Day 26: Ulan Ude to Listvyanka

We left Ulan Ude about 8 a.m., right in the middle of rush hour traffic. Today’s trip was mostly through forested areas as we followed the Selenga River (which appropriately translates to Beautiful River) and wound our way through mountainous terrain.

Typical scenery during the drive to Listvyanka

Typical scenery during the drive to Listvyanka (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

At 10:20 some snow-capped peaks came into view and about five minutes later, we caught our first glimpse of Lake Baikal. The photo shown below is taken from the southern tip of the lake, where we arrived at around 3 p.m. Even with a bit of haze in the air, the beauty of the area stands out.

View of Lake Baikal from the southern tip

View of Lake Baikal from the southern tip (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We arrived at our hotel in Listvyanka at 6:45, after another long day of driving over bumpy roads and through construction sites; however, the roads continue to improve as we travel west!

The 1908 racers didn’t drive around Lake Baikal because they couldn’t — the terrain was too treacherous at the time — so they instead took a ferry across the lake, which ceased operations many years ago, necessitating our drive around the southern tip of the lake.

However, the original racers didn’t just drive up to the ferry and motor across the lake. According to Julie Fenster’s book, Race of the Century, when the Protos arrived in the town of Missawoia on the eastern lake shore to take the ferry to the town of Baikal on the western lake shore, Hans Koeppen and the Protos team discovered that in 1903 ferry had moved 20 miles south of Missawoia to the town of Tanchoi.

The German Protos team attempted to drive to Tanchoi, but crossing the numerous rivers flowing into Lake Baikal proved too much of a challenge, and they were soon stuck in the town of Michiha, where they tried to load the Protos onto a train for the rest of the trip to Tanchoi. But the 1908 racers ran into the same kind of problem we did trying to cross the border into China — they couldn’t find a way at the Michiha train facility to load the Protos onto the train! So they wound up driving back to Missawoia, which had the ability to put the Protos on the train for the trip to Tanchoi.

As a result of the delays to the Protos from running around the shores of Lake Baikal, the Thomas Flyer and the U.S. managed to briefly catch the German team in the railroad yard in Missawoia. However, the Protos arrived in Irkutsk on June 20 ahead of the Thomas Flyer. For more information on this part of the race, click here for the original New York Times article.

Today, the Roadster still had problems with the brake lights and the struts. The man in the photo below helping to pump up the struts is a Russian truck driver who was on his way to Moscow when he spotted us during a stop for lunch. Luke is planning to stay up late tonight to order some parts for shipment from California to Russia that we hope will fix the problems that continue to plague the Roadster!

Help from a Russian truck driver

Help from a Russian truck driver (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow we have a relaxing day for a boat ride on Lake Baikal and the day after a short 75 km drive on a good road to Irkutsk.

Days 24-25: Chita to Ulan Ude

Something you don’t want to hear your mechanic say: “This hose went in the side here, right?”

Sunday began with a power outage at our hotel, but we were on the road by 8 a.m. The temperature had cooled to 61 degrees from the 90s on Saturday, and it continued to drop as we traveled west.

We again traversed rough roads for much of the morning. I took some video of the rough ride in the Roadster, and I’ll try to figure out how to post it later. Our guide, Ksenia, started riding with John mid-morning so she could experience the Roadster.

At a gas stop, I spotted this sculpture of a swan made from an old tire:


Swan tire sculpture on the way to Ulan Ude

Swan tire sculpture on the way to Ulan Ude (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We spent much of the day in forests in the Buryatia region of Siberia and saw numerous places, such as the one below, that are still recovering from the 2000 fires that destroyed 78,000 hectares.


Fire damage in Buryatia region

Fire damage in Buryatia region (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

By 3 p.m., the temperature had dropped to 45 degrees and John pulled over so Knesia could retrieve a heavier jacket from Leo’s car. During the stop, Luke noticed that a few Roadster parts were no longer attached to the Roadster, but had fallen into the space between the engine compartment and the right front fender — the parts below are from two brackets that hold the radiator guard in place, and both brackets had broken. Luke made an emergency repair with tie wraps in about 30 seconds and we were on our way again.


A few extra parts

A few extra parts (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tie wraps to the rescue

Tie wraps to the rescue (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

By 6:30, the temperature had dropped to 36 degrees and it was raining, with occasional snow flurries. About 7 p.m., we stopped in Targabatay, a town of “Old Believers,” who maintain the earliest rites of the Russian Orthodox Church. The town has an Old Believer museum filled with artifacts collected by the town’s priest. The man in the picture below is the priest’s son, and he gave us a tour of both the museum and the church.


Old Believers Museum in Targabatay

Old Believers Museum in Targabatay (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

One of the artifacts he showed us was the century-old oil barrel in the picture below. Due to a scarcity of fuel, the original 1908 racers had to pre-position barrels of petroleum along the race route in Siberia, and it’s possible they used something such as the barrel in the picture.


Century-old oil barrel

Century-old oil barrel (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

The priest also owns the 1940s Russian jeep below:


1940s Russian jeep

1940s Russian jeep (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We arrived in Ulan Ude about 9 p.m., but with a one hour time change, it was only 8 p.m.

John and Luke started today by pulling the right front shock off the car and we visited three auto parts stores trying to find a new one. It was close, but not quite enough — one replacement shock was too long by one inch and another one was the right size, but had the wrong type of mount.


Parking lot surgery on the right front strut of the Roadster

Parking lot surgery on the right front strut of the Roadster (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Taking a break from the shock search, we toured Ivolginsky Datsan, the main Buddhist monastery/temple in Russia, complete with Buddhist cats and dogs.


Buddhist Monastary tour

Buddhist Monastary tour (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Buddhist cat

Buddhist cat (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We also did a walking tour of Ulan Ude, which included the world’s largest head of Lenin.


World's largest Lenin head, located in Ulan Ude

World’s largest Lenin head, located in Ulan Ude (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Back at the hotel, John and Luke did some Roadster maintenance, which included reinstalling the old shock while we continue to look for another one,


Roadster parking lot maintenance

Roadster parking lot maintenance (Eileen Bjorkman photo)


cleaning the air filter from the dust accumulated on the dirt and gravel roads the past two days,

The "pound the part on the ground" method of cleaning the air filter

The “pound the part on the ground” method of cleaning the air filter (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Cleaning the gunk out of the air filter holder (or whatever it's called -- I made that up)

Cleaning the gunk out of the air filter holder (or whatever it’s called — I made that up) (Eileen Bjorkman photo)


pumping up the rear struts again, fixing the brake lights again, this time with a tie wrap to keep the right-hand bulb more tightly in place, and adding two more tie wraps to the radiator guard for more security.


The Roadster's ever-growing collection of tie-wraps

The Roadster’s ever-growing collection of tie-wraps (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We now have five tie wraps on the Roadster, and we’ve decided to start a contest to see who can come closest to the actual number of tie wraps that will be holding the Roadster together when we reach Paris. Make your guess by making a comment here or on the Facebook page. The prize will be a Roadster part that has gone around the world!

Tomorrow we head out at 8 a.m. for a 522 km drive to Listvyanka, which is on the shores of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake.