09-28 Day 80 (Linxia, China arrival)

We thought this would be an easy day…

Mileage

Date9/28/2019
Travel FromXining
Intermediate LocationBuddist Temple
Ending LocationLinxia
Starting Odometer35,557
Ending Odometer35,736
Miles Driven Today179 Miles
Total Trip Mileage11193 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

As of this morning, I’ve completed 80 days, of a scheduled 120 day trip. So, that puts me at roughly 2/3 completion, over time. I’ve completed a little over 11,000 miles, which puts me ahead of the 10,600 miles that would represent the 2/3 mileage distance.

Today’s Ride

Departure

We left the hotel at 9:00 AM, and we stopped at a Buddhist temple at 9:45.

Some of my fellow riders are rythm in motion

I’ve taken lots of training, developing bike handling skills for slow maneuvers, riding dirt and mud, and a few other areas. I’ve also done several days of coaching at VIR, where I rode my GS on the same track, as the S1000RR Super-bikes are running. And, all of this training has really helped me during this trip, but…

I have at least two weaknesses. I’m not that fast in the mountain passes, where you commit to a turn, even if the turn is a blind turn, and you don’t know if a truck is approaching, or the like. I tend to not commit to a turn, until I can see the turn. On the other hand, there are a number of riders who are much more familiar with riding in Mountain passes.

Martin Strasser, Bruno, Martin Helni, as well as Marc and Mike, our guides are all great drivers on this type of road. To watch them, is like watching poetry in motion. They are so very smooth, and comfortable with the unknown. Their lines are consistent, and almost perfect, every time.

Watching these folks, I can see clearly the areas that I need to do more skill development. So, once I get home, I’ll figure out how to proceed, and continue with my skills development.

We have become them

Since entering China, I’ve been observing how atrocious the Chinese drivers. They don’t pay attention, don’t follow rules, and simply don’t care about anything except maintaining momentum. With poorly maintained vehicles, with little power, maintaining momentum is king.

In our case, we’re riding state-of-the-art BMW adventure bikes, with plenty of power, in excellent condition. So, we don’t have any of those issues, but nevertheless, to a certain degree, we’ve all stated to adopt some of their bad habits.

To put it bluntly, we have become as bad as the Chinese drivers. I find that I take greater risks, are more comfortable passing slow moving vehicles on the Right hand shoulder, and do insane things in city traffic. So, I guess that if you spend enough time here, you become just Ike them.

As an example, I now pass cars, over a solid yellow line, with oncoming traffic coming towards me. The key is obviously to get back in your lane before you meet your maker.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and this afternoon, after a few passes on cars that I thought were too high of risk, I told myself to reduce risk, and dial it back a bit. So, hopefully these thoughts will prevail, and I’ll stay within my own risk model.

The sheep are in charge

As I’ve ridden today, I’ve seen numerous herds of goats, sheep, and animals that look like sheep, but have big, circular horns. In any case, it looks like the word has been put out on the sheep telephone network that we’re bothering them by riding too fast. It that’s true, then it would help to explain why, at 4:41 PM, as I was minding my own business, just riding along, a few sheep walked out in front of me. I had to slow down, wait to see what they would do, and then eventually roll on past.

There are two great examples of how the sheep rule the world. The first, is a a video of Sheep, along the road, and /or at the summit of a mountain. The second is where a few sheep wandered into the road, just in front of me, causing me to brake, and avoid them. Whew, this could have been a whole lot worse.

Today’s Ride

Departure

We left the hotel at 9:00, and made a quick stop for gas before arriving at the Monastery, and getting to our parking spots at about 9:45

We visit a Buddhist Monastery

I’ve seen pictures of Buddhist Monasteries in Tibet, and they often have prayer wheels and prayer flags. If I was expecting that, I was not to be disappointed. Prayer wheels are everywhere, so I spent a few minutes turning them, thinking about the Buddhist religion.

I must admit, that as someone that is not very religious, I did not feel anything at all, negative or positive when I spun the wheels. I had often wondered, if you partake in this religious custom, certainly no harm will come to you, but perhaps you’ll feel a connection in some way to the religion. But, that was not to be. I was unaffected by the wheels, or by seeing any of the statues throughout the monastery.

Mountain Passes

We climbed several mountain passes again. Most were over 12,000 feet in elevation. When we summited these passes, I often ask if we know the name of the pass, but so far, we’ve not known the names at all.

To me, this is a bit strange, as in the US, it’s common to know the name of almost all of the passes, and the road signs often give the elevation, and name of the pass.

We’re really off the beaten path

The dessert

Climbing the pass

These routes are little traveled, and very rural. It’s pretty common for us to begin climbing up the road into one of the passes, and the number of cars is reduced to a very low number, sometimes not seeing a car for 10 minutes or more.

As it turns out, many of these routes are in a very poor state, while others have been rebuilt and upgraded, so they are well groomed, with good pavement, and guard rails all around.

