Jeremiah Watt Cycling around God's Creation

long distance bicycle touring

Posts tagged ‘bicycle tour’

Blog57-RTW gear review

GEAR REVIEW FOR AROUND THE WORLD CYCLING

Jeremiah Watt, an RTW adventure cyclist, says like almost everyone who tackles a long and epic adventure such as around the world by bicycle, will end with an opinion on gear and the needs for a cyclist as he travels. I am then no different than many who have come before me, except that my opinion on gear and camp life nessessities may differ. So, lets get started as Jeremiah lays out his thoughts, the pros and cons of gear, planning, blogging etc.

Informative blogs, as travellers I think its imperative that we read and follow as many as possible. They educate, inform and prepare a would be traveller as too what we may have for expectations with regard to such things as food, money/currency questions, routes, accessories. As far as Jeremiah is concerned, and his opinion, read as many as you can find, that deal with the adventure and route you intend to take.

Smart phones, I dont care who makes them, or what version that you may have……they just ain’t that smart when you are stuck in the middle of Mongolia and no signal……or even no GOOGLE mapping feature. I love mine, and dont want to be without it, but dont place your life in an online mapping service, have some basic paper road maps with you. And do not depend on the translation apps for anything other than single word translations. You could find that trying to translate an entire sentence may have you accidentaly placed in front of a fireing squad LOL. I carried a Samsung S4 phone.

Tablet or small laptop. I chose a 10″ Samsung Galaxy2 tablet and found it perfectly capable for my needs and my many images. Besides all that, I could charge my tablet thru my Shimano front dyno-hub. I found this to be particularily useful.

Cameras, my son carried two Go-pro units and we really liked the video and image quality that we got from the units. These items also returned home with my son when he flew back from Bucharest. Jeremiah, carried his Samsung S4 phone for panoramas, which is does beautiful with. And for digital cameras, he carried a Canon SX50 HS camera. I really like this type camera, its easy to use, plenty of range on the lense, and does not kill batteries quickly. All plusses when traveling. I had downloaded 2 different apps for handling the editing of images as I traveled. Jeremiah uses Pixlr Express for the bulk of the editing, really like this app. I also have Photoshop Touch on my tablet, this is a powerful app, make no mistake, but it is just so much slower than the Pixlr software. All totalled, I filled 3 of the class 10 x 64gig cards, and 2 class 10 cards of 32 gig capacity. Thats alot of images folks, and almost no video was shot on these cards. For storage, we added an external micro SD card of 128gig capacity.

Bike, that Jeremiah rode was a Surly Long Haul Trucker. This has proven to be a bullet-proof all steel frame with nary a failure nor weakness. I love, love, love this bike says Jeremiah.

Racks, I know that the cycling world loves Tubus brand racks and most likely for good reason. With that said, on our 2 bikes, we ran Surly Brand expedition racks both front and back. Put all bolts in with a drop of blue Loc-Tite. Never lost nor broke a bolt, no failures what-so-ever. One thing I really liked about the Surly racks was the racks had a good top base to support added bags and crap that we cyslists tend to carry, Tubus racks to not have this luxury.

Stove, my choice of stove was loved and hated. All due to fuel issues. I had an Esbit brand alchohol fuel stove, from Ukraine and on west it was not much problem finding fuel. It cleaned up well, cooked just fine, was light and efficient for us as we travelled. Once we arrived in USA, it was a piece of cake to travel and use this little stove. The real problem lay within Russia, Mongolia and China…..you will pull your hair out finding fuel in any of these countries and find yourself wishing for a different stove, as we did. Have to be honest here, that had we been using canister fuels, in some pllaces that also would have been a problem. We carried a multi-fuel stove for a while, but got tired of its leaks and everything smelling like fuel in short order along with the ports being plugged up and constant cleaning..maybe, there is no perfect stove?

Seats, at home I ride a Fizik seat and really like it. But on all day tours, I ride a Brooks-B17. This seat is not only comfortable but looks like a million dollars after its broke in. I think it takes close to 1000 miles to actually have the seat breakin and conform JMO.

Wheels/Rims,  Jeremiah chose 26″ wheels after much discussion and advice on blogs. But in retrospect I would say that the 27″ are by far more available in those places such as morthern China, Mongolia and eastern Russia. There were actually several places where we could not find any 26″ wheels, but had choices of several 27″ wheels and tires. My rims, front and backwere Ryno-Lite double walled, with a 40 spoke count, 4 cross pattern x 12ga. spokes front. On the rear wheel I used the same rim brand, but 48 spoke count x 4 cross pattern. Back hub was a Phil Wood hub, fantastic hub. Front hub is a Shimano Dyno hub and it worked flawlessly the whole trip. ( NOTE, my son rode with me on the same bike setup, same wheels and same rims for 4 months. We set his bike up with a Son28 hub, and where always dissappointed. Very miserable wiring connections at the hub itself, always broke loose from brush and or vibration. I have too say, that we sent them 2 emails regarding problems we had been having with this hub, and never heard a word back from them)  Would never place this hub ahead of my Shimano dyno hub.

