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TDB2015 – Day2: pushing the limits of 15.75Ah

today, we shall be – without planning for it – pushing the limits of distances which can be covered with the battery capacity available to TW560 within one day. [spoiler alert: today, we’ll be driving a whopping 542kms.]

everything starts out very normal: i get up early and put some finishing touches on an entry for TDB2015. the skylights in my – frankly awesome – hotel room i forgot to close freely let in all sunlight available after sunrise at about 0400.

finishing an TDB2015 blog entry

finishing an TDB2015 blog entry

whilst checking-out i see the electrical installations of our hotel. only *real* men could feel safe with this kind of protection 🙂

grounding ... nah, real men don't need grounding

grounding … nah, real men don’t need grounding

heading out of riga – this time with much less traffic – we are greeted yet again by the great open spaces we’ve had the chance see and drive through yesterday.

how far are we going today?

how far are we going today?

Driving along with the TWIKE, sometimes the closest obstacle for our view is many kilometres away:

endless open space

endless open space

we quickly stop for a coffee and a snack – the petrol station has many russian snacks and i choose the one and only one that makes sense. 🙂

бекон ... in doubt, just add :)

бекон … in doubt, just add 🙂

also, i think i am absolutely entitled to splurge on a €0.27 snack!

russian influence, historical and current can be felt everywhere.

russian-style welcome to a village

russian-style welcome to a village

we see what seems thousands of storks breeding and flying around – a beautiful sight since most of them are not afraid to come close to cars.

thousands come here during the summer

thousands come here during the summer

shortly after, and just a few kms before the lithuanian border, whilst we are stopping for yet another photo-opp, a guy stops his car and asks if he may take some pictures of the TWIKE. as usual, we oblige and after a few minutes we say our farewells and he’s gone again.

10 kms later, we decide to start looking out for a place to charge and enter a small village called auce. with just a few houses and not much more we hope to find a farmer, garage or similar, randomly take a left turn, just to run into the same guy that took our pictures 20 minutes ago! he seems very happy and gestures at us to follow him. the place seems to be some kind of workshop employing what seems to be women only. within a few minutes, many of them take pictures with TW560… until our guy motions us to follow him again. he takes us behind a nondescript building, where he signals us to wait.

with an empty battery, waiting and not charging is the worst scenario. you’re not searching for a plug and at the same time not extending your range!

then – TWIKE pilots know this effect – somehow the magic starts.

in under 2 minutes an official looking person arrives, greets us in english, welcomes us to auce and asks us about our charging needs.

another 3 minutes later, we’re charging at 32A from a red CEE plug.

the guy turns out to be the ceo of a very well-known garments factory that hides behind the modest façade of the nondescript buildings we stood beside.

he offers us a tour of the facility – in just under 40 minutes we learn a great deal on how garments are produced today and how even a latvian company can be competitive in the face of ever cheaper chinese production methods.

very manual-intensive work!

very manual-intensive work!

the result... after 20 seconds of noise!

the result… after 20 seconds of noise!

automated embroidery for a well-known brand

automated embroidery for a well known brand

the ceo showing us around

the ceo showing us around

we end up in an administration building, get offered some very tasty coffee until our charge is done. all while the ceo asks us many ev-related questions.

with our battery full after just 68 minutes. we say goodbye and thank you to yet another person wanting nothing for the energy we consumed.

welcome to lithuania...on a single lane road

welcome to lithuania…on a single lane road

the landscape doesn’t change much and rural architecture stays also the same.

a typical lithuanian house

a typical lithuanian house

driving from small village to small village is fun. jc and i are in good spirits and are really looking forward to the adventure of crossing into russia and visiting kaliningrad.

we're having a blast!

we’re having a blast!

we munch through another charge in no time and find a friendly garage owner who is interested enough to not only let us charge, but gets about a dozen other people to visit us during our charge. were we to charge longer, it would be good manners to bring some spirits and snacks to entertain all the people making the effort to see the TWIKE. 😉

this is how it looks when i write tdb2015 entries

this is how it looks when i write tdb2015 entries

second charge today - a dozen interested people arrive during our 65 minute charge!

second charge today – a dozen interested people arrive during our 65 minute charge!

with our batteries back to 100% we are back on the road to klaipeda – it’s another 80kms to klaipeda and another 120kms to kaliningrad via the curonian split.

doable & we will arrive around 10pm. (at that time we had NO idea what crossing the border to russia could entail and how long this could take – but more on that later!)

in the meanwhile, we need to recharge and just go into our usual plug-hunting mode which usually goes through three phases:

  1. consult online directories for type2 or 400V tri-phase plugs
  2. go to ports / garages / other industrial installations
  3. switch to loco-mode and scour for any type of plug, three of them, possibly from different locations

somehow, in klaipeda, we jumped to phase 2 right away and after 20 mins switched to loco-mode – i went into a hotel and with copious amounts of charm commandeered three plugs for the greater good of mankind 🙂

three cables heading into the hotel ... to three independent plugs

three cables heading into the hotel … to three independent plugs

whilst charging at 30A we had some bevvies at the lobby bar and answered the usual questions about the TWIKE.

gimme my 7.3 kW - anyway possible!

gimme my 7.3 kW – anyway possible!

creative charging at a hotel in klaipeda

creative charging at a hotel in klaipeda

we then set out to nida by ferry.

ferry to nida

ferry to nida

klaipeda harbour - seen from the ferry

klaipeda harbour – seen from the ferry

the return ticket for TW560, jc and myself costs €1.60!

the return ticket for TW560, jc and myself costs €1.60!

we discovered in nida that the road to the border was restricted, subject to a special kind of pricing and that the border post was potentially closed when we would be arriving.

