from Jeff - June
June 29th (Tuesday) Taiyuan (Shanxi)
Posted: Sun, 4 Jul 2004 06:09:59
Today was an organization day. Dropped
off laundry -pick up on Thursday. Sent some more stuff back to Canada
to lighten the load and tried unsuccessfully to find a pinyin phrase
Most of the day was ho hum but I
spoke with some English students on two different occasions. Unfortunately
it is easier to remember their English names. I spoke with a girl
named Sophie first (who names these people), in the main city square
I was off to one side nursing a beer when she approached me
and asked if she could speak English with me. Honestly no matter
how bad the English is you truly miss having a conversation with
someone. She was actually an English teacher and spoke pretty good
English. We talked about education, the cultural revolution (this
one keeps rearing its ugly head) among other things which turned
out to be a good conversation. After she left some younger Chinese
(maybe students) attempted to converse with me but it was very broken
English. I decided to leave but as I was leaving another girl approached
me about speaking some English. She was with two other students
and a teacher and she spoke English very well. Her name was Rita
and she asked me to give English names to her co-eds. I think I
gave the girl Lisa (a fine name and not from the 20's) and the guy
-well I can't remember but it was cool.
This girl Rita was really on the
ball about a lot of things, and not just China's issues but world
issues. One of her teacher friends was actually Canadian. Anyway
we talked about everything from homosexuality (main topic was Nathan
Hedges) to the cultural revolution (sorry) to differences between
our two countries. By the way she is only 18 but she had the maturity
of someone in their 30's. She wants to do some humanitarian work,
possibly in Africa, and would also like to start a web page for
humanitarian efforts in the world. She really came across as very
ambitious and I think she can pull it off. She may be physically small
but the way she talked and her general body language indicated she
wasn't a quitter. Anyway the funniest part about the conversation
is that she was having problems understanding the dialect in Taiyuan
as she was from southern Shanxi - see it's not just me!!!!!
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June 28th (Momday) Taiyuan (Shanxi)
Posted: Thu, 1 Jul 2004 08:00:23
Well no luck exchanging money in
Xin Zhou although I met a banker on the ball. She simply wrote 'Go
The ride was okay today but my butt
is so sore and it just isn't healing (sorry to keep mentioning this
but it really effects my riding distance and time). I have also
found that my hands are constantly going numb so I will try and
adjust the seat a bit to see if that helps (any advice is appreciated
here). I'm going to spend a few days in Taiyuan as there is a bit
to see and I really need the rest. My body is getting stronger but
I need rest now as I know my body pretty good. I think so far I
have been rushing from town to town a little to much and need to
relax and take in some more of the sites.
Taiyuan is the capitol of Shanxi
and is very large, probably the same size as Beijing. I was finally
able to exchange my US travellers checks as well. $1640 yuan for
$200 US - not bad....
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June 27th (Sunday) Xin Zhou (Shanxi)
Posted: Thu, 1 Jul 2004 07:51:43
The day started with a 14KM climb
which was that bad as it was all switchbacks. After that the descent
lasted almost all of the way to Yuanping which I had considered
to be a stop before the day started. From there it looked flat but
was still a slight downhill to Xin Zhou. My butt is in serious pain
(saddle sores) but a great ride for the most part. After that first
climb I probably averaged 25KM/hr. I will attempt to reach Taiyuan
tomorrow but I will take a shot a exhanging money in Xin Zhou before
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June 26th (Saturday) Ningwu (Shanxi)
Posted: Thu, 1 Jul 2004 07:45:31
I spent 2 hours and 20 KM biking
around Shuo Zhou trying to find a bank to cash my travellers checks
but to no avail. Finally someone said Monday but maybe next time
they kind of wrote down a date instead of pointing to outside the
bank (stupid bizatch).
Today I was really tired and after
the bank issue I decided to grab lunch instead of leaving town at
the hottest part of the day. I rode to Ningwu with the intention
of staying there as I was unsure of the distance to Taiyuan. It
turned to be around 25KM andI found out Taiyuan was 200KM south
of Shuo Zhou. I am hoping that since Taiyuan is the capitol of Shanxi,
I can exchange money there, if not, I'm fucked.
