasnoyarsk. Thank you for facilitating my side trip
to Tuva - that was an adventure I didn't want to miss. Thanks for
organizing two riverside picnics, resplendent with shashlik and
a river float. Thank you also for introducing me to Boris Grebenshikov
and Akvarium* (see bottom of PAGE
Sveta, thank you for your more than gracious hospitality. Our discussions
and conversations often got complicated; you provided the necessary words
to link thoughts and understanding. Thank you for your gentle patience
and attention to the details of comfort. During the long, wet, cold,
hard weeks that followed my visit in Krasnoyarsk, I often remembered and
drew strength from the peaceful serenity of your home. Thank you.
And thank you Alya for playing along with your parents so effortlessly.
I look forward to seeing all of you again. I hope that next time
you may be guests in my home.
My layover in Krasnoyarsk was like a midsummer vacation.
You all provided the necessary ingredients for fun, relaxation, great weather,
barbecues, music, good food, and memories that I know will foster lifelong
friendships. Thank you.
Gene and Gleb, of Dula Tour, thank you for giving me speedy
and direct access to the Internet on your office computer - not once, not
twice, but three times!. I enjoyed our talks about Krasnoyarsk and
am grateful to you for your advise about travel to Tuva. Thank you
also for the CD of Ukranian music. I fully expect to run into you
guys someday, perhaps in Bangkok or KL. Travel safe always.
Alex Golub, taxi commander, Abakan, we knew each other for an afternoon.
You facilitated my trip to from Abakan to Tuva and organized mt stay in
Kyzyl with your nephew. That trip was one of the best chapters of
the New Millennium Ride - 1999. Thank you for taking an interest
and for making the introduction. My trip to Tuva was so much more
than I could have imagined it to be. Thank you.
Andre and Angela Feidogov, thank you for welcoming me into
your home and for being such fine hospitality hosts for me during me visit
in Kyzyl. I feel we packed a great deal into the few days I spent
with you: party, banya, party, museums, government buildings, monuments,
swimming in the Yenesei River, party, good food, a Buddhist temple, a trip
to and swim in the salt lake, party, a picnic in the northern taiga, party,
another swim in the Yenesei, and - just in case I had not had enough -
a luxurious farewell party. I feel we became more than friends during
my time in Kyzyl. I feel I must return to revisit the Shangri-La
I found there. Thank you and thanks to all your friends. You
couldn't have been nicer.
Thank you Serge Kozlov for joining Andre and me and for being such
an engaging and entertaining translator. I wish you luck in your
studies at Plehanov Academy of Economics in Moscow.
Vladimir and Stash, owner-operators of a cafe and gas depot
west of Novosibirsk (I'm still convinced you guys are gangsters), thank
you for dragging me 15 kilometers off the beaten path, forcing me to ford
a river and climb over a ridge to reach your dacha - miles
from nowhere. The sunset that night was brilliant and the banya
brutal - the heat and the whipping took me beyond my self defined limits
(when the pain stopped it sure felt good!). As darkness descended,
I realized I was to be a prisoner of the night. Adding additional
challenge to the injuries already inflicted, your mildly amusing drunkenness
and airs of machismo forced me to be extremely vigilant; I got no sleep
that night. But, I do thank you for the adventure and especially
for giving me the opportunity to be with the following morning.
I woke early, knowing I had a long way to go just
to get back on the road. I am convinced, that in the haze of your
hangovers, you had no idea who I was. That you and your dust spewing
lada abandoned me just minutes after leaving the dacha was more
a blessing than an inconvenience. I set off across the country to
find my own way. I rode through little villages that were just beginning
to stir. The mist upon the land mingled with smoke, dust, the waft
of fresh baked bread, and those odoriferous animal smells that scent the
air around farms. Women, bundled against the morning chill, scurried
to the village wells to collect water. At one point I was stymied by a
passing herd of cattle - nostrils blowing wet steam, bells tinkling.
I searched for the road west. Coming on the heels of a night spent
in your company, a night of extreme uncertainty, my memories of that morning
and the detour you offered are truly unique and make for a wonderful chapter
in the New Millennium Ride. Thank you.
Alec, the security guard at the roadside motel (there are only three
between Ulaan Ude and Moskva) in Kuibushev, thank you for letting me crash
in your dorm room at the motel. After days of riding through cold
driving rain it was a real luxury to sleep in a toasty room (the security
guard's room is above the motel banya). Thanks also for helping
me prepare a bath for my wounded hand - little did I know then that those
spider bites would plague me for another fortnight. That night I
knew relief. My overnight stop in Kuibushev recharged my batteries
and gave me the strength to push on to Omsk, still 4 days away. Thank
Thank you friends, Sasha and Misha Petookhov, for your welcome
to Omsk. Thank you for arranging for me to stay in the mission office/apartment
and for being my eager guides about town. Thank you for arranging
the newspaper interview with Anton. Thank you also for your periodic
notes and for following the New Millennium Ride's progress after I left
Yury Chebrukov, manager of DHL in Omsk, thank you for letting me
store Pan and my gear in your office the first night I was in Omsk.
I appreciated your hospitality and the ability to move freely around town
on foot. Thank you.
Thank you Anton Bobrov for your interest in the New Millennium Ride
and for sharing your interest with your readers in Omsk. Thank you
also for taking the time to show me some of the historical buildings and
monuments throughout the city. I wish you great success in your journalism