Luke Graham: A jaunt through the mountain cluster
February 8, 2014
Sochi, Russia — I woke up Saturday and felt like I could have slept for another 22 hours.
But near our room is a gondola that takes Olympic viewers and regular skiers and boarders up the mountain for a day’s fun.
Every day at about 9 a.m., the DJ starts. The past two days waking up to Lorde's "Royals" hasn't been horrible, but at some point I may break a glass, rip up my mattress, huck it off the balcony and give a Tarzan-like scream while no one is watching.
Regardless, the wake-up calls have been nice to this point. On Saturday, it allowed me to venture out for some exercise and discovery around our little mountain cluster.
I threw on my shoes, put on some music (not Lorde — instead, Machine Head) and went for a run up the road from where we're staying.
It's pretty astounding what I saw.
Three days ago, we took a bus through the shopping area above our hotels. Nothing was open. Not a thing. All the windows featured white paper with "Coming Soon!" signs.
This mornings run felt more like Pearl Street in Boulder than the middle of Russia. It was like running along Yampa Street, then turning back on Lincoln Avenue while a river ran between the two.
Bars, clothing shops, commemorative places, pharmacies, banks, spas and just about everything in between. I had to zigzag through all the people. Some gave me a dirty look as the only runner amid the cloud. In some ways, I felt like Tommy Boy trying to make his final.
But it was good to finally see people out and about. The day was gorgeous, nary a cloud in the sky. It felt like a warm spring day, and when I got in the sun, it was magnificent.
Eventually, I stopped for water at a little vendor outside a shop. It was down in a nook, with a deck right in the sun. It was perfect.
The guy I met was named Alexander. We chatted for a while in both our broken dialects. He lives in Moscow and works as a bartender but saw an opportunity to run this little joint in the mountain cluster for a month.
He wore a jean jacket, jeans and an American flag headband. I was sold. I sat and had a bottle of water with him.
He said even he was surprised at how quick things came together in the area. Business, he said, has picked up tremendously. He offered me some traditional Saint Petersburg vodka and said he wouldn't accept no for an answer. He said something in Russian, and I told him the old Gaelic family prayer I know.
It was off the beaten path, but it felt like home.