My Motorcycle Adventure in Russia

by Jan Meyer

One day after jumping, I was walking up the hill to the buses that transported us back to the hotels in Anapa. The road forked at the top of the hill. Busses going to the Mechta were off to the right and the busses on the left went back to the Nadejda. Just as I got to the top, this kid drove by on a motorcycle with sidecar. I yelled "Hey can you give me a ride.?" Of course, I knew the guy didn't understand what I had said, but he stopped anyway. Among the people standing there was an interpreter.

I asked again if he could give me a ride to the Nadejda. Sure, sure he could do it. So I started to hop into the sidecar. After all, I'd never had a ride in a sidecar. I had many miles as the driver of a motorcycle, but that's several stories about cross country trips. I had only been on the back of a bike twice. Once when I bought my first bike, I had the guy, who checked out the bike for me, give me a ride. The other time was in Denver, on one of my cross country trips, we doubled up to go to dinner. It was a good thing because we caught an ice storm on the way back to the camp site. Anyway, he didn't want me to ride in the sidecar. I knew that without an interpreter. I threw my rig and bag into the sidecar and hopped on the back of the bike. And so began my third ride on the back of a motorcycle.

Once on the back of the bike, this strange thought that I'm in Russia with this guy who spoke no English and me, who spoke no Russian. What if I never made it to the hotel? Fear, fear, I pushed it out of my mind. This would be an adventure-part of the Russian adventure. Then I asked for our picture to be taken. At worst, the kid, about 18, would never think to take my camera and film, so the authorities would have a snapshot of my kidnapper. The picture was taken and off we went.


Photo by Bobbie Worth.

We drove down the dirt road to the main road. Out on the main road the busses turned right at the second street on the right. Just before we got to the first street on the right, the kid pointed to the gas tank and probably said, "Hey I need to get gas. We need to turn here." So we turned down the first street on the right. We passed people working in the fields. I thought, "Oh great he can't mug me here-too many witnesses". We went another mile or so and the bike stopped, obviously because it was out of gas.

There's a sound that a bike makes when it runs out of gas. Bikers know this, so it didn't surprise me. Then I thought, "What if he just turn the stopcock to off. Uh-oh how many people are around us". Paranoid again. Then I convinced myself, "Hell, I could take this guy. He didn't outweigh me by much and I was probably stronger than him". My confidence back, he got off the bike and was shouting and gesturing. Gosh--I hadn't the faintest idea to what he was saying. He seemed to have a mission -a purpose to this yelling. The Russians always sounded mad when they talked to each other so I got off the bike. Then he lifted up the sidecar, as high as he could. He was getting the gas on the right side of the tank over to the left side of the tank. Yea, he cranked the bike up again and off we went.

We went another mile or so and the bike quit again. We did the same routine of lifting the side car, but this time the bike wouldn't start up. We pushed it a couple of hundred yards. Nice exercise after jumping all day. Then he tried starting it again and it cranked up. We motored into a gas station, one of the few in Russia.

I grabbed some rubles that were stashed in my pocket, about 4 dollars worth, and gave it to him. He went inside and started talking with a woman there. Yes it sounded as though they were arguing. I tried to find a business card that I could leave there-in case I never showed up at the Nadejda. No cards-anywhere, oh well. I put on my sweatpants because it was getting colder.

Finally, he came back carrying a small bottle of oil. His bike had a 2-cycle engine and needed oil as well as gas. He filled up the oil and put in about a liter of gas. All that effort for a liter of gas. I was going to give him some more money and say just top off the tank, but the rest of my money was buried in my money belt underneath layers of clothes. I didn't want to show where my stash was. When he was finished refueling he got out the helmets and we pretended we were safe by wearing them. We got on the bike and went back to the main road off the airport.

We drove past the turn the buses took. I figured he knew a faster way. We drove and drove and drove. This little bike of his was probably a 175cc or there abouts. Top speed with both of us was about 40 MPH. Cars were passing us left and right. It was scary at times. The tail lights weren't very bright, but then again the headlights on the cars were dim too.

After about ten minutes of driving I yelled "Nadejda, Nadejda" into his ear. He yelled back "Anapa, Anapa". So I guess we were going the right way. We pulled off the main road, by this time it was a 4 lane street, onto a side street that went through a residential area. A couple of miles later he turned again. As I looked down the side streets we were passing, I thought I saw the main market area we passed on the bus trips, so I sort of felt better. Eventually, I saw the bright green bank two blocks from the Nadejda. Yeah yeah, turn left at the next street. I motioned for him to do this. Apparently, he wasn't quite sure. He stopped the bike and asked a couple walking by where the Nadejda was. They said down that street, two blocks.

Minutes later we pulled up in front of the Nadejda. Whew-what an adventure-what a story!

I wanted to buy this guy dinner for all of his troubles. He motioned with his hand, that international sign for money, rubbing your thumb over your fingers. I said "how much??". Then I wanted to find an interpreter. I motioned for him to come across the street to the hotel. Then he stepped back, raised his hands up with his palms to me and shook his head no. I realized he must think I just propositioned him. Eee Gad, what to do next?! I said "5 minutes, 5 minutes!" the same way the Russian flight crew pronounced it.

I ran up to the room dropped my gear and went back downstairs. By this time the busses had arrived and I grabbed a Russian jumper who spoke English to come across the street and translate for us. He graciously obliged. I told the Russian jumper that he had just given me a ride from the airport and I wanted to thank him by buying him dinner. The message was conveyed. The kid said he couldn't tonight, but could tomorrow. I said great-tomorrow it is. Then I asked the Russian jumper to ask him how much money he wanted for the ride. The question and response went through the Russian jumper and the answer was that the kid gave me a ride because of international friendship or something like that. Ok I busted the guy and he was too embarrassed to say he wanted money. The Russian jumper took our picture again and then left. I motioned to the kid that I was in tent 6 at the airport, come find me and I'll show you the parachute stuff, etc. I don't think the message got across.

The next day I never saw him. Someone else said they did see him drive by. Oh well, the kid missed a dinner. He was nice and a true representative of the Russian hospitality.

© copyright 1996 by Jan Meyer