A nice hotel, a good ride, and the weather held off
|Travel From||–||Foping, China|
|Ending Location||–||Guangyuan, China|
|Miles Driven Today||–||202 Miles|
|Total Trip Mileage||–||12133 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|
I’ve now logged over 12,000 miles, in 87 days. The tour will end in Bangkok on the 24th of October, and I’ll meet the family, and spend about 10 more days in Thailand.
We departed the hotel at 8:30, after an absolutely horrible breakfast. it looked like it was about to start raining almost immediately, but the rain held off for a while.
Usually, these hotels offer some form of western breakfast foods. That might be fried eggs, an omelette, oatmeal, cold cereal, sausages, toast, etc. But this hotel, in this town was having none of that. There was not one offer of food to a Westerner, at all. Even Charles, who is from Taiwan had trouble with this breakfast, saying that he usually eats fruit, or eggs, not this traditional Chinese food. So, I had a little bit of fried rice, and that was it for me, for breakfast.
I met a very nice college student
Who came up to me and started asking about the trip, and asked where I was from. We got to talking, and he wanted to take a picture with me. So, I also took a few photos with him, and managed to do a quick interview, which is included in today’s report from the road.
Roads and road conditions
Today’s route took us up and over a few mountain passes, and in and out of a number of cities. None of the passes was very high, showing up at about 5800 feet, and 6800 feet in elevation for the two passes that were prominent.
Over the course of the entire ride, we were expected rain, and the roads often looked like it had just rained on them. So, in order to drive safely, we were always negotiating the turns, hills and hairpins with the fear that we’d find oil sitting on top of the fresh rainwater. That’s a deadly combination, but with all of the trucks that travel these roads, it’s very likely indeed.
Nevertheless, when the roads were dry, they were enjoyable and stimulating to drive on. And so it went, always looking like rain, but never actually raining. That is until we hit the 50 miles to go point, and at that point, we came upon a little bit of mist and rain, but it dissipated in about 15 minutes, perhaps 30 minutes.
The little old ladies
I mentioned that we were entering and exiting many small towns along the way. Well, at about 11:00 AM, we entered this small little village, and is customary, the entire village came out to see who we were, and what we were about. I was asked to pose for a number of different photos with the local folks, and as I was packing my bike up, getting ready to leave, we noticed these 4 Chinese women, who were very slight in stature, and they were looking on. So, I took their hands, and wished them a very warm South Carolina hello, and asked if they would take a picture with me. There answer was a very quick “Yes”. Well, that’s what I assume they said, once again, I don’t speak Chinese, but they seemed very willing.
Sesame Oil Factory
While in the town, Charles came up to me, and a few others and said; “You’re gonna love this, the guy over there makes Sesame oil, and he wants to give you some, and take a picture with you. So, 4 or 5 of us walked over, and tasted some freshly made sesame oil. It was very good, with a bit of a burnt caramel flavor, laid over the top of the oil. Then, he offered to let us try the spicy sesame oil Well, I took a sip, and it nearly blew my head off. It was very spicy, and while it might be great to cook with, I can recommend to my friends back home, do not sip this stuff from the barrel. Bad idea…
He got us to pose for some marking pictures, and he gave us two small bottles of the oil. We used the oil at lunch, an hour later, and it was quite good.
The idiots that don’t use their headlights
It is almost impossible for me to write this, but it’s true, and it demonstrates that Chinese drivers seem to operate with a completely different sense of right and wrong. for example, this video shows a driver, who is driving a small 3-wheeled vehicle, which I’ll simply call a trike. He’s driving it, in a dark tunnel, without his headlights turned on.
Why on Earth he things that conserving electricity by not using his headlight can only be imagined, and not known. That said, I suspect that he somehow subscribes to the theory that a car will use less electricity, if you don’t turn the lights on.
While that’s true, it’s irrelevant. This study was originally done to see what the effect is on a car’s battery, and fuel mileage, when the A/C is turned on. so, this guy is uninformed, and he’s saving energy, for no known reason.
The Speed Bump Problem
I’ve been talking about speed bumps quite a bit. And you might think, what a nut, he’s fixated on speed bumps. Or, you might say, boy, Cliff is really sensitive about speed Bumps, maybe he should just relax. And, those might be valid opinions, but the fact remains that in China, they use speed bumps for no reason, and in fact, rather than making the road and the drivers safer, they are less safe.
