Good and bad news
Day 21 – Monday 15th of July – Astrakhan (0km)
First of all, the bad news – Today my parents found out that it is not possible to send parcels into Russia, only documents. Fed Ex does send parcels, but with severe weight and value restrictions, and at astronomical prices. So it seemed that it was not possible to get a replacement rim sent from Spain. Plan B it was then.
On Saturday, me and Lex had been looking for bikers in the center, as they are always good help, and had found a contact. A guy named Arkan, a real badass by the looks of it, the kind of big Russian guy that never smiled. We got his number and this morning I got Valentin, my host, to call him. He said he would come and have a look, and at lunchtime he turned up in his big black car. He drove us over to the car park where the bike was, barked at the guard to let him drive in and examined the wheel. He said that it could be fixed, and that he would come back the following days with the tools to remove it from the bike. I said I had the tools and could get it out in five minutes, so I did it. Later Valentin told me that they were a bit impressed, as they had thought I was some kind of amateur who had no idea what to do. He put the wheel into the boot and we went off to a really dodgy part of town to find a tire workshop to remove the tire from the rim. After a couple of stops we got it done and then we went to an even rougher part of town in search of a shop were they could repair it, as the one he knew was apparently not able to do it until Wednesday. We eventually found one, but he was not happy about the price they asked nor about the fact that they did not have the equipment to have the wheel balanced once the job was done. I said that I did not mind waiting a bit longer as long as it was done properly, so he took the wheel with him and said that in a couple of days he would have it fixed. So there is the good news. I hope.
Kustodiev Art Gallery
Day 22 – Tuesday 16th of July – Astrakhan (0km)
Not much to report today, just waiting for news about the rim. To kill some time, I went to visit the Kustodiev Art Gallery, which was quite nice, and then strolled to the city center, read a bit in the park and then found myself a nice café with air conditioning in which to spend the rest of the afternoon reading and enjoying ice tea.
First news from the wheel
Day 23 – Wednesday 17th of July – Astrakhan (0km)
Today we called Arkan, he said that the wheel is already in the repair shop and it will be ready tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning. As it was quite badly bent not just because of the road in Kazakhstan, but because the mechanic in the oil plant tried to bang it back into shape with a hammer, the result might not be perfect. Let’s see if at least it holds the air well enough to allow me to continue travelling.
On the positive side, I discovered why my 12V plug was not working. It is rated at a maximum of 20A, but the guy who installed it had fitted a 10A fuse, which had blown, as the compressor uses 15A.
I got news from Martin, from Uzbekistan. Hit a rock on his GS Adventure and bent the front rim as well. A trucker stopped and helped him bang it back into shape. He said it is holding the air, let’s hope he has better luck than me!
Slow news day
Day 24 – Thursday 18th of July – Astrakhan (0km)
We called Arakan today, who gave us the number to the workshop so that we could ask them directly and they said that the rim would be ready on Friday “on the second half of the day”. That meant that I would not be able to leave for Volgograd until Saturday. Apart from that, nothing else happened today… I was about to not write an entry, but since I have got used to writing every day, I decided to do so, even if it was a short one.
The rim and a gun
Day 25 – Friday 19th of July – Astrakhan (0km)
Parental advisory – This post might content strong language and references to sex and drugs.
This morning at about ten I got great news – Arkan called and said that the rim was already fixed and that he would come over in ten minutes to pick me up and take me to the workshop. Valentin, my host, had been acting as an interpreter all this time, as Arkan did not speak any English at all, but today he had work to do and could not come with us, so he told me to call him if I needed anything. While I was waiting for him, Dasha wrote to me on Facebook and told me that she and her friends were going to go for a swim on the river later in the day, and invited me along. We arranged to meet at half past seven near in the same bus stop as last time. It seemed that after a few really boring days I had some things to do again.
I went down to the street and five minutes later Arkan turned up in his black car. We drove to the rough part of town again and he parked in front of a place that looked more like a junk yard than a place that could repair and balance an alloy rim. I was a bit skeptical about the whole thing and how the result would turn out to be, but I had not been able to ask many questions about it due to the language barrier and not wanting to bother my host for translation too much, as I felt I was already abusing his hospitality, having been at his place for a whole week. By now I had learnt that the best thing to do in Russia is just to go with the flow, trust people and let them do their thing, and sure enough, despite the looks of the place, the rim was repaired and it looked very professional.
