We leave the Kremlin of Rostov, and hop in our LRC for some more driving. The next stop in our Golden Ring tour, turns out to be too big a city for our tastes. To do it justice, we'll have to spend a few days exploring it all. This means finding a place to stay. After driving around town for nearly two hours looking for suitable accommodation, we dejectedly throw in the towel, so to speak.
We aren't willing to spend a whopping 4,200 rubles (nearly $140 USD) per night on a four star hotel, nor the comparatively cheap, but still expensive 2,800 rubles (~$90 USD) on a creepy dump with dozens of drunken twenty-somethings pouring in and out.
At the end of this long, frustrating and futile endeavor, it is very late and we are starving. A quick stop at a pizza place helps us regain our composure, but it is now dark, 10:00 PM, and we have yet to find a place to sleep.
While we would do anything to avoid this predicament on bicycles, we seem to think nothing of it in a car. Whatever, we'll find a place easily, we think. I snap a nighttime shot of a Yaroslavl church, saying halfheartedly, "there, that's the Golden Ring city of Yaroslavl", and we drive off.
Finding a place to sleep turns out to be much trickier than we'd thought it would be. Gradually, our awesome day is unraveling into a trying task of endurance. We're mentally kicking ourselves as we navigate our way out of the city. We've broken our number one rule: go slowly. Here we've tried to see three cities in a row, and it is just too much. We should have found a camp hours ago!
Our enthusiasm about Yaroslavl is completely obliterated by the time we reach the highway and begin to look for a free-camp. Plenty of semi trucks are stopped on the side of the road, presumably with drivers fast asleep inside. We aren't that desperate yet. One insane person rides a bicycle without lights or reflective clothing, on the road, instead of the gravel shoulder. We look at each other in horror as people swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid him. Surely he will be dead by morning.
We continue on, having a great deal of difficulty seeing dirt paths leading off the road. Our aging LRC's headlights are very dim, and it is actually difficult to see the road at all. Our windshield is heavily decorated with twenty years of scratches, and a month's worth of dead bugs. Every oncoming car sends a fragmented array of blinding light into our faces.
When at last we spot a turn off, we follow it for awhile, only to discover crowds of drunken people walking through the fields. Another potential camping location has a bonfire nearby with even more drunken party-goers. It is getting later and later, and every turn-off we try, we find more people, drunk, in the middle of nowhere.
The chances of any harm coming to us if we camp near them is probably slim, but we repeatedly turn back anyway, erring on the side of caution. Finally we find a secluded field, devoid of people. With great relief, we pull in. I toy with the idea of just sleeping in the car. I am exhausted and it's almost midnight.
Tyler consoles me by saying that we don't normally go to bed until this time anyway. True. As we assemble camp, I spend five minutes trying to get one inflated therm-a-rest mat into our sleeping bag. Somehow, I lack the coordination to perform this simple task which I have done hundreds of times. I am about to throw the whole mess across the field when Tyler calmly takes it from me, and tells me to wait in the car.
With relief I do as I'm told, and soon our home is ready. We collapse on top of our bed (it is still too hot for covers), vow never to do this again, and fall fast asleep.