A short, but awesome ride over a mountain pass
|Miles Driven Today||–||46 Miles|
|Total Trip Mileage||–||11425 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|
Today was a low mileage day, arriving in Maiji by 11:30 AM. With the completion of today’s ride, I’ve logged almost 11,500 miles since leaving Indian Land. I’ve also logged 2,200 miles in China alone, since the border crossing back on Sept 16th. Whew, it’s been quite a ride so far.
I still expect to hit around 16,000 miles in total, that leaves me with another 4500 miles to go, over the next 30 days.
Today’s ride started with a 9:00 AM departure, followed by a short shot through the city, “enjoying the morning traffic”. Before 12 minutes had passed, we took a turn, and began to encounter a road which was not at all urban. In fact, it was downright Rural, and mountainous. Within a minute or two, the road showed its true color, and began to present switchback after switchback. The road composition was mostly of concrete, with some sections that were either dirt, or actually paved with tar.
More about the road
Nevertheless, this was a road that is right in my sweet spot of skills. The road was very technical, with many hairpin turns, and lots of sweeping turns, which were short, but blind. This is the kind of road that I enjoy to the fullest. So, riding behind Mike our leader, I had a chance to push it a little bit, and enjoy the turns.
I’d describe this road as having lots of hairpin turns, very technical in nature, with a never-ending string of flowing curves, one after the next. Simply awesome riding
This morning, before we left, Feroz mentioned that we might be laying down, or something to this effect, and he then referenced Lay Down Sally, the song by Eric Clapton. And so, as soon as I had a moment to focus on music selection, I selected Eric Clapton, and before long, I was listening to Lay Down Sally.
Since I’ve been dating Toni, it’s become impossible to hear an Eric Clapton song, without thinking of her. So, Toni, this one’s for you.
The passing incident
I’m a nut about motorcycle safety, and while we’ve been riding with a bit more of a caviler style, since arriving in China, I’m still very conscious of riding as a group, taking care of each other, and always riding with safety in mind.
Recently, I brought to the attention of the group leaders that we needed to ride more in unison, protecting one another as we flow and shoot through traffic. I take great care to always take care of the rider in front and behind me, leaving spaces, signaling in advance, always telegraphing my moves, and I wanted to be sure that every one of us was thinking about each day in the same way.
So, it’s not in my nature to pass someone, without being waved by. But, today, I made a mistake, that was captured on video, in all of its glory.
After a particularly difficult bit of map reading, Mike, our ride leader realized that he had made a wrong turn. He would need to turn his bike around, and the road was narrow. So, he motioned for me to turn down the correct road, and to wait for him. So, that’s what I did.
You’ll see Mike motion to me at 10 seconds, and at 22 seconds, I’ve pulled over, and was waiting for Mike to pass me, so that I could once again, ride in the 2nd position.
It needs to be said that I had been riding behind Mike the whole morning, and now I was on the side of the road, waiting for him and for the group. Well, Mike came riding by, but so did the next 5 riders, this put me in position 6, when I really wanted to ride fast, and ride at the front. I quickly passed one rider, but for the next 6 minutes or so, I rode behind Ralf.
For several minutes, I had been signaling to Ralf that I wanted to pass him, but he was focused on the road, and did not see me. On the video, you’ll see this happening up to about 1 min 10 seconds.
And so, just as we were approaching a sharp left turn, I once again signaled to him that I’d like to pass, but this road is technical, and it’s tough to always watch your mirrors. So, Ralf did not see my request for a pass, but I thought that he did.
At 1 Min 15 seconds, you’ll see that Ralf makes the left, and pulls all the way over to the right as if to signal me by. Now, at 1 min 20 seconds of the video, I began to accelerate, but just before I came parallel to him, he moved back to the left, taking away my lane. The road was narrow, and I was on the gas, so I quickly moved to the left, which put me off of the road, into some gravel. Gravel is tricky stuff, so I was not in a position to simply put on the brakes, and back out of the pass. Instead, I continued the pass, letting the bike squirm underneath me. The video shows how the bike wiggled left and right, and how it came close to a farm tractor on the left.
I completed the pass, but felt like an ass because I had created an unsafe situation, simply because I misunderstood Ralf’s intentions. So I apologized to Ralf and a few others, but I’ll make a point of talking about it tomorrow morning, at our briefing.
The video tells the whole story
Traffic in the cities
Traffic in all of the early cities was very light, as they were mountain towns. As we came down in elevation, we encountered larger cities, with more of the crazy Chinese driving that we’ve come to know.
Arrival at the hotel
This was a very short day, logging only 55+ miles. So, there was not too much to report on, and there was not too much drama, except some crazy traffic here and there.
The afternoon’s activities
From the hotel, we traveled to within 1/2 mile of the grotto, and had lunch. As usual, lunch was great, and we all enjoyed a beer or two. I did come to realize that having two beers, immediately before walking up several hundred steps may have been a bad idea.
The Maijishan Grottoes
The Maijishan grottoes are an example of Rock Cut architecture, which include some 7200 Buddhist sculptures. Construction of this grotto ended in about 420 AD.
On this day, we took a hired car from our hotel to the grottoes, paid the entrance fee, and began walking the grounds. The grounds begin at a low-lying area, near the parking lot, from which you must enter through a few gates, and then begin to walk up a tarred pathway, until you reach the beginning of the scaffolding which allows you to walk in and among the sculptures.
Along the way, there were numerous vendors, selling trinkets, fresh nuts, and other things. I purchased some nuts, which came with a tool to open them, and I would later learn that these delicious nuts were Chinese Macadamia Nuts. Wow were they good.
Along the way, and as I climbed the temple, I took pictures to try to capture the moment. You can see what the temple looks like from the pictures below.
And finally, in order to get a good feel for just what it is like to be climbing on the edge of a cliff, I managed to take a picture from one of the outcroppings, looking to the side, showing the majesty and magnitude of the temple wall.
Climbing up the temple
Throughout this trip, so far, I’ve really tried to make sure that if there was an important, historical site that we would have access to, I’d be sure to visit it, and take it all in. This site certainly qualifies, having been built more than 1700 years ago, and still in operation today, I really needed to see it, and experience it.
Because it’s a temple, carved into the side of a mountain, I’d need to climb up many steps, and address any fear of heights that might arise along the way. I’m generally not afraid of heights, but there are some situations that cause me to be a bit uneasy, and it seemed like today might cause this feeling once again.
Statues embedded in the temple wall
The statues represent all manner of topical items for the day. They represent good and evil, the politics of the day, and the Buddhist religion. So, as you look at the photos below, you’ll see the different thinking of each artist.
Friends (New and Old) along the way
Climbing a monument or temple, such as this, you’ll inevitably come into contact with others. These others are mostly trying to accomplish the same thing as you. They want to feel, and experience the moment, each in their own way, but each with much that is shared and in common with others.
And so, as I climbed, I ran into some of my fellow riders, and many other tourists. These tourists were fascinated to see this giant American, who had traveled to their country (China), by motorcycle, and who wanted to see the same things that they wanted. So, I took several pictures, with a number of different groups.
After completing the ascent to the top of the temple, I made my way down to the parking lot, where I’d meet up with the others. Along the way, I came upon a woman, who had a camel, and who was selling pictures of interested parties, sitting on her camel.
I’m a sucker for things like this, and simply couldn’t resist. So, up I climbed, and away we went.