Thirty Little Notes in Russia

Thirty little notes are scattered throughout my bags. Wheels bags, bike box, suitcase, backpack. Twenty-nine of them have been recovered. One of them is still hiding. I know there are thirty, only because they are numbered. Thirty little notes of inspiration, wisdom, and love. Thirty notes to remind me of home, remind me of why I’m here, and remind me of the amazing love that is waiting for me back in the states. Thirty little notes placed all over my things by the man I love with all my heart. The man I haven’t been able to talk to, or see, or even let know I am ok, due to no internet or way of communication.

Saying goodbye to him and watching him walk away into the airport terminal without me was one of the saddest moments of my life. Fumbling with all his bags that he packed last minute, to get a bike bag, duffle bag, and rolling carryon through the sliding glass doors, I wanted to jump out as we pulled away and help any way I could. But he handled it. Like he always does, effortlessly. The day prior he packed my bike, 5 wheels, a pump, rollers, track sack, and everything in between. Cleaning it, checking every bolt and screw, chain length, and everything else you can think of. The guy had a bike and equipment of his own to pack and get ready, but instead he spent his time making sure I was set. And there he was, walking away to go to his home, where I would find him waiting for me in a little over a week.

Then it was my turn. I sat on the ground of the United terminal, waiting for Travis to show up in a few hours, and began texting Andy from afar. I knew I had limited time between our flights all day long. And as spoiled as he makes me, he even talked to me through Southwest’s wifi on the plane. By the time I was boarding my final plane in Chicago to leave the US, Andy had landed in PA. And that was it. With no internet here in Russia, our only limited contact, when we drive down to the metro station.

It’s amazing our bags made it. Seriously. Travis and I boarded our first flight in LA, with my bike and wheel case under his name, for the purpose of getting priority checked, and my suitcase in the normal person department. I knew as long as my bike box showed up, I could race in my shorts and tank top if necessary. Then the fun began. Twenty minute delayed departure. Normally, I wouldn’t worry. But this meant that as soon as we landed, we would have 35 minutes to get to our next flight. What were the chances our luggage made it? Not much. Travis headed to get some water, and I tried to talk to the United gate agent before boarding our flight to Munich.

Maybe it’s because he thought I was 12 years old, or maybe it’s because he was wearing a TERRIBLE looking jersey from some sports team, but I’ve never been treated with such disrespect from a gate agent in my life. I left that two minute conversation with absolutely no hope our bags were going to show up, boarded the plane, and sat for another 40 minutes, when we were informed they were still waiting for 8 bags to be loaded. What a relief, right?! No. YES, that meant our bags were probably going on the plane, BUT, that also meant our 1 hour layover in Munich was now going to turn into 20 minutes. So, with more anxiety, I sat back, and took a deep breath. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Then, there were problems with seat assignments. I was fine, of course. I took my seat and waited patiently, as a family to my left began arguing with a man about seats. Flight attendents assisted with the situation, distinguished it quickly, but they didn’t want to leave it there. Excuse the langugage, but “You’re a little bitch!”, “THANK YOU! THANK YOU!”, “ LITTLE BITCH!”, continued to be conversed between two separate rows, until takeoff. I was the lucky individual that sat DIRECTLY in the middle of this fun festival, completely prepared to bail if the situation escalated anymore.

We deplaned, and went straight to the next gate, through passport control, on a bus, boarded the plane, and off to our final leg of the journey, to Moscow. This was the only flight I slept on, in the final hour of the three-hour flight. I had the entire row to myself, and used it wisely. We landed in Moscow, went through customs, and was picked up in a rather official Russian Cycling Federation van. We drove to the hotel. And more fun began!

We weren’t told before arriving that the hotel did not take cards. We arrived with little to no Russian dollars, and given it was 4pm on a Sunday, no bank was open. We were taken into the metro station by car to use an ATM to get as much cash as we could out, amounting to one nights stay at the hotel. Unable to get more, we’d have to return the next day to a bank and get more money out. Our translator tried her best to help us manage the situation, but we were still left with no internet, no cash, and only one night booked at the hotel. At 8pm, we found a bowling alley with the only recognizable food as pizza for dinner. The bills we had were too high for what they wanted to take, so we pieced together an amount, got ourselves our first meal all day, retired to our rooms, and called it quits.

Not tired yet by 10pm, I unpacked. This is where I found the thirty little notes. I opened up my bike box, inspected my wheels, installed the axels (improperly), and found little notes between the pieces. With the rollers, bike, and wheels set up, I started inspecting my bag, on a mission to find them all. Some have made me smile, some have made me laugh uncontrollably, and some made me cry. Then I laid in bed watching a movie, until 11pm rolled around. Off to sleep it was.

Day 2

2014-05-26 07.56.35
Travis expressed such great enthusiasm while sitting on a bench finding internet

I woke up around 2am, thinking it was way later, but it most definitely wasn’t. I didn’t have a problem falling back asleep, then woke back up at 7ish I think. I found Travis, didn’t find internet, and we decided to try to head to the metro station to get some type of communication to find out exactly what’s going on. Our taxi drove us, barely 5 minutes, and cost almost $10, dropped us off and we sat on a bench outside, breathing in the heavily cigarette infused air, finding out track time, internet situation, etc. Once we figured out the schedule, we started wandering around, making good use of our money, and found a grocery store underground. This is where I discovered my debit card had locked itself out. Fortunately I had just enough cash to pay for the food, and back to the air we went. I tried to get money out of the ATM so we could pay for another day at the hotel, and I was once again denied. At least I have Travis with, so he can help cover. What kind of hotel doesn’t allow you to pay with card? What year is it anyways? We hailed a taxi, negotiated a price back to the hotel, and waited for track time. We ordered a coffee at the local cafe inside the hotel, but quickly discovered we would have been better off not. Breakfast was oatmeal with boiled water inside my hotel room, and a CNP protein shake. The hotel maid tried to steal my bike and kick it out of the room into the hallway, travis went to explore a different hotel option, and I got my bike ready to ride. All before 10am!

2014-05-26 09.32.39I had the whole track to myself, for two hours, during my training session. I’m sure I looked like a little dwarf, riding around on a HUGE 333 track by myself. Warm up jumps, two efforts, and some playtime. The line is so different, I don’t have much experience or success on 333s, and I’m probably super in my head about it. It’s SO TALL. Riding along the rail is like taking a u-turn straight into a headwind, then back around again. You fly so fast, and then you slow down so quickly. But it’s fun, and it’s wide, and it’s a new velodrome with character, architecture, and olympic history. I may have felt terrible today, but it’s day one, and tomorrow will be better.

After I got off the track, I had 10 minutes to pack up my entire room and switch hotels. Now we are 300m away from the track, instead of 5m, with internet, nice room, and a sweet view of the lake. It’s a bit more expensive, but way worth it. Now, it’s down time. Travis is pacing, playing with cabinets and cupboards, constantly going in and out of the hotel room wandering around. Staring at his phone, waiting for it to magically poof into something besides itself. Our eating schedule is still a bit off. We aren’t sure where to go, what we are eating, or how to order it, but we manage. We’ll head to dinner soon, and shortly after, bed.

2014-05-26 11.32.04

It’s been an exciting past two days, to say the least. But it’s all part of the fun. Easy day tomorrow, then racing begins on Thursday for me! I’ll keep more updates coming as much as possible, photos too. Thank you, everyone for the support, for donating through my RallyMe campaign with USA Cycling, and for reading through my adventures in Russia!

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