Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On the banks of the Volga

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!NB: Any concerns regarding the breathalyzer text message should be directed towards the United States embassy in the Ukraine. Points of discussion could include: how a person who never drinks alcohol could fail a breath test, why police officers feel a need to stop people for no reason in order to make money, and why the British embassy acted immediately to resolve the situation of citizens being held for 20 hours at the border and the Americans merely told us to get receipts for future litigation if necessary etc.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!Phone minutes are also resolved. Big thanks to the crack squad that actioned on this particular item, and especially to Ron for unlocking the bureaucratic mysteries of Vodafone.!!

Much has happened since the last post(which yes, was referring correctly to poland). We teamed up with an awesome group of Brits at the Ukraine border. In fact, the Russian speaker in their midst really helped us get away without large sums of money on deposit. The British embassy also really came through (see above). Special thanks to the squad of Tatiannas who really lit up the Customs Control phones.

Unfortunately, the Mini had some serious bearing issues in Kharkiv. We initially thought it was a brake problem and despite some hurried, in the road repairs, we ended up having to spend the night at a deserted gas station until we could hit the repair shop the next morning. The militsia (cops) apparently use the same area as a staging point, but seemed fine with us staying. The next day they even came over and chatted for awhile, as much as that could happen given the language differences. The other unfortunate news was that the Mini needed to stay until Monday to get the necessary parts. Fearing delays, Ramrod set out alone, two brave hobbits now journeying into the wilderness apart from the Fellowship, as Frodo Tewson puts it. I mainly complain about missing the Shire and how all we have to eat are digestive crackers.

Unfortunately, all we apparently did was declare open season with the cops. Despite our best attempts at making friends with the police while with the convoy, we seem an easy target since. If you know someone in law enforcement, please say thank you to them. There are apparently many different ways of being a cop, and they are not all equal. It is a hassle, but not so bad. We might have to play tougher soon, as the money will become an issue. Or maybe I'll just make Patrick drive more, as he seems to glide right past everything. Knock wood.

Before I go, the actual breathalyzer story, and then a few pictures from the trip (I'm not going to make the effort to do fancy formatting, sorry). We're in paradise in the Hotel Volgograd...Internet!!!- slow internet.

The Micra lost the ability to deliver fuel to the engine. If it sat for awhile, it might run a bit then die out again. We had to spend the night on the side of the road after we had left the convoy. The next morning, we flagged down some guys. They pulled open the carburetor, used a pump to blow out the jets, etc., but still no dice. They drove off and wouldn't tow us. A nice gentlemen stopped with his family, tried some more stuff with the carburetor and then gave us a tow. His daughter spoke a few words of english but we were pretty much in the dark. he just sort of hooked us up and drove off. I was steering the Micra behind him. At the nearest small town, he stopped and asked around. No mechanic apparently. Sorry for cutting you off Angela, we thought we were having a money negotiation. We thought he was driving off and leaving us, but we were still attached. Thus began the 80 km run to Donetsk.

We were stopped by a policeman and our tow man hopped out indignant. He talked to the guy and we got going again without incident. We finally got to Donetsk. The man's wife appeared to be berating him throughout the entire drive, trying to leave us everywhere, but he kept going. On the outskirts of town, he stopped to ask some cops directions. Or to tell them to screw us, not certain. One came over and made me get out. I got to go chat with him, he asked if I was American. All of a sudden, he was like 'Pivo?'. Being one of the few words I recognize, I said 'no beer' 'nyet Pivo'. So I got to go sit in a police car with another man, who gave me my breathalyzer with a rather dubious zero setting. I waited for it to drop to zero, blew a zero and waited for it to climb up to some sort of drunk setting. It did, and he was astonished and wanted money. Negotiation ensued and my (non)drunk driving of a towed Nissan Micra at 7:30 on a Sunday morning resulted in something like a 12 dollar fine. I think he could sense my utter disbelief and hidden irritation, as he is the only cop to return american bills to me. Patrick reminded me that this was the funniest thing that could possibly happen on the trip, which was good because I was about to punch through the side of our car.

Prague at sunset:

P and J at the party in Prague:

Aces of Mongolia and the Mini team- Tim, Cyrus, James and Ben:

Part of the convoy in Lviv (trying to throw sugar packets to the other car):

Again part of the convoy at a cafe by Lviv airport:

Don't worry, we're eating well:

Okay, a chaser for that last one (you asked for it):


Blogger Kim said...


that is a hilarious story about Justin. it could not have happened in a better manner - it would not be nearly as funny if it were someone else (i can only imagine the indignation!).

glad to hear that you boys are all right. thanks for the photos! keep up the good work!

9:35 AM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

That breathalyzer story is hilarious. I was pretty sure when the message said "J failed breathalyzer" as opposed to "J pinched for DUI" that it was something like that, but the actual story is funnier than I could have possibly imagined.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Cas said...

I just thought I'd let you guys know that I'm checking your progress a few times a day, and am always amused and frequently confused by your text messages.

Good luck in Kazakhstan! Supposedly the roads there, when they exist at all, are in poor condition. I'm sure you'll manage with mostly good humor. If possible, send your map location next time.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Father Kansas said...

Half the US now rooting for you. Told 58 conference attendees at Philmont about an Eagle Scout's adventure across to Mongolia. Every day the question,"Where are they now?"

5:44 PM  

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