Meeting Hannibal - "Is this Clarice? Why, hello Clarice"
Today was another long yet productive day on two wheels. I was desperate to find a gas station in the morning so I could check all the football scores and download the podcast reaction to all the games. I wish I hadn't, Liverpool lost 3-0!
It always seems that I make some very mundane observations about my daily rides but I hope that others may find them interesting in a somewhat quirky way. Today I came across the future of petrol stations. I'd seen these stations before but only in cities and therefore never needed to go in. It's a petrol station run by a company from Azerbaijan. They are very striking from the outside, clear, smooth rounded surfaces with beautiful dark glass windows. I swear I'm not going over the top here but they really look more like that of a space station as opposed to a petrol station. I even felt bad when I went inside; I just rolled out of some field carrying a little bit of dirt I guess and probably not looking the best and suddenly here I am inside this wonderfully sleek interior, all white and more importantly sparkling clean. If anyone is riding in this part of the world look out for them they are called 'Socar'
NASA inspired gas stations in Ukraine.
It was here that I also met the station manager Voller who spoke near flawless English. He explained to me that since the country was awarded Euro 2012 a lot of things such as roads and services have improved. He seemed almost slightly embarrassed when I told him that it was the nicest gas station I've encountered in over 12,000 kilometres.
However that comes at a cost and it's a tad more expensive than it's competitors but the chocolate croissant and doughnut I devoured for breakfast were first rate.
I'm not sure the cleaning lady quite shared Voller's enthusiasm in seeing me as I headed off to the immaculately clean toilet with my wash bag and ragged old towel under my arm. As soon as I left she was in there like a shot to remove any dirt I'd left behind!
I've been told that the further West one goes in Ukraine the more European or to be more specific Polish things become. As I mentioned yesterday the scenery has changed quite significantly and the stronger Russian influence in the East is gradually being replaced.
Heading West but the Orthodox churches remain as spectacular as ever.
I met a very interesting local guy at around 130km. The first thing I should say about him is that he bore a striking resemblance to the character Hannibal Lecter minus the crazy face mask you understand. Despite the fact that he was riding an extremely old rickety bike he seemed determined to keep pace with me. He spoke very good English and as we rode side by side he informed me that he lived in the US previously for twenty five years. He was a really interesting guy, if somewhat slightly eccentric. In the brief time we spent riding together I found out he worked construction in the States and also worked in casinos in Las Vegas, he was now a beekeeper.
As hard as I tried I still couldn't shake the Hannibal thing and rather bizarrely it seemed to influence the way I answered his questions. He was off to see a concert at a nearby church and asked if I'd like to go with him. When I declined his invitation he asked where do I usually sleep; I answered in a field and then quickly changed my response to “but tonight I'll be in a motel” Paranoia was really beginning to take over, he was friendly enough but his almost identical appearance to that of the feared, yet fictional serial killer was enough for me to set my mind racing. After about five kilometres riding together he turned off and wished me good luck on my way but perhaps it was just my imagination but I could swear there was a small glint in his eye!
I pushed on into the early evening and by the time I stopped just after 190km I was totally beat. I was at the point where I didn't really care where I slept and some tall trees lining the road gave me the perfect camouflage from the traffic on the road. I just about summoned the energy to put up the tent, inflate the mattress and boil up some hot water for the instant mash potato I purchased earlier in the day before crashing out for the night.