Tyres/Tires, depending on where you grow up and how it is spelled. Make no mistake about it, if you choose anything other than a Schwalbe brand tire, you are asking for more trouble while touring. Schwalbe brand tires, in my case Marathon Plus version x 1.75 width they proved to be invincible. We met several other long distance tourers and most ran the same tire as what we placed on our bikes. For our choice in tubes, we just ran condoms with a valve stem. The lightest tubes around. We added tire liners inside the Schwalbe tires.

Patch kits, this may sound rather harsh, but you cant take chances on being in the middle of no-where and need a patch kit. So, chose Rema Tip-Top Touring patch kits. You can be assured that the glue is fresh, and patches stick. I equipped my sons bike with Patch kits from Parks Brothers and NONE of the glue was useable PERIOD, bought at 2 different stores and several months apart.

Frame pump, floor pump????. Jeremiah admits that he must be the only idiot who cannot depend on blowing up a tire to full pressure, or without wrecking the valve stem during the process when using the ultra-lite frame style pumps. With that confession made, Jeremiah has never been left sitting on the side of the road cussing at the broken stem on his last danged inner tube iether…..because I always carry a full floor pump. Yes, they are heavier and bulky for sure. When I left, I had a Lenzyne Traveller floor pump……a gorgeous unit and not at all heavy, a perfect full sized travel floor pump. But the constant bump and jar of Chinese and Mongolian roads completely messed the pump up, beyond use. To Lenzyne’s credit, I sent them an email telling them of the state of the pump and they replaced it with a very apologetic letter. The only problem was that the replacement was sent to my home in california, a matter that I dont hold against them, I like the fact they stood behind the product. We replaced this pump with a $1.29 cent floor pump at the black market in Bayan Olgii, Mongolia……it worked flawlessly and was super light. Had this pump till it was taken away from me in Portugal at the Airport when flying home.

Solar charging system. As stated, we had Dyno hubs on both bikes to charge such things as our phones and tablet as we rode. In addition to this charging method, we had a Goal Zero Sherpa battery pack unit along with the Goal Zero 20 panel array. However, this proved to be lacking for rugged use, no matter how we tried to take the harshness and rigors of travel out of the equation. By mid way thru Mongolia, both the panel and the battery units failed completely and were sent home. To the Company’s credit, they fully replaced both units and were very apologetic about it all, but again, the replacements were sent to my house in California.

Tents. For my expedition I chose the REI Quarter Dome tent, which is an ample 2 man tent with a gear shed on both sides, allowing 2 loaded tourers to keep everything out of the rain except for the bikes themselves. My son and I done this on several occassions in blowing sand as well as heavy rain. I really like this tent says Jeremiah, it has a larger floor plan than most 2 man tents, good sized gear sheds leave room for gear or cooking under during pouring rain. The tent proved to be strong and durable for my use. In my opinion, the only fault found with this tent, is its poor wind resistance ability during wind events, in this scenario, it is very poor, and the camper MUST find refuge for the tent or suffer the consequences. Even a little wind will flatten this tent.

Convertors, whether E-Werks brand which is fully adjustable to any/everybattery……or a very simple Sinewave version for half the price or less. We had both and tested both. I will take the consistant simplicity of the Sinewave version hands down says Jeremiah. The other version, while technically a more intuitive and thought out convertor, it proved over and over again to be farless able to place as much charge in any battery as did my Sinewave convertor. Besides that, the user has do pull batteries, do some calculations, turn three times to the left followed by one turn to the right while at the same time sticking his tongue out and you come up with an Amp and Joule setting, of which you need to make both settings correctly……..yes, correct, it comes with 3 feet of chord on it for good reason, that way you can throw it further out into the ditch and never feel like you should go looking for it. Stick with the Sinewave unit and wear a smile.

Sleeping mats, Jeremiah uses a 30″width Luxury Traveller by Thermo-rest and loved it. Not a single issue except that they begin to stink after a while on a long journey. So, I began a habit of giving it a serious scrubbing every couple months, and this helped alot. No holes, no patches, no leaky valves haunted me as I travelled.

Panniers, it goes without saying that the top of the line bags/panniers are those made by Ortlieb. They are not cheap, because they are well made and function everyday in the harshest conditions, dont try to scrimp and save on bags. Just call Wayne at the Tour Store an online provider of Orlieb brand product and you will be set for years.

Sleeping bags, now I had a Moutain Hardware bag, a mummy style, zipper sided and rated to minus 15. The bag proved capable in the temps that I camped in during this trip, and so for that I am happy. BUT, the bag design has one serious flaw that will cause a Pastor to cuss, and a sailor to blush when he hears it. The problem, is the stinkin zipper flap which stops wind blowing thru the zipper when zipped up. The fabric tape used is too short in length for one thing, and also way to flimsy. So as a result, the damn zipper is ALWAYS STUCK. Middle of the night, pitch black, this will really test your patience. By Romania, some 4 months into the trip, Jeremiah had had enough of this hassle. I took out my tiny scizzors, and just hacked the damned little protective flaps off of both sides of the zipper. While not a complete cure, it did help in the bags performance for the rest of the trip.

