Day 21: Samara to Saratov

Day 21 Samara to Saratov

Our start is higher again today as a few got the bad news their cars will not be ready to go. A beautiful old Bentley has a cracked differential and they were towed into Saratov so lost their top placement. Car 25 in third spot has also lost its status so by ttrition we move into 3rd in class and 6 th overall.  Someone said its not about racing its about crisis management. 

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You can never sit back. Not one person has sailed through this unscathed. Add to the car problems the horrible roads and thousands of trucks, the oppressive cold then heat and fatigue it is a recipe for problems.

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Today we change our clocks two hours, quite buzzer if you ask me but helpful for sleep.

Last night, Tony was a little under the weather due to working in the scorching sun all day. He forgets water some times. So after rehydrating  him we decided to stay in the hotel and eat in their dining room. Lots went out but a good 20 of us braved a beautiful restaurant on the 7 th floor. They initially told us it was full but then agreed. 

We arrived at 7. At 9:00pm one diner quit and went to bed. We had received a bottle of wine. The other table received frozen food. By 10 some bits of the meal appeared so we ate what had arrived and cancelled the rest. We all walked out. I got my pork tenderloin which I snarfed down. 

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This isn't the first Old Russian communist era  experience we have had. Getting gas is hilarious. You must know exactly how much you want, stand in a long line, pay a woman you cannot see through a glass mirror, then pump. If you miss guess in many places you don't get your money back. We have given gas to the next driver a few times. The line ups are horrendous. On the other hand you can barter for stuff and people try to help. Yesterday I went alone to search out car things, brake cleaner,oil, differential oil, a repair kit for tires, a new jack etc. a taxi took me to the strangest out door market and we walked from stall to stall searching things out. Unlike what I thought it would be like everyone was helpful and even pointed to the best place to get stuff. I thought safety would be an issue but no, you don't feel ripped off or concerned at all. Inefficiencies abound yes but overall it feels safe and many just want a photo with you or to take a photo of your car. Everyone asks first too. I guess photos are still a concern here. Left over from a time gone by.

Anyway I digress. Monday and we are off at 8:06am 416km to cover. The car didn't get washed like so many others we still carry Mongolian sand. It is hot, not what we expect for Russia. The temperature at 8:06 is well over 35C . We have the roof off to try and force air in to the car. It is going to be a scorcher. We have now had it all  in a ten day span. We drive out but are forewarned the roads to Saratov are bad. They sure are. We reach passage Control 1 in good time and no flats. We stop to refuel ourselves not the car and go into a nicely air conditioned restaurant. We are one of the first to arrive and the other team in car 30 are having a drink. They tell us the temperature has reached 40c. Car 42 left very early this morning they drive off open their front windows and their rear doors fly open. Quite the sight. We have a quick cup of tea and high tail it out just as the main body of cars arrive. The roads deteriorate, the poor car shakes rattles and rolls. You can't drive a good line. We head off 125 km to Passage Control 2. Again, cold water, ice tea and off we go. I search in the back for something to nibble on. We will drive through the day. Excited to be getting our new tire inner tubes.

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On to passage control 3, we had driven slowly as the car is running hot and wewantto watch. The brakes are pulling hard to the right. 

At Passage Control three,one of the organizers asks have we had any flats today. I say don't ask you will jinx us. The photography crew want photos, they drive ahead and video us. They was to show the tires.  So 10 km later, we have number 14 flat tire. We can feel it in the wheel first then the familiar thump thump. So we pull over happy we are safe and ready to strut out stuff. Out passes  car 30, the the endless stream of cars. So much for making it to Saratov early or first.

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We are quite quick.the heat blistering, not really pleasant. The side path is uneven but we use our handy new jack and presto Bob's your uncle it's done.

We are 35km from the final destination for the evening, we arrive overheated, car with vapor lock and then have to go to another hotel in the downtown during rush hour the car has terribly overheated. We have vapor lock so it keeps stalling. Great on a one lane bridge in rush hour.

Meet up with the couple from Australia in the Datsun in the lobby, the hotel was really hard to find and there are only 20 of us in this one, we all walked through the park to downtown Saratov, still sweltering, to have a much needed beer before we start work on the Bentley. 

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Brakes sound horrible,squeal like mad and pull. The tire needs changed on its rim. Hopefully the puncture is from a new hole, will go check. We stopped at the Michelin store, they have one here, but of course they don't have any and once again tell us know where in Russia can you get tubes.

Must go help Tony, hopefully we won't be too late working on the car.  Dinner is ready at 8:00pm

Tomorrow is an early start. We have over 600km and I sure hope its cooler as we don't like it or does the poor car.

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Oh and nothing has arrived at Saratov. No inner tubes. This does not bode well for us.

© Anthony Strelzow 2013