Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteor - Right!?

Surreal - adjective, unreal, bizarre, unusual, weird, strange, freakish...

It was past 10:00PM and we’d spent the entire afternoon working on our bikes with the coolest mechanics in Siberia’s most tricked out man cave and were just settling down for dinner with a side of vodka and accordion music when the TV blew what was left of my brain cells out. The images on the screen couldn’t have been more surreal or terrifying. A meteor had exploded over Chelyabinsk, a mere 600 kilometers south, and with the force of 440,000 TONNES of TNT it leveled buildings and injured hundreds of people! I mean Wilco Tango Foxtrot?? What were the chances? Really, what were the chances of being at galactic ground zero for an asteroid strike? (Well, actually, I did the math and it’s about 1:451*. Which means it’s way, way easier to be pink misted by a meteor than win the lottery.) According to the news we should never have seen 9:31 that morning. Had we not, we would have missed an entire litany of coincidences, comradeship, and good fortune. 

With all the energy we could muster and our faltering Urals would allow we left our hotel early. Our objective? The mythical city of Uray, so famous that even Dexys Midnight Runners wrote an ode to the place in 1982 and the song** shot straight to number one in the charts. Uray meant petrol at a pump, it meant food on a plate, it meant garages with spare parts. It meant we had survived the Road of Death.

Standing a little nonplussed at the side of the highway, Nick and Paddy waved back at us. Something in their body language gave me pause and we turned around to make sure that they were okay. “Nah, bloody thing won’t start,” Nick, in his broad Yorkshire accent and pointing at ‘La Poderosa’ said, “It’s completely knackered!” “We can give you a tow,” I said offering Rico and Björn’s services in absentia. “That would be brilliant!”, he said. A hundred kilometers later we had long since missed the meteor and it had missed us, but we had at last found Uray. In one phone call we met up with the same stable of mechanics that the lead team had seen the day before. Severally, almost ten guys worked on various parts of our bikes. Eva had lost fourth gear sometime before the accident and now her windscreen needed replacing. Björn and Rico’s bike needed timing and wheel bearing work, while La Poderosa needed a kick in the butt. In the melee we discovered the leading team’s dirty tricks squad had bought every bearing in town. Given the amount of play in our wheels it seemed unlikely that the bearings would have enough enclosed space to actually seize in any case.

Repairs completed we segued into partying at a local restaurant with Uri, Pascha, Alexsander, Sergei, and various partners and spouses. After the main course, Sasha cranked out a few Russian gypsy punk songs on his squeezebox. Speeches were made, bottles of vodka consumed and plans formed for reuniting in backwoods adventures and July’s annual Irbit motorcycle rally. My windshield expert, Alexsander, leaned over and looked at me with great seriousness and said, “In life you need four things: fire in the eye, fire in the heart, fire in the soul, and fire in the arse!” As for fire in the sky? Well, not so much, we both laughed heartily. _______________________________________________
* As a Google recruiter, this one is for Rico. Here goes:

  • Area of earth’s surface: 510 trillion m2
  • Area occupied by average human: 1m2
  • Odds of any one individual being hit directly by a meteorite: 1:510 trillion
But we know that the meteor left a much wider path of destruction. For our poetic license we took:
  • Area of Galactic Ground zero (GG0): ((600km*1000)^2)*pi = 1.13 trillion m2
  • Likelihood of a human being hit while standing in GG0 at time of meteor impact: 1:451

** Come On, Eileen (To-Uray-eh!) 

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