Alexey Moskvin

Baltic Exchange and beyond

St Petersburg to… WTF?

with 5 comments

The sterileness of the trip is shattered, blown apart and the whole thing is swirling up in the air. The only thing one can do is to jump up, collecting pieces and trying to glue them together. The ‘everything according to plan’ is no more. This is the thick of it, this is the Ultimate Riding Experience and not some BMW slogan. Just a couple of minutes ago I was sliding down the road, caught between the truck and my motorbike, yelling out and waiting for the bone to snap. It didn’t, thank you the unhealthily, by Russian standards, smooth tarmac and the Dainese boot that can be added to the list of victims as the second worst.
I unzip the boot, sliding my hand in, expecting to see blood – I can almost feel warmth filling up my right boot. A surprise: fingers are dry, there’s only a smudge. The truck’s driver is coming towards me, walking slowly. I yell ‘What the fuck was that?’. He just glances at me and looks away. I explain to him who he is. ‘What are we supposed to do now?’ ‘Call the police’ and walks away to his truck.
I dial 112. Blah blah for police press 2. No answer. I dial again. No answer, just tones. Is that an emergency number? And this is the emergency, is there anyone alive or is that part of town is already eaten by some postapocalyptic monster?
Dial again. No answer. A police car passes by slowly, I wave at them, they look at me but don’t stop.
Well, ok, I’m not lost in the debris of Finland but just before the ring road on my way out of St Petersburg. There is a great comfort in being able to call ‘Dad, I’ve had an accident, I need help’. ‘Fuck! Are you ok?’ Yeah, I’m fine, leg hurts but I’m ok’. ‘Where are you?’ ‘Industrial’ny, just before the viaduct’ ‘Wait for me there’.

It’s raining and everything is slowly being splattered by dirt – it’s a busy road. Someone’s running towards me, he stopped his red Volkswagen on the opposite side of the road. ‘Do you need help?’ I limp towards him ‘Yes’ ‘Ambulance? Have you called the police?’ ‘I’m fine. No one answers at the emergency number. A police car just passed by but they didn’t stop.’ ‘They never do. Calm down, I’ll sort everything out’. And he does: police, an evacuator. ‘I’m a biker myself, it’s always a good thing to stop for such things. I’ve had my misfortune today too – some bastard crashed my ass’, he points at his smashed car boot, funny I didn’t notice that before. There must be something about today. Someone else stops. ‘Do you need help? I’m a biker too, so I thought I’d stop to ask’ ‘No, I think we’re fine, just waiting for the police now.’ ‘If you have nowhere to take it to, I’ve got some space in my garage’. ‘Thanks! I’m not sure what to do yet’.
They look at my number plate. ‘Where did you come from?’ ‘London, all the way by land’ ‘Wow’ ‘Yeah, 3500 km, just to meet the bloody truck.’

I’m sitting in a mini van taking me to Sortavala – the town in Karelia, where I didn’t manage to get to a week and a half ago. From there I can get to Valaam – the island where in Soviet times disabled people were sent to, away from public eyes. Maybe, now my bruised leg now fits the purpose better than the fully healthy me, I don’t know. Since the rude interruption there’s always a strong feeling that I was left here on purpose and now, each day, I’m trying to figure out what it actually might be. There’s something left to do and I have to catch up – trips, meetings, something ought to point me in the right direction eventually. The girl in the opposite seat is eating sunflower seeds and I’m thinking of Ai Weiwei but the whole thing is so far away now. Pretty, slender, slightly cold features, a small bruise on her right wrist, next to a tangle of silver bracelets. Yellow t-shirt and a purple mobile phone.
‘Hunting by permission only’ posters are flying by ‘Keep fire away from forests, in an emergency call 112’ aha, we know that one. The driver has three orthodox icons glued just above his head and Pet Shop Boys are playing on the radio.

Back on the road a blue green van is pulling over, a guy jumps out ‘What happened?’ ‘He got cleared off the road’ ‘I can take him in’ ‘Thanks, we’ve already called an evacuator’ ‘I’ll call Alekseyich, he’ll help you’. The police comes. Taking photographs, measuring everything ‘What happened?’ ‘The guy decided to stop suddenly and reversed into me.’ I say ‘Wet road, fast traffic on the left so I did emergency braking too, managing to stop just before him. Just as I started to move backwards to clear and move out to the left he reversed into me, destroying the front, flipping the bike on its left side and do you see that white line? That’s where he dragged me backwards from, all the way down. My leg got caught between the bike and his bumper, so I couldn’t get away. I guess, he missed his turn and panicked but instead of going a long way around just decided to stop and reverse…’ ‘Well, you can celebrate today as your second birthday, looks like you were born in a very thick shirt, as they say. A couple of bumps along the way and you would’ve been minced. Your luck the road is so even. Come to…’ he gives me an address ‘we’ll sort it out there.’
But we have to get the bike to Alekseyich first. The evacuator comes and so does my dad. I thank the guys that helped ‘It’s fine’ they say ‘that’s what brotherhood is there for.’

