We're leaving Russia today. Part of me is kind of sad that we're only clipping the very north-west corner of this vast country. We made the decision not to ride towards Moscow because we heard the traffic was terrible and that it was just another big city. But also because, yes you guessed it, it was the home of KGB.
I sense there's a lot more of the country to discover on the Asian continental side. But another part of me is kind of relieved because we're heading towards our first real rest break in months.
The trip to the border crossing at Narva was uneventful. I was still limping my bike on the road, keeping the revs under 4000 rpm so as not to trip whatever it was that was cutting the power. I'm also glad that we're heading to a place where we can take our time to fix this issue.
The lineup at the border to get out of Russia and into Estonia was long. We baked under a late summer sun, peeling off all our layers and pushing our motorcycles a few meters at a time closer to the Schengen Zone where our EU passports would let us back onto home soil again. The Russian exit procedure was uncomplicated, just understaffed. A quick check of our visa to make sure we hadn't overstayed and then we were let out into No Mans Land to wait at the Estonian border control. And here was the big difference: nice shiny modern booths in Estonia, multiple checkpoints that processed everyone in line so quickly and efficiently.
The customs person looked mildly interested that we were riding our Canadian-plated motorcycles in with Euro passports and then just like that, we were back home. Funny, I've never been to Estonia before but as far as our passports were concerned, it was home.
The capital city, Tallinn, is just a few hours ride west from the Russian border. We have an AirBnB place booked for a week, should be long enough for the local BMW shop to fix my motorcycle.
There are quite a number of chores that need to be done before we can relax. Laundry from Russia was first on the list. So was stocking up on groceries for the week. Neda has a number of health issues that have popped up in the last month or so - she has a toothache that needs to be looked at, as well as a mole on her back that has grown quite rapidly that also needs to be examined. Well, we've got the time.
Because we were shut out of the service centres in Finland, we were sure to book ahead for an appointment at the BMW shop here in Tallinn, so they were ready for us. We brought my bike in first, so we could still use Neda's bike for runs around town. I explained the power loss on my bike and relayed to the Service Manager my suspicions that it was a sparking problem. He nodded his head in that patient manner that doctors have when you tell them what you found on the Internet about your medical symptoms: "Thank you, but let the experts determine what the real problem is..."
First on the list of things to do. Laundry...
Well my chores are over. I'm not leaving the apartment until the bike is fixed. I really want to get the blog caught up. At this point, we're close to three months behind where we really are. It's kind of daunting going through all the pictures I've taken.
So in between procrastinating on working on the blog, I've started watching the new Doctor Who series (well new from 2005). I used to watch the old series back in the 80s. Tom Baker was my Doctor. This new guy Eccleston will take a bit of getting used to.
TV is my new hobby. Neda with her favorite downtime activity
Neda now has an opportunity to start another cross-stitching pattern. She's finally found a hobby in the downtime that occupies her time in an engaging fashion. She's also enjoying having a real kitchen again and is trying new recipes all the time.
The BMW dealership e-mailed me back and said the diagnostics pointed to an ECU failure. They recommended replacing it. Damn, that's going to be expensive. But what to do? They said that it would take a week to order one in from Germany. But I wasn't really in any kind of rush to leave Tallinn. And there are eight seasons of Doctor Who, so...
Neda is getting restless. That didn't take long.
She's signed up for Yoga classes. Our AirBnB rental was up and there was another tenant moving in. This is high season for Tallinn, so we have to scramble a little bit to find another AirBnB rental. We book for another week in a place just 10 minutes away.
Estonian Pasteet. Yummy! Unlike the French "terrine", the Estonians willfully acknowledge that this is pâté
From what little I've seen of Tallinn and Estonia, I'm very surprised at how affluent this country is. The language is not Slavic, and although it was under Soviet rule for some time, the people and their language and culture seem to have more in common with Finland. Lots of blonde people in Estonia. But, like Scandinavia, no need to learn Estonian. Most people speak English here.
The BMW dealership e-mails me to let me know that the ECU came in from Germany. But when they installed it, it turned out that it wasn't the ECU that was the problem. It was a faulty ignition coil. Which is what I originally thought. But I don't know how to say, "I told you so" in Estonian, so I just authorize the repair. At least it's going to save me close to $700, the difference between the ECU and an ignition coil.
