Tuesday, October 31, 2006

311006 a 'Trick or Treat' day in China

Sometimes on one particular day, your life adds up as something never expected! Today, was one of those magical days, first of 'trick,' and then of 'treat!' This in the Qilian Shan of Xinghai Province.

We had stayed overnight in a 'village,' (Chinese communities classified by size: village, town, city, and capitol, but no one knows the numbers). It was large enough to have a 'hotel,' however.

We rented 'single' rooms (a first), without heat (and twas cold at 2,500M ASL). Tom, however, being the kind of guy he is procured an electric heater for me (by giving the woman 5 Yuan). Seems they don't turn on the heat during the night time, as 'no people' (I never understood. But, there's many things 'not understood' between cultures)

But, there's never a hotel 'room,' without a TV set. So, you can tell that watching TV is more important than being warm!

We ate breakfast at nearby 'restaurant.' They had both rice porridge and milk tea. This was a good (unknown at the time) omen, as we needed later.

Afterwards, we 'shot' our 'Good Morning, China' video segment in front of restaurant. Of course, as always a crowd formed. We're so unusual, we might even attract a crowd in Shanghai, two guys on bicycles with an expensive microphone!

I had been looking forward to an easy day, after two going over two 3.5K M passes in the QL. the two previous Thus, I hadn't prepared for what was to transpire.

'Onward,' our 'cry' this morning I thought to the east (where I know Xi'ing to be located). But, I was totally wrong! I'd broken rule #1, 'Don't assume!' Additionally I was totally confused by the route and 'challenge.' Instead of the highway going east, it went straight south and over the mountains--another mountain pass to 'conquer.' Tom had been passing on to me (translations always approximate) what he was learning by asking the locals, but it didn't 'compute.' No doubt my 'route' was hopeful thinking, as I 'wanted an easy day. ' Additionally, the bus driver, way back when we'd asked had only described two 'passes' to go over (later we figured it out). So, the day started out as 'trick,' rather than 'treat!'

It was, on the otherhand, a perfect weather day! Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and nary a wisp of wind. Also, the highway was dry and smooth. The man in Zhangye had been completely wrong about highway #227--it's wonderful (you wonder sometimes how people can be so wrong).

Additionally, it's amazing how often people are wrong about geographic information. People don't know distances or elevations, anywhere in the world, not just China!

So, the highway took us up, instead of east ('dong') and we had to meet the challenge! I was angry at first, not being better prepared for this (clothing and fluid/water). On the otherhand, after some 3K kilometers on a bicycle (months of September and October), I am pretty strong! During the previous nights at elevation I thought I felt my heart 'enlarged,' from the strain, but this turned out to be 'mental masturbation.'

But, as we went up the switch-back highway, all of what I'd been told, was beginning to make some sense, as I'd heard '3850 meters,' more than once, and something about a 'tunnel.' The latter story about the 'tunnel' had to do with only motor bikes and bicycles able to use, other vehicles having to negotiate a winding, and dangerous detour.

Amazingly, we went up without problems, stopping a couple of times (rest, toliet, and something to drink), one time to admire the stunning view of the mountain range we'd crossed over the day before. 'QiLian,' Tom tells me means, 'mountains together.' I tried to capture the scenic beauty with our Panasonic, but I have a feeling I really needed a 4X5" film camera. Where is Ansel Adams when needed?

At this rest stop, with the air so clean we could see our village some 20KM down, a series of colorful 'toy buildings' in the distance. I was in the 'squatting position,' across the highway, when I heard Tom chortle! He'd had an interesting thing happen to him. Seems he'd dropped his tea bottle and it was rolling toward oblivion when suddenly it righted itself stopping at the brink. It was confirmation again, that these mountains are friendly to us (read earlier blog entries: I'd had a similar incident happen to me with a plastic bag)!

500M from 'the tunnel,' we ran into some snow on the highway, but luckily it had softened from the sun's warmth (my back tire slid only once).

We managed to crank all the way up this stretch, except downshifting, I threw the chain and had to stop momentarily. Tom continued on to the bridge/tunnel. This 'location,' in a snow-covered 'bowl' just before the north side of this 'hole' bored through the mountain (saving much in the way of 'nose bleeding' up).

At this bridge leading to the tunnel, we rested, and recorded a 'bit,' about our 'triumph!' I was amazed, as going up 1K meters from the village (to 3,700 M / 14,500 ft.) in 23 kilometers, had taken only 2.5 hours. We weren't feeling all that tired either, although Tom hungry (all the time)! We weren't even out of breath, or had the headaches from 'elevation exertion.'

Check out of image of this bridge from below (gallery). What an engineering marvel! 'My bicycle helmet (James B. Feeney) is off' to all the Chinese road builders, as making our ascent, and shortening our ride to Xi'ing (even though I'd been confused about this 'pass'/tunnel route).

This tunnel is 1,530 Meters in length, and we managed to crank through only one vehicle passing. It was an eerie experience, although I've cranked through many tunnels above Colorado Springs. This one, however, has a concrete 'floor' and is marked with reflectors. But, I'd put our lights on, as none in the tunnel.

At the south entrance the sign read, '3,795 M' ASL.

From there it was down, down, and more down, maybe the most I've ever travelled, some 60KM! First a curvy down, my fingers nearly freezing holding the breaks! We went very slowly wary of ice, as I'd had fallen on such weeks before in the Tian Shan. Then it became easier and easier as the highway straghtened and it got warmer.

Down and down we went, passing sheep herders, and then a coal mine (village). Here we started seeing more and more people (on the road). I stopped to ask Tom if he wanted to eat, but he said he 'wasn't hungry!' I was slightly amazed, as he's always hungry when we're cycling (too thin).

And then beyond a few kilometers to a beautiful reservoir (to our right/south)!

This is where the construction began. This is where the tunnel was where bicycles and motor bikes could manage, but other vehicles had to take detour. It was all becoming clearer and clearer, the mis-information we'd gotten.

For one thing, way back when, the bus driver... He'd mentioned only two 'passes,' when there were three. But, I figured out, he'd missed one, as the second one he described ('as going up abruptly in some 20KM), turned out to be the third, the one we'd just managed! Again, all information you get from people you meet, has to be discounted.

But, oh, what we had to negotiate going through this road construction stretch (maybe 10KM), to get through a veritable gauntlet of mud, ditches, and impossible situations like the last barrier...

We came to a bridge being constructed. To get through we had to walk our bicycles over narrow wooden planks (2, 3 meters deep). The span was about three meters. I went on, but out about one meter, the three planks started bouncing separately causing me to retreat and call for help. They pulled 'Ms. Fiets,' back from the brink, and I wondered what to do, when...

Amazingly, a man in a motorcycle helmet, said he would get it through to the other side. I showed him the hand brakes, then closed my eyes (couldn't watch as have my $1K U.S. Apple computer on board). With some assistance, they went over the span without incident, across the other obstacles and finally the last obstable requiring a group of men to lift over. I followed walking on narrow planks, like a 'tight rope artist.' Just walking on narrow planks was no easy deal, trust me--the Chinese man managing 'Ms. Fiets' as well!

On the otherside, I paid the man 20 Yuan / $3 U.S.).

Tom had gotten his over on his own. But, at the last 'gap,' required the same group help too. It's amazing in China how helpful people are, and how encouraging they are when they see you doing something like this (riding bicycle across China)!

Onward, through more mud and obstacles, but at a view point of the lake we stopped for a snack, and to breathe, I think, a sigh of relief!

This manmade 'lake' (dam) reminded us of Loch Kanas a month earlier.

We went over another long-span bridge, it all to ourselves, as no vehicles could possible negotiate the barriers. Then we finally reached the usable highway where other traffic was plying (with the usual 'honking madness'). On one hand, I was glad, on the other, missing the complete silence of none!

And more down, now warmer and warmed, our speed increasing until we were going maybe 30KMPH

We stopped at a stream to drink and refresh. Here we tried to clean the mud caked on our bicycles. In spite of the mud...

If there's one word to describe the day it would be 'beautiful!' I don't think I've ever partaken of such scenic beauty. First, going up to the pass/tunnel the snowy mountains and valley below. Then the azure-blue lake, framed by more snowy mountains (Xinghai, at least here, seems to be all mountains). The river to our right. The strange light-colored earth jutting out from vegitation on the hillsides. Then the fading Autumn light, casting jail-like bars on the highway.

This is definity different terrain, different fauna/flora than Xinjiang. No desert, although dry (brown).

Because there's muchwater from the lake/river, there's much farming: families at harvest winnowing something, crushing something, and binding something up in bundles (?). This is not corn, or a food staple, but some material maybe used for mat making (?).

We decided to stop for the night in the 'town,' at 80KM distance from our last-night's village, not reach for Xi'ning in the dark (and exhausted).

The town was larger than I expected with a jutting hill stuck up like a building right in the center of the town. On it a Buddhist monastery.

We had dinner and making all the girls happy by taking groups shots afterwards. They directed us to a hotel, on some square.

We found the hotel, but in our 3rd-floor room, the toliet didn't work. There's always something not quite right in Chinese hotels!

