Irkutsk!

I’m now 2200 miles in.  From Chita the road gets quiet for a lomg time.  The horse flies and mosquitos here could carry off small pets.  Slapping them off of my bike has become a sport for me.
So, how is the road here?  Well, the first thing most Russians ask me is “The roads suck, don’t they?”  Well, yeah.  At least it keeps highway speeds down.  That and Siberia is open range.  Hitting a cow would really ruin someone’s day.
So, riding here isn’t too bad.  Plus it’s great if you like camping.  Hotels can be a long way apart.
I’ve met a few riders in Russia and one group of four wheeled rallyers. One from the Ukraine was even riding a single speed townie. I also met a pair of Polish motorcyclists who had been through the ‘Stans and were coming back from Vladivostok.
There’s only one city between Chita and Irkutsk – Ulan Ude.  It didn’t look too bad to me, but I’ve been told it’s a rough town.  I stopped overnight and had four pork chops for dinner.  I also let a few locals soak me for a couple bottles of Vodka.  So it goes.
The highway around Lake Baikal is challenging for cyclists.  At least the local smoked fish is delicious. The first time I stopped for it, it was a good thing because the closest cafe was hours away. Yes, I do keep the Ciprofloxacin close by. But it hasn’t been necessary in Russia. Anyway, lots of ups and downs.  Plus there were some small flies getting into my face and generally tormenting me for the last 60 miles.
In Irkutsk I found a burger chain which supplied me with an American level of calories and free WiFi.  There I met a couple out bicycling who led me to a nearby hotel.  They were also nice enough to take me to Listvyanka the next day.  I promised to sign off on an invitation if they ever want to visit the US.  Their English is better than my Russian.
So now it’s about 1,200 miles to Novosibirsk and almost 3,000 to Yekaturinburg.  China took me too long.  I’ve gone about 60 miles since getting to Russia.  The terrain flattens out from here.  Hoping I can do some 100 mile days now to raise my average.
In Irkutsk I’ve been able to pick up a few parts.  There’s much better availability here for just about everything than China.

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