Friday, June 14, 2013

Peking to Paris 2013 Update #6

We re-join our team after the car was trucked to the Russian Border and Brant was able to repair the left front strut in Novosibirsk. They are now making their way through Russia with apparently a fine running car. Stanley's report follows.

This is the truck that carried their Porsche from UB to Russia border, 1800km.
 Image © Stanley Gold

6/11/2013-"We just finished our 687km run from Novosibirsk to Omsk in Siberia. The road was good, but we had a lot of rain; in places a torrential downpour. The countryside is beautiful (although so wet that the farmers still cannot plant the fields on June 11), but the towns, including Novosibirsk and Omsk are grey, dull and full of Stalinist buildings that all look the prisons."
"The Russian people continue to be friendly and completely fascinated by the cars. Wherever we buy gas, the young boys are thrilled to see our old Porsche.......and yes, they have smart phones, so lots of pictures."
Stanley and his three new friends in the Vostok Hotel bar. Image © Stanley Gold
Garmin GPS navigation equipment. Absolutely necessary in Mongolia as there are no roads and no road signs. Image © Stanley Gold
 6/12/2013-"Just got into Tyumen after a 674km (418 mile) drive from Omsk. Car was running fine, and it was a wonderful drive in 80 degree weather. The fields are still saturated with water from the melting snows, but the first plantings are going in. Farmers here have to get their land cultivated, crops planted, tended to, and harvested before mid-October when the first snows arrive. Being a farmer here is tough work."              

"Many of the towns and cities we're traversing in Siberia are factory towns. When the Nazis moved into Western Russia during World War II, Stalin moved his factories to the east so he could continue to produce war material for the Russian army. Many of these factories have converted to peacetime production, while others have closed because they are unable to be competitive in a free world economy."

Worker's housing built circa 1950. Image © Stanley Gold
 "The workers’ housing units in these cities are pretty dismal. The apartment houses date from the 50's or earlier. I feel that, somehow, this country needs to increase the quality of life of workers outside Moscow."
Best piece of equipment we bought. Keeps track of our mileage from point to point by GPS and has a wheel sensor so if you go into a tunnel the machine doesn't stop and lose mileage.
Image © Stanley Gold
  6/13/2013-"After writing and sending last night's blog, we learned that one of the competitor's, Emma Wilkinson, was killed in a head-on collusion. She was driving with her husband, Peter. Her two brothers are also in the Rally driving another car. Very sad news and everyone in the Rally was very somber today. Motorsports are inherently dangerous and it is a risk we all take."
"Today we drove a little over 425km (250 miles) from Tyumen to Yekaterinburg. Yekaterinburg is considered the dividing line between Asia and Europe. So today we left Asia and tomorrow we begin our trek through Europe. Yekaterinburg is Russia's fourth largest city with a population of about 1.4 million people. The city is named after Tsar Peter's wife, Catherine, and is the prettiest city we've been to since we left Beijing. Many modern office buildings and apartment houses; tonight we're staying in a brand new Hyatt Hotel with grand vistas of the river and the city."
Typical view of the Siberian Countryside. Image © Stanley Gold
6/14/2013-"Shortly after we left Yekaterinburg this morning, we entered Europe, which more importantly, is the half-way point in the journey. Paris is ONLY two weeks away."
"The car is running fantastically well. Oil temp is cool and the oil pressure is right on the mark. We're getting very good gas mileage. We are so confident in the car that today we ran in the competitive Time Trials. Brant drove a section where we were looking to do the course in 11 minutes and he did 9 minutes, 9 seconds (good news there was no penalty for an early finish)."
"Today's 425-mile journey took us through many small farming villages. Many of the houses are log cabins with elaborate window treatments. Most have a small family garden plot in the rear (these were given to the peasants shortly after the revolution, when the State confiscated most of the agricultural land to be worked as collectives). The small family plots are still worked by the families and some of the products from these plots are offered to road-side travelers from little make-shift stands along the road (they look like lemonade stands)."
Another log cabin with fancy window frames. Image © Stanley Gold
Two other observations:
1. "Today we did not see any onion-shaped domes of the Russian Orthodox Churches. What we did see were 4-5 small, but pretty and well kept Mosques. These were mostly in the larger villages (2,500 people), but we saw some in very small villages."
2. "Alcoholism is a real problem in Russia. A day does not go by where we do not see a young person (14-25), mostly but not exclusively boys, drunk in public and making a scene. You see this behavior in the cities and the countryside."
"Off tomorrow to Samara, where we get an extra rest day and an opportunity to get our clothes cleaned. Might even try to get my beard trimmed as the bar maid tonight said I looked like Santa Claus."
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