But, there's always something 'right,' too! The hot-water shower in this case, with a wooden platform to stand on (another first). I got clean after several days without. Tom had gone to bed.

And so the day ended with a 'treat,' the incredible beauty of mother earth, and a hot shower, reminding me not to fret when things don't go exactly as planned, that maybe there's a reason, and something to learn, to appreciate about just being alive!

I told Tom... This was the most interesting cycling day of our trip so far! And we've come 3K KM already!

But, 'stayed tuned!' Eastern China, in 'part two!'

First, however, a week off in Xi'ing, the provencial capitol of Xinghai, and my possible new 'home' in China.

Monday, October 23, 2006

141006 on highway #211 to Hami (on the south side of the Tian Shan)

We spent the night in Ba li Kun, a 'town' on the northern slopes of the Tian Shan. This after the most amazing 'glide' down a straight highway, with the wind helping (30KMs of effortless speed).

We stayed at the Ba li Kun Hotel, owned by the Chinese Government. They had a 10,000RMB chandelier hanging in the lobby, and I sat in a 1,000RMB chair (see image at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery). It was like a throne!

My bathroom had the first shower 'stall,' in all of China. More amazingly, it had been 'designed in Italy!' On the otherhand, it didn't work! The hot water dribbled out of the nozzle, and cold water came down from above. It had more nozzles, dials, buttons, instructions, than in the cockpit of a Piper 140 aircraft! Stupid, and an example, of the Chinese rush to 'culture!'

The 'manager,' an attractive Chinese woman was so 'haughty' to 'Tom,' when checking in, we decided to play a joke on her. I left all my 'highflying' information, and a note, that she should become a 'TV host.' There's always a way to 'get even,' with humor, rather than rancor.

After a poor shower ('designed in Italy'), but a good sleep we had breakfast in dining room: good peanuts and tomatoes!

We were out of town by 0800, hoping we might get lucky with a many-kilometer day.

The Tian Shan (mountain range that traverses Xinjiang A.R. into Krygyzstan east to west) was right there to our right (south).

We thought we would have an easy day we as it was only 70KM to hotel, a total of 140KM to Hami (through a mountain canyon).

The first three hours was easy, but then...

We stopped for lunch in village; 'good noodles for Tom!' I abstain when I can't get rice. Ironically, rice isn't in much demand by the populous, so it's hard to find out in villages (Shanghai, other cities no problem)!

In the afternoon 'da feng,' (strong wind) came up first from the southeast, then the northeast. It became stronger and stronger, until we could barely make any progress. We 'slogged' through to near the Tian Shan where there was some respite. But, here we had to climb a big hill. To our left, however, a beautiful view of an empty valley (and the Altai mountain range beyond).

When we reached a junction, at the top of the first hill, 'Tom' indicated we should inquire, as he wasn't sure. Me, being obstinate indicated 'I knew,' (when I didn't reall). Thus, we went to top, my mistake, looking for 'town.' There was no town, as indicated on a map. So, we started asking. Supposedly there was a 'resort' hotel not far, but closed for the season.

We checked it out to make sure, and sure enough, closed! Ugh. It was getting late, and with no hotel the thought of camping out came to mind.

The 'caretaker' of the resort hotel indicated, there was one back down the road. So, we 'coasted' back down, what had been so hard fought just an hour ago.

'Tom' asked here, but no, there was a hotel, back down at the bottom of the hill. Oh, why hadn't we asked when there! Sometimes mistakes are costly!

So back down we went to 'hotel,' but found out it closed. Next door, however, 'James B. Feeney' was with us! We found, not only an open hotel, but a room on the first floor (desirable, as for unloading our laden bicycles). Not only that, but we were allowed to put our bicycles in our room (the best situation).

The room charge was 120RMB /$15 U.S. with bicycles, but I would have paid much more at this point.

We had dinner in adjacent restaurant which wasn't great, but the next morning breakfast made up for it! Plus, we met the manager, who wanted to 'comp' our breakfast (we said 'no thank you' and paid). Even better I got a business idea (health spas) after our discussion (he gave us a sample of a local herb).

At 1030P.M. knock brought fruit to room. 'Feng la!' A female clerk brought fresh fruit to our door, waking us up! When 'Tom' complained, she said we went to bed too early! Amazing, Chinese hotels... The things that happen...

I slept well, as Tom didn't snore!

The next morning, the surprise of surprises! It had snowed during the night!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

211006 in Gansu Province

We're back on the Silk Road (actually from Hami). But, I was reminded of Marco Polor discovering a wonderful mural (of such) in the hotel here in our first Gansu Province town (steel mills, because much 'coke' in the hills). Also, we've met up with the railroad again.

Marco Polo was here a mere 750 years ago! I wonder what it was like then...? No railroad, Internet or TV. Camel caravans better than the overloaded speeding 'monsters' on the highway.

Today on the highway down from the border... Oh, what a difference a day makes! Today, 90KM in eight hours, yesterday, 60KM in nine hours. It was a wonderful cycling day--no wind to speak of, and blue sky! Welcome to Gansu!

But, first breakfast in the hotel. I had rice porridge I put 'red' sugar in (Oh oh! I'm different--Tom surprised). We 'shot' our 'good morning' video (Tom had repaired the microphone again), and then off my 0830.

It was downhill, then up and down. But, nothing like the Tian Shan! These were gentle rolling hills, with no wind in our faces, so relatively easy.

The terrain, so much like southern Wyoming in the U.S. Big Sky country! Oh, so wide open from horizon to horizon, and 'heaven' to me. 'I like the wide open spaces!'

At one point I saw an approaching cyclist, who I first thought was a local (a factory nearby). But, upon us, I realized it was a foreigner decked out like us (loaded down with gear). He crossed the highway, and we met 'Ito,' a 28-year old from Tokyo, cycling from Xi'an to Urumqi (2KKM). We interviewed him for our video of course. He told us of another long cycling trip, a couple years ago, Vancouver, B.C. to Alaska. Today he had to make 200KM, but has the wind with him going west. We gave him Mamat's # in Urumqi, if he needed help. Then off he went on his 'Bridgestone,' Ortlieb-bagged, sans sleeping bag and tent bicycle. He also wore no helmet. 'Tom' couldn't believe he was solo!

We went east through the the brown hills, the endless desert and blue sky above. It was wonderful!

Later nearing our town I heard a train! Ah! I'd been looking for the tracks ever since Hami, but this was the first sign of the 'iron horse!' This turned out to be a freight train heading east. It passed over us, a couple kilometers later, the tracks built on an amazing grade, looking like the 'Great Wall!' The Chinese are builders, you'd be amazed! Then again, they send 'armies' to the field and conquer any task with manpower!

Not far afterwards, we spied the town to our left, and obviously a stop on the RR line.

We were impressed with this town (name ?), the first one we've been in, in Gansu.

We stopped to investigate a hotel on the main street, but had lunch to think it over (it didn't seem right). The restaurant proprietor, told us of another hotel, 'beyond the RR tracks.' Off we went, and...

We were glad we checked it out, because I just got out of a hot-water bath (in a tub no less), and who would have ever thought? Amazing what you discover. This hotel, big and old, but with few guests (we may be the only ones).

So, here we are in Gansu Province, 'a vast desolate wasteland,' as some friend described in an email message from the U.S. But, I'll take this 'wasteland' over Shanghai, any day!

Tomorrow, onward east, with Xining our first 'goal,' but two weeks 'distance!'

Xining (pronounced as in 'sinning'), Xinghai Province, my future home!

Next summer we tackle Tibet from Golmud, west of 'Sinning,' and I want to be in the area!

In the meantime, onward all the way to Shanghai... God willing and the creeks don't rise!

201006, 200KM east on highway #312 (first and second days out from Hami)

The past three days have been spent fighting 'da feng,' ('chamal' in Uyghur), the famous 'dong feng1' (east wind) of Xinjiang. Thus, going east you're directly into 'it!'

The morning of our departure, one of our new Chinese cycling friends, a Mr. Wong, paid us a visit. I first thought it was someone mistakingly knocking on our door, and yelled, very unfriendly, as I couldn't negotiate unlocking the door either. Basically, 'What do you want?' Since he couldn't speak English, and Tom was taking a shower, he retreated. Luckily he returned later, with a gift of dried fruit. And such a warm-hearted man. I fell instantly 'in love with.' We gave him two 'Bicycle China Olympics' flags, exchanged contact information, and 'captured images.' What a genuinely nice man I hope to meet up with again.

After breakfast at Tom's Chinese stall, where we did our 'Good Morning, China' video with the female proprietor, we were on our way. 'Good bye, Hami!' a very nice 'oasis!' The people, the weather, wonderful!

From the hotel it seemed to take a long time to go north, and get out of the city, looking for highway #312 all the while.

But, such is the nature of cycling in and out of unknown, large cities. I had a horrible time cycling down from Sweden to Utrecht, almost three years ago. Even if you can speak/read the language it's challenging (for young Tom in particular). Once going the right direction and on the proper highway I feel better.