Ningwu is basically intersected by
a section of The Wall so after finding a hotel I decided this was
a good chance to ride along side it. I left everything back at the
hotel except water of course and started up the hillside. Man it
felt strange, the ass end was all over the place,it felt like the
wheel was gonna come off. The road was gravelmst of the way and
then I decided to take a fork in the road that veered toward The
Wall. This leadf up a very hairy dirt road which was fine for a
bike or maybe 4 X 4 but it would probably destroy a car. It was
also very loose dirt and 2 inches deep in sdome sections so I just
grannied it up the whole way. The wall itself was basically all
dirt and had no resemblance from close up. I took a picture of the
bike on top of it nd then decided top head down. I was finally having
some fun flying down the mountain and decided to follow the trail
that ran along side The Wall. It was about a foot wide and pretty
tame but unfortunately it ended up in the middle of a farmers field.
There was a foot path that disected the field so I decided to take
that but the sections between eah field were mostly unridable. I
passed by some lady and her kis and she motioned me to continue
down the path (it was okay I guess).
Finally it joined the gravel road
farther down and I flew into town. When I came up to the hotel there
were three foreigners on bikes oustide the hotel. They were from
Norway and had purchased bikes in Beijing for apporxiamately 800
yuan. This was cheap but the parts on the were pretty domestic.
They didn't care and later I found out they had one patch kit between
the three of them. We went for dinner at some little family joint
which turned out to be okay although when the first dish was served
we all looked at each other. Like a bunch of monkeys after one of
us dug in the rest figured it was okay. I am happy to report I was
fine the next day!
We talked about all the same problems,
annoying truck drivers, rock star syndrome and the heavy rain. Ironically
they had arrived in the previous town Shuo Zhou a few hours after
I left and had the same problems with exchanging money. However
one of the bankers wrote down the date they could exchange - go
They were going to catch a train
in the morning to head west but they are following my itinerary
somewhat and we may hook up in Yan'Nan or Xi'an. They are only here
for a short stay however so they move on pretty quickly. Something
funny the mentioned abut riding though is they were grabbing onto
the small three wheeled trucks on someof the up hills - hilarious!
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June 25th (Friday) Shuo Zhou (Shanxi)
Posted: Thu, 1 Jul 2004 07:20:31
They were totally redoing the road
between the two towns but there were onlytwo real climbs and I totally
coasted the rest of the way. At one point these Chinese guys waved
me down and one spoke french to me which freaked me out. Apparently
he was in the air force or something.
Shuo Zhou is very new and modern
looking with a tonne of construction goingon. I think it is roughly
the size of Datong but a 100 times nicer and very little polution.
In fact there doesn't seem to be many people either, I must be on
the developing side of town.
Side Note: What I thought were nuclear
reactors are probably coal power plants (I can be such a dumbass
The only problem I have with Shuo
Zhou is exchanging my travellers checks and finding an ATM that
workd with my cards... I still got 500 Yuan in cash though,so I
should be okay.
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June 24th (Thursday) 29 KM North
of ShuoZhou (Shanxi) 124km
Posted: Thu, 1 Jul 2004 06:53:34
Before I start, I have recently downloaded
my pictures onto a cd and sent them to my folks. From there hopefully
Matt can pick it up anmd post some picks. Today is CANADA day!!!!!!
So I have a lot of typing to do!!!!
On with June 24th - long fucking
Something Ed mentioned the other
day when he looked at my route is why did I choose the most mountainous
route? I had no answer at the time and was sort of dumbfounded.
When I later reflected I realized that the particular route intersected
'The Wall' the most which I remember that I wanted to see a lot
of. There were also a number of historic along the route as well
but Ed's comment would be ringing in my ears all day. I ended up
making another detour which turned out to be very beneficial.
I guess I still haven't really recovered
from the big ride into Datong as I felt tired from the get go today.
It also didn't help that the road was under construction either.