RTW advice, dont over plan the trip. By doing so, it leaves no room for God to work and reveal himself. Dont over pack clothes, keep it very basic with layers, you can always buy an extra piece of warmer clothing as you go. I for instance rode in 1 pair of Pearl Izumi bib shorts for the entire trip, I think the Pearl brand is the most rugged brand of cycling clothing on the market today. I also think its designed to fit Americans, we tend to be a little larger and carry more wieght than most Europeans or asians for instance.

Blog56-blessed,finished, and glad to be home

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Jeremiah Watt, and his very dependable (RTW) round the world steed, Shirly Surly which is a rim brake, 26″wheeled Long Haul Trucker steel framed bicycle, have officially concluded thier adventure. The cycle tour came to its final conclusion on Wednesday the 25th of March….just 3 days after Jeremiahs 59th birthday. Just want to say a very large thankyou to many family and friends who have Prayed for me, thanks. Several Pastor friends, my hometown pastor, Mike Markley from here in Coalinga, who has lead the saints on several pray for the “spandex cowboy” sessions. And to my adopted Pastor from the Holland, he has been praying for blessings on both Pine and I since we met him and his wife at Voronetz in Romania, thankyou. And to my preaching cowboy Pastor Ted and Linda Wiese for thier constant prayers.To several business associates from here in USA, China and Taiwan, Canada and Russia. To all of them I say thankyou for your patience and tolerance with my being out of the office so much…..like danged near a year…..thanks.

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Most especially, I want to acknowledge my wife and my thanks to her for all she puts up with from me. Thankyou Colleen, I love you and cherish your council and your unending affection. Deserved or not, you never hold back and give me 100%. If ever I fall short on strength or conviction on my biblical walk, you are right there, like guideposts on my roadway. I have 2 beautiful children because of her genetics…..apparently none of mine show up…..mystery.

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Jeremiahs last blog post had him taking a deserved day off and sitting in a motel room in Barstow. With the blog entry and images finished up, Jeremiah walked next door and had americanized Chinese food. Hit the sack pretty early and got up about 5.15am. He and Shirley were rolling in the pre-dawn hours of what would be  breezy day all the way west towards Tehachapi. Not much can be said about the stretch between Barstow and Mojave, except maybe YUP, done that piece before. Had a meal in Mojave and took sort of a backroad out of this wind farm encroached town, a road that winds its way up over the mountains then drops into the valley that holds Tehachapi. The wind was howling and finding a spot to set up my wind challenged tent was very problematic. Done my best, but by 4 am, I knew that I had a problem and it needed to be dealt with. So  I crawled out of the abode, and grasping the crossing of poles at the top of the tent, I reached down with my freehand and dislodged the closest corner guy-rope…..at some 90 miles an hour the tent kited out to the ropes end, burning my hand upon its exit…..hit the end of its tether and flipped totally inside out bending poles and spraying tent stakes like a lawn sprinkler. Cowboys……gotta love thier mentality…..its instant blood boil….followed by a “comeer you SOB….an I’ll show you”. I hauled the tent back by the one tiny chord that I stiil held fast……total darkness and groping for orientation…….got a fabric corner and pulled it to my face to figure things out……oooops, there goes the danged ballcap Jim-Bob, cock your head a little and turn just slightly said my mental elevation control panel……and I listened and executed to near perfection. A snapping sound, followed by that crisp noise a sail makes when it engulfs a full load of aire……followed by now complete blindness as the tent sprang from its final tent peg mooring and reversed its current fold to capture me entirely as it changed its course in the prevailing wind.

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Rip stop nylon, coated zippers, seamed tent peg pockets and fly screen were stuck to my legs and face as if by glue….no part could be lifted away without some other piece of fabric filling the void……Jeremiah is running short of breath, and visual acuity is now zero as the flapping fabric envelopes my head. My mental emergency responce unit came into play and issued a dire oxygen awarness warning and a dissorientation buzzer sounded which ley me know my internal gyroscope was now malfunctioning due to a lack of oxygen and a blotted out horizon line…….TURN IMMEDIATLY TO THE RIGHT JEREMIAH was the advice…..which I did like an automaton, and the tent sprang from my body like a leopard from a tree branch. A sharp jerk at arms length, and a burning palm was my gift for allowing the tent to once again flip inside out and capture a full sail of wind. The mental preservation unit once again kicked in with advice which is totally computer driven…….bout as usefull as advice about work from a teenager or almost anything from Al Gore for that matter. Shutup I said, what do you know about camping anyways I heard my reply, as it tried in vain to warn me……..I stomped my left foot down in the middle of the billowing tent and grasped a corner and whatever bent poles I could find. Wrapped any loosed fabric left over, around my arm and proceeded to stuff it into an empty pannier. Not really caring, nor looking for that matter, just getting it contained and constrained was my goal. The sun had not even begun it’s match over the eastern horizon, camp was packed, the bike was ready to roll. Nothing to do know but get started.