I was surprised by the condition of highway #3122, however, the major east-west highway into and out of Xinjiang Province... Not in very good condition. This because a phalanx of monster trucks 'pound it to death!' every day!

Here, around Hami, however, it had been newly paved. We had heard in Hami that the next 600KM east were being repaired (and found this the case as far as we have gone).

We stopped to record an interview with a couple operating a 'melon stand.' This because Hami is famous for a kind of 'watermelon,' and I wanted to know more about it. There's a statue of a woman holding in one in a prominent traffic circle in Hami. But, as described, their 'watermelon,' is not ours! The famous Hami one is what we would call a 'Crenshaw' melon. You can tell by the pattern on the skin. Tom interviewed the couple in Chinese, and I could only guess what was said. 'Our melons are the best, buy some and find out.' We were given free samples. We bought some of it dried.

Once out of Hami proper, it was easy as flat with little wind. There were Grape vineyards everywhere, crews planting trees, and the first military facility I've seen (an Air Force base with MIG doing 'touch and goes.'

The day on the highway was short and uneventful. Except, of course, dodging hundreds of 'monster' trucks, running in both directions! The honking madness of Chinese streets and highways!

We made the suggested 'hotel' by 4P.M., as only 68KM from where we started in 'zentral' Hami. Note, Tom has a bicycle computer, and records all distances.

This 'Hotel California,' looking forlorn, as rundown, and empty. I remarked to Tom, 'Why would anyone build a hotel here (as no where in particular). He said it's a bus stop, which is reason enough, I guess! But, the room was O.K., on the first floor (preferred as to putting our loaded bicycles in the room). The poor woman behind the desk looked like the local prostitute (they are 'de riguer' in and around every Chinese hotel). She looked unhappy, with machine curls, and greasy face (most unlike most Chinese women).

One incredulity, an oversized mirror in lobby (see image at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery).

We had dinner in their dining room, listening to the peripatetic TV and the usual loud conversation between a Chinese couple and manager. You'd think all Chinese are 'hard of hearing' as they talk so loudly.

We knew it was 140KM to next hotel (border between Xinjiang and Gansu), so we went to bed.

We hit the highway early (0800) and it was easy at first , but then the famous 'East wind' built up!

Somewhere around noon we stopped at 'tire/restaurant/store place, where we spent a nice respite. Tom had 'bucket' noodles and I had hot tea (ate our Hami fruit). The mother and daughter running the place (son repairing the tires) told us about the wind, and to expect it to grow in strength. Ah, bad news.

Onward, we went after 'capturing' some images with the women. I'm sure we 'made their day,' as so different than their usual 'trucker trash' buying cigarettes and beer.

Sure enough the woman was right. It got so strong, we were making but 4KM PH over ground. I told Tom we would have to camp out, and I started looking for a place.

At 5:30P.M. (1730 hours, B.T.) we stoped, as I spied a place that would suffice. I want a place for the bicycles (the culverts under the highway) and some protection from view by passersby.

It was a sandy spot, but by now the wind was dying (I should have know and continued on). We set up the tent, and I cooked rice, and boiled water fro Tom's noodles! This was our first camping out experience, Tom and me together in such a small space. But, we made it work, and were soon in our sleeping bags.

Unfortunately, there was so much passing traffic (noise) we (at least me) couldn't sleep very well. Worst, the wind came back at 0300. Tom thought it was some 'animal' trying to get inside, and zipped up the rain fly door (on his side - this tent has two doors).

I let Tom sleep, but awoke him at 0730. We packed up, and pushed out laden bicycles through the sand, and up to the highway. The wind was already formidible.

We struggled all morning with wind in face; and very dangerous (image of truck accident) as it was from our left, and with every passing truck turbulence. At one point I was almost knocked off the highway, and I got off and started pushing.

On this stretch there was much road paving/painting. Of course, the crews can hardly believe you've be 'out there' riding a bicycle.

We pushed for several kilometers, me 'shooting' to get to some hills, where I knew the wind would lessen. Tom, getting back on his bicycle too soon, was knocked off the highway, but he recovered without any calamity. Had there been a steep descent, he might have crashed and been injured.

We got back on and rode into the hills where we discovered a 'community,' as 'coke' mines were in operation. Here we met two nice Chinese women operating a 'restaurant/store' for the miners/truck drivers. It was such welcomed relief we stayed for an hour recovering from too much wind/struggle. One woman was from Golmud, Xinghai Provinve, and I was interested, as this is where our cycling trip to Tibet will begin next summer. We got her contact information, and we 'captured' the usual images with 'the girls.'

Tom, now eating more an more (needed), ate a pound of peanuts, and then we were back on the highway, this time heading uphill, but with less wind. We still at 40KM to go at 4P.M. We'd made only 20KM in 6 hours (a new low).

Finally, an 'oasis,' where had tea. Two nice women, one from Golmud (Tom got an address) the other from Hami. This place a 'coke' mine.

But, 'James B. Feeney' was with us, and last three hours a different, nicer situation, less wind, and some of it actually helping us. We went up the mountains to a 'pass,' then, like with engines (wind directly behind) 'flew' into the border village (name?). We'd traversed this 40KM in just 3 hours (I felt strong after our rest stop)! It was a great afternoon, after an arduous/dangerous morning!

Best, there was a hotel, and we both had separate room on the ground floor (with bicycles inside). They even had a restaurant with 'chao mi fan' (fried rice).

Amazingly, I could get online here, and checked email. They had TV in the dining room, but guess what... No toliet in the entire hotel!

So, what began as a struggle, ended in happy triumph (I did my toilette in a ditch near the hotel)! 'Da feng,' and depridation has only made us stronger!

Try to imagine a hotel with no toliet!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

161006 - Tuesday, our second 'rest' day in Hami.

What a wonderful day in Hami, the weather perfect, the people so kind!

We started off with breakfast in a 'Chinese stall' I call them (not really a 'restaurant') with only one small room with tables to eat. I thought 'Tom' had said 'man,' but he confuses English gender so I wasn't too surprised when the 'boss' or 'owner' turned out to be a woman.

But, a 'challenging' social situation, as Adili, Mamat's friend had arrived (unannounced), and couldn't stay in a Han Chinese place!1 So, while Tom ate his Chinese breakfast I 'bounced' back and forth 'juggling,' trying not to offend either. One moment I was outside with Adili, the next sitting at the table, drinking my 'milk tea' she had made especially for me. Neither spoke English. Ever had to keep some people 'entertained,' without speaking their language? But, there's always a way!

From there Adili, accomplained us around Hami for the entire day!

If you ever want to understand the difference between East and West, this is it! How many of you would give up your entire day, for some people you didn't even know, just passing through your town? I doubt very many of you would. But, it is customary here, if a friend asks you! Thus, this executive of the Bank of Construction, spent the entire day taking care of us (even paying for our food).

Wonder why I now say in Chinese, 'Wo ai Zhonguo!' ('I love China!), it's because of the people! Not, the government here (ugh, like in the U.S.), not because of the economic opportunity, not because of the noise! No, it's because of the people! They're like Americans used to be, without guile, kind and generous! At least to me! I see them fighting amongst themselves occasionally, but at least with us (Tom and I), they, by in large, are the kind of people I want to be around!

At the Giant Bicycle shop we met not only members of Hami's Elder Cycling Group, but a reporter from the 'Hami Weekly.' It was a busy time, again 'juggling' the situation, something I've become adept at, having learned this years before (now teaching Tom).

We were in the midst of interviewing Adili (for our own little video), when they all descended on us, so we did the 'shuck and jive,' I call it, changing interviewing whom, to being interviewed ourselves! In the process always 'selling, Bicycle China Olympics' for 08 or www.haaqi.com!

I found the 'leader' of the group (name ?) particularly charming, he later returning with a gift for us, our favorite Hami fruit.

This 'Hami fruit' called 'Shelong,' it sounding in Uyghur, 'Jow,' in Chinese. This little version of an apple a very powerful item in restoring vitality! But, interestingly, it 'spoils' quickly (thus most are dried). Now we have to eat 5KGs of it quickly, before they spoil, so I know what I'll be eating for breakfast every morning for the next several days on the road.

Unfortunately, for us on bicycles, what to do when you receive a heavy gift? You have to add to the weight of our over-burdened bicycles. What to do? Get a trailer, I told Tom.

For lunch Adili took us for more 'poluo' (zhao fan), the Uyghur rice pilaf they know I'm fond of... Adili ate we us today, somewhat amazing as it's Ramadan, and they're (Moslems) not suppose to until after the sun sets.

Adili is so kind, he and my Urumqi friend Mamat, the best! I love them both!

I talked to Adili's sister who wants to study Marketing at a U.S. University (see has American friends in Georgia). I told her to come to Shanghai and work for us! I'd teach her about Marketing, and save her much money. We 'connected' during this busy day, via mobile!

Talk about days filled with interesting things, today an example: one moment talking Uyghur, one moment talking Chinese, one moment talking English with a woman on the telephone I've never even met! I can't even remember everything we did!