For example, in most of the places that we came upon speed bumps, they were in mountain passes, which have blind turns, are often wet from the rain, and where there can be potholes or other obstructions for any reason, or for not reason.
They don’t simply put a speed bump to slow you down before the turn, they put them throughout the entire turn. And, they paint them with a slick white paint. So, as a motorcycle approaches the turn, we have to divide the turn into a good many small turns, with straight sections between each speed bump. It’s hard to completely understand, without writing a lot more, but I’ve captured a video of just how idiotic these things are. In this video, there are 31 consecutive speed bumps, all of which we need to manage our way through.
Passing the big trucks
Nearing the end of the day, we came out of a tunnel ,and over the next 4 miles or so, needed to pass a bunch of the big trucks, and a few cars. I put together a video that shows how well we’ve adapted to the Chinese way of driving. You’ll notice a few things…
We are sometimes passing multiple trucks at a time. The overtaking maneuvers happen on a 2-lane road, with the left lane assigned to oncoming traffic. So, you’ll see some situations where we enter a turn, on this mountain road, while still in the left lane. To execute this maneuver, you need to trust the trucks, and your ability to either back out of the pass, or duck between trucks very quickly.
You’ll also notice how there are potholes, and those annoying speed bumps are just about everywhere.
Gas, and go
At about 5:00, we arrived at our final stop of the day, the Gas Station. Our trusty BMW Steeds need to eat regularly, so we filled them up with 95 octane, and headed for the hotel.
Today was the first day that I did not have to carry both panniers, and all of my gear to the room. I mentioned that I purchased a large dry bag from BMW while in Xi’an. I’ve now loaded that bag with many computer gadgets, some clothing, some riding gear, toiletries, and shoes. As a result, each night, I need only carry this bag, my tank bag, my computer, and my helmet, and I’m good to go. And so, I took these 4 items, and headed up to my new room.
The hotel is very nice indeed, with a carnival of sorts, just outside the main entrance. In fact, in the report from the road, you can see the Ferris wheel in the background.
After our 7PM briefing for tomorrow’s ride, I headed back to the room, and ordered room service. I had hoped to have a burger, but in broken English, the word that I got was “Burger not ready yet”. So, I ordered Cream of Mushroom soup, and a Caesar salad. I was unable to order over the phone, so a staff member came to my room, with prepared messages in an Android app, and proceeded to take my order. Not very efficient, but it worked.
Report from the road
Death by 1000 cuts
First, there was passport checks, and gas rationing. Then, there were all of the Internet restrictions, then the VPN stopped working because of the 70th celebration, then the hotels kept our passports overnight, now, they’ve put speed bumps everywhere.
Trike in tunnel with no lights
Tunnels in China are usually somewhat dubious places. They might have poor lighting, or a lack of places to pull over, or lack of painted lines, or any of the above, and more. So, it’s important to be able to see any oncoming traffic, as it approaches you in the tunnel. This is especially important because we’ve now begun to pass cars, in the tunnel, as needed. So, we’re sometimes in the lane of the oncoming traffic.
Today, at approximately 00:00, we entered the tunnel, and began to overtake a truck. As we did this, we saw some lights blink at us, from the lane we were in, but directly ahead of us. This was not a super-short tunnel, so we probably spent a minute inside. During this time was when we saw the oncoming trike flash it’s lights.
It’s hard to imagine that this motorized trike does not drive in tunnels with its lights on in the first place, but we often see vehicles that drive at night, without their lights on. But, it was new for me to see this happen, in a dark tunnel. Enjoy the video.
Watching this video, you’ll see that one of the bikes turns on and off his front light, while another rides without the front light on at all. In addition, several cars are riding in a tunnel, with no lights on whatsoever.
What will tomorrow bring
Well, tomorrow morning, we travel about 230 miles to Chengdu. Chengdu is famous for being the location of the Panda Sanctuary, a place where they care for, and try to indoctrinate panda bears back into the wild, so that the species will remain intact.
We’ve made a reservation to arrive there on the morning of the 7th, the day after we arrive in Chengdu. We’ll get an early start, hoping to avoid the crowds on the last day of the week of celebration for China’s 70th. I’m also hoping that the restrictions on the Internet will be loosened, but I’m skeptical that this has any chance of actually happening.