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About 8 miles separated me from Tehachapi, which meant that the previous day I had logged some 83 or so miles into a stiff head wind…not bad for an old fart. Rolled of the top of the ridge and down into Tehachapi, stood for a moment wondering what to do next. I was supposed too call my friend Matt Sheridan, and my intention was to do just that if it had been a normal day……but here I am at 5.45……..and I would be waiting till when……?  Done what every cyclist with a yearning to get home would do, I rolled right out to the 4 lane known as 58, and sailed downhill into Bakersfield. Rode on thru most of town then stopped for a cup of coffee and breakfast. made a left hand turn onto 7th Standard road and was now headed for the west side of the San Joaquin valley. By about 3.30pm, I was on the west side but totally unsure of my tent situation and was pondering what to do…….a truck rolled up and offered me a lift. Gladly I said,  and caught a ride almost 40 miles north to Hwy41 junction and the closest motel to where I was.  Inside the room, I figured out the state of my tent and hit the hay. About 77 miles covered that day while on the bike.

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The following day, I would ride from Hwy 41 on up to Jayne Ave which is abot 12 miles from Coalinga. Sitting at a Shell Station, I called my wife and got the bad news……….I was not allowed to come home till the following morning after 10am. For about 4 hours I read Tom Clancy’s novel, Executive Actions while sitting out front of the store. Sometime along about 5pm, my Pastor and my other good friend Larkin snuck up on me as I sat reading and surprised the heck out of me as I sat. They had a plan of taking me out to supper, which sure sounded nice, but, I declined since I had made plans to cook my last meal in my tent. It made me feel bad, sorry guys, but I was defermined to close this expecition out like an adventure expedition.

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My morning began at 7 and I pedaled into Coalinga to have coffee. Called the wife and let her know that I was coming home….ready or not so too speak. Headed up the canyon and stopped to visit with nieghbours as I rode. First I met the ranch owner where I live, Ted Denhartog. From tnere I went to pray with my Pastor and Miss Mary at the church before I headed up the canyon. About that sametime, our friend “Uncle Leonard” came along to say hello and wish me well. Next up was my mailman and a friend, Daniel. Rode on aways to Alcalde Ranches and visited with Natasha and Chance, checked out her greyhounds and the new barn they have been putting up since I left. Just a ways further up I got to say hello to the Warthan Canyon beeman, Don. Within maybe 3 miles of home, I met Sharon, my former secretary and her husband Norv, along with our now retired phone man Jim, and his copilot Mr. Ramsey. It was a magnificent morning up Warythan Canyon, as cattle of all colors dotted the sides of those sunwashed hills. Granite spires and wildflowers thrown in as if by a painters hand, adding interest and color. It was aneasy ride, drawn as if by a string or maybe magnetic power towards first my mailbox then just a mile and a half further my house. The road from the mailbox to the house had been painted with thenames of all the countries that Pine and I had ridden thru on this odyssey. At the gate, I was met by 2 of Teds( ranch owner ) grand-daughters and they on bicycles, escorting me into the last 150 yard stretch too the house, the shop, my yard, waiting friends and employees, Colleen, Pine and the dogs and cats that make our home, our home. So thankfull to all of you and especially to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for guiding and ushering me thru on this journey one road and one hill after another.

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Special thanks to;
Colleen Watt my wife, what can I say but that she is truly the glue that binds my home and business together.
Pine Watt for sharing the first 4 months of the journey thru the hardest section, and for keeping me going. Its you that made it happen.
Nevada Watt, my daughter for her constant support and encouragement.
Ted & Tracy Denhartog, the owners of the ranch where we get to live, its paradise, thanks
Hyun Ku Kim, of China for his support and friendship, his fantastic sendoff party, many thanks.
Jack Ann of South Korea, for his constant prayers while we were traveling and for praying over us when sending us off.
Sunny Yan, of China for his support and prayers as we traveled
Vladimir, Gaia and Roman Kolchetkov of Russia for thier welcome into thier home and fine meals and encouragement.
Yves, Miriam and Erin Lesire of France for welco ing me into thier home and thier warm hospitality.
Georges and Natalie Braile also of France, thier constant friendship and continued support, thanks.
Pierre Duinat my Basque friend, a warm home and many meals.
Orzuri Urrutia, a great gal from the Basque region, who allowed me the use of her mailbox at desparate times.
Ryan, Tracy and Chloe, who welcomed a biker back to America, fed him and allowed him to play with Chloe’s toys.
Niel Watt, my brother, who took a chance on riding with me in Europe as well as New Mexico, many thanks.
Lee, Kendra, Rayce and Kollins Griggs, who provided a welcome home to me during a stormy section thru New Mexico
Darby & Dalette Adams, for thier friendship over many years and consistant support and encouragement.
Niel and Debra Overton for thier long lasting friendship and support.
Deahl Rooks for his many years of friendship and consistant encouragement.
Pastor Mike Markley and wife Jeana for constant prayers and the rousing of the faithful saints to do the same, thanks.
Pastor Hindrik van Diijken of Holland, for continued prayers and encouragement to prevail in the name of Christ that he may be glorified.
Valentin Daniel Olariu, for his friendship and gift of Portugese wine to enjoy over Christmas Holidays
Weaver Leather, to the entire staff for allowing me to be missing from action for almost a full year, many thanks

Post 10, from nowhere inparticular to Ulangom

Tarant to Ulangom.The long rough roads of Mongolia finally struck. An apology is in order here for those rarified few who mistakinly thought that JW was a man of steel. Frayed knot, Iam mostly dough, and these roads finally proved that too me. In the planning of this trip, of course I read every blog and every account that I could find about Mongolia and every other area that we intend to ride. Found out that in Romania and Hungary, that apart from steep roads we have serious dog concerns for instance. And with regard to Mongolia it was the serious road conditions that are a problem.

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Pine, lookin pretty rough

All that said, the description of “serious”, lacked much context other than really bad. So it got to be a running joke between Pine and I as we rode along on bad road by USA standards, that if this is BAD then we can handle it. Ever heard that saying, carefull what you Pray for, well, we learned that lesson in spades.Our road dillema all began as we headed out of Tetserleg and our first stiff moutain pass climb on sand and gravel. In 25 years of riding in USA, I had not met a hill I could not crank up. Boy howdy, this hill showed me just how old and frail I am. Pretty stiff climb, it beat me 3 times. Lowest gear, soft sand, and I just could not get enough forward motion to stay upright. Happy to say that my stud son managed to ride in 3×4 and cranked right to the top. I was dually impressed. Down the other side, still on soft sand and thru huge ruts. We had to stop and tighten our brakes more so we would not have to use the non-existant run away ramps. Long ride down, and by the time we bottomed out, both of us had tired hands from riding the brakes as we went. Soon enough the road went back to blacktop of pretty fair quality.

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A typical Yurt or Gur in the Uvs region.

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Looking for pattern and color within a fairly modest but engraciating Mongolian home, welcome is not a color nor pattern.

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Those are the mountains we tackle tomorrow. Two passes on dirt roads, and plus 10% at plus 10k tall. It will be a certified grunt&fart couple days

Traffic grew sparcer and sparcer, allowing us to ride side by side and visit a little. Half way thru the day, with the Archangai mountains growing around us in ever more ominous fashion with heavy rain laden clouds cloaking every peak, we knew it was time to set up camp. No sooner did we have camp up, than the rain came. Cooked supper under the tent gear fly, drank a cup of sugary tea, read for a bit, and hit the sack to the constant thrumming of rain on our nylon abodes.We woke to the sound of heavy rain at about 5.30am. Decided to maybe wait it out, and by about 9am we felt like we could escape our confines. Things were real wet, we rolled up and rode.Plenty of climbs as we made our way north by northwest thru the Archangai provincial hills. Pretty safe to say that this region of Mongolia is for sure our favorite within the route we traversed this the 17th largest country in the world. The heavy clouds finally lost thier threatening grip over the blue sky it had been choking out. We met our stiffest long climb, for sure plus 10 percent, all ruts and sand from a combination of heavy rain and grossly overloaded freight hauling vehichles. Pine managed to crank to the top once again, while old Pops was relegated to pushing to the top.

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A view from south of Ulangom, as we drive north.

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The Uvs desert, which houses the largest camel population in the world, brought here by Fungus Khan, Ghengis,s older less known brother.so quickly did they populate that they choked out the native Panda population, darned nusance.
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Oh well, I made it, just not in the manner I am accustomed too is all! We met 4 Swiss adventure motorcyclists at the top, had a visit, but they mentioned not a word about the roads that lay just ahead of. They did however all wish us goodluck with huge Swiss Banker like smiles…….?
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Not the best selfie sweetie, getting a little wooly, gunna have to do soething about that.

Off we ride in a content fog of ignorance.. Content to know the roades are pretty good going forward, right……I mean they are, aren’t they?. We stop in a tiny 5 shack “town”, unmarked on the map,nothing new about that. Its raining again, and we are sweating in our rain gear so we head for an open door and enter. That seems to be the way it works here in Mongolia, as most shacks or Gers along the road have a few items to sell, or they will make you a meal. This tiny building consisted of main room as you walk in, maybe 10 x 15 long with several cobbled together tables built onto the walls, and dining chairs from the same period. At the back of the room, was about the same amount of space with a huge low flat stove burning along and to the right of the stove a makeshift table. To our left was another room, known here as a “motel”, which consists of a low flat pellet built onto one wall. It will usually run the length of the room, and stands knee high and covered in some sort of drab carpet. Its a place where travelers can just pull in when tired, and sleep in a very communal fashion for as long as they wish. “We’ll leave the light on for you”, comes to mind. Working away at the back table was a lady with a broken length of mop handle which she was rolling dough with. Large, maybe 30 inch diameter circles were being rolled out then passed over to a rotund lady who was caretaker of the stove. She would take the dough with a constant toothy smile, and flop it onto the stove to begin the cooking process. Once both sides had been lightly browned, each huge pancake shaped disc is set on a shelf too cool. The shelf contained dozens, all stacked up. There was an elderly women and a much younger women who greeted us as we walked in “Sien bine,nu”. They poured us Mongolian tea without even asking……..and said “Good morning honey, and whaterya guuna have fer breakfast”. Oh crap, sorry, I had  flash back, thought I was back in USA for a moment. They didnt say squat, nor smile. Nope, they both turned as if choreographed, sat at a low bench, took up shiny sharp clevers and each grabbed a dough wheel and set it before them. The dough is cut in strips, maybe 6inch wide. Then folded end over end till it was a parcel maybe 6×6. At that point, they commenced slicing thin shavings off maybe 1/8th wide. We found our selves amazed watching these noodle makers creating a mountain of noodles inno time at all. As it turns out, the older lady was the mother and had run this little shop all her life, a very meager existance at best. Her daughter however had by the hardwork of her parents, went off to Ulanbaataar to become a Doctor of general medicine. We were impressed. We ordered a bowl of mutton and noodles and ate as it rained.

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Great lookin mountain yurt camp high up in Archabgai

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Very common on gates and fences too see this geometric pattern.

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The rain abates and we take to the road once again. It is rainy,sunny,cloudy,rainy, all that day. We camp, exhausted, but 58 miles further down the road when its all said and done. Up the next morning, determined to make it to Tarait, which is a tiny town beside a moutain lake and a few tourist ger stays. Pine was wanting to try a ger stay, and to some extent the thought of a shower seemed to obscure his focus on just where we were within the context of traveling thru Mongia. Good God Gerty, where the Sam Heck did these roads come from Pine as we rolled off black top onto pure-dee bone-racking, testical jarring nasty roads. Clackety clack went our teeth, bits of enamel flying out everytime we took in a breath. The bike played its own symphony of high pitched twangs and creaks, backed up by thuds and  boings from the fender and rack percussin section. What was once a single lane bitumen(a little Aussie speak thrown in for cultural interest) road snaking it’s way across the hinter lands of Mongolia was now a free for all of road making. No lie, there were at times, better than 20 roads created all heading someplace, but you know not where to be sure. Naturally, we both felt this was temporary and would come to pass as we headed to the west. How wrong could we be.

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The roads deteriorated much further, further than I have the abilty to actually descibe without resorting to words my Pastor would not approve of. Truth is folks, sometime after Tarait, the road just ends into a driving skills and navigation adventure park. Simple words leave me without the ability to aptly tell you how bad, nor how rough they really are. Some 1127km later we did finally hit black top again.2 flats, a busted radiator mount, and a snapped front spring and spring shackle later we all roll into Ulangom, a quaint little town that you would beg to be from, not at. Let me digress and explain our change of conveyance.

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We head south of Tarat, some 35 miles. The roads had gone thru a surface menu of deep sand over multiple tracks, too, lava rock riddled rim breaking single track that made moving forward with our bike weight almost impossible. Racks are straining, bags are bouncing loose, and our helmets are wearing the hair right off our scalp as they rattled around on our heads. We rode along working hard to make 4mph and not tear the bikes apart. We come onto a tiny 7 shack town without a shopping mall, nor Walmart, can you imagine. We were dogged, but it was only 10am. Our arms and shoulders ached from the constant thrashing of the track we rode. We stop at the first open door, and find a few or a smattering of everything. From a single bag of potatoe chips to a handfull of chocolate bars, a small  box of soap, a pack of feminine products…….got a mental picture. We opt for a bar each and a warm ice tea as a snack. We sit outside, watching a Buckskinny horse tied to  a power pole, and 3 kids playing soccer with a dead flat ball. Citizens of this tiny enclave seemed to come and sit at thier own doors to watch us “Strangers in town”,  rather than watch the non-existant mid day soap operas. We were a spectacle to be sure, a 6 foot plus blond kid and a whitehaired guy with a Walrus mustache. WOW, better than world cup playoffs. We talked, we compared our hurts and frustrations. We tightened up bolts, we tightened up steering tube star nuts, and rubbed our own in sympathy.

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Dust boiled up north of town, green grass and the burnt brown color of lava rock framed the approaching wheeled cyclone. Out of the shroud of dust emerged 3 very loaded trucks, they gear down rolling threw town,mindful of children/dogs/sheep/goats/old women carrying water, and the like in the street. They made a sharp turn to the north,then promptly corrected thier path, all to avoid an old man who sat on an overly low stool as he consumed his noodles in the middle of the main street. The vehicles empty, men stretch and yawn, women of course never stretch they just fart and look at thier husbands with disgust( I have come too conclude its the only international event known to man).

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12 people in total roll out, all ages and sexes. They look  at us with a jaundiced eye, wary of men dressed in rubber pants and smelling of sweat instead of goat or sheep. They walk past us as we sat, even though we made our best attempt at a cordial greeting…….to no effect. (NEWS FLASH, we just went down to the hotel restaurant and had dinner. Omg- I would sooner walk a toilet paper tight rope than eat another ×$#€@@*Mongolian meal, a ration of Doctor Kevorkians Power Bars would be a blessing. My sheep fat laden dumplings had an orgasm right there on the plate as I tried to cut into the little bugger, shot sheep fat from Vanderhof to Buenos Aires. I know some of my Mongol friends may be offended at my descriptions, but bad food is just that-bad food. I had about a dozen thin slices of Cumcuber sitting on the plate, by meals end they picked up in one congealed stalagtite of encrusted sheep fat. This ain’t like the deliciuos duck fat eaten in France folks, this mutton fat and serious teeth scraping afterwards. I have eaten so much sheep fat, that even my farts are fluffy.

