Dampness from overnight rain remained in the morning air. A cool wind howled as we loaded the bikes. How appropriate that we were only 37.5 miles from the Russian border – the part of Russia known as Siberia.
As of July 1st, Kazakhstan and Russia supposedly ceased their customs procedures at their borders. We thought that this would speed up the crossing process. Thomas & Terry were getting stamped out while the rest of us waited in line. One by one we took our turns. After two hours, all of us had exited Kazakhstan and had ridden our bikes into “No Man’s Land,” that area between the borders.
Larry & I excitedly waited at the Russian border to see if the new customs process was a reality. Things were going smoothly until the Russian Immigration officer discovered that Chuck’s Passport did not have a valid Visa to enter Russia. Chuck’s Visas to enter China and Kazakhstan had been fine. For whatever reason, he did not have what he needed to enter Russia and had not noticed the situation. No Visa, no entry.
Chuck was relegated to waiting outside while the rest of us were processed into Russia. You can see him through the window, sitting on his bike while Erwin, Werner, and Larry waited inside the Immigration building. This would be the end of the Discover Our Earth Expedition for our friend and travel companion, Chuck.
The title of this blog entry is a phrase that has been used repeatedly over the past seven months. Chuck is an excellent rider and “on the fly” photographer. When Larry was back in the USA healing his broken leg, I rode with Chuck several days in South America. On pavement, we both enjoyed the same pace. On gravel & dirt, I’d have to wave “Good Bye, Chuck.” He is a very talented and experienced off-road rider. There is no way I could keep up with him. Chuck, however, is less adept with navigation. Several times, his many hours late arrivals at the hotels caused concern. Therefore the phrase, “Where’s Chuck?” Chuck, we will miss your smiling face throughout the rest of this expedition. I wish we would have been able to give you a good bye and good luck hug. We wish you safe travels from Kazakhstan back to New Mexico and look forward to seeing you back in the USA.
I felt navigationally challenged as we searched for our hotel in Kurgan. Kevin had warned us that Russian hotels are frequently built in the center of city blocks, hidden from the streets, surrounded by residential buildings. I led us down several dead ends into parking lots for apartment buildings. The GPS showed that we were .1 mile from the hotel but the path to get that final bit eluded me. Amidst the prettiest holly hocks I’ve ever seen emerged Ernst to show us the way.
Today’s lunch had been snacks from our bike so we were hungry. We walked to Kurgan’s main square and saw three Russians on Japanese bikes, one Star and two Hondas. It’s universal, bikers know where to find good food. These three Russians were no exception. They directed us to a pretty building that resembled a Swiss chalet. Inside was the Palermo Trattoria. We feasted on steak, Greek salad, and, in honor of Werner’s bike travel company, Edelweiss beer.
Our world really has gotten small. In April, we rode by thousands of rose growing greenhouses in Ecuador. US consumers buy many of those roses, but not all of them. Here, half a world away in Kurgan, Russia, boxes from Ecuadoran roses were stacked outside a flower shop.
10 Jul Petropavl KZ to Kurgan RU 165 miles
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