We took it to a tire workshop that did not look much better to have the tire fitted again. The rim problem was finally solved, but I was a bit worried that the tire might be damaged, as I had ridden for long stretches with no air in it and on really bad roads to get back to Astrakhan. Sourcing a new tire might prove to be difficult and I was not looking forward to spending more time stuck here. Fortunately, once the tire was fitted and inflated, the guy in the workshop checked it with water and soap and it did not seem to leak anywhere. He fitted it for free, which was really nice.
We took the wheel back to the car park where my bike had been for a week. Having the bike in a car park with 24-hour surveillance might sound as a bit of a luxury for a traveler on a tight budget like me, but it only cost 20 rubles a day, which is less than what you would pay for a bottle of water. Arkan helped me fit the wheel back on the bike and when he saw that the air valve cap was missing, he took one off his own car and gave it to me. He also noticed that my chain protector was not fitted, and I explained that I had lost one of the screws due to the vibrations in Kazakhstan. While I was cleaning and greasing the chain he got Valentin on the the phone, who told me that Arkan had told him to tell me that he would take me to a shop where I could get spare screws to fix it.
We got back in the car and he took me not to a shop, but to his own place, where he found a couple of screws that fit and showed me his bike, a Yamaha Fazer 1000. He explained to me that he had had a Honda Fireblade, but had crashed it into the back of a car. I noticed that he had no numberplate on the bike and he told me that it was so that the police could not fine him. Well, rather than explain that, he just made a gesture with his right hand, as if twisting the throttle wide open and said “fuck police”.
With the screw in my pocket, we got back into his car, and he got back on the phone. I thought he was taking me back to my host’s, but then he handed me the phone again. It was Valentin, who told me that Arkan wanted to take me with him and his kids for a swim. I said I was OK with it, as long as I was back in time to meet Dasha and her friends later.
We were driving to the outskirts when we hit a long queue of stopped cars. Without thinking twice, he drove down the street the wrong way and cut to the front of the queue. It turned out it was a level crossing, they are everywhere in Russia and sometimes it takes very long for trains to pass, thus the long queues. We had been waiting for a while, but no trains turned up. Arkan, probably bored of the wait, decided to show me something. He lifted the armrest and took out… a gun. With the two kids in the back seat, who did not seem to be at all surprised. I guess it was not the first time they had seen it. He removed the gun magazine, which was charged with real bullets, removed the bullet from the chamber and gave it to me. It was the first time I had ever held a gun, and I thought that for a first time, it was quite cool that it was an outlaw Russian biker’s gun. I just hoped he did not kill anybody with it before I leave the country, as it now has my prints on it.
We finally made it through the crossing and stopped at a small shop to pick up some friends of his – a skinny guy with big tattoos that looked as badass as Arkan, his girlfriend Natasha, in very skimpy clothes and another guy with a stutter and half rotten teeth that made me think of those “Meth? Not even once” memes.
We went to a beach between a railroad bridge and a dry dock with a rotting ship in it, which might not sound great, but it was much quieter, nicer and cleaner than the beach in the city center. While we were there we talked about the trip and bikes, and compared prices between bikes in Spain, Russia and Georgia, as it turned out that Arkan was not Russian, but from Georgia. Then, best as he could using gestures and drawing in the sand, he explained that he travelled to Germany quite often, apparently on some kind drug-related business, I gathered. The conversation then turned a bit, let’s say uncomfortable. Using gestures and a few English words, they told that Natasha gave great blowjobs – they all seemed to have had a go at that – and then said “tonight, drugs, -Russian word for sex- Natasha” I laughed and played along for a while, but when we were leaving I told them that I was already meeting other people that night, which was true.
We dropped Arkan’s friends back in the shop and on the way back to the center he told me that he was a boxer and also practiced several other martial arts, and pointed at his nose, which had obviously been broken several times. Pointing at his kids and his wedding ring, he indicated that it was a good way to let out steam. He also told me that he used to be into illegal street racing in the past, he had owned an Impreza and an M5, but had given it up when he got married.
Back at Valentin’s I thanked him for everything, he had been a really nice guy and had gone out of his way to help me.
I packed my things to get ready for departure the following morning and then took one of the Russian microbuses with crazy drivers to the center to meet Dasha, I did not feel like walking almost 7km again. We bought some beer and she took me to a smaller beach on the other side of the island where we had been last time. It was already late, and the sun was setting, it was a beautiful sight, a huge red ball of fire behind the factories on the other side of the river while I was swimming in the cool water.
After the sun had set, we got back on the bridge and I discovered that the buses stop running at 9 pm, which meant a long walk back home… But then the guys said that there was no way I was leaving so early, we got a taxi and headed for the place where one of them lived, a really old wooden building dating from before the Russian Revolution. It had veranda overlooking the inner court, and we just sat there in the cool night air having a drink and playing the guitar. It made me think what an amazing experience this trip had been so far, there I was sitting with people I had just met, all of them really nice, offering me their drinks, telling me about the Russian songs they were singing.
I left at midnight, as I wanted to get up early the following day for the ride back to Volgograd. It was not especially long and the roads were quite good, but I still did not know how the rim repair would hold, so I wanted to have plenty of time just in case. Dasha walked me home, we exchanged contacts and she wished me good luck with the rest of the trip.
Decisions, decisions… 80m off the ground
Day 26 – Saturday 20th of July – Astrakhan to Volgograd (450km)
On the road again! It felt so good to be back on the road this morning… The sun was shinning, the bike seemed to work fine and I had found a couch in Volgograd with a guy named Ivan. But before getting to his home, I wanted to make a quick stop at Bike City 34, the workshop where I had had my bike serviced the first last time I was in the city, to see if they could fit a couple of screws to my windshield and GPS support, which was still attached with two pieces of cable.
There were menacing clouds ahead, but I made it to the city just after it had rained. Good, but it meant that it was now hot AND damp, not the best conditions to face the city traffic, and even less so with the streets full of puddles hiding the potholes.
I met Kate again, who had read about my problems and was very happy to see me again. They had no screws in the workshop, but one of the mechanics took a scooter and went to find some somewhere else, and in the meantime, I bought a couple of summer gloves. Mine had been blown away by a sand storm in Kazakhstan and I had tried to ride from Astrakhan in my winter ones, but it was just too hot and I just rode bare-handed.
The mechanic was back soon and they fitted not two, but four screws, using the extra mounting points to change the height of the windshield, so now it was rock solid. I thanked them all and went to meet my host for the night, who lived only a couple of streets away.
Ivan was a really nice guy, and we hit it off immediately. I dropped my things at his apartment, had a shower and we quickly discovered that he liked climbing. I told him about vias ferratas and showed him some pictures, and he was really interested in trying it someday. He then called Sasha, a friend of his and said he would take us to see an abandoned factory near his home, another hobby we shared.
It turned out to be one of this plants that heated the water for the whole city. Nowadays there are many small ones all over Volgograd, but he told me that in Soviet times they build everthing bigger, and this was supposed to be one of the biggest ones, but it was half completed when the Soviet Union dismembered and it was never finished. All that was left today was an enormous empty building and a 120-metre tall chimney.
This being Russia, the place was wide open and they had only cut the first 6 meters of metal ladder in the chimney to stop people from climbing it, but someone had put a wooden one to reach the first steps, and it was easy to access. Ivan said that he had been to the top many times and that it was safe to climb, so we got on the wooden ladder and started climbing.
I was only wearing shorts and flip flops, and when I got to the metal ladder I saw that it was all bent and rusty, so I had to climb carefully to avoid a nasty cut. As we climbed to the first level of the chimney, the ladder moved and pieces of rust fell, so I started to wonder if it was as safe as Ivan said it was.
We made it to the first level, which was about 30 or 40 meters high, and had a walkway all around the chimney. We were already higher than the building around us, and someone had built a wooden structure on the walkway, on the opposite side of the ladder. Ivan told us that some people attached a rope to it and jumped from there.
He convinced us to walk to the next level with a complete walkway, which was three levels up from where we were, the intermediate ones having only small balconies. I was not very sure about it, the ladder looked even worse from there on, but he said that he had done it plenty of times and there was no problem, and I thought that you do not get the chance to do something like that very often, so I decided to keep going.
We stopped for a rest a the next two levels, the views getting more and more spectacular, and then proceeded to the next one. When we get there we were about 80m high, and the sun was setting. We sat down on the walkway and enjoyed the view.
It was a good moment to think about the rest of my trip. I could not go back to Kazakhstan because my tourist visa only allowed me one entry, and I had lost a week waiting for the rim to be repaired. On top of that, I had been told to avoid bad roads if I did not want more trouble with the bike. I had realized that despite having changed the springs, the suspension was still too low and it did not have enough travel to handle the worst roads with the bike fully loaded, so if I wanted to go to Ulaanbaatar I would have to do it on good roads. That meant riding through Russia all the way to Irkutsk and then down to Ulaanbaatar. It was a long and possibly boring way, doing 600-800km a day to keep on schedule. When I was planning the trip, Ulaanbaator was not the final destination, it was just the point I had chosen to turn back. The real trip was all that I wanted to see and experience between my home and there, and I thought there was little point in pushing to get there just to say I had been there. Moreover, the first three weeks I had been travelling quite fast, stopping only for one night at most places, and after meeting so many great people I felt I was missing the most important thing in this trip – the trip itself and the people, that is what was important, not the final destination. I had two months to travel, and it did not really matter which way I went. I wanted variety, I did not want to follow a schedule. So I decided that I would head north, take it easier and spend some more time at each place I liked.
We headed down again, and I noticed that some of the screws that held the ladder against the chimney were missing. Nice… We made it back on the ground in one piece, and then Ivan and I bought a pizza and he took me to the center, where he and his wife had just opened a hostel, and we had dinner there with a couple from Astrakhan who were going on a hiking tour for a couple of weeks.
The following morning I started my new route, destination: Moscow. It was about 1000km, so I had to split that in two.
The longest ride
Day 27 – Sunday 21th of July – Volgograd to Voronezh (783km)
Ivan had told me that the road north to Voronezh was really bad, so it was better to head west and meet the M4, the motorway connecting Moscow to the coast. I took his advice and set off later than I wanted, at about 11, but he was such a nice guy that it was hard to leave… we just kept talking and talking over a delicious breakfast.
I rode west for about 350km, the GPS refusing to give me a route to Voronezh, so I thought I would try to reprogram it once I got to the M4. About 80 km from there, though, it just froze, and no matter how many times I restarted it, it refused to show me a map or accept a destination. I stopped to see if I could fix it somehow and to put the waterproof layers on the jacket, as it was getting very cloudy, but I did not manage to get the GPS to work. Quite annoyed, I rode on and it started to pour down. I had thought it would not be very bad, so I had not put the waterproof layer on the trousers, but it was raining hard and it was darker ahead. I was also running out of petrol, so I just stopped at the first petrol station I found and put on the layer. It was already 4 pm, and when I asked the lady there how far it was to Voronezh she said 700km. My heart sank. There was no way I could make it today, but I had made a reservation in a hostel Ivan had recommended, and it was already paid for. With no GPS and no idea how the road ahead would be, I just thought I would ride on and stop for the night in the first motel I found. I looked for accommodation on the GPS and surprise, it worked. It gave me a hostel on the M4, the road I was looking for, and it was not far.
Once I found the M4, it turned out to be a dual carriageway, not in great condition, but it enabled me to travel a bit faster, at least. It stopped raining and the sun came up, so my spirits lifted again. I decided to keep going as far as I could and then find another place to spend the night. Soon, I saw a sign that read 440km to Voronezh. I was doing 120-130km/h, so it was doable. I decided to try and get there before nighttime.
However, a few kilometers down the road, the dual carriageway vanished, and I run into a nightmare of traffic jam and roadworks. I could not believe that a main road leading to the capital was a crappy two-lane road going through every single village and town on the way. I was already starting to regret having made the decision to take the detour to find the M4, even if the road was bad from Volgograd, at least there would have been no traffic jams and I would have saved almost 400km.
A while later though, things changed again. The road went back to a dual carriageway and the GPS miraculously started working again. I think it had been having trouble with the bit that was under construction. It now estimated that I could get there at 10pm, which was not bad. I pushed on and a while later I saw a motorbike coming up behind me. It was a white KTM on Russian plates, and after a while of riding together, the guy signaled to stop at a petro station. I pulled in with him and went over to say hi. He spoke very little English, and told the best he could that he was from Moscow and heading back home. I told him that I was going there too, and spending the night in Voronezh, so he decided to come with me, as he was not going to get home that night.
