We wake after another night sleeping in a field, famished and in search of protein. I notice numerous truckers turning into a complex containing a garage, a gas station, a motel, and a restaurant. We follow them, and soon find ourselves facing our usual conundrum: How do you order food from a menu you can’t read?
“I’ll just order four standard breakfasts and four coffees,” Mims says. (He looks up how to say this in our Russian dictionary.) We watch Justin Timberlake videos on a Russian MTV knockoff while truckers spoon up massive bowls of butter-topped porridge. Would that be our morning repast?
A few minutes later, a waitress in a white mesh top—her white bra visible, perhaps to entice the truckers to tip—delivers gritty instant coffee and runny sunny-side-up eggs accompanied by a ham wedge. To sop up the mess, we’re provided a basket of dry, sliced brown bread.
“Well, at least we’re no longer hungry,” Andrew says.
If only we’d waited a couple of miles, we could’ve killed our hunger in style. On the bumpy asphalt roller coaster connecting Riga to Moscow, we notice people sitting on stools alongside the road selling food, furs, and taxidermied animals. We park the Justy to investigate. Kindly women offer smoked eels, fresh-picked blueberries and cranberries, and oyster mushrooms. Using hand gestures and lines in the dirt, we barter for a bunch of mushrooms and berries and an entire smoked eel.
“It’s salty,” Mims says, gnawing on the eel.
“Surprisingly not chewy,” Andrew adds, ripping out a chunk.
Totally smelly, was my take on the eel. We attempt to tie it outside the car, but it falls off when we hit 65 mph. We circle back and pick it up, wiping off the dirt.
“You’re eating that,” I tell Mims.