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July 22, 2012 | ...and a sunny day

Yesterday our organization efforts from the rainy day before were put to the test, and passed with flying colors: We managed 240 km, albeit under practically perfect conditions.

We got up at six, and started driving at around eight. It was still somewhat chilly from the night, and at first it looked light it might rain again: But the clouds passed, and soon we were driving under a clear blue sky. With practically straight roads, it was simple to adjust our panels so they could work with maximum efficiency, and work they did: They generated more than 2,000 Wh today, each!

Our Heidelberg tests and calculations had shown we could expect an average of 1,400 Wh a day, so clearly this was a very good day. We used about 10 Wh per km, around 2,400 in total, so our initially fully charged batteries were still at about 70% when we stopped. This usage is at the low end of our expectations: 10 to 15 Wh were planned.

During the better part of the day, we actually drove in cruise mode with full engine power, at an average speed of 30 km/h, with only a token assistance from our feet. Certainly our manual contribution today was much lower than the 50% we had planned with – but over long hours today, we could drive with full power and still see our battery level stay practically constant, as the panels were generating so much energy!

The roads were good, too. We’re not quite sure, why: Either the perception of road quality is much different when driving the Editourmobil than when riding the bikes, or we were in a region with exceptionally good roads today! It clearly felt like the best roads we’ve seen in all of Russia. We had only a single, short, construction site today – from experience, it should’ve been at least a dozen! Maybe it is because Tyumen oblast, which we are in, is a pretty rich region from all the gas that’s extracted out of the ground here.

But it’s strange: In the Editourmobil, it felt like long stretches of road were of very unchanging quality. Now it seems that practically every km is slightly different from the last one: Changing colors of the asphalt, variable smoothness, different width and condition (and existence) of the emergency lane, changing crack types, frequency and width, potholes – large or small or none, ruts and waves of many sizes, and of course the number of lanes, whether they are seperated, the labelling on the road (if existant) and so on and so forth…

It proabably sounds like a dull and solitary thing to drive on a road all day – it oddly doesn’t feel like that, at least not yet. It’s not dull because one is constantly preoccupied: Navigating obstacles, checking the rear view mirror, looking around, checking the panels, monitoring electricity useage and so on. And it’s certainly not solitary: On the contrary, so far it has been an amazingly social experience! About every second car we encounter honks, winks, blinks its lights or greets us in some other way – sometimes it feels the left arm, for greeting back, is used more than the legs! It’s amazing how much difference this makes: Psychologically, it’s much easier to drive on roads obviously not made for bikes when people approve of it and encourage you!

In the same vein, people take much care with us. Most overtake gently, and with wide distances, and wait behind us patiently on narrow stretches. Back in Germany during the short test drives both of us did, people were not nearly so friendly and considerate, and seemed to consider us as more of a nuisance instead! Again, we’re not certain what has changed: Maybe Siberians are more relaxed than their European Russian brethren, or maybe people react differently to the Editourmobil than to the bikes, or maybe it’s the weather and the weekend – in any case, we didn’t expect this based on what we’ve seen on our way to Yekaterinburg.

We set up the tent on a quiet field, but it turns out the dirt road next to it is pretty frequently used. No matter – we stay there after some friendly exchanges with people stopping their trucks or cars. The next day is supposed to start rainy, then to clear up – so far, the rainy part of the prediction has held up, giving us some time to write this blog post. Hopefully it’ll stop soon, so that we can start driving in the sun again!