The road was better and he rode quite fast, riding on the hard shoulder or on the oncoming lane when there were traffic jams, so I thought ‘when in Rome, do as Romans do’, and followed him. We got to the hostel half an hour later, at half past nine, and I was very happy to have a shower and some dinner.
While we were eating, he told me that he was leaving at 4 am the following morning, as he had to be back at work by 9. I was staying for an extra day to have time to catch up with the posts, so he gave me his address and told me that I was going to stay at his place in Moscow and that he would show me around the city. Russian hospitality is amazing! I agreed to meet him in Moscow on Tuesday and went to bed early.
Blogging in Voronezh
Day 28 – Monday 22nd of July – Voronezh (0km)
This morning I walked into the kitchen to find a couple of girls from Moscow who were travelling to Azerbaijan and Georgia. We got talking and one of them told me she was also a biker, she had Triumph back in Moscow. She told me a couple of websites that are very active in the biking community in Russia, one of then to help bikers who have problems on the road, and gave me her number in case I needed anything for the trip. Nice girls.
I decided to spend the morning visiting the city and then go back to the hostel in the afternoon and write all the posts I had no written on the previous day. As it always seems to happen, Voronezh was a much nicer city than expected, I wandered around its streets, went down to the river, back to the center, found a place to eat and escape a bit of rain and back to the hostel.
When I got to the front door I found a GS with Serbian plates, It was a couple travelling east, with no fixed plans, possibly going as far as Vladivostok. We spend a long time talking bikes and travelling in the kitchen, and they gave me some advice about the route to the NordKapp, as some of their friends had been there. Then they went for a walk and I spent the rest of the evening writing, which took much longer than I thought.
Crazy Moscow traffic
Day 29 – Tuesday 23th of July – Voronezh to Moscow (546km)
My plans to get up early and set off with plenty of time in case the traffic into Moscow was bad were thwarted by a mosquito that did not let me sleep until very, very late. In the end I left at about 10 am, after exchanging contact details and taking some pictures with the Serbian guys.
I left the waterproof layers on the suit, as the sky was very cloudy and it was a bit chilly, and put on the winter gloves. I left Voronezh without any problems, and soon was on the motorway to Moscow, which was excellent – no traffic and very good tarmac. I was surprised, however to find a toll not long after Voronezh, but it was only 60 rubles, so it was no big deal.
The way to Moscow felt longer than I expected, in part because it got colder and the rain kept coming and going, not making the journey exactly enjoyable. It was weird to think that just two days ago I was baking in 40ºC heat and today it was 14ºC. In the end I had to stop and put a jumper on, which made things much better, as did the heating grips.
When the GPS indicated that I was about 80km from my destination I started looking out for the infamous Moscow traffic, and sure enough, it did not take me long to find it. As I rode into the outskirts, the traffic grew thicker and the drivers more reckless, cutting in front of one another at crazy speeds. My host’s flat was in a residential area in the north of the city, which meant that I had to leave the motorway I was on at some point and take the fourth ring road to bypass the center. When I got to the ramp leading off the motorway and down to the ring road, it was complete gridlock. The cars and trucks were three abreast on the one lane exit ramp, and traffic was completely stopped down on the ring road. I thought that if I had to do 40km like that it would take me hours. I decided that the only way to deal with crazy traffic was to drive like them or worse, so I started darting for tiny gaps between cars and trucks, trying to make some progress in the maze of idling metal. I made my way down the ramp and into the four-lane ring road, and then across to the fast lane. Cars were not moving there either, and while I was trying to work out whether I could fit between cars with the panniers without ripping any wing mirrors off, I saw a motorbike zoom past between the fourth lane and the Armco barriers. I had thought there was no space there, no hard shoulder, but it turned out that there was just about enough space for me to ride, so without thinking twice, I pulled into the space, and started overtaking cars. About 10km later, the traffic started to move, and in a while it was clear enough for me to get back to a normal lane. I rode around the city and when I got to the point where I had to exit the ring road and find my host’s street, it was the same story. All traffic stopped, with hundreds of cars trying to get in and out of the ring road at the same time, blocking each other’s way. I made it out using the same technique, and in 10 minutes I arrived at my destination.
Ilia came down to meet me, we dropped my things at his flat and he took me to the car park where he kept his KTM and left my bike there. Back in the flat, he sat me down for a delicious meal, and then waited for his wife to arrive while we showed each other pictures, mine from the trip, his from his family and his trip to the Altay mountains (which made me quite jealous).