Alekseyich, smiley eyes, trimmed beard and blue fingers from spilt ink shakes my hand and shakes his head: ‘I can put it back on the road if we bypass the smashed immobiliser but to get it back as it was would be too complex. Don’t go to the dealers here – they’ll rip you off and it will take ages with customs and all. It’s only for rich kids. I’d suggest we take it to Finland – BMW there will do a better job and new parts are cheaper and quicker to get in Europe. I can pick you up at 4am tonight’.

We exchange phone numbers and I head for the GIBDD where we wait and wait and wait in the company of other losers. The trucker is there too.
I call Finland to find out where and how to repair the bike. They recommend the one in Lappeenranta and I set up a meeting ‘Ok, we’ll take you in but if parts are coming from Sweden it might take 2-3 days, Germany – 5-7 days.’ ‘Fine but please do it asap, I have to carry on’, I tell them about the trip around the Baltic Sea.

We fill out the papers and then carry on waiting. Everyone’s friendly, we chat a bit. An officer comes out for a cigarette. ‘What’s next?’ I ask. ‘Well, we finish with the paperwork today, then, in about a week, you both would have to come back for questioning before we can do a statement and close the case.’ ‘I don’t have a week. In fact, I don’t have any time, can we do everything today? I have to put the case to the insurers and get out of here, transport the bike to Finland and start repairing it.’ He looks at me. ‘Ok, let’s see what we can do’. He reappears in about 10 minutes and lets me through to a back office.

A guys is sitting at the desk. ‘Hello Lyosha. So, the nearest available time we have is for the 9th of June.’ ‘No way, sorry’ I say ‘I can’t stay in St Petersburg for that long. Can we organise everything today? Both of us are here.’ ‘Sure’ his voice gets quieter ‘How much have you got?’ I get slightly lost for words ‘I don’t know’ ‘So, how much can you pay?’ ‘I’ve no idea – a thousand? Two? I don’t think I’m your first so, how much do you take?’ ‘Ok, I feel for you, you’ve been through a lot today.’ he smiles ‘Two thousand. I need to make a call, put all the stamps and the case is closed, you’ll have the paper for the insurers now’ ‘Fine’ I say and hand folded notes under the desk. Later I find out that the usual price is 3000 roubles.

The rest is a regular case of bureaucracy – the insurers are not the friendliest kind. Not the most generous either, the limit on pay outs is about £2000 but hardly anyone saw even that – the ‘experts’ look for the part prices on the cheapest US websites and labour is valued for next to nothing. The agent comes in a couple of days later to note the damage. He doesn’t know anything about motorbikes, so I just point at the damaged bits and he takes photos.

Phew, at least the next morning we can set off for Lappeenranta where, despite the bank holiday of sorts, Mikko is waiting for us at the workshop.

5am, the sunrise and Alekseyich and I are in the blue green van with the bike wrapped in rags. We talk about all kinds of paranormal stuff that sounds very real when he talks about it. I believe him but there is a lot of googling to do… Plasmoids, ends of the world, extra senses, faiths, evolution, planets, places – everything is arranged in an orderly fashion in a bottomless pot that is Alekseyich’s head.

Apart from being a brilliant technician. And spending two months in Chernobyl, saving the Earth. ‘Did you go there at your own will?’ ‘Who did?’ ‘I thought some people did’ ‘Of course not. Everyone was drafted. They looked at your age, family, social status. And I was an exception – young, with a kid but they didn’t care – they needed numbers…’

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Written by Alexey Moskvin

10 June 2011 at 16:03

5 Responses

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  1. This is a terrible experience and your commentary is both professional and cool. Thank God you are safe as my own experience of a near death car crash taught me that life is a very precious thing. You have brought to life your accident and I can feel my event as if it were still happening to me now even though it was many years ago.

    Michael

    10 June 2011 at 16:35

  2. Alexey – I have been increasingly concerned at the lack of blogs! Now I see why – amazing that you pick yourself up and move forward – deadening bureaucracy and all. Lots of thoughts and wishes go out to you – you are definitely not alone old friend.
    David

    David Jessop

    10 June 2011 at 18:09

  3. So moving. You have many skills but I hadn’t realised that writing was one of them. Your descriptions are so vivid. I am with you. I am feeling what you are feeling.

    Gordy

    10 June 2011 at 21:13

  4. Blimey, what a nasty incident! Glad you’re OK. Keep blogging and posting photos. Really enjoying keeping up with the epic adventure. Take care of yourself. J

    John Stack

    11 June 2011 at 11:19

  5. так ты в Питере, собака страшная ? ))))
    позвони))))

    слава

    slava

    16 June 2011 at 11:47


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