this is why we decided to head to sovetsk. a full 98 kms from klaipeda. in total we would be attempting to drive another 248 kms – 120 kms more than we planned for (2+ hours driving plus 70 mins ideal recharging time plus potentially another 30-60 mins for plug sourcing at midnight in southern lithuania) urg! since, due to visa requirements, the only stay we had to book was the one in kaliningrad, we really wanted to get to russia in time.

we felt fit and decided to go for it. (although jc had already expressed his dislike for my initial max-distance plan for today)

so we set off into the sunset and drive for max speed to match the last village before the border crossing with our max dod.

sunset over lithuania

sunset over lithuania

after just 90 mins we arrive at the last village and, unsurprisingly, everything looks very, very closed. with only 5 kms left, i decide that we go to loco-mode directly and just drive to the border and tell them that we need not only unhindered entry to russia but also about 7.9 kWh. 🙂

luck strikes again, when, on our way to the border, we take the wrong lane and enter a deserted industrial-looking complex which turned out to be lithuanian customs 🙂

check out how far away from everything this place is!

within 30sec we spy some juicy red cee plugs and – polite as we are – go inside to ask if we could use them. the answer was – after about 10 mins of deliberation – no.

this is when i made an executive decision and told jc to quietly take TW560 around the corner where no-one could see it and start charging whilst i keep everyone entertained…

my plan worked out – about 20 mins later no-one seemed to miss the TWIKE and i excused myself to go to the toilet and promptly joined jc outside.

just 30 mins later, we were ready to attempt our entry to russia and pulled up to the lithuanian border post.

the lithuanian side of the border

the lithuanian side of the border

during the next 2.5 hours i felt like in the early 1990’s when i used to cross into czechoslovakia and my many border crossings between countries like belarus, russia, china etc.

don’t get me wrong, not an unpleasant experience > thanks to schengen i just wasn’t used to the way border crossings were not so long ago – even between european countries.

after waiting for about 30 mins on the lithuanian side of the border, of which about 20 were spent with taking pictures by most of the border control staff, the barrier was lifted for TW560 and we drove about 200 metres towards the middle of the bridge where a long line of cars and trucks were waiting to enter russia.

approaching the russian side of the border

approaching the russian side of the border

taking pictures was strictly forbidden – and the border guards made it clear that they had a zero tolerance policy towards this.

that said, here a picture how the bridge of queen louise looked like from TW560.

the only picture of the border gate thatthe only (secretly taken) picture of the border gate that wasn't redacted by the FSB

the only (secretly taken) picture of the border gate that wasn’t redacted by the FSB

the bridge is impressive – below a pic in daylight.

Bridge of Queen Louise

Bridge of Queen Louise

TW560 attracted much attention by other travelers and some of the border control officers. so much so that we were extracted from the waiting line and were escorted to the front of the line. keep in mind that we don’t understand what the people are saying to each other, nor what comes crackling through said officers radio.

arriving in the bright lights of the border check point we literally shut down the russian side of the border for about 30 minutes. all staff – around 25 – gather around the twike, scan the qr code and have the site translated to russian and discuss the content in a lively conversation – a surreal situation.

what followed was standard fare for anyone used to how former socialist country border controls work. and took the better part of 2 hours. (and remembered me of a game i really like: papers please!)

  • move vehicle
  • show papers
  • wait
  • wait
  • fill out form
  • wait
  • show papers
  • move vehicle
  • be told to wait somewhere
  • wait
  • go to next counter
  • show papers
  • fill out form
  • wait
  • get stamp for russian entry
  • russia welcomes us

    russia welcomes us

  • move vehicle
  • show papers
  • finally: we're in the pole position... or so we thought!

    finally: we’re in the pole position… or so we thought!

  • answer more questions about the TWIKE
  • have underside of vehicle (and especially room above battery bay cover) checked with mirror
  • wait
  • show papers
  • get told off because one field in 2-page form was filled out incorrectly (i’m not joking!)
  • discuss if it makes sense to fill out the ccm field with a zero
  • wait
  • show papers
  • go to next counter
  • move vehicle
  • be called back to last counter, because the UK does not exist in russian computers > it’s GB
  • go to next counter
  • move vehicle
  • be told to stand away from vehicle
  • sign multiple papers in russian only (i like to live dangerously)
  • get temporary russian vehicle permit and customs clearance
  • after two and a half hours, we finally get the temporary registration document

    after two and a half hours, we finally get the temporary registration document

  • be told i cannot enter russia on foot (whilst jc was walking to TW560)
  • get in to TW560

…and with all that done, at 2.50am, we set out to kaliningrad.

kaliningrad, here we come!

kaliningrad, here we come!

one small problem: according to google, now it’s 129kms to kaliningrad. we’ve only got 123kms left in our batteries. we decide to press onward.

somehow, all adverse elements came together that night:

  • headwinds
  • bad surface / cobble stones
  • heavy rain

no matter what we did to extend our battery life – we never got close to catch up. all stores were closed at 3am and we drove for dozens of kms on roads devoid of any kind of infrastructure.

with only 20kms left, we saw the lights of a petrol station and pulled over. the station was closed and there were no plugs in sight. we just needed 15 or so minutes on one phase to get the missing 12kms into the battery.

jc went to the back and returned with a big smile – there was a guy there on his break 1am – 5am and he was willing to let us charge. YES! thank our karma and the universe 🙂

he chatted with us and we had a drink with him.

with this kind gesture and help, we were back on the road just 15 mins later. it turned out that without this quick recharge we would have not made it to kaliningrad.

but in our case, we arrived with 3kms to spare at about 5am, checked in, plugged in TW560 and went sleeping for a few hours.

whew – a marathon stage for TDB2015 and proof that with determination, you can go far…literally!

we’re looking forward to tomorrow, a drive-free day in kaliningrad, russia!