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April 13, 2007

Broken-Down Russian Minivans; Wild Mongolian Horses

"Get your motor runnin'..."

Day 35: The UVZ, I'm sad to say, started showing signs of its price today. We headed out from camp, and I took a turn behind the wheel and freaking loved it. It's like driving a cross between a tractor and a minivan. The dashboard is punched out of a single sheet of metal. I have a strong sense that the UVZ factory hasn't changed much since the 1960s.

"Head out on the highway..."

It didn't fare so well on the highway, however. First, the rear passenger door handle came off. The problem was that someone tried to open the door. Later, we stopped for a pee break and noticed that the right front wheel assembly was running hot. The drum brake caliper--that's right, only four-wheel drum brakes on this baby--was rubbing up against something. Another pee break, another problem: the left front tire was balding on the outside. The alignment seemed fine, which meant it was probably an axle issue. But please keep in mind that it only cost $12,000, right off the showroom floor. I still say it's a great deal.

"Lookin' for adventure..."

Our destination was Hustai National Park, one of the last refuges of the Mongolian wild horse. This interesting and unusual species was rendered extinct in Mongolia, and it's only because there were specimens still living in foreign zoos that its reintroduction was possible. They're about the same size as domesticated Mongolian horses, but they have two extra chromosomes, which makes them an entirely different species. They have short manes, white muzzles and short tails.

"Or whatever comes our way..."

"Like a true nature's child, We were born, born to be wild..."*

We drove out into the park and found a herd. We stopped and watched them graze. It was what's called a bachelor herd. All males. The stallions kick out young males from the herd as soon as they reach adolescence so they can keep all the mares all to themselves. I once saw a show about wild horses on TV. It was called Big Love.

Tomorrow, I board a train for Russia. It will take me thousands of miles north, then east, through taiga, tundra, next to Lake Baikal, before ending up in Moscow. My hope is that the Russians do a better job of making trains than they do with 4x4 vans.

Posted at N47 45.802 E105 52.706
*Apologies to Steppenwolf


When my daughter was 2 1/2, we were on a trip when she had to pee. We were in the middle of nowhere, so we opened the car door and plopped her outside and told her to go. She was amazed. It had never occurred to her that she might be allowed to pee outside.

A few days later, my very proper and fastidious mother was visiting us when Karen toddled over to her mother and said, "Mommy, I have to potty." Her mother told her to go to the bathroom, at which Karen responded, "I want to potty next to the car."

You can imagine the explaining that ensued!

"Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world." Your field of vision has been greatly expanded. I have now come to the point, after reading the past two days, where I have to wait day to day for a new post.

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