Day 50: St. Petersburg to Pskov

Number of tie wraps: 49 (confirmed, holding steady)

Countdown: 6902 miles down, 1684 to go

This morning I confirmed that 20 tie wraps have indeed been added to the Roadster, 10 on the left front shock absorber and 10 on the right. Apparently the nuts for both front shock absorbers were needed to repair the ailing rear shock absorber.

Tie wraps on left front shock absorber

Tie wraps on left front shock absorber (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tie wraps on right front shock absorber

Tie wraps on right front shock absorber (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We left St. Petersburg about 9 a.m. to drive to Pskov, which is about 100 km from the border with Latvia. For once, we had a totally boring, completely uneventful trip, and we arrived at our hotel about 1:30 this afternoon. The highlight of the trip was when we caught a glimpse at 50 mph of a very large dacha that once belonged to Vladimir Nobokov, author of Lolita. I also had a brief moment of excitement when I spotted a small orange airplane, mostly obscured by weeds, parked in a field. We went by so fast that I couldn’t tell what it was, but it might have been a Cessna 150. I have no idea how it got there, if it is still flyable, or even if there is a landing strip or airport nearby.

After a quick snack at our hotel, some of us walked to the kremlin in Pskov, shown below in a picture taken from a bridge crossing the Velikaya River.

Kremlin in Pskov

Kremlin in Pskov (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

The church shown in the photo is a working church that was fully restored in the last few years after being demolished by Germany during World War II. The cross in the photo below stands on the site of the original church inside the kremlin.

Cross erected on site of original church

Cross erected on site of original church (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

After we left the kremlin, we walked further into town and saw additional views of the kremlin, as well as a row of restaurants along the river, shown in the picture below. The weather was a bit rainy, so we decided to eat dinner at a German restaurant across the street from our hotel instead of walking back down to one of the river restaurants.

Restaurants on the river bank

Restaurants on the river bank (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow morning we’ll be leaving about 7:30 to drive to the border, which should take about 1.5 hours. Once we cross, we’ll have another two hours or so of driving to reach Daugavpils, Latvia. It could be a very long day, so wish us luck! I’d also like to note that we aren’t crossing the border at the same location as the 1908 racers. In 1908, the Baltic states did not exist as individual countries, so the original racers crossed out of Russia into Germany at Eydtkuhnen, modern-day Chernyshevskoye, which is located just east of Kaliningrad.

Day 49: St. Petersburg

Number of tie wraps: 49 (20 added since last blog post, unconfirmed)

Countdown: 6693 miles down, 1892 to go

While Cathy and I were visiting the Hermitage, dining on vegetarian entrees, and hunting down Starbucks mugs this afternoon, Luke and John allegedly added 20 more tie wraps to the Roadster. This information was relayed to me by John at dinner tonight and is currently unconfirmed. I’ll investigate further and post additional details tomorrow after I obtain photographic evidence of said tie wraps, which are reported to be holding one of the front shock absorbers in place because a part from the front shock absorber had to be removed to shore up one of the rear shock absorbers which had some sort of failure involving a U-bolt … well, you get the picture. Stay tuned!

In addition to the beehive of tie wrap activity today, we had a relaxing tour of St. Petersburg, also known as “Venice of the North” due to its many rivers and canals. St. Petersburg was established in 1703 by Peter the Great, who wanted to create a new European city and, from what I saw today, I think most people would agree that his expectations have been exceeded.

In addition to stunning architecture, many of the city’s buildings hold world-class museums, with the crown jewel being the Hermitage, which contains over three million works of art and other cultural items. Our tour guide told us that if you viewed every item in the Hermitage inventory nonstop, with no breaks for food, sleeping, etc. it would take you seven years to complete your mission.

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Most of the old cathedrals we visited today are restorations that now house museums, but the Church of St. Nicholas shown below is still an active Russian Orthodox Church.

Church of St. Nicholas

Church of St. Nicholas (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

I’ll leave you with this message I spotted on a post outside the Church of St. Nicholas.

Message of peace/Mir

Message of peace/Mir (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow we drive to Pskov, 336 km, for our last full day in Russia until we go to Kaliningrad on July 2. Saturday we make our border crossing into Latvia.


