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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bumping Along 3,000 Kilometers

If not for the faded pink T-shirt, the well-worn shoes dangling from the rear rack and the see-through raincoat, radio mechanic Grigory Ostapenko would have cycled into Red Square on Wednesday on the last leg of his one-man, 3,000-kilometer round-trip bike trek from St. Petersburg to Kiev completely without notice.


All the same, there were no cheering spectators with cold drinks and no police escorts with ambulances. But the lack of hoopla didn't faze the 56-year-old cycling addict, who after 20 days of pedalling 2,300 kilometers said he wasn't even suffering from so much as a single aching bone.


"I'm just a man with a bicycle," Ostapenko said. "I don't have much time for Moscow," he added, impatiently jiggling a pedal with his foot. "I feel fine and I've got to keep going."


Since leaving his home in St. Petersburg on July 4, Ostapenko has just kept his mind on the road and his pedaling, whizzing through Belarus in a few days "since there's not much to see there."


Not even Kiev's glorious cathedrals attracted his attention for long.


"I didn't take the time to fall in love with Kiev," Ostapenko said of the Ukrainian capital.


"It would be one thing if I were on a tour bus. But as it is, I go past churches, towns, walls and just keep on going, going, going," he said, speaking with the slow, rolling tones of someone who's spent the past month on a bicycle. "And after a while, it all starts to look the same."


With no particular aim other than "to ride around and look at things," Ostapenko, armed with nothing more than a road map and a stop watch, said he has averaged about 100 kilometers per day on his simple Russian-made bicycle.


After spending Tuesday night in a field outside Vnukovo airport in the south of Moscow, Ostapenko said he was passing through Red Square to link up with Tverskaya Ulitsa and Leningradsky Prospekt on his way back north. Barring flat tires, if all goes as planned, he said, St. Petersburg should be just a six-day ride away.


"I'm a lifetime romantic, I guess," said Ostapenko, a lean, square-built man who has cycled regularly for the past four years. "And I'm getting to be an old man, so I figured I should travel a bit while I'm still healthy."


The whimsical jaunt is not the St. Petersburg native's first solo journey. His debut trip in 1991 took him on a 1,300-kilometer trek through the back roads of the northern province of Karelia.


"That was a hard one," he remembered. "Back then you couldn't buy anything anywhere on the road. I had to live on dried bread." The following years have seen Ostapenko and his hardy bike on a 2,000-kilometer round-trip trek to Moscow and a one-way trip from Sochi to St. Petersburg.


There are no preparatory early morning jogs or strict high-fiber diets for this cyclist. Ostapenko said he never bothers with them: "I get into shape while I'm on the road. I just get on my bike and start pedalling."


By sleeping in fields and subsisting on a diet of sosiski, bread and water bought at roadside stands, Ostapenko has also managed to achieve the ultimate in budget travel, spending on average only 15,000 to 20,000 rubles ($2.90 to $3.87) per day. For the past few days he has feasted on a kilogram of gingerbread, a few loaves of bread and two bottles of water purchased in Bryansk, a city about 400 kilometers to the south of Moscow


Bryansk was also the site of Ostapenko's sole meal in a roadside restaurant. The splurge didn't last long though, he recalled. "A dog bit me inside the restaurant, so I left."