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(From now on, I am dining on pure junk food or Ramen.), sorry honey, but I dont how much you insist onme improving my diet. Back to the truckers who are now leaving the store, thier curiosity getting the better of them. They make gestures towards the bikes, and one brave soul siddles over and makes a vain attempt to pick one of the bikes up…..niether wheel leaves the ground….we did notice a considerable swelling for in the rear of his pants……they all made the gesture that seemed too say that the bike was heavy. Let me start another paragraph since its bad form to run on.We talk/grunt away, have maps out, express our frustration with the raods etc. We try to find out when we hit blacktop again? They seem to all point to Ulangom when we ask that question. They also seem to express that the current roads are good as compared to what is coming, we are puzzled and ask the same question several ways and times, always with the same rather brusk reply indicating the bad part is coming.

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They are content that they know enough about us, and move off to eat thier own junk food as a group. Some time transpires, while Pine and i talk over our own game plan. One fellow, who seems to be the ring leader comes over to us and motions for the map. So we comply. Unfolding it, he sticks his finger in his chest then puts his finger down on Ulangom on the map, waves his hand at all the trucks, then makes that simple gesture that means money. We know we are being offered something, but dont know exactly what. I have to leave the translations and negotiations to Pine because he had more time to study the Rosetta Grunting and Finger Jesticulation home study guide than I have had. The conclusion, so Dad, they want $200,000.00 to take us to Ulan, and it takes 3 days by truck(this amounts to $108.00 US dollars for the 2 of us, and we cover some 900km). I jump, Pine farts, and we are in, just about that quick.

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We dismantle the bikes, placing all the panniers on the bottom to act as a cushion. Then the bikes on top and separated, all of which is tied tight within the folded tarp. Half hour later, we are loading into trucks, ready to roll. I want to stop here and say, that within this screed on Mongolian travel, I came to really appreciate this family crew of truckers. Really nice guys every one. They were not lying, about 50 miles further, and higher up into the Archangai the roads just went to hell…..sorry Mike. Niether Pine nor I had seen anything like it. In my youth, I spent about 4 years logging and working in bush camps. Those are the closest roads that I can think too compare to, they may be equal, but not worse. We, nor our bikes would have made it. Of that I am convinced. In retrospect, niether of us regret hopping the truck caravan.

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Our truck consisted of Balt, the driver an affable fellow of 28 years. Balt’s travel companion known as Kushger is just 20. Here in Mongolia it seems the driver drives and he hires 1 maybe 2 others to do everything else. Such as tune the radio, control volume, light his cigarettes, and swing a wrench or change a tire if needed. 3 across the front seats, and one rolled up behind the seat……..we worried our way thru bog,sand,creeks,swollen streams and tire slashing lava rock  formations. Sometime around 12am, we pull into a truck stop in Tosontsengel and have what Pine and I call “Grey Soup”. Its mutton and noodles with plenty of fat chunks thrown in, chased down with hot Mongal tea. Roll out of there, over hills and sand flats on multi track  byways. Not sure yet, how they judged which was the correct way. Sometime about 2am, the caravan stops in huge grassy expanse. Some climb under the trucks wrapped in the traditional Mongol herders robe, some slept in the cab, P&I, set up our tent. 5.30 am, we are woke up the traditional Mongol sound of someone hacking up a flem ball, before long it was a chorus. On the rode, all smiles and good cheer. By noon or a little later, the good spirits have given way to some truck frame problems, cracks on the frame where the shackles attach. We roll thru a tiny hamlet, and somehow they find a guy with a little buzz box welder run off a gas generator. With badly tore up electrical leads, and few sticks of deteriorated welding rod, repars are made using Oakley sunglasses. If i took the time to describe the condition of his box, or worse yet the lack of cover on his leads…..you would think me a liar or taking literary leave of the truth. UNBELIEVABLE, that simple.

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We are rolling again, and sometime mid-day we roll up to some random Yurt(very common to just stop, and the women just feeds you what ever she has)…….yup, surprise….grey soup again. Roll out after drivers had 45 minute knap on a comunal yurt type “WASH BOARD INSPIRED BED”. Rolling, and on deep sand tracks that threaten to devour each vehichle as it pushes on. The sand is broken up by rutted rock beds and soft water seeps. We are met with boiling dust clouds as we meet all sizes of trucks carrying all that can be imagined, from backhoes to tar paper. Each truck in turn taking its best chosen line for the natural obstackle in front of it, each waiting its turn with constant engine reving as one brave sole after another attempts a random stream crossing. Tiny vehichles from Prius,s to land rovers and motor cycles fly by on the next sand track as if running the Baja 500. Dust wraps its chocking maw around the inside of the cab, and the compliant drivers aid once again beguns the task off wiping down the inside of the cab and dash with a reverance we reserve for such things as religious artifacts. Yes, I did say Prius’s, as common as a sheep out here, go figger.

