Sunday, October 11, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Grand Tour: Across Russia By Motorcycle -- Oregon Couple Make Guinness Book Of Records


PORTLAND - An Oregon lawyer and his wife have become the first people to cross the vast expanse of Russia by motorcycle, earning themselves a place in the Russian edition of the Guinness Book of Records.

Eric and Gail Haws started July 3 from Magadan in Siberia and ended their 7,998-mile trip Aug. 22 in Helsinki. The record-setting portion of the trip was the 6,998 miles from Magadan to Moscow.

Haws, 52, says he and his wife planned the trip for the challenge and the chance to see the country. They didn't know they had set a record until somebody mentioned afterward they should check with Guinness, which gave them a certificate noting their accomplishment.

"We did this as something fun to do, an adventure," Haws says.

They decided to take a northerly route because a southern route along the Trans-Siberian railroad has impassable sections that have forced other motorcyclists to load their machines onto the train for long stretches.

It rained 45 of the 50 days they were on the road, and they had to deal with thieves, broken bridges and roadless areas that had become swamps.

Many times they would come to a river and find the bridge was out.

"There were places we had to rebuild bridges ourselves," Haws recalls. "We had to put planks over missing boards. Some areas where the rivers were fairly shallow we could just ride across."

Other times they had to follow railroad tracks across desolate plains. When the mud got too thick, Russian truck drivers would offer to carry Gail and their equipment.

"Once we found these three brothers," Haws recalls, "and they asked what we did for living. I told them, and we asked what they did. They says, `Oh, we're bandits.' But they were real nice people. They even took us to a museum."

The Hawses speak only a little Russian, but they got by because there were people who spoke English or were able to understand gestures.

The couple camped out most of the time and occasionally stayed with families. Many people were eager to help, though they had an early encounter with thieves.

"The first night out," Haws recalls, "we hung our food outside the tent to keep bears away. Instead, the Russians came and stole our food and camping equipment."

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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