Everything was going great, until
|Miles Driven Today
|Total Trip Mileage
|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
As of today, I’ve ridden almost 10,000 miles, which surpasses the distance of my trip across the US by 1700 miles. In addition, I’ve been on the road for 73 of the 120 days scheduled.
We departed the hotel at precisely 8:30 AM, and headed to Turpan. The morning exit was like all others in China. We faced the cars, and approached each moment like we were charming a snake. The cars are big and mean, and they have teeth that will really hurt, if we’re not careful.
Getting gas is still unpredictable
Another gas station, another procedure for getting gas. And once again, we were , to get gas, but everyone at the gas station assumes that our bikes will explode, so every possible precaution is taken. Today’s procedure required bringing the bikes into the compound, 4 at a time. Then, waiting… Then walking the bikes to the pumps,. Then, letting the attendant fill the tanks, then, we were allowed to star them, and ride them out.
Very strange indeed…
A whole lot of mountain passes
The road to Turpan eventually leads you into a series of mountain passes. The passes generally start at about 3000 feet of elevation, and make their way up and down, hitting heights of 5500 feet before retreating down to 3000 again. And so this process continued over and over, all the while we were were chugging along on our big, new, shiney BMW motorcycles. These bikes are very capable, and very powerful. And so, when we come upon a dilapidated Chinese cargo truck, it is simply no match for us. We crack the throttle, and away we go.
This approach works most of the time, but you see, these trucks, and their drivers are an unpredictable sort of bunch, so our biggest problem is not our bikes, or the trucks. It’s when the trucks try to overtake each other. Imagine this… It’s like watching two giant, three-toed sloths trying to overtake each other. it takes a while, and you don’t want to come between them.
So, when we come upon a truck, which is behind another truck, we have to be really careful before and during the overtake. They might let one bike go, but not another. Stay on your toes, and stay alive.
MOUNTAIN PASS VIDEO
We’re hot and cranky
Well, we’re at another gas station, and this time, they’ve decided that they need to see our passports. We’re hot, cranky, and we’re growing weary of all of this silly procedural stuff that we have to address.
Nevertheless, we eventually get gas, and move on. But OMG what a process indeed.
We’re also stopped again for another passport check. Watch the report from the road to see that I’m speechless. Hell, I’m never speechless, but today, I hit that point.
All roads lead to gravel
With about 40-50 miles to go, we turn left, and before long, the road changes to gravel. Now, when you come upon a gravel road, it’s always the optimist that shows up to make the decision to proceed or not. In this case, the optimist in all of us did not bat and eye, and we began riding on the gravel.
A handful of us, perhaps 4 of us, are comfortable on gravel. Some more than others. We rode along, dealing with the sea of gravel, taking it in stride, remaining upright the entire trip. At about the 5 mile mark, we pulled over, and waited for the rest of the group.
And we waited, and we waited. After a while, one of the bikes showed up to report that a few of the bikes had gone down in the gravel. It did not make sense to backtrack, so we waited a few minutes until the group was together again.
As it turned out, at lest 2, and perhaps 3 bikes had gone down in the gravel. I never had a chance to ask any detailed questions, because as soon as they arrived, we needed to make a decision.
As we waited at this point, we managed to speak to a few other drivers, in taxicabs or in trucks. We asked about how far it was until the road improved, and we received remarks of between 10-20 K, or 6-12 miles. The group began to self-organize around the question of riding forward or turning around.
In the end, several wanted to turn around because they don’t like gravel, and wanted to mitigate the risk. Others turned around becasue they did not fully understand the risk or the distance of gravel ahead of us. They new neither the distance nor the depth of the gravel. So, they also turned around. That left only Feroz and I to make a decision.
Feroz is a madman in the gravel, and I’m very confident, although I can’t motor along at the same speed as he can. Nevertheless, we watched as the group turned around, and headed back, and then Feroz and I headed forward.
This video shows how deep the gravel got. If you watch, you’ll see my bike wandering around within a path that is about 15 – 18″ wide. The whole time, I’m moving along at between 20-30 mph, while Feroz is probably at 40 mph.
It turns out that the path to the tarred road was only about 4 miles, or 7 k. So, the other group, who turned around, had to drive on 7k of gravel to get back to the start, while we rode on 7k of gravel to get to the end. But, none of us knew the actual distance, and truth be told, this was deep, tough gravel.
I had to do all that I can to keep the bike on a clean line, all the while, letting it dance a bit, while fighting this SOB to go where I pointed it. For me, and at my skill level, this was a test. I was never afraid of going down, but there were a few moments where the front wheel moved like a possessed demon, not like a BMW.
Finally, the tar
We found the tar, and headed to the hotel. We thought we knew the name of the hotel, so when we came upon the next passport check, this time, on our own without any Chinese speaking help, we let the know the name of the hotel, and within 2 minutes, we were on our way to the hotel. We were going to arrive at lest an hour before everyone else.
I imagined getting to the hotel, checking in, grabbing a cold beer with Feroz, and talking about the day. But, that’s not what happened.
The hotel debacle
We arrived at the hotel, in a temperature just shy of 100 degrees F. I went into the lobby, to look for a luggage cart. Finally, I found a cart, and headed to the bikes. We took all of our gear off the bikes, and had to xray it at the front entrance. We put it back on the cart, and walked up to the front desk. We told them who we were, and they searched for our reservation, but there was none.
After a few phone calls, we were told the name of the hotel, and after talking to the hotel staff, we learned that it is only 200 – 300 yards further along, on the same road. So, we marched outside, packed the bikes again, and headed to the 2nd hotel. We arrived, only to find the same situatio all over again. No reservation, this is not our hotel.
And so, another phone all, and this time was said, we’re not moving. You come to where we are, and we’ll follow you to the hotel We’re incapable of doing this without a little help. Mike showed up about 12 minutes later, and we followed him to the hotel.
A Perfect Storm
Its difficult to understand how so man things could go wrong, each one affecting the other, and all of them affecting us. We wanted a hotel, and a cold beer. What we got was a healthy dose of logistics hell, rising temperatures, and a bit of frustration.
I won’t go into details, but the explanation was that a few different folks made mistakes, and that all of this would be looked into ASAP.
Report from the road
REPORT FROM THE ROAD VIDEO
What will tomorrow bring?
Honestly, this is now the second time that I don’t feel qualified to answer this question. What will it bring? Who knows. We’ll have to wait and see.