Overnight rain had left the air clear and fresh as we covered the remaining 100km into Volgograd. It’s Sunday and the roads are relatively clear of traffic, … and more importantly for the Poor Circulation budget, …. also clear of police.
Our road is constantly shadowed by the route of the railway where the traffic is far heavier than that on the road. It seems that here in Russia, everything moves by train. We stop at a level crossing as the barriers fall crashing into two large trucks heading in opposing directions, ….. nobody panics, no voices are raised, …. this seems quite normal for these parts. Alan counts 60 wagons being pulled by two locomotives on the first train to cross our path. Two further trains cross the road before twenty-five minutes later the barriers raise and we’re back on our way.
Just short of Volgograd we pass an amazing statue of USSR Tanks racing into the sky along a metal roadway, … we stop to take pictures but move on swiftly when a police car pulls in to join us. A little further on and the statue to commemorate the hero’s of Volgograd comes into view. We’re still several kilometres outside of the city and this statue is already clearly visible which gives some clue to both its size and importance to the people of Volgograd.
Uncertain of our destination within Volgograd we simply ride with the flow of traffic. The lure of the looming statue is too much like a magnet and pulls us towards it. Standing tall and proud over the former city of Stalingrad, up close it is even more spectacular than when viewed from distance. Around the statue the public and soldiers mingle and walk with respect for those hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians on all sides who gave their lives in the siege of 1943. Sixty-five years on and the names of those souls are marked by enormous marble wall plaques and an eternally burning flame. Memories of police and worries about tyres are temporarily forgotten. Between us we have only limited knowledge about the siege of Stalingrad but it’s impossible not to feel the strength of emotions here.
In the car park we meet ‘Tamara’, an English Teacher of a certain age who begins every sentence with the word ‘So’. Tamara helps us to identify the potential areas of Volgograd where tyres might be available by marking small crosses on our tourist map of the city. Soon we’re the centre of a larger crowd, … opinions flow like the River Volga and more crosses are drawn on our map. We thank them all, select a single cross and head off in what we believe to be the right direction.
Alan’s fob will not deactivate his alarm, ….. he panics and I can only laugh, .. surely nothing else can go wrong. So far it’s been my orange Tiger with the alarm problems but eventually his bike ‘beeps’ and all is once again well in Alan Kelly’s Kingdom. Then, .. my alarm also fails to deactivate. Enter the security guard who through our new friend Tamara points towards the short wave radio mast towering high above the car park and informs us that we’ll need to wheel my bike approximately 2km away from the tower before the pulse from my key-fob will be strong enough to counter those from the radio mast, ….. great.
After freewheeling down the hill with my alarm shattering the peace of a Sunday afternoon in this place of great respect, we rolled to a halt at the traffic lights where the road begins to rise. I took out the towrope and Alan was about to tow my dead tiger down into the city when miracle of miracles, … the alarm deactivates. An on looking taxi driver suggests that we’re lucky, …. normally cars have to be towed almost into the heart of the city before they can be started. Thanks for the early warning.
We find the first cross on our sketch map of Volgograd. It turns out not to be a motorcycle dealership as promises but instead a small marquee in the car park of a shopping centre containing around nine or ten Japanese bikes. It’s closed, it opens at 10am the next day, ….. we’re tired, hot and shattered. I hastily write a note explaining who we are and that we need help in looking for tyres within Russia. I attach a ‘Poor Circulation’ badge and a copy of The Riders Digest magazine to the note and slide it into the marquee, …… we cross our fingers and head off in search of a bed for the night.