Friday, May 30, 2014
Thanks to Olaf and Andy, friends met in California, you could retrieve some “OpenStreetMap” maps for your GPS. But that does not prevent you from getting the wrong roads. Either you are not yet familiar with your GPS, or is that your view is too low. You enter Lithuania too by the South.
Trying to join Kaunas you follow a main road. But the road becomes narrower, then it ends on a small dirt road in the woods. U-Turn. You look at your GPS. Indeed, you left the main road 20 km earlier, but you can find it, not too far. For the first time, you follow an unpaved road with your load. After 10 minutes, you find the real road. Real roads are actually nice and wide in Lithuania.
Do a little dirt road is a good experience. You’re not very comfortable, but you say to yourself after a few hours, you will more confident. Anyway, you will not have a choice because what awaits you in Siberia is much more complicated.
You do not want to arrive too late to Riga because once recovered your new shock absorber, you have to find a mechanic who can make the replacement. You’re not sure you have all the tools. But if you’re too late, it will be necessary to attempt the operation by yourself on a hotel parking.
Such as Poland, Lithuania is not in the “Euro zone” and you stop where you are sure you can pay with your Visa card. You have almost forgotten what EU countries that have adopted the Euro, and those who did not. However you discover across the border that Latvia has just adopted the Euro. This will help your stay in Riga.
The roads are excellent, but there is no highways (even if they are called A8, …). Crossing 50km / h in urban areas are common, and you risk arriving too late.
Your shock absorber awaits in Jurmala, on the suburb of Riga. You can find easily with your GPS. Jurmala is a residential suburb and as a seaside resort. Its access requires a special toll for the visitors that you avoid unintentionally following the flow of cars residents.
Viktor, the brother in law of Diana, your Russian teacher, comes to greet you. He organized everything: found the mechanic, and the hotel right next to each other. Their twelve year old daughter speaks French very well. You’re impressed by her French. She often spends holidays in France with her aunt and her cousins.
You go quickly to the bike shop. The mechanic accepts the job. It will ready two hours later. It is close to 20h, and they worked late for you. You can retrieve the bike, and move in the nearby car park. All this will seem almost miraculous …
You just placed the bags but you realize the difference in suspension: harder and farther away from the stop. The bike is higher than before. You had planned to lower it by adjusting the shock absorber. You look in the manual. You understand that this tuning should be done before placing the damper … Ouch. You need to lower the height both increase maneuverability, especially at rest, but also to adapt the bike to its side stand and loading. You need to find the solution with the mechanic tomorrow, but you think he did not really want to work on Saturday.
By looking at the spring, you see its characteristics: 95 N / mm while you had clearly stated that you wanted 100 N / mm. The seller Rally Raid had told you that this value was available. You groans … but it’ll have to do with. We have just started the weekend, and you can not wait for next Tuesday. Try to stay philosopher …
Saturday, May 31, 2014
You start the day by sending your old shock absorber in France. There is a post office not far from the hotel and you can get there by walking.
Then you visit the mechanic. You afraid of being unpopular, but it is quite the opposite. He tries first of all to change the setting without removing the shock absorber from the bike, but he didn’t succeed. You must remove all tanks, the luggage rack …
You stay with him and took the opportunity to inspect areas that could crack under load. Everything seems normal.
Once the work is finished, you ask him how much you owe him, but he refuses you paid. Because you appreciate this double work really was not his fault.
You have difficulty in appreciating the difference in height. You’ll see tomorrow with the full load.
For the afternoon you go for a short visit to Riga. A commuter train station is near the hotel .
Riga impressed you by the beauty of the facades of its buildings. The city center is extensive, but oddly seems very sparsely populated. Traffic is also surprisingly fluid for a city of this size. In the center, the majority of cars you see are big models. Big German sedans or luxury 4wd. The motto here seems to be ” a big car, or nothing …” .
You enter a bar for a coffee. The waitress speaks surprisingly good English. Several customers arrive sequentially. All asked to be served in English. So far you did not have anybody to talk in English, and now suddenly you feel you find somewhere in London. In the neighborhood of your hotel, you understand that the local language is Russian. Yet , everything is written in Latvian , the only official language … Each district ‘s language.
Your walk leads you to the tourist district. The houses here seem better restored , and the tourist center is built around some churches and monuments. You are walking there half an hour, then you decide to change. Passing on the other side of the railway track, you get into a popular market. They sell everything, but you can not find a bicycle pump. You left home with a low cost pump and you want to replace,it before the first punctures. You will not find a good pump today.
You walk to a huge tower, probably built in the 60s. You imagine that it used to be the headquarter of the Communist Party. A tower that could have inspired Kafka.
You come home in the evening at the hotel. You are happy with this fortuitous visit to Riga.