Sunday, June 23, 2013

Peking to Paris 2013 Update #8

Let's rejoin our Porsche team of Stanley and Brant on day 26.

6/22/2013 "We left our hotel in Kiev early for the short drive to the Seagull Circuit. This circuit was considerably better than the Belgordo Circuit in Russia. Each car was required to do approximately three laps as fast as the drivers could. Only thing strange about this test was that as we came to the finish line one had to stop the car "astride" the finish line with the front wheels of the car over the line and the rear wheels behind the finish line---failure to do so would cost a penalty point. For the car buffs, this is very similar to a Gymkhana, which is popular at some European events. One of the competitors who is running a '73 Toyota Land Rover has been driving for the last several days without front brakes and when he tried to stop astride the finish line he skidded 50 feet down the track---quite funny."

As we move west the crowds greeting us are getting larger; this was in Lviv.
Image © Stanley Gold

"Following our track session, we were told that the course road for the day could not be used. The winter rains had so destroyed the proposed roads that the organizers scrapped the entire day’s session and advised us that we had to find our own way to Lviv, a distance of approximately 450 km. Our Garmin GPS, with its pre-programmed waypoints and our Route Book with its tulip layout was worthless. We navigated the old-fashioned way, with map books (not so easy when they are in the Cyrillic alphabet) and a compass. Other than one small deviation, we handled the task quite well."

  "This western part of Ukraine abutting to Poland, Belarus, and Slovakia, was once part of Poland prior to WW II. Pursuant to the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact, Germany and Russia agreed to divide Poland. This western portion of Ukraine is the portion Russia received. At the conclusion of the war, no one was interested in getting the land back for Poland, and she herself fell under the orbit and influence of the USSR. As a consequence, there are differences here in Lviv (from Kiev and Kharkiv). Most people are Roman Catholic instead of Eastern or Russian Orthodox. Most people here speak Polish, as well as Ukrainian and Russian. And as we continue to move west, the people continue to look more prosperous---lots of Mercedes and Lexus on the road today."

"Tomorrow, we're off to the Slovakian border and Central Europe."

6/21/2013  "Today was a rest day in Kiev; our last on the Rally. Tomorrow we start our 8-day drive to Paris (through the remainder of Ukraine, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland, and finally France)."

"Brant started the day by giving "our baby" a bath. He then checked all systems, including taking each wheel off to check tires, brakes and linings. Everything was fine and no corrective work was needed. We checked the engine oil and it was as clean as the day it was put in. We're ready for the last big push."
Brant checking all systems on our rest day in Kiev. No problems discovered.
Image © Stanley Gold

This Nissan 240Z was completely rolled in Mongolia. Neither driver hurt and it has continued on the rally with lots of duck tape and wire. Image © Stanley Gold
6/20/2013  "Our drive today from Kharkiv to Kiev was beautiful. The weather was sunny and we spent most of the morning weaving our way through small towns and agricultural villages. In many towns most of the inhabitants came out to greet us and cheer us on....all had their cell phones to record the parade going through their village. In one town, the grammar school children we're given some time out and were allowed to sit by curb to cheer on the participants."
 Several observations from today's drive:
"1. Every school or small public park has a basketball court. It is the American sport that has spread worldwide. You see lots of NBA shirts and jerseys. The names Bryant and James are as familiar here as in the US. Since every home, bar and restaurant has a satellite hook-up, it is not unusual to see NBA games on local television sets."
"2. Every small town or village has its statue of Lenin. I could not help wondering what Lenin might think about a bunch of capitalist driving their expensive cars on this Rally through the lands he worked so hard to convert to Communism. Somehow, I don't think he would approve. When the first Peking to Paris Rally was run in 1907 (before the Russian Revolution), the eventual winner, Prince Borghese of Italy, made sure to make a stop in St. Petersburg in order to attend a party hosted by Tsar Nicholas II at his Summer Palace (a beautiful place that Ilene and I visited several years ago)."
"3. All the participants have commented on the differences between Russia and the Ukraine. The Ukraine looks more modern, cleaner, and more colorful. The people seem happier and go about their business with more zest. Many Western companies are busy setting up operations here in the Ukraine. On the drive into Kiev this afternoon, I saw new showrooms being built by Jaguar, Porsche (they are building a new showroom in Kharkiv, as well) and Land Rover. Both Shell and BP are opening new modern petrol stations. All the modern fashion brands (Rolex, Vuitton, Gucci, etc) are also represented here."
6/19/2013 "We had a morning run from our hotel last night to the Belgordo Racing Circuit which is close to the Ukraine border crossing. At the track we had some time trials on the tarmac track, which was short (about 2 km in length) and really built for go-carts. Immediately following our session on the track we did a time trial on a 4 km off-road dirt track, which was a lot more fun. The car continues to run well and without problems."
Part of the Shamrock Racing Team cheerleaders at the Belgordo Race Circuit .
Image © Stanley Gold
"The biggest contrast of the day was the difference between Russia and the Ukraine. Although we are only 35 miles inside the Ukraine, here in Kharkiv, the most cursory observation tells you we are in a very different place. The dress, the shops, the hotels, the cars, the service, and the happiness of the people here in the Ukraine stand in stark contrast to that of Russia. It is difficult to explain, but after only a few hours here in Kharkiv, you see a society looking to the West and anxious to improve the quality of their lives. Kharkiv has 13 National Universities with an attendance of 9,000 students studying from 96 different countries. Education and self-improvement are the goals of many in Kharkiv. More than 30 of the astronauts in the USSR space program were born and raised here in Kharkiv."
Part of the greeting party at Kharkiv, Ukraine. Image © Stanley Gold
"Although a little difficult to calculate, I think at least 90 of the original 100 cars starting in Beijing are still running. Many are repaired daily with duck tape and baling wire, but they’re still running and pointing toward Paris.”
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