13 July 2009

Border Run

Made a border run to Latvia this weekend. What's a border run, you ask? When I entered Russia with my US plates, I received a temporary import certificate from customs allowing me to bring in the bike for a certain period without paying customs duties. That period expired today, so yesterday morning I made a run for the closest border (Latvia) so that I could exit Russia and come back in to get a new temporary import certificiate.

Luckily the weather was pretty good in Moscow, so I set out at about 10:00. Not much traffic at all heading out of town, a pleasant surprise, and was soon cruising along to the NW toward Latvia. The road of course if pretty boring, but not too bad, especially the futher I got from Moscow. Lots of streams, fields, forests, etc. Past Rzhev there were lots of roadside stands selling furs of various sorts (bear, wolf, fox, and some sable-looking thing) and dried fish, especially eel (yuck!). Anyway, made pretty good time, pulled over for a pit stop about 100 km from Velikiye Luki and bumped into these Irish guys heading down to Ukraine:
They were a little apprehensive about riding in Russia, so I tried to give them a few pointers, but they seemed to be doing OK.

So I kept going, and about 50 km from the border it started pouring down rain. I finally got to the border at about 17:30, pulled to the front of the line, and got off the bike to wait in the pouring rain. The girls in the custom booth waved me forward and I had a nice chat with them. I tried to see if I could just leave Russia and come back in without entering Latvia, but after checking with their bosses they said no... Anyway, they let me go ahead, and I soon filled out all of the various paperwork and left Russia. At the last booth I asked them if I could turn around without entering Latvia, and they said "sure, just go up to the next shlagbaum (gate thingy, don't know how to translate) and turn around. I got there, and they said I had to go to the next shlagbaum, so I went there, and they said the same thing...

So by now I'm in Latvia and the jerks at the border post basically said that I could go all the way through their process and wait in the huge line for hours or they could "help me out." Given that it was still raining, I went with the latter option, although it was pretty irritating considering how nice the Russians had been. So I shook the dust of Latvia from my feet and went back into Russia. Once again the Russians were generally very nice (OK, there was one jerk, they are everywhere) but I got in and got my new temporary import certificate until October. I'll take it back to Moscow and hopefully can extend it for a year!!

So by now it was 19:45--it had taken only 2:15 to leave Russia, enter and leave Latvia, and enter Russia again, not bad! But it was still raining pretty good, and it was about 150 km back to Velikiye Luki, where I had decided to spend the night after the Irish guys described it as a nice place. While riding there in the pouring rain, my windshield mount broke, so the windshield deflected all of the wind and rain right into my face, which sucked.

I finally got to town, but it took me forever to find a hotel with secure parking, and its restaurant had already closed (by now it was past 22:00) so I had to schlep around town (in the rain of course) for a restaurant. I was pretty unimpressed with the town and made a mental note to give a bit less weight to Irish opinions about what constitutes a "nice town." Anyway, I found a decent place pretty nearby and had some tasty breaded sudak with onions and an omelette, and a few beers. I was beat by this point so hit the rack.

Got up early in the morning and headed out, bumped into a couple of French Canadians staying in the same hotel who were working on some machinery at a local peat bog mill (or farm, or whatever you call peat bog operations). Chatted with them a bit, fixed my windshield with some spare parts that I luckily had with me, and headed out toward Moscow.

Weather was kind of cloudy, so I didn't dawdle. Got my first ticket on the bike, or should say I paid my first "fine" for passing in a no passing zone. Irritating, but I should have known better. I had a different problem with my windshield about halfway back to Moscow and spent about half an hour working on that, which was a pain.

Finally got home around 15:00 or so, after encountering very little traffic coming into Moscow, which was great. Mission accomplished!

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