In the evening, we went for a long walk and he showed me his neighbourhood. It was a classic Soviet style residential area, but unlike all the others I had seen, this one was really nice. All the buildings were new or well taken care of, as were the streets, gardens, parks, etc. It looked like a very nice place to live in, with lots of facilities and green areas, and I imagined this is what the original idea was. It is a shame that lack of money, maintenance, corruption and other factors have slowly destroyed it.
Ilia told me that the following day would be a long day, he would take me to see other areas of his neighbourhood that look very promising and then to the center, so off to bed early it is.
Day 30 – Wednesday 24th of July – Moscow (0km)
I woke up at about 8 am after a very good night’s sleep, and while I was folding the sofa bed back into a sofa, I noticed a delicious smell coming from the kitchen. I walked in to find a wonderful breakfast waiting for me – eggs, sausages, toast, coffee… Ilia told me that he had called his job and taken the day off so that he could show me around Moscow.
We talked about our respective jobs over breakfast, and got to know each other a bit better despite the language barrier. I was surprised to find that he was a major with the Russian army, and his job involved security in the city, liaising with the police. His father had also been in the army, as well as his grandfather, who had fought against the Germans in WWII in the Black sea. He showed me his medals.
After breakfast we took the bus and then the metro and went to see the VDNKh Park, which used to be a kind of universal exposition but only of the countries that formed the former USSR. The exhibition covers a vast area, and to give you an idea of the size of the city, this was all still in Ilia’s neighbourhood, which was not the center.
We walked around the pavilions, drank Kbac, saw a rocket like the one that put Gagarin in orbit, a Yak-42, the fountain representing all the soviet republics and then took a ride on a ferris wheel that presented us with a great view of the area. At the other end of the exhibition we walked past the space museum and the imposing Cosmos hotel, with a statue of Charles DeGaulle in front of it.
The underground took us to the center, were we visited the Tretyakov gallery, containing some of Russia’s finest artist’s woks. From there, we took a walk across the Moskva river and I saw the Kremlin for the first time.
There are some cities that are so embedded into popular culture that they somehow become part of a collective subconscious, and when we visit them for the first time, they feel familiar, as if we had been there before. That was the feeling I had when I walked past the Kremlin’s main entrance, around the corner and into the Red Square. My second thought was ‘how did Mathias Rust manage to land a plane here?’ as the square looked smaller than I had imagined. Part of the blame for this impression lay with the fact that there was some kind of religious music concert going on at the square, and they had erected a huge stage that completely ruined the view of the place. Talk about bad luck…
We went for lunch at a place called My-My (pronounced Mu-Mu) which is a Russian fast food chain, and then visited the interior of the Kremlin. On the way back home, Ilia took me on a tour of the most spectacular underground stations in the city, with their great halls, sculptures and lamps.
It had been an exhausting but wonderful day, and I decided to leave straight for St. Petersburg the following morning, as I had seen what I had planned to see in Moscow and I wanted to make sure I had time to complete my route and visit everything I wanted to visit on the way down from the Nordkapp. After dinner, however, Ilia had one more surprise in store for me. He waited until dark, and with no traffic on the streets, he took me on his car for a night tour of the city. It was great, not only because I got to see the main streets, but also because being a passenger meant that I could appreciate what I was seeing. The problem with riding in Russia is that you have to concentrate 100% in what you’re doing. Take your eyes off the road to look at the landscape or a building, you hit a pothole, you fall and you die. Take your eyes off the traffic around you, a huge truck changes lane, crushes you and you die. Take one hand off the handlebar to rest or touch the GPS screen, your front wheel catches a rut, the bike flips and you die. All this means that you really do not have time to see anything else than the road and the traffic for miles and miles, so the night drive across the city was a welcome break.
To culminate the drive, Ilia took me to a place in front of the university where bikers meet. Now, if you ever hear that there are a lot of bikers in Moscow and think that it might not be that many, because you do not see a lot on the streets, visit this place. There are hundreds of them, every single night of the week, gathered there.
It was getting cold, so we headed back home, sat down and drank some beer that Ilia had bought earlier. I regretted having to leave the following morning, he had been a wonderful guest, but I had a long ride to the next city and an even longer ride to the north.