Today’s route took us up a number of passes, but generally, these passes were the ones that are in a state of disrepair. For example, as we climbed the last pass, we began to see big sections, or chunks of the concrete that had broken away, and left holes in their place. The potholes are not too deep, or too horrible, but they should be avoided.

VIDEO OF CLIMBING THE PASS

Descending the pass

After we hit the summit, we began our descent. It was 5:00 PM or so, and as a result, the sun had begun to set in the pass. So, the road was no longer lit from the sun, and instead, it was in shadow for a good deal of the descent.

On the way down, we also began to see bigger and bigger potholes. Try to picture potholes, between 12-24 inches in diameter, sometimes as much as a foot deep. You have to avoid these holes at all costs.

So, once again I resorted to actively moving the bike around the holes, taking care to miss them all, remembering that my front rim is a rim that I borrowed from Edelweiss. There are no other spare rims, so if this rim gets bent, I will not be able to ride.

It gets worse

Descending in shadow was slightly more difficult than riding in the sun, but it was certainly manageable. But, what came next was a big surprise.

You see, China recognizes that these mountain passes are important to commerce, and they have likely identified good reasons for needing them open, and in good repair the entire year round. And, as such, they have many projects underway to replace these mountain passes with new highways and tunnels.

So, as we crossed down into 9000 feet, we came upon an area where they were building a new highway, which would go around the pass, and make it easy for cars, trucks and motorcycles to cross the valley, and the mountains. As we know, construction sites can be messy, and so was the case here.

All of the sudden, we came upon 2 cars, driving slowly, entering a section of mud that would be a challenge to cross. AS I came upon the two cars, I tried to make my way around them, but they blocked me, thinking that they would be faster, and they did not want me in front. But, I’m on a BMW GSA, and I’m not afraid of mud, so at the first hairpin turn, I moved to the outside, and came up on the bumper of the first car. Within seconds, I moved to the right, and shot past like a rocket.

The second car had the same mindset, trying to keep me behind, but still, I was having none of it. I waited for my chance, and when the time was right, I beeped, asking to be let by. Just at this moment, they hit a big crevice in the road, and had to slow to a crawl. Me, on the other hand, I simply hit the throttle, jumped the bike over the small crack or crevice in the road, and roared past them. The video does a great job of showing the entire process.

Meeting new people

Late in the afternoon, after descending the pass, we stopped in a little town to look at a vendor that was selling red chili peppers. The peppers looked good, but what was I going to do with 400 small, dried red peppers. I decided to go looking for glass cleaner. I found a hardware store, but after explaining what I wanted, I found that they did not have glass cleaner, but I invited them to come to the bike, and take some pictures.

So, we took pictures of the guy, and his friend, as they stood with me, and sat on the bike.

But, my quest for Glass Cleaner was not over.

The search for glass cleaner

The bikes get pretty dirty, and we’ve been so busy, we have not had a chance to properly clean them. So, each day, as a sort of ritual, we clean the windscreens and mirrors. In fact, we clean them so often that we’ve run out of glass cleaner. I’ve been borrowing Phil’s cleaner each day, but as of this morning, he’s run out. So, we’ve been in search of glass cleaner for a while now.

When we pulled into the gas station at about 6:00 PM, I noticed a bottle of blue liquid, that looked like glass cleaner. A quick conversation with the attendant, using my translation app, and I confirmed that it was glass cleaner. So, for 10 Juan, about $1.30, I purchased a bottle, and gave it to Phil as a gift. Now, we’re ready for cleaning the bikes tomorrow morning.

PICTURE GALLERY

Hotel arrival

After a long day of riding, we eventually arrived at the hotel. It was now about 6:45 PM, and we had been riding for 10 hours of intense focus. I really wanted to check in, and get into my room, but we needed to have a quick briefing about tomorrow’s ride. So, a 5 minute briefing, and it was off to the reception desk to check in.

Report from the road

Dinner

We were all tired, but because this morning’s breakfast was not at all to my liking, and I could eat almost nothing, I wanted to get some food into my stomach. So, several of us decided to eat in the restaurant.

I was really surprised that the staff had so much difficult in answering one simple question; Do you have a restaurant, and is it open for dinner. We were directed to the 2nd floor, then the 1st, then the 2nd, and eventually, back to the 1st floor. Phil and I met Charles in the restaurant, and we discovered that Mina and Feroz were also there, eating. I had said that I’d meet them in the restaurant, but the tables did not have much room, so I ate with Phil, Charles, Stephan and Karin, and I think that Feroz and Mina ate with Martin, and others.

What will tomorrow bring

We’ve been given conflicting information about tomorrow’s ride. We don’t know whether the ride will be up and over more passes, perhaps getting quite cold, or whether it will be a more tame 190 mile ride. We’ll leave at 8:30 AM, after breakfast.

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.

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