A Happy Birthday Russian Style

July 5:

Jack's birthday cake-Russian style

Today is Jack Crabtree’s birthday. It is the big six-O. Jack is young at heart and the biggest tease in our group. He is never without his smile-OK, once when he was throwing up and, well, you don’t want the details. This is his typical smile.


So, this morning, here is what met him when he went out to his car.  Yup, that’s a flat tire. I told you we had really rough sections on the trans-Siberian highway yesterday and apparently he picked something up. He carries two side-mounted spares, so in a matter of minutes he had it changed and was ready to roll.

Then his second birthday gift. He was stopped by the Russian traffic police. This was the first time any of the group had been stopped in Russia, but Tatiana knows her way around these guys and nothing came of it. Jack gave him a picture of the car and he left smiling. This is very different than we were led to believe would happen. All of us were prepared to pay “fines”.

Today was the day for the police stops. Next it was our turn. We were stopped about 2 hours after Jack and saw Tatiana at work first hand. The policeman told her he stopped us because of our “unusual” license plate, but that was his story. Since he waved us over with the ever present baton before he could even see the plate we, of course, were afraid he had spotted our broken headlight. You are required to burn headlights both day and night in Russia. But Tatiana went to work distracting him by asking the road conditions up ahead. We had been told to expect a rough patch about 20km long. She got out her Russian road atlas and began asking him for his help. (Doesn’t hurt that she is a young, attractive, blond, Russian woman). Before long we were on our way, he didn’t even ask to see my license or car registration. I was driving.  He did caution us about the road repairs, and he was right. It was a rugged 20km. Ask Jerry.

Jerry took a rock to his very expensive Corvette windshield. 😦 Jerry runs a bit close for our comfort so we often ask him  to run ahead of us- we’re never sure when we will have to brake suddenly to avoid a pot-hole and would hate to have his heavy car in our rear end! He took his hit from the lead van today.  He was not a happy camper when we arrived at the hotel. He has already replaced two tires and had his car hauled on a trailer for a day in China when the road were impassable for his low-slung car. Next to Clay, he has so far spent the most on his car and we still have three weeks to go. I don’t know his plans to get the windshield repaired but Moscow comes up in a few days and I am sure he is hoping it won’t “spider” too much before that.  We will have plenty of work for Moscow, that is where we are meeting Moscow’s antique Beetle club to get a new headlight.

Stewball ran his usually great self, other than the headlight and the earlier snag with the distributor, we really have done well. We did realize, when Jack was changing his tire, that we had not seen our (second) spare that was in the van crossing China and Kazakhastan. Well, it apparently did not cross the border with us. It is not to be found. Fortunately the spare we strill have is brand new. Cross your fingers that we won’t need the second one. We aren’t willing to pay for shipping and customs to get it to us. We have the advantage of being a very light weight car and we just bump over the rough spots.  

A stretch of good road

the car is bouncing so.

We passed through several small farm villages today, colorful sights with wooden houses, goats, chickens, ducks and cows near the road.

These roads take it out of the cars and drivers. We are enjoying Russia, the food and hotels as much as we disliked the same in China. Russia is clean- the air, the food and the hotels. A really wonderful experience.

Tomorrow we head to Kazan to meet up with Clay and Blake we are now told and to meet with an antique car club as well.


P.S. With Tatiana’s help, Jerry found a place here in Izhevsk that fixed his windshield for 300 rubles. About $12.00. This should be a thriving business here, given the condition of the roads.

About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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2 Responses to A Happy Birthday Russian Style

  1. TBC says:

    I see that there are some quite decent cars behind Ed and Jack. Apparently someone is prospering in Russia.

    As to those unscheduled police stops, as you say, a smile works wonders. Even right after glasnost had started, I crossed the Red Square near St. Basil’s (spectacular), sat down in the middle where the small plane had rather illegally landed a few months before, and photographed St. Basil’s at night. A policeman came along and told me I could not do that.

    I asked him why, and he could not give me a good answer.

    Then, I pointed out the lights on the cathedral, and said it was kremlin which was then a loose word also for beautiful. He got entranced, too, and allowed me to stay.

    Another time, I stepped off the sidewalk to cross the road by the Kremlin, and a policeman blew his whistle at me. Having been raised outside Boston, where jaywalking is an art form and people rarely get hit, I continued across the road. There was no traffic, and it was perfectly safe, as I sweetly and smilingly pointed out to the policeman. He had to agree!

    So glad to hear the food and hotels have improved. Actually, the hotels were fine, although we spoke directly up at possible bugs in the chandeliers in our rooms. The food, however, was generally terrible. Overcooked everything that was tough as old shoe leather. On the other hand, the beginning of independent commerce was starting, and there were what we called the tulip stands all over the cities. A table with chairs and umbrellas that looked like upside-down tulips.

    The ice cream sold there was delicious, and not just in contrast to the food. It really was good!

    Continue to enjoy your adventures.


    TBC and Arnie

    • ejhowle23 says:

      From your comments, I can say the food has improved. We have been well fed and the presentation is good as well. Russia is catching up with Europe.

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