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We wind our way along a river system for miles. Potholes large enough to hide 3 cars, ruts up to our shoulders, grass hummocks you can hang glide off, and we roll on, one excruciating mile after another. Break out of the river to a flatter sandy plain and stop at some random middle of no where shack(wood frame building with rough mud plaster), stop right in front and commence changing out a mangled front spring on one of the trucks. Now they do carry extra parts, like here for instance we had an extra spring but it did not go with nor on this truck. So, all springs were disassembled and reassembled to form 1 new spring that agreed would work. We are rolling again. Driving into the nite, its about 1am, and everyone is tired as crap. As if by magic, all trucks roll up on random middle nowhere again Yurt #38. Everyone heads in without a word. The battery powered light is turned on by us. I can make out a surprised but not perturbed women sleeping in single bed. There is a grown man and child in another, then to the left there is that long bench bed. This one happened to be made up of wood slabs, with the curve side up, making for easier nailing but much less comfort. Everyone lays down, us included. Maybe half hour goes by, and I am awoke and handed another bowl of noodles….as was everyone. The noodles had been cooked in the cab of one of the trucks by one guys wife, each in turn got a small bowl full of food that was hot-thanks. I and Pine are freezing, i make that gesture to a truck helper and he shrugs. We roll into the smallest ball possible for warmth. A little time goes by, and another helper comes and offers a blanket that I think he got from the sleeping women? We roll up, grateful. Half hour goes by and I feel a human form cuddling closer and closer too my fetal sleeping position……much closer buddy, and we will be spooning here dude. I look close to find Kushger sneaking in under our blanket…….hes pretty tiny, and 4 good threads would have covered him well, but he turned into the proverbial blanket winch once he got under. By morning Pine and I were frozen, and he was 6 feet in diameter with all the danged blankets wrapped around him.

Back in the trucks, thanking God, there was not another bowl of grey soup. We are now in that huge plain above Chjargas Nuur. Where grassy plains give way to pure desert,gravel and camels……yes, hundreds of Bactrian camels. A place where you want to carry a full Dromdery by the way. We stop in a tiny dirt street town that had snow covered peaks as back drop. We head for the home of Kushger to meet his family. Nice folks to be sure, we were treated royally, with every extravagance that they had. They gave us tea, then many different cookies, followes by Mongolian fried noodles and mutton. The best dish we have had yet in Mongolia. Pine took a nap on the floor, while I sat and watched the Grandmother make fresh yogurt. She offered me a bowl full which I took…….wholly crap Louise, it was like liking a battery post. My eyes slammed shut causing momentary blindness, my mouth refused to open, I was stuck in that momentary no-mans-land dictated by the obligations of politness instilled since my youth. My brain, at the very core of my Cerebrial Cortex(thats the intuitive part, but not overly compassionate area of the brain) is asking me…….so, how ya gunna choke the rest down buddy . Obviously the Granmother could read my death mask expression…….she smiled, leaned over into a cupboard a took out a galvanized pail full of sugar…..smiled, and she gestured for me to take some. I took an obligatory spoon full and threw it ontop…….she smiled and motioned for me to take more.
Now I got it, they dont eat it plain iether.

We are rolling. Next stop that little Mongolian town that has most often described as a crap hole. Gott’a hand it to these Mongols, at least they are not liars. We roll into a motorcycle sales yard, since that is what our trucker was hauling. We load the bikes, which seemed to survive the washing machine’esk ride just fine. Headed out onto the very filthy streets of Ulangom in search of a place to stay, maybe wash some clothes, and take a shower. We are at the Achait Nuur Hotel. Not even so bad really. We have done all the intended things we had been hoping for. Our biggest frustration thus far has been our AT&T service. Totally useless, totally unpredictable. A little bit more than frustrating, since my wife spent alot of time with att setting up and asking as well as describing our route and intent tp blog this thing. Bought hugr data packages on 3 systems, thought we were prepareds, only to find that 2 tin cans and a length of string may have been better. We decided to take our chances eating what we could find at a grocery store, rather than temp dining. A loaf of desert bread(meaning as dry as one), a gob of butter out of a carboard box on the floor, some cheese slices, chinese nutella knock off, and a pack of cookies. Made some lemon tea, worked on the blog till 11.45pm, read a little of the book -Dragon with a girl tattoed on it, and went to bed.

So, good night to all, hope your as blessed by Jesus as we have been. If you are dissappointed in our hopping a truck, well, get over it. I came here to see and expierience it, not die of old age while doing it.
SORRY FOLKS, BUT I AM SO DANGED TIRED OF MESSING WITH BLOODY WORDPRESS, I AM JUST QUITING RIGHT HERE. HOPE YOU CAN FORGIVE THE POOR LAYOUT AND LACK OF IMAGE DESCRIPTIONS.

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