09-19 Day 71 (Aksu, China arrival)

A day of checkpoints, and one cool lunch stop


Travel FromKashgar, China
Intermediate Location 
Ending LocationAksu, China
Starting Odometer33,478
Ending Odometer33,770
Miles Driven Today292 Miles
Total Trip Mileage9227 Miles
Countries visited Today 
Countries visited on trip US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China

Note for the record:

This post is being finished, and published on the 24th of September, and I’m writing it from a historical perspective. I had hoped that when we left the province where the dispute is, that we’d have better access to the Internet, and I’d be able to publish videos. But, that’s not the case.

As I sit in my hotel room, writing this post, I’m still not able to get to my YouTube account, so I can’t publish the videos. So, what I’ve decided to do is to start to publish, leaving placeholders for where the videos will be located. In this way, as soon as I get a good, and clean internet connection, I’ll post the videos, and insert the links into the older posts.

So, you can expect to see good story-lines, but they will be lacking the video that I love to post alongside.

As far as when I’ll gain access, I’m afraid that I don’t know. But, we’ve been told that as we head further East, and further South, it will be more and more likely that I’ll have access to these fundamental services. Wish me luck…

Today’s drive


We departed at about 8:30, after a quick breakfast. The ride was on straight roads, with almost perfect pavement. Initially, seeing the mountains on our left, and the Taklamakan dessert on our right was interesting, but the same scenery, mile after mile, gets boring. So, most of our day was simply to make miles, and get to the next destination city.

Active Blocking

Riding in a group of 12 motorcycles, in a city like Kashgar, Aksu, or any of these big Asian cities forces you to constantly change lanes, in order to make progress. In these cities, traffic can stop for almost any reason, and since motorcycles are thinner than cars, if we drive assertively, and are actively changing lanes, we can make very good progress. However, riding as a group of 12 riders has its challenges. Try to imagine that a hole between cars, which exists for the first bike, probably does not exist as time passes, and the 12th bike tries to make the same move. So, a strategy must be put in place to work as a team, and to stay safe. I call this strategy Active Blocking.

Active blocking is a concept where each rider is aware of those in front, and behind him/her, and they are also aware of the next 200 – 300 yards ahead of them. With this kind of awareness, you can anticipate which lanes will be open, and which will have risks. You can then “stuff your motorcycle” into a hole, in just the right way, so as to leave your fellow riders room, to also move into that lane, filling that spot.

In addition, we sometimes pull in front of a car, or alongside a car, putting our bike in their way, so that they cannot change lanes, thus cutting us off. So, this concept is put in place to produce safety for our riders, always leaving them room, and also to constantly make progress, in a busy city.

Now, before you pass judgement, thinking that we’re just a bunch of yahoos on a motorcycle, taking advantage of our numbers, please remember that each time a motorcycle stops, in traffic, there is a risk that they might fall over, or stall the bike, or have some other issue. So, we always try to stay moving. To keep moving, you have to make sure that you’ve got room to ride, and so active blocking becomes necessary.

I had hoped to have a video to show you how this works, but my video cameras did not do justice to what we were doing, so you’ll have to imagine it…

Music (h)ELPs me set the mood of the day

Over the course of any given day, the mind of a rider can go just about anywhere. We can become distracted, by thinking about other things, whcih are not related to the road. So, in my case, I use music as a background sound, to bring me joy, let me sing a bit, and to relax, so that the rest of my small brain can focus on the riding. In most cases, I find that hearing music in the background allows me to be a better, and more focused rider. Although, not all riders agree that riding with music is good.

In the same way that someone with ADD is programmed differently than a “normal person” or someone dealing with a “stress disorder” looks at the world different, and processes things differently, it is clear to me that the prople that don’t like to hear music in the background are likely, simply programmed differently. They are not wrong for what they think, but they don’t see that other brains respond differently to stimulus. No harm, no foul.

And so, on this particular day, I was listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Trilogy album. What a fantastic bit of background music it was. My mood was wonderful, and my attention was 100%. Thanks Greg, Keith and Carl…


The Chef

Today, we came to a place for lunch, where we all ordered the same thing. Technically, one order was placed, for all of us. So, as we sat there, the Chef began to make our lunch. He was using all fresh vegetables, and everything looked so great, a few of us decided to get it on video. And so, this is what our lunch looked like.

Ming Dynasty Toilet

It’s lunchtime, and sometimes, you need to use the toilet. So, I asked the group if they knew where the toilet was, and Karin said, yes I do, but you’re not going to like it. So, I visited the toilet, and was so shocked, that I had to film it, and share it with you. I’ve left out the really gruesome parts, but I’m sure you’ll get the picture of what a toilet looks like, in rural China.

I nicknamed this toilet, the Ming Dynasty Toilet, based mostly on the fact that it looked to be hundreds of years old.

Security Checkpoints

I’ve mentioned these security checkpoints a number of times, but I thought it was time that I provided more detail on how they work.

Along the highway, there are Electronic toll stations setup. As you approach a toll station, perhaps before it, but usually after it, there is a police checkpoint. These usually have 3-4 lanes, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Let’s meet the riders (Part II)

Last time we rode parallel to the riders, and filmed them, we used Ralph’s handheld camera, which he controlled, as he rode by. This time, I borrowed a GoPro, with Image Stabilization from Phil, mounted it to my handlebar, and rode alongside the group. Here’s the result…

My back is getting very tight

As a result of riding all day, I’m finding that my back is very tight, sometimes causing pain. The pain can be a minor irritant, or at some times, it can be pretty painful. I’ve been trying to find a chiropractor to help me, but in China, this problem is tough to solve. So, we’re looking to find a place that can provide Chiropractic, and/or acupuncture. I’m optimistic that I’ll get some relief tomorrow.

What will tomorrow bring?

Well, we expect more checkpoints, and more difficulties getting gas. Beyond that, we must expect the unexpected. It’s that simple.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and on July 10, 2019, he began a 120 day trip through Europe, and then on to Russia, China, and parts East. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.


  1. As always love reading the blog. I have heard about the toilets in China, I am sure there is a funny story somewhere.

    1. Hi Chris,
      Hmmm, these toilets are pretty bad. I guess its best if I laugh about them, because otherwise, I’d be crying. They are truly horrific.

  2. Do you recall listening to the Trilogy album over and over while eating “Charles Chips” at Tom Clarke’s house back in the day

    1. Yes, I sure do. We would spend hours and hours, days upon days getting in the mood, and then listening to ELP. Trilogy was certainly one of their best.

  3. I could write a book about the toilets I have encountered back in the 1980’s in Asia, India, Nepal and Ladakh! xo

    1. So, as I read these comments, it seams that everyone has a story about Chinese toilets. But, do you have the video to prove it?

  4. Cliff,
    The Chinese toilet is one of those interesting bits of culture. Even in the big modern cities like Beijing, many of the restaurants and most of the public places have those hole-in-the-ground lined with porcelain toilets. Most of the better restaurants also have just one American-style toilet, and there are often long lines for that one. If you are a girl and agile enough to get back up, you can save a lot of time by using the Chinese version.

    1. Yeh, it’s alarming to see these big, industrial cities, filled with toilets that are from 100 years ago. Wow, how on Earth did these people become a powerhouse, when they can’t even build a toilet. That said, almost all of the highways we’ve been riding on, along with cities, gas stations, etc, etc. have all been built in the last 10 years. When you visit these places, there is often no one there. Its eerie.

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