I’d say we are at the beginning, but:
I’m stuck at work and the border is more or less closed. Not quite the ideal situation. Football fans returning from St. Petersburg brought the corona -question back to the table and it seems very unlikely I will do any cycling in Russia any time soon.
Bad news dealt with it’s time to talk about the positive. You can still follow the slow progression of the routes by reading various articles on this site. They tend to update every now and then. (If you haven’t been following my blog, I’m trying to help people find interesting routes to cycle in Russian Karelia, Karelian Isthmus and the Kola Peninsula. And, of course, linking them with the established Finnish cycle network.)
There are several good ways to build cycle routes. Crowdsourcing is an option. A classic expedition is an option. Finding funding for the final push and doing everything myself are options too. Signposting and papermaps feels like overdoing it (as well as impossible). Having only gps -tracks with accommodations, supermarkets and diners listed isn’t nearly enough for someone interested in the story of these areas. They are still all options in the world post corona.
So in the meantime I’ll be searching all sorts of information and people with knowledge of the area. If it’s possible to ad more info on these new digital maps by using several layers (or something…), they might actually work as a ”guide”. An idea worth considering!
Also the way the site looks now is meant to be just a simple blog. It doesn’t really work as a platform for a modern cycle touring guide. When the time comes, I’ll turn it into something more functional. Bikepacking.com seems like a good format for this kind of stuff. It’s pretty easy to use. And what about the title? Surely we can come up with something better than ”Pushbiking East” or ”East by bike” as the current name translates.
There are thew active Facebook groups in Finland for cycle tourists. When people start travelling again, someone might be interested in using the beta -versions of the routes and in sharing their experiences. I’m also hoping to find Russian cycle tourists who have done, or will go touring in the region. It would be mighty helpfull.
The Grand Expedition
The word expedition sounds a bit ridiculous. I mean there are allready people living there. It’s not the south pole or the new world and we are not living in the 14th century. It is the plaque though… Anyway. Doing a long biketrip ”for mapping purposes only” has that something doesn’t it? And calling it an expedition sure is tempting.
YouTube videos of these trips would inspire others too. The problem is that I’ve always tried to avoid documenting my trips in ways that disturb or alter my experience. A photo or two per day and maybe write something down afterwards, but that’s it. Last year my camera stopped working mid tour. To be honest I was relieved when it happened. Well, no-ones rushing across the border just yet. I’ve got a lot time to figure out how to make it easy for myself.
At this point I have to admit I don’t really speak Russian. The idea of a cycle guidebook or such was originally thrown out there by the very person I’ve done all my trips to Russia with. He’s the one who speaks the language. The problem is he’s way too tied up in his somewhat trancendental work of writing, translating, publishing, academic odd jobs and renovating an old wooden house. Throw in some kids and cats and chickens and you’ll get the picture. He’ll be the first in line if the funding works out though. Gotta make ends meet.