The reporter from the 'Hami Weekly,' 'Jane Miao,' turned out to be interesting. In the beginning I could sense some kind of reticence, but I think we won her over! That's the trick when dealing with the media! Get them on your side! But, we'll see what she writes. I know one thing for sure, that the photograph of me Tom 'captured' will be in their newspaper! Why? I was holding up a copy of theirs we'd bought the first night (Sunday) in town--this is 'Marketing #101.' Understand? But, you never know what reporters are going to say about you... You take the 'risk' trying to promote your endeavors!

God (Allah) knows we need help with organizing 'Bicycle China Olympics!' I told them today, I want hundreds of cylists convening on Beijing, June of 2008! I think that would be wonderful, all sharing stories; their adventures cycling from their homes to Beijing! Maybe the happy cacophony will drown out the honking on the streets!

All day long I felt 'guilty' having Adili hanging around! I guess the feeling coming from having experience with American business, where everyone is so important they couldn't possibly spend time with you! Ah, what a difference a culture makes! Everytime I feigned an apology, Adili explained he was happy to be with us.

I also feel somewhat 'shackled' when others are about... Interesting... Humans want both attention, and freedom. But, with 'celebrity' comes a certain responsibility (I was a 'celebrity' in Hami today, for sure!)! I always try to be humble, and shake hands with anyone, no matter how 'lowly!'

Today, I had fun engaging school children walking on the street with 'Ni hao!' Or, better, 'hello,' and hearing them giggle when I understand their responses in English! All the children are mine!

After lunch we went shopping for 'my food' (sugar, milk powder, and bottled tea), and to try and replace Tom's 'waist pack' (don't know what to call these?). He's taken a liking to such, but this 'Giant one,' the buckle broke (rendering it unusable)!

Giant Bicycle accessories are poorly made, plain and simple! And if this causes me to lose them as a sponsor for 'Bicycle China Olympics' so be it! They make a fair bicycle, but cut needless costs, like with their tires and tubes. And their accessories are not worth buying.

I had Tom send the 'Giant' sunglasses back to the store in Kashigar. He sent the 'waist pack' to his brother ('Xugang') in Xi'an (going to TCM college).

Tom stayed at 'Giant' to get his brakes right (another problem with a 'Giant' product), but I returned to the hotel ('enough already!).

But, it was in many ways a perfect day! I can't think of a better one, except having Ms. Fiets under me 'out there!' The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny yet cool, the leaves turning. Fall in Hami, a city on the eastern side of the Taklimakan Desert!

'Wo ai Xinjiang!' I'd say 'Hami,' but I can't 'love' cities at this point in my life!

'Hami,' by the way, is a Mongolian name for 'oasis!' And thus it was for us, after seven straight days on a bicycle... Well, not just any bicycle, Ms. Fiets in my case--still performing well even after our 'accident!'

Now, the cry again... 'Onward!' Onward to Gansu, Zangye, and Xining, Xinghai Province. We'll be there in two weeks, God willing and 'da feng' isn't in our faces too strongly!


Making magic together in Hami, Xinjiang Province, China... On the way to Shanghai! 'From Kanas to Shanghai,' we're calling this 'video!'

Monday, October 16, 2006

091006 departing U-town

It's a waning moon, but not in June... Tis

October, the Muslim month of fasting,

And harvest


We harvest our experience,

And move on!

'Onward,' our cry!

We depart the Su Tong hotel in Urumqi, where we've stayed for ten nights, by 0800! The sky is still dark, and I note the waning moon that's been so troublesome for me.

'Tom' checks out, and we have a 'major' problem on our hands. After spending 1,400RMB / $160 U.S., the clerk wants to charge us 15RMB / .30 cents for a 'soiled towel!' I get angry, and we manage to dissuade by mentioning it's a 'third' towel, not the standare two!

Amazing, Chinese employees are not taught to think, just to react to rules! Of course, this is true everywhere in the world, not just China. Teach your employees to think! I told 'Tom,' if it were me, I would have said, 'Thanks for staying with us!' Take one of our towels as a souvenir (they have our telephone # on each)!

We take off in the dark, me knowing the way out of Urumqi, as I've travelled this route (#216) to Miquan and Fukang before. We're taking the 'northern' route to Hami, not the standard southern one through Turpan (#312). Thus, it's a little longer, but one I haven't partaken of, plus less traffic and possibly less 'de feng' (wind in our faces)!

This is going down hill, as Urumqi situated up, water flowing north into a vast desert (whose name I can never remember).

We stop to record our 'Good Morning, China!' segment, but no sound! What to do? I decide not to 'retreat,' back into U-town to repair, but to continue on.

'Onward!' our cry!

On the outskirts of Urumqi we come across an 'older' group of cyclists! Amazing, I think, as what are the odds? We stop and share greetings/information, and of course the 'de riguer' image 'capturing.' We all want to be remembered for posterity. They're off to some village, and we all the way to Shanghai. They're amazed!

We stop for breakfast in Miquan (25KM north of Urumqi), having trouble finding an open restaurant to have breakfast, but finally.

Here 'Tom,' repairs the sound problem, but doing 'surgery' on the cable connector. I'm amazed, 'Tom' a young man of many talents, particularly his technical skills!

Out in the desert now, 'Tom' has his 7th flat tire! I'm amazed, this must be some kind of record! We stop and repair. The 'older' cycling group passes us lamenting (all cyclists know the 'thrill' of repairing a puncture on the highway!).

Further down the highway and going up a hill, we pass our new cycling friends. Then ahead, we videotape them passing us (as we stopped to record some nearby camels)! It's now about 12 noon.

In Fu Kang (55KM northeast of U-town) we stop and have lunch. This at a restaurant I've eaten at twice before (on the cycling trip to Bogeda). We have 'poluo,' (the rice pilaf dish I'm fond of) sitting outside in the sun.

Just east of town, we miss a 'detour,' and end up on a bumpy, dusty road too long. Finally, 'Tom' happens to ask the road-construction crew, and we get the 'bad news.' We have to go back! Thus, we lose maybe 30 minutes, time critical travelling on a bicycle--yet, we're never in a hurry, a contradiction!

We end up on the 'Interstate' (their equivalent). Although it says 'No bicycles' we go anyway, as these rules are never enforced! This is agains the wind (dong feng), but the highway has a wide and smooth 'shoulder.' 'Easy,' on one hand, difficult for me on the other, as so much traffic. 'Yes, Virginia, there is a 'monster,' but it's in the form of honking trucks and buses!'

The snow-topped Tian Shan is to the right of us, or south. The Gurbantongut Desert to the north of us. We fight with the wind.

Another 50KM and we near our 'sleeping village,' the first on this 'leg' of the trip. I note the old road going directly into the village up a hill. Prominent is a huge electric-generating plant.

We exit the 'Interstate,' and crack up a two-lane road to the village. I look behind and 'Tom' has opted to push. Later he says, 'too heavy!' Sometimes, it's better to push, than to rest!

In this little village, we have to search for any worthy kind of sleeping, as nothing much here. We ask at two 'hotels,' before discovering one which serves our requirements: price, cleanliness, place for bicycles, hot water. This, of course, depending on how tired we are. But, this one run by a very friendly (and helpful) Chinese woman, I like immediately! Plus, we get two separate rooms for 40RMB / $5 U.S. I tell 'Tom' to give her 50RMB.

My room, with four single beds is unique! Old, the ceiling plastered with labels from some fruit cans. There's a 'hutch' type table, just the right height for me, this between the two beds near the window. This is where I immediately boil my water (with camping stove) for tea!

I wash my face and hands with her 'kai shui' (hot water), and go to bed!

Our first day of the 'second leg,' ('Urumqi to Hami') of our 5,000KM bicycle trip from Kanas to Shanghai.

151006 in the Tian Shan, and down... 'All Falling down!'

We awoke in the morning to a big surprise! This when I opened the curtains to our hotel room. Snow was falling! I should have noted the metaphor, as that's what happened all day, 'a falling down!' I thought of options: We could stay in the hotel an extra night, we could wait, we could go in the snow. We decided to wait to see what would happen, having breakfast at 1000 (usually too late).

First, however, we went out in it to record our regular 'Good morning, China' video (for our 'Kanas to Shanghai' video).

During breakfast we met the hotel manager, a nice guy who came in handy later. By then the sun was coming out, the snow melting on the highway, and we decided to pack up and go (only 80KM from Hami, but over the pass and down, down, all the way).

I went first as having to go the opposite direction (west) to 'warm up!' When you're my age you just don't set out up the hill we had to climb (again) without warming up. 'Tom,' at his age (23) can do, but not at 66! I have good knees and legs, but I'm careful with them.

It was a beautiful late morning, now, vapor rising from the warming highway, as we churned up two big hills (hotel at the bottom of the first). We had done this the evening before when we thought a hotel was up top (only to have to return to below to find the one we ended up staying in (the only one open). But, grateful nonetheless. I remarked to 'Tom,' who's had little experience camping out. We might have awakened covered with snow.