The blog is slow-going. I haven't really written anything. But I have made a dent in Doctor Who though. Starting Season 3 now. The David Tennant years. I like this guy better than Eccleston. The stories are kind of hit and miss though.
We've got a few weeks before our last scheduled appointment in Europe. After that, we still haven't decided what we want to do or where we're going to end up. I'm just content not doing anything and not going anywhere right now.
Neda's first completed cross-stitch! She's so proud of it. She's going to send it to Eva in Belgium.
A couple of days later, the BMW dealership lets me know the ignition coil is installed and everything works perfectly. They took apart the shaft drive and the problem wasn't a seal, but a worn bearing that has to be replaced. So I was up $700 briefly and now I'm back down again. Dammit.
And also, it's going to take another week to order the bearing from BMW in Germany. Why they didn't just diagnose everything all at once and then order all the parts at the same time, I don't know. But oddly, I didn't mind one bit. I really wasn't done vegging on the couch watching Doctor Who. I don't know how to say, "Take your time" in Estonian, so I just authorize the repairs.
Wow, that Matt Smith is the best Doctor ever.
As expected, Neda is overcoming her travel fatigue a lot faster than I am. She's taken to exploring Tallinn on her own while I watch the summer pass quickly by from the window of our apartment. I feel like one of those old Croatian grandmothers staring out the window onto the street...
I don't feel guilty at all wasting such good weather holed up indoors.
Medieval old town of Tallinn
Souvenir stores line the cobblestoned pedestrian walkways in the old town
Playing up the Medieval Theme.
Some of the original preserved structures in the old town date back to the 1300s
Still haven't updated the blog. So many pictures to wade through... I'm going to leave a post-it note on the camera that reads, "Don't wear out the shutter button, FutureGene!" A few people have sent concerned e-mails because of the lack of updates, which is so nice. Thanks guys!
One afternoon, Neda comes back to the apartment and exclaims, "Estonian women are so beautiful! I was in the back of Yoga class today and couldn't stop staring at all the gorgeous women!" She looks at me expecting some kind of response.
I've been married for 11 years now and I know a trap when I hear one. So, after carefully measuring out my words, I look her straight in the eye and reply with a steady voice, "I think the Pula Arena is the most beautiful amphitheatre in the world."
Crisis averted! FTW!
The dealership called to inform me that the shaft drive has been repaired. I ride over with Neda's bike and do an exchange. Her motorcycle just needs regular maintenance, but there is an intermittent Check ABS light on the dash that needs to be looked at.
Riding back through the city streets of Tallinn, the bike rides and sounds healthy once again. I love my bike. We've been married for almost 210,000 kms. I whisper quietly to her, "Don't tell Neda this. I think you're way better than the Pula Arena."
...And we have to move again. 4th place in Tallinn. All the AirBnB hosts in the city know us by name now...
Both bikes are now done! The service guy just cleaned the ABS sensor and the light on Neda's dash went away. Cheap and easy. Our time in Tallinn is coming to an end, and I still feel like growing roots on the couch. We're only a week away from our final appointment in Europe and we need to have the talk: "Pack it in, or continue?" We both shrugged our shoulders. We're not really that keen on travel anymore. Just looking back, I haven't left our apartment(s) in the last month other than picking up the bikes or switching places. I think that's kind of telling.
The thought of planning border crossings, finding places to stay, etc is as daunting as restarting the blog. The only thing I really want to do is watch more Doctor Who and the only dilemma I want to ponder upon is: Amy Pond vs Clara Oswald?
Neda has started a new cross-stitch pattern. This one is going to take a while to complete. Can you guess what it is?
All the service is completed on our bikes. I guess I have no more excuses to stay in Tallinn anymore...
Our time in Estonia was not very productive. We got the bikes done, but it was difficult for Neda to find a dentist to fix her toothache, and she still hasn't got the mole on her back checked yet. It's grown quite rapidly in the last couple of weeks, but we're out of time and we need to move on. Really, the only things I accomplished were riding the bikes in to get serviced and watching 8 seasons of Doctor Who. The new guy, Peter Capaldi is interesting. Looking forward to Season 9!!!
Okay. Getting ready to leave Estonia and on towards our final scheduled appointment in Europe. And then...?