Days 42-43: Perm to Izhevsk to Kazan

Number of tie wraps: 29 (5 since last blog post)

Countdown: 5726 miles down, 2859 to go

Quote of the day: “Welcome to Russia!” (Izhevsk policeman to Luke and John yesterday)

In 1908, George Schuster and the Thomas Flyer had a much tougher time getting from Perm to Kazan than we did. The Flyer had stripped two gears just outside Omsk, quite a ways back, but a field repair kept them going until just outside of Perm, where the transmission gave up altogether as Schuster tried to extricate the Thomas from a gigantic pothole.

Schuster had ordered a spare transmission be shipped to Russia from the U.S. while he was in Harbin, China, because he was worried about the transmission even then. The transmission had arrived in Russia within two weeks, but no one seemed to know at which train station it had been off-loaded. Fortunately, just when the Thomas really needed the new transmission, it was located in Kazan, several hundred miles from the breakdown point, so Schuster took a wagon to retrieve it.

After repairing the Flyer, the U.S. team took a wrong turn and wound up in Viatka (modern day Kirov) several hundred kilometers out of their way before finally arriving in Kazan. Between the repair and getting lost, they were once again well behind the German Protos. The New York Times reported much confusion on the whereabouts and intentions of the U.S. team during their side trip to Viatka — click here for one article written during this period.

We had a little time in Perm yesterday morning while John and Natalia went to immigration one more time to try unsuccessfully to resolve John’s visa. Luke and I walked down a path that paralleled the Kama River and the Siberian Railway and we found a scary-looking but perfectly safe underpass that we took underneath the railway to a footpath right by the river.


Steps leading to tunnel under the Siberian Railway

Steps leading to tunnel under the Siberian Railway (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Later that day, we crossed the Kama River on the bridge below as we drove out of Perm. Schuster and the Flyer crossed the Kama by ferry, since there was no bridge available in 1908.


Bridge across the Kama River in Perm

Bridge across the Kama River in Perm (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Before we left Perm, Luke washed the headlights on the Roadster and removed a rather large deceased insect from the headlight grills (those of you who are Air Force fighter pilots will know why I used the term “deceased insect” — I don’t want any of you getting hurt from hurling your body to the floor).


Hitchhiker found on Roadster headlight

Hitchhiker found on Roadster headlight (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Roadster headlights before cleaning

Roadster headlights before cleaning (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Roadster headlights after cleaning

Roadster headlights after cleaning (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

On the drive to Izhevsk yesterday and to Kazan today, we saw many brightly painted roadside shelters for picnic tables, such as the one below. They seemed to come in all shapes and colors, and were located along the road every kilometer or so.


Colorful roadside shelter

Colorful roadside shelter (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

As we were heading to the hotel in Izhevsk, the police waved the Roadster over for a look. They were mostly just curious about the car and the paperwork, and one of them came over to the hotel later and signed the car.


Message from police in Izhevsk wishing us luck on our journey

Message from police in Izhevsk wishing us luck on our journey (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Today, we had great roads most of the way from Izhevsk to Kazan, so we made good time. During our final gas stop, the young man in the picture below admired the car and I couldn’t get the Bluetooth on my iPhone to send the picture to his phone, so I told him I’d post the picture on the website instead.


An admirer about 100km outside Kazan

An admirer about 100km outside Kazan (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

John also added another tie wrap to the turn signal flasher unit at the gas stop.


Yes, another tie wrap!

Yes, another tie wrap! (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

As we neared Kazan, many of the road signs became tri-lingual — Tatar, the native language here, as well as Russian and English.


Tri-lingual road sign -- Tatar, Russian and English

Tri-lingual road sign — Tatar, Russian and English (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Kazan is a beautiful city with a blend of modern structures and traditional architecture. We’ll be taking a tour of the city tomorrow morning, so I’ll post some pictures then.

After we arrived at the hotel, John decided to double-up the tie wraps on the radiator grill, so that added four more tie wraps to the total.


And even more tie wraps!

And even more tie wraps! (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow, after our city tour, we head to Nizhny Novgorod, 395 km. We’ll be arriving in Moscow on Sunday now so we have an extra day to sort out John’s visa.