At the top we stopped to 'shoot' more video, this scene so incredibly beautiful. I love snow and winter! But, the first of several mishaps! I had left the 'shotgun' microphone at the hotel! Oh Lord, if it hadn't been for our trusty mobile telephone and China Mobile's good system, and the fact we had the hotel manager's card, I might have had to 'do' the hills three times! Tom had volunteered, but I said no, my mistake. I remembered that I'd left it on the couch in the lobby while winding up the audio cable. This, mind you, a $100 U.S. microphone.

Fortunately, as so often happens with us, the manager answered, responded, found the microphone as described and drove it up to us. This nice man who had offered to 'comp' our breakfast and now wouldn't take any money for his trouble.

The Chinese have so much integrity when it comes to such. They just won't take a 'tip!' You have to hide it as I do under a plate on the table after eating. I've had waitresses chase me two blocks down the street after leaving a restaurant, thinking I'd left the money (all of .30 cents in U.S.) by mistake!

We do our 'stand up,' and then headed 'down hill,' and all was I can tell you from there... A series of 'falling downs.'

I knew it was dangerous as only tracks in the snow on this busy highway (no place to move to safely). But, we went anyway. The wind chill made my hands burn, as I hadn't prepared properly, like I'm always telling everyone else to! Poor 'Tom' in his light socks, and low-cut 'cheap' boots, must have felt it worst, but he never complains.

Down and down we went on the 'snake-curving' highway, trucks and buses up and down. But, what beauty in this river canyong, but I could only glance at (have to concentrate or trouble). And that's just what happened, the experienced one here, failing to slow down when I should have, losing control on some frozen snow, and falling!

It's funny about falling (accidents), they generally happen so fast, you can only react. Unfortunately, me with snow experience, reacted incorrectly. I tried to recover by turning the front wheel only to cause the fall. Tom said later, he saw it all from behind.

Again, if you don't think James B. Feeney (my guardian angel) is riding with me, hear this: basically, I tipped over and 'slide into second base!' Neither body (although sore left hip this morning after), bicycle, nor computer (I carry on my back) were damaged! Amazing. I lay there in the snow for a moment, as you usually do after falling, figuring out if you're injured, and can get up! I remember 'Tom' saying 'Get up!' and I get with his help! One of the rear bags had come off, I'd lost my tea bottle, bent my flag staff ('Bicycle China Olympics'), but other than being slightly 'shakened up,' no real injury!

I think back now, what might have occurred if there had been traffic (and there was plenty), or rocks where I landed! You can get killed real easily 'out there!' What are the 'odds' that I would take a 'spill' on a snow-covered highway without any injury? Thank you, James B. Feeney!1

We went on, and a few hundred meters more stopped for a 'toilet' break. I examined Ms. Fiets, and found her 'fit!' We continued down and down, over many bridges crossing the stream. I kept feeling for damage to my body, but none that I could tell.

Several kilometers more, and we stopped to warm up in the sun and eat something. It was here I recovered mentally. Always after an accident, you're in a 'state of shock,' until you realize you haven't died and this is not 'heaven/hell.' We warmed ourselves eating peanuts and Hami fruit, enjoying a rest after so much excitement. We 'captured some images,' (soon to be in the 'Gallery' at www.cyclingpeace.org). We went on, downhill curing round and round, down and down!

This lasted 40KM, the most amazing downhill cycling of my life (must have managed 50KMPH in some places). Dangerous on one hand, stunningly beautiful on the other. I recommend it to all cyclists to ride from Urumqi to Hami on highway S303, and partake of... But, maybe in the summer it would be safer.

Then at the 'bottom,' the highway climbed out of the canyon, and we had to crank again.

It's difficult when going downhill for so long, suddenly having to exert! But, da feng (the wind) was with us, and we seemed to 'fly' up the hill, and then down, down, down again, this another 40KM into Hami (the Taklimakan Desert beyond).

Now, we were on the south (leeward side) of the Tian Shan, and suddenly desert and warmth. We stopped and adjusted our clothing (constantly doing with tour cycling in the mountains: first cold, then hot).

The next 'falling down,' was losing my jacket, this just coming off my bicycle (although I heard it fall to the pavement). Tom, behind me, gathered up, and I repacked. But, still this is unusual for me to lose something off my bicycle.

We stopped again to take a 'picture' of the 'Hami Tower2,' then on into the 'city.'

We made Hami in 7 hours, some 80KM, our usual 11-12 KMPH average (we stop a lot). The entire 7 hours, little exertion except for the hills early and later, as 90% of the 80KM basically downhill.

On the 'outskirts' of Hami (a very old 'city' on the Silk Road), we ran into construction (always so much in China), and had to negotiate a dangerous and dirty situation cranking through dirt/dust. Snow one moment, knee-deep in dust the next (such is the nature of tour cycling).

We had stopped at one point deciding which way to go, Tom asking a passerby. Suddenly, a van stopped, and a Chinese man handed me my sleeping bag out the window! I was stunned. It had fallen unbeknownst to both of us, and they had stopped to recover. This the fourth 'falling down,' of the day. What are the odds (again), of recovering your sleeping bag (off your bicycle) when you hadn't even noticed! At this point I took note of maybe, 'Mercury' and/or 'Mar's' in retrograde (starting day).

Low on cash we stopped at a Bank of China, and I partook of the ATM (now getting very 'hip' with English all over China). Tom asked for the location of the 'Electricity Hotel,' as we had made reservations from the morning (last night's hotel of the same management).

We found after stopping to ask directions several times. But, it turned out to be too expensive (160RMB / $20U.S.), and they wouldn't reduce. We, knowing there to be many hotels in Hami, decided to look further. Sure, enough two later, a good one for 80RMB or half the price. On the way, I had give 25RMB to beggars on the street. You want something good to happen to you, give!

This one had an elevator, and we took our loaded bicycles up to our 4th floor room (first time ever doing this).

After getting settled (arranging the room as we like: putting the TV in the closet for one thing), we went to dinner.

We had to walk quite a distance, but found a good Chinese restaurant. In the restaurant we bought a newspaper that has a photograph of the snow and the eastern side of the Tian Shan, this on the front page!

Back in the hotel 'lights out,' by 1000! Luckily, the 'blasting music' from the Net Bar beyond didn't reach us!

I thanked God, whatever God may be (James B. Feeney for one) for our good fortune (basically that I was still alive and uninjured)!


'Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety' from Hami, with the first 1/7th (700KM) of our trip to Shanghai completed!

Friday, October 13, 2006

101006 'From Kanas to Shanghai' - Fall, 06 Somewhere in northeastern Xinjiang (on the way to Hami).

From the 1st night's village (?), to the second night's city (?), 120KM in 11 hours, but a strange waning-moon day. By the time we stopped my aching ass sore, this from making a mistake about clothing! But, I may have to acquire a softer 'saddle' (bicycle seat), as now a problem.

But, the previous night in a coal-fired electrical plant village, at the foot of the Tian Shan, a good night's rest (except for barking dog). The old 'hotel' O.K., but sleeping in one of the strangest rooms I've ever slept in... Large with four beds, a high 'hutch/table,' the ubiquitous TV (always), but the ceiling out of discarded advertising labels.

We were up early, and the 'Inn Keeper,' a nice Chinese woman took us to a nearby 'restaurant' so Tom could eat breakfast (important to him). I had eaten an apple, but partook of a boiled egg.

We were not far on #216, when Mr. Gong called 'Tom' from Shanghai. Worst, hearing such I stopped causing 'Tom,' to run into me (Ms. Fiets)! I got angry, as I've told him many times, 'Don't follow too closely!'

The morning went 'downhill' from there, as 'Tom' suffering from the 'moon' and things he doesn't understand. He's been having a tough time, with irritated neck (form woolen sweater). This has caused a lymph gland to swell, and he's concerned. But, what I can't explain is that all of this is unexpressed emotion, getting expressed physically (when you suppress). I think he's angry or scared, or both, but never says! Anyway, I'm trying to help as any 'father' would.

Chinese people love togetherness! Anglos don't need the same socialibilty but value the opposite, being alone, and quietness, or at least I do! Asians, are bred to be closely together (as in bee hive). Thus, they're always together, and generally talking. Ah, the endless talking in Asia... The endless nosie! They love noise!

I'll never forget 'Tom,' stepping on me, bumping into me several times when walking together in Shanghai. This, I've never had happen before in my life (people being so close they step on your heel). I almost said something. But, so many times they don't understand.

On a bicycle he (and other Chinese cyclists) follow too closely behind. But, after the scolding, he hung back quite a ways, always (young people) overreacting.

Worst, we found out from Mr. Gong, who hung up on Tom, he's taken the key, camera, and mobile with him to Guangdong. I might have misjudged Mr. Gong., but still hoping for the best! This after him reading my ('Tom' translated) my email message.

Many times people pass up opportunity for a salary, the 'fast buck,' for millions. And thus they live 'quiet lives of desperation.' But, 'see' long-term opportunity because of immediate needs! When a 'salary' wasn't forthcoming, he wanted to return to Guangdong (where he'd been prior to Xinjiang), which I can understand. But, what I can't is him taking my camera and mobile! Maybe he plans to return as he took Tom's key (to his flat).

