[ Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia ]
The time has come: ticket in hand, bags packed, bike repaired, arrangements made—nearly four weeks later than planned—I depart for the Mongolian town of Shaamar, about twenty kilometers south of the Russian border. Shaamar, whence my ride continues westward, upward, and into the goddamned wind. A northbound night train deposits me bright and early tomorrow, two-wheeled and solo, at Phase II’s entry point: a trail hugging the northern border, winding its way alongside Dzelteryn River, threading an uninhabited valley hidden between ridgelines hundreds of kilometers long.
The Great Mongolian Traverse of 2015 continues.
As anticipated, I chose this route using the sophisticated, highly technical and scientifically inerrant computational methodology known as “Follow The Dotted Red Lines”–otherwise known as DRLs. According to the ancient traditions of Mongol cartography, DRLs symbolize the smallest, diciest, most challenging pathways available; they confound locals, are maintained by poltergeists, and move in and out of existence according to the dictates of quantum mechanics. The word “sketchy” comes to mind. Often. You get the picture.
If you subscribe to the universal theorem of Go Big or Go Home—as I unfailingly do—you must subsequently understand my compulsion to chart a course comprising an arbitrarily high quantity of DRLs. Right? DRLs, enjoyment, and Pucker Factor are all directly proportional to one another. The more DRLs, the more fun, the tighter the sphinchter:
DRLs ∝ Fun ∝ Pucker Factor
The byproduct of this extremist methodology is peripheral nervousness on my part. I am left awash in anticipatory trepidation. Flutterpated. After an unplanned month off the bike, the emergent confidence of daily road-life’s rhythms has faded, displaced by time’s passage, extensive dental interventions (crowns & replaced fillings), endless bureaucratic nightmares at multiple embassies, the chaos of Naadam, stress-induced back pains, and an autonomous, near-sentient facial zit’s transmogrification into a dangerously infected, Kentucky-sized boil. (This latter confined me to my room for several days, feverish, strung out on antibiotics, resembling nothing so much as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and binge-watching dozens of unworthy TV episodes on Netflix.)
All this necessitates reacquisition of my Mongol Mojo; the repossession of a navigational groove; a return to the (literal, brand new) saddle.
And so it shall come to pass, Boys and Girls, that Yours Truly hops a train on the thirtieth day of July, in the two thousand-fifteenth year of Our Lord, at thirty-five minutes past eight o’ clock in the Pee Em, bound for the Russian border, the vast Mongol hinterlands, and the unimaginable adventures beyond.
If yer interested, stick around; I’ll keep you posted.