Onward, with much truck and bus traffic, plus one camel. Interesting one camel had managed to get onto the 'limited access' highway, which I managed to record ('Tom' preferred I carry the camcorder because of his neck problem). More amazing a police car zoomed past, and didn't stop to help the poor animal likely to be hit and killed.

The snow-tipped Tian Shan, to the south, followed us! The weather perfect, sunny, but cool. A beautiful Fall day. In fact, you couldn't ask for better cycling conditions.

The Fall light, almost eerie to me, as conjures up 'deja vu.' All I have to do is experience it to remember, the 'Fall classic, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,' or some such. I'll think of the exact quote.

We made it to our lunch town by 1400 hours, 70KM in six hours, which is slow (11KM per). When Tom order 'fan' (rice) for me they said they had. Turned out they only serve one thing, a meat/noddle soup, and were going to cook rice for me (taking too long). But, the woman proprietor, wanting to please 'lowei,' went somewhere and brought back 'poluo' (zhao fan). It was not hot enough, having been carried too far, but the veggies were good.

After eating, I asked 'Tom if he wanted to continue. He wasn't sure, and expressed more concern about his neck. I gave him some Tree Tea oil from Australia, which I travel (a panacea). It seemed to work, as many times these things are placebos, especially with the right words. It's 'mind over matter!' I told him to tell himself, that it's a small problem, and nothing to worry about! He seems to worry about things (sensitive).

Our lunch 'town,' I'll call 'garlic-ville,' as there were piles of the woven garlic strands lying for sale by the highway (see image in gallery).

We decided to continue, to a 'city' which is larger, ever larger (villages, towns and cities all classified as to how many).

Here, the last 9KM downhill and easy. Then suddenly into this metropolos where we find a hotel, where we find many hotels (as this 'city' maybe 1 million people?)! I think it was called the Yuntai (?), the hotel, two buildings the one in the rear new: always highrise concrete with no elevators. Here, like always, we drawn a crowd and 'Tom' has to explain (which he grows weary of doing). Always the same two questions. 'Where are you from?' 'Where are you going?' I'm going to have a T-shirt made in Chinese.

We park our bicycles in the security-man's room (I give him 10RMB), and then partake of a good hot shower.

Then 'online,' (to 'you'), then to bed! The routine. I do not watch TV. Note, generally you know you can count on this electrical outlet to work (too many complaints! The Chinese just like Americans, they can't live without TV. Me, who worked in it for fifteen years, can!


'Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety!'

Sunday, October 08, 2006

081006 U-town, China

We're on the eve of departing for a 4K KM cycling adventure, from Urumqi to Shanghai, China. That's 2,400 miles on a bicycle! Adding our recent start from Kanas Lake, in far, far northern Xinjiang, it's a 5K-KM bicycle trip. This taking roughly two months (avoiding eastern China as long as possible).

But, as I told 'Tom,' my 23-year old cycling partner:

When I can't ride a bicycle, I will walk!

When I can't walk, I will crawl!

When I can't crawl, I will live!

When I can't live, I will die!

Simple, keep moving, trying, going, living! Most of you just exist, living in the future when you hope your life will begin. Then, too late!

I'm happy to be leaving Urumqi, because of the honking-madness on the streets! It's not a safe place to cycle!

Amazing... Don't think I don't have guardian angels, however. Yesterday morning, about to go I discovered a front 'flat' tire. But, how nice inside the hotel, as versus 'out there,' maybe raining and cold. It was an easy 'fix,' inside without anything to unload. There are 'flats,' and then there are 'flats!'

Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Fiets got fixed, and now operates like a 'dream,' both derailleurs working the best ever! There had been a problem after installing the new front crank-wheel set, the front derailleur not working well. I had it back to Sayer/Giant Bicycle Shop four times before they finally said, there's something wrong with the (Shimano XTR) front derailleur. Note, even though supposedly the 'best quality,' it had never worked well! So, I had an Shimano XT front-derailleur installed, and now, oh what a difference! We also replaced the cable 'sleeves.' But, this week in U. I've spent at least 1,000RMB / $120 U.S. on Ms. Fiets this time. Another 280RMB / $35 U.S. on Tom's. But, all necessary--sparing no expense on 'Ms. Fiets!'

Today, I discovered potential trouble with one of my Dutch tires. So, I'm buying a new Maxim, to substitute. These Dutch tires (need to pass on the name) have been great, going some 10K KMs without any trouble. I think I've only had one 'flat' and that was the one discussed (yesterday). But, everything eventually 'wears out,' including us! As, I told 'Tom,' if I were just cycling around town (maybe taking weekend trips), I'd just keep and use until it wore out completely. But, on the verge of taking a 4K KM trip, not a good idea. Best, to replace now! The old expression, 'Be safe, not sorry!'

Yesterday, after getting Ms. Fiets 'all pretty,' we cranked to Carl's flat, as he had invited us for lunch. We were joined by Mu Su Yu Pu, Kim, and Carl's neighbors, two girls from Europe, Suszanna from Holland, and Anna from Norway. Both of the two young (one only 18-years of age) English-teaching volunteers in Xinjiang for one year.

We sat in Carl's living room and partook of his good food (boiled egges, tuna salad, pesto/tomatoes, bread, and cheese (enjoyed by the 'anglos' - note Asians don't like cheese), our good pommegrante wine, coffee and cake.

Carl is a erudite, highly educated (taught Japanese for ten years) middle-aged man from New Zealand.

He lets his spare bedroom to those in need of... So, those of you passing through Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, China, and need a room, contact Carl Stapleton (me first via email and I'll pass on his). He's quite a hortoculturist (having a degree in such) and grows orchids and herbs!

His only problem... He's a cigarette smoker! Ughawalla! Grow pot Carl, and get high! Live longer! Get a bicycle too!

Later back at the Su Tong we met 'Rhasala' (not sure of her proper name spelling), a young Uyghur chambermaid. She voluntered to wash Tom's clothing (think she's smitten of him). This 20-year old cutie, who made a point of beguiling me with her smiling personality. We stuck 20RMB in her purse when she was in the bathroom, as they won't accept any money (you have to be sneaky). Afterwards, I got her contact information as always on the lookout for talented young people. Turns out she wants to be a makeup artist, and this matches so nicely with www.haaqi.com But...

The only problem with young Asians, most can't fathom being in the entertainment industry! It just doesn't 'compute!' 'The what...? TV, the movies, the theater...? You're an accthering teacher?' They, at least the ones in the hinterlands, just haven't heard of such. Thus, trying to explain.

Anyway, about Rhasala, we will see. She was surprised, of course, wanting to know what it was about her that interested us. I had to explain. On the otherhand, I have found most Uyghur people to be unrealiable, and thus, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't hear from this Uyghur girl again. I leave up to the younger ones to impress me with their perseverance! If they do I know they have the 'heart!' Then I make it as hard as possible to 'weed out' the weak ones (knowing they won't make it).

What else before departing Urumqi... ?

In two weeks we'll be in Gansu Province, then Xinghai Province, then Xining, where I want to investigate living (longer term).

Good bye Xinjiang A.R., for awhile!

'So long, it's been good to know you!



And a long time until I'll be back!'

But, who really knows...?

I've taken to saying, 'maybe!' Must be my age!


in Urumqi, on a lovely sunny, cool Fall afternoon!

P.S. I just had a harrowing experience! I had a woman with a straight razor at my neck! Luckily, it was only a small cut, but I said, 'zhao xin,' meaning 'be careful!'

Every week or so I go to an Asian (mostly Chinese sometimes Uyghur in Xinjiang) 'barber,' (hair saloon, whatever) to have my no-hair cut! This amounts to 'mowing' my head and 'beard,' with an electric razor. Well, they mostly take good care, the women the best of all (lighter touch).

I've been cut, however, and having an electric razor around my lips, not something I savor. But, again, most of the time no problem.

Today, however, after the electric razor the woman started with a 'straight razor,' which is basically a razor blade. I thought just for some quick 'cuts,' to finish, but no she went on to try to shave my entire face. I should have stopped her immediately, but didn't for some reason. The trouble, or 'cut' came when she put on a new blade. Then when I complained she became frightened and handed over the task to a young male (her son no doubt). He started, but the sight of blood must of stopped him, as he didn't want to either. She returned to shave my chin, but then balked at my upper lip. I bid adieu, giving them twice what asked for and departed making them happy.

But, now I had an uneven cut, something I'm never happy with. You can do a bad job, just do it evenly. What to do? I ended up purchasing a Gillette, and doing it myself. $2.40 U.S. to the 'professionals,' for the blood, $1.20 to a store for the Gillette!

Ah, life in Asia...

from 'Mount Baldy,'

Making magic with you!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

061006, as in 'balance' and a full moon

I heard my first Chinese orgasm the other night (or morning)! I think it was something like 0430 B.T. (Beijing Time), although the Chinese are late uppers!

It was the female partner, as men only snore in China! How do I know? I'm a light (cat-like) sleeper, and the walls are thin in Chinese hotels. She shrieked several times, and I thought strange (almost like being raped). Then again what do I know about such, as everyone's orgasm is different sounding!

Since being in China, I'd been wondering about sex between Chinese couples. The women are demure (generally) and the men smoke cigarettes. But, one thing for sure, the noodles 'do it,' as the Chinese are very prolific! I mean this is a nation with 1.3 billion people, and increasing!

Children, doted upon, are everywhere! And they're cute, unspoiled generally speaking, and I try to engage them all (which the parents enjoy). In return, the children are fascinated with me! Not because I'm special, but because I have a gray beard and look different (to them). They stare at me, and I stare back.

It's not like America, where an older male has to be careful engaging a child in public. Here in China there's none of the paranoia about pedaphiles, or is it spelled pedafile? You can take an infant from parents and play with it on your lap. Thus, children here, grow up more attuned to others and the socialbility aspects of culture. They run and play on the street with simple toys, a healthier upbringing than in the U.S. (or like the U.S. was when I grew up in the 1940s).

One wonders why so much pathology in U.S. culture? I don't, as I understand! 'Post modernism,' U.S. style, is destructively killing the culture slowly. Of course, people blame guns, but it's not the guns but the crippled minds overdosing from materialism!

Most of it we can blame on ourselves as, 'We have met the enemy and he is us!' 'Hollywood,' only interested in money (their 'God') reflects our dementia, by making motion pictures selling 'violence as the solution.' So, guess what? Some child walks into a school kills other children and then himself, as the only 'solution.'

Wake up, America!

Actually, I don't know the solution (except everyone perfecting themselves). I think America (the style of capitalism) has to 'overdose,' before it will change (possible be healed). This may take hundreds of years... It may never happen...

China is going down the same 'road!' Now, the 'nuevo riche' want the big, black SUV and to drive 200KMPH (the illusion of power and freedom). Everyone has and watches TV. They wear blue jeans. Everyone has a mobile! There's almost a 'frenzy' here to get money, to get rich! Mao would be very disappointed!

My chant, as 'Tom' and I joke: 'Hurry, hurry, hurry! Worry, worry worry! Money, money, money! No time! No time! No time! Rushing, rushing, rushing! Going no where fast!'

What to do? Live the best life possible! Develop consciousness! Sacrifice yourself for others!



'Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety!'

P.S. We're 'short timers' now in 'U-town!' We will be departing for Xining, Xinghai Province this coming Tuesday, October 10th. We've got to get going before winter sets in here in the drier, colder west. Otherwise, we'll be cycling in snow! I did this in Sweden! Fun, but you are so bundled up with clothing you can barely crank! We just bought rain jackets, as I know east of Xining, it will be...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

041006 Urumqi - raining this morning

Yesterday, the wind bringing the rain today. Wind always signifying 'change!'

And thus people generally don't like.

In Chinese, 'strong wind' is 'da feng,' in Uyghur, 'chamal,' or 'boran' (for the black storm). Autumn has begun here in northern Xinjiang (where Urumqi is located on the north side of the Tian Shan range--Kashigar way south!).

Yesterday with the rising moon we accomplished a host of things... WEB site (www.haaqi.com) design, $, bicycles, photographs, flags, food shopping, tires, maps, friends, business, and planning our cycling trip east!

Today, more of the same as we plan to depart for Shanghai next Tuesday, October 10th. This, if we cycle all the way (maybe 4K KM / 2,400 miles), could take at least six weeks! But, first Xining, Xinghai, Province, some 2K KM / 1,200 miles!

We met Mamat for lunch, and interesting as always. We were near the computer mart, and 'Tom' suggested we walk 'three blocks' to where we were to meet Mamat at Avral Restaurant. O.K., I'm always up for walking, as it gives me a chance to give away money (Uyghur beggars). At Avral Restaurant, however, we discovered it was closed for 'Ramadan,' the Moslem month of fasting (I had forgotton about Ramadan). What to do?

We were right on time, but no Mamat (he'd called three times when realizing he'd forgotton Avral didn't open until 2000B.T.).

When he arrived he suggested we walk to another U. restaurant 'nearby.' More walking! So, back in the same direction we'd come... But, the second Uyghur restaurant was also closed. More walking!

So, we turned around and walked back in the direction of Avral, this through an interesting Uyghur neighborhood with older buildings. We ended up at a Uyghur restaurant called Miraj, which turns out to be a wonderful 'find' (well done). Miraj is very near the historic Communist building (now a museum) where Mao came when only 51-years of age (I was surprised as I know this area because of a Chinese man I met when first here, August, 05). But, by the time we arrived at Miraj, I was hungry having not eaten breakfast (and walking 'three blocks').

Mamat abstained, as he's Moslem, but of course 'Tom' and I sampled the 'poluo.' I distracted Mamat with all our Kanas images (5 rolls/175 prints of film, some 300 digital images).

Afterwards, we invited him to join us the following day (today, Thursday) at Uncle Bob's. This where we're showing the racing video footage (Tom and Sayer's race).

We're having flags produced while in Urumqi, this for 'Bicycle China Olympics.' We promoting a bicycle event for 2008, when cyclists, from every Province and A.R. (i.e., Shanghai, Urumqi, etc.) will convene in Beijing. Thus, we'll be 'flying' these flags on our bicycles (on our trip east), trying to attract interest in such an event. We need sponsors besides www.haaqi.com!

Already, we have one participant, a young Chinese man, cycling all the way from Kanas Lake to Beijing. At least that's what he told us he was going to do, a young Chinese policeman (photo in Gallery) we met on the 'dock' (landing) waiting to get on a boat to take us out on Loch Kanas.

A meeting at Uncle Bob's (restaurant) today was one of the most interesting of my life. At the table some 13 people, of four different cultures: American, New Zealand, Chinese, and Uyghur. Additionally, half of the group is mute (sign language). So, poor Wu Tom had to communicate three different ways (translating back and forth): speaking Chinese and English, then writing Chinese for 'Sayer,' our Ubekistan1 (sic) man! Then 'Sayer,' signed for his group. Wow! You think having a meeting in one language is challenging... Try this! But, all went well!

I forgot to mention the reason for this 'strange' meeting of the minds... We're trying to organize a 'Disabled Bicycle Group,' and I had brought together Sayer's (mute) group with Mr. Zhou, Xinjiang Province Government's own 'bicycle guy.'

Then we watched the video I 'shot' of 'Tom's' bicycle race! Refreshments (drinks and food) for 13 people cost all of $15 U.S.

Just another day in the life of 'Haqi!' 'Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety!'

Monday, October 02, 2006

021006 October, the month of my father, the month of Libra...

It's the rising moon--full this Friday... I can feel it!

It's quiet, I'm without 'Tom,' or other distractions... I'm in our hotel room #313, without electricity. I was taking a shower, and suddenly plunged naked in the dark. Welcome to Asia!

Lying on my bed, I ponder 'life'... What is it anyway? Maybe the lack of 'death.' But, these are only words...

Life to me is consciousness! What is that? Knowing that we are alive! Then again, animals are 'alive,' but don't know it!

Life is action, movement! What is that? From 'hear' to 'their!' But, maybe only an illusion.

'I'm in love with a stone!'
As hard as a bone,
Inside of me!
It has a heart,
A 'beat,'
I complete,
Making magic together!

Given to me
On a mountain one day,
Unconditional love,
Forsaking all else!

We are a dream,
A team
Cycling peace,
War must cease
In 2012!

We hold each other
Self evident,
These 'truths,'
Like the sun rising!
'I'm in love with a stone!'

Life isn't what we think! It isn't so 'narrow,' but a sparrow flying in all directions, simultaneously!

Open your mind,
Stop to ponder,
Not to react,
But, to act
It's an illusion!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

300906 in the Su Tong Hotel in Urumqi (the last of the trip, and the first days back in 'civilization?')

We cycled 136KM / about 80 miles, on the 28th (September), our penultimate day on the road. This, from town '#121' to 'Whotobe' (definitely the latter not a #, but a Mongul name) where we spent the night.

Many towns in Xinjiang are just numbers (interesting). Also, there are any cities in Xinjiang of Mongol name/origin, as Genghis was through here (trust me)!

Cycling 136KM last Thursday (28th) was relatively easy as the road rose up to meet us, and we had a slight tail wind! 136KM in 10.5 hours (including one hour for lunch) is not bad on a heavily loaded (with my 62KG body, about 110 kilograms / 225lbs total) bicycle (averaging 12KMPH - a little faster than a horse)!

Ironically, in '121' Wednesday evening the 28th we ended up in a good hotel, with hot shower, and a room with indirect lighting (red no less). I left it on all night. It was a capacious (large) room too. So, wherever this place is, 7KM off highway #201, I'll remember the hotel (had sex in my dreams).

Departing at 0800 Thursday morning we heard the usual loudspeakers blaring the 'Beijing line!' Then 'exercising by the numbers' (the Chinese big on morning exercises, including Tai Chi of course). I told 'Tom' if they did this in the U.S., there would be much laughter! But, in rural China this 'regimentation/indoctrination' still exists (a 'hold over' from the Mao years).

On the way, cycling on highway '#201' a 'mountain of cotton,' a 'road of corn,' and snow-capped peaks in the distance (the Tian Shan).

We stopped to eat (Tom requested) in a small village, a restaurant where we'd had lunch on the way up. Good 'chao mi fan,' for me; good noodles for him. Afterwards, the usual crowd and photographs. Always the same questions, 'Where are you from? Where are you going?'

In the afternoon, the wind was slightly in our favor, and we zipped along on our 'Yellow-Brick road' (magical as all to ourselves). The highway smooth as glass, as only 'laid' the previous day. Because there was no traffic we took to 'shooting' each other while riding, this no easy 'trick.' Try riding a bicycle and 'shooting' video at the same time. 'Tom' did well, as this was his first experience doing this.

In 'Whotobe' (I'm sure spelled differently as only sounds like.) the first hotel we stopped at sufficed as too tired to look further!

Up early we were eager to get to Urumqi after 29 days on the road, and 1,800KM / roughly 1,100 miles (living 'out there' on a bicycle). I love it, it's my 'life on the road' (what I've always dreamed of!). But, sometimes it's arduous and trying. Thus, 'comfort' sometimes appreciated!

However, Friday, the 29th, it was only 90KM into Urumqi. And again we had a slight helping wind!. But, we ran out of new highway, and into dangerous heavy traffic! God, I'd forgotten about the 'honking madness' of Chinese cities.

Urumqi so big--I had forgotten! It took us at least one hour to find the hotel I wanted to try, the Su Tong (had discovered with Yali). I made a wrong turn, and that cost us some time. But, finally, and after some negotiation, we ended up together in one room for 140RMB / $16 U.S. More importantly, we're always concerned about the safety of our bicycles (in the Su Tong, locked near the night-watchman's room). But, we made our goal of the day, being out of the 'madness' by 1600 hours!

We had stopped for lunch in Chanje (50KM from Urumqi), an unknown Xinjiang city of a mere 600,000 population. It's only claim to 'fame,' it's where Tom went to college, and also his first job at the Calkis Tomato 'company.'

We found a 'Uyghur restaurant,' operated by a Chinese guy (unusual). But, the hour of rest well spent. I've learned 'Tom' needs this, not so much for the food, but for the break (for me too).

We cranked out of Chanje under a canopy of overhanging trees on a bicycle lane that reminded me of Utrecht, Holland (where I lived for six months). The leaves were falling, and nostalgic to me. Sometimes a 'reverie' ('deja vu') comes over me I can't explain--I guess my age.

Then from highway '#210' (our new 'friend') to tollroad 'G312' (no bicycles). We took the highway anyway, as nobody in China goes by such rules (laws).

Saturday norming we slept 'late,' me until 0600, 'Tom,' until 0800. I had no thoughts of 'working' wanting to rest, but 'Tom,' at 23-years of age, What's the plan?'

Thus, we cycled about 'U-town,' first to the Giant Bicycle shop, then to Uncle Bob's Restaurant, then to our 'poluo stall,' back to wherever, trying to make it all work. We have so much to do in such a short time, I don't even want to think about it. But, then I got the idea for 'Tom,' to enter a bicycle 'race,' on Monday, October 2nd--yet, another thing, what I must be thinking? This after our return trip to the Giant Shop and getting some tasks accomplished!

If anything I'm a doer, not a thinker! I do, therefore I am!

Anyway, the next morning yesterday (Sunday, October 1st - 'National Day') we went out to the Park where the race is to be held. I thought it (speaking of thinking) a good idea for us to know the place, and specifically 'Tom,' the race course. He'd gone and 'entered,' for 30RMB, getting his 'number' and the de riguer' T-shirt (red in color of course).

By 1100 there were many people, most setting up, as not only the race, but other festivities because of 'National Day.'

We didn't know exactly where to go, but 'Tom' asked, and we were able to cycle what I thought was the race course, an asphault lane, up and around, about 2 KM.

The race itself, with 30+ contestants is five times around this loop, or a total of 10KM. I wanted 'Tom,' who's never raced to check it out (being the good 'coach' that I am). Of course, no other contestants were there yet (the early bird gets the worm).

It was a lovely morning with a view of the city. We 'captured some images' wherever we went, Ms. Fiets, feeling like a filly (no luggage) under me! It was so easy and fun I truly love riding a bicycle, especially one that's unencumbered with 50KG of luggage (it's just that simple).

The first one I got for Christmas in Tucson, Arizona, when I was six years old, a red American Flyer, steel, heavy, and but one speed. That was some sixty years ago! Since, I've had many, graduating slowly, from three to ten, to now 27 different gears (the more the better with age). And now 'Ms. Fiets,' the 'Magic Dragon!' the last I'll have I think!

Will Rogers said, 'You get one good wife, one good home, and one good horse!' I never had the first two, but certainly the last as 'one good bicycle!' It's all I want.

The 'one good home,' I consider Mother Earth, and I've certainly had that!

Anyway, we cycled on to the XSB (Xinjiang Silver Birches) Hostel, to collect the ten bags we'd left while cycling to Kanas. 'Tom' did the taxi 'number,' me cycling on to the Su Tong Hotel (about 3KM), where I discovered all ten at the entrance. The people here are nice (probably fascinated having a 'lowei' / foreigner staying at the hotel) and it was an easy deal getting them in the storage room and 313. I tipped the 'security/maintenance' guy 20RMB.

From there we cycled to Eversun's Coffee Restaurant where we were to meet Wu Tom, Kim and Carl for lunch. But, oh what a ride, through congested 'downtown' Urumqi! However, now 'Tom' is wearing his helmet (with pride) and gloves ((I loaned) as required for the race. He had a 'brush with injury,' when an 'air-conditioned box on wheels,' came darting past and 'brushed' his handle bar! Mamat had called while we were in transit, and we're to meet later (but I know about this... ).

I can diverge to tell you the 'honking madness' on the streets of Asian cities is eventually going to 'drive' me away! If you want to see what's coming to your 'local theater,' come to Asia now for a 'preview!'

Arriving we discovered Kim waiting, who was amazed she'd found the restaurant! This Uyghur girl unusually ambitious/aggressive, at the same time can't find places in her home town! She 'picked us up' at Uncle Bob's before departing for Kanas, and since calling. But, her English is good, and I always am looking for the ambitious!

Both Wu Tom and Carl arrived later, and we had a fine lunch, me the usual 'chao mi fan,' or 'fried rice.' We had black tea with milk and sugar, and me and Carl, coffee afterwards. Plus, the usual (for ESCR), the wonderful western music they 'pipe in!' Everything from 'Moon River,' to 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme!'

There are two 'Eversun's,' by the way, the first I discovered in Kashigar. This one in U-town newly decorated with open fireplace (upstars)! Owned by a clever Chinese woman, I'm enanmored of this 'oasis' in the 'Uyghur See!' It's truly 'un-Chinese,' and I guess why 'Tom' not so interested (no good noodles) and why I am! But, it's doing well, as this owner clever (understanding the hip Chinese' desire for things western).

After eating, we recorded (we take our Panasonic camcorder everywhere now), some interesting 'bits,' with our guests!

I was truly amazed when Kim, the Uyghur Moslem, wanted to read a story about Christmas! I mean, think about this... A Moslem girl, in a Chinese Restaurant in Urumqi, reading about the birth of Christ and Santa Claus, in October...? Go find, if you can!

But, then this lead to recording both Carl and Tom's answers to my questions about the Loch Kanas 'monster.'

Downstairs and out front our usual 'group shot!'

Then on to the 'new' bicycle shop in town, the one sponsoring the race. I wanted to see what the situation is there. By now, 'Mu Su Yu Pu' ('Tom's' Chinese-speaking Uyghur friend) had joined us (on rented bicycle for the race)! He knew where this place was located, across from the city stadium complex. Again, however, we had to risk our lives dodging the maniacs driving their 'air-conditioned boxes on wheels!'

I had a small item I wanted fixed on Ms. Fiets (a front rack siutation), and 'Tom' is looking for street tires, and a way to raise his 'head set' (front handle bars). I was pleasantly surprised with the service (gave them 5 Yuan). I'm happy to support any 'non-Giant' situation, as 'Giant' is just that in Asia, like Microsoft when it comes to an OS and browser . There's a Giant bicycle shop in most cities in China (good for us when cycling, but not good for the general customer as no choices).

We ran into a Chinese student we'd met in Kashigar, as we're getting to be known in the Chinese cycling 'world.' He on a no-seat, BMX bicycle doing the usual crazy stunts! Note, the Chinese are late to bicycle for pleasure and sport, but coming on fast!

'Tom' and 'Mu Su Yu Pu,' wanted to try out the course, so they went that way, while I cranked back to the Su Tong. On the way, stopping to buy bottled tea and yoghurt at one of the eight million food stores in 'U-town!'

I was in bed by 2030 hours! This, after working, right here on these 'keys' where I am now. Writing this, and dealing with the world via the Internet!

I'm happy now I got the China Unicom (Internet 'connection') service, because with my MacBook and the 'connection,' so convenient without cigarette smoke, and the screaming/yelling of 'Net Bars!'


Now, to accomplish what we need, and get out of the big city!