Every highway I ride along seems to be undergoing a major
face lift or in the case of 112, being created! I think it is probablydue
to the increased number of cars and the 2008 Olympics. I say this
as each city center is also being rebuilt and the coal trucks seem
to be routed only on certain highways, ya the ones I ride along
Today was easily the hardest day
yet as the first day out of Beijing I was still a little out of
shape. I can honestly say 80 KM of the ride was climbing. At a few
points I was at the highest point in the mountain range. The ride
into Youyun (the first section) was about 30KM and I had the option
to stop for the day (which woud have been pathetic). Qingshuine
which was the actuall destination was 66KM away on the map so i
decided to proceed, but take my time.
All along the 109 highway there were
no road signs as the road was more or less being completely rebuilt
(they put plastic over fresh sections of cement - werd!). Only later
many, many kilometers away would I see a road sign for the 109 (they
kind of look like tomb stones but they are a welcome site, believe
me!) which was the intended route of course. The climbing was endless
and the downhills were short and shoddy so I had to brake down most
sections (damn it!!!). It seemed like I grannied it the whole way
which became very disheartening when moving along at 5KM/hr with
50KM to go. I wanted to quite so many times but I just kept on going
- this is when you really have to bullshit yourself in order to
keep going. This became difficult as the next town, whatever it
may be, would be a whole new group of obstacles. Each time I reached
a peak I would rest for a minute or two. The only consolation at
this point was the none exisitent traffic, I was really alone out
there. Oh yeah and the views were incredible, it really didn't feel
like China, it was more like the Okanagan. I actually debated camping
but the insects are always a concern and it was still in the afternoon.
Anyway I know everyone has been there,
you come about halfway and have nothing left, it always seems more
inviting top just lay there and die.
At this point I pulled out the map
and nixed Qinshuine and decided to head South to Shou Zhou as it
looked like it descenedinto a valley. It would also take me Taiyuan
which is the capitol of the Shanxi province. I figured it would
be a good place to rest.
I kept riding until finally I reached
a flat stretch of highway - this is where I actually saw people
and the highway marker. Up ahead was a sign (two in a row,must be
near something) for a T in the highway, so I stopped for some water
to contemplate. A man walked over and said 'Halo', so I asked which
way to Shuo Zhou. He pointed to the road leadig left which was about
200 feet away. I confirmed several times as I thought he was on.....
opium. The dumbass, it was the wrong way of course but it worked
out to be the coolest detour yet!
I rounded the corner and noticed
a kind of dirt wall snaking down the mountain side. I am not sure
if it was part of the actual wall or just part of the wall that
surrounded this little village but it was a cool site. I took a
short video and rode around the outskirts of the town. Most of it
was just dirt wall now but some sections were in great shape. There
also looked like a continuation on the hillside to the south but
it was to far away to confirm. I stopped to ask where Shou Zhou
was and they pointed back to the highway as expected.
About 1KM up the road was a fork
and a sign in Chinese. There were some stopped truckers, so I asked
and they all agreed that I take the left fork. I stopped for some
water- there are places in the middle of nowhere all along these
highways and proceeded to head south. This was the start of a highway
as marker said '1KM'. Well the next 15KM I averaged about 25KM/hr
but I was barely pushing the pedals, just enough to keep the momentum.
There was one more long climb after that and then the road descended
big time into the bottom of a valley. The warning towers from ancient
times were everywhere on the hill tops.
Okay don't try this at hme kids,
but I went pretty quickly down the switch backs and hit 65KM/hr
at one point. Seriously this wasn't the smartest thing to do with
being tired and towing a heavy trailer but I just didn't care and
it was fun!
The town at the bottom of the hill
wasn't Shuo Zhou which is what I kind of hoped for, I knew this
just be the size of the town, so I didn't bother asking. The road
was flat so I putted along until I came to a turn off for a town.
Finally a road sign in English! it said Shuo Zhou 30KM, and I said
fuck that! I pulled into a very modern looking hotel as it was really
hard to find one and they wanted 138 yuan a night ($25). That was
fine but they didn't want to take the bike inside so after 15 minutes
of pleading, the front desk lady (Linda), put it in a conference
As nice as this place was, it had
the Chinese distinction of a three star hotel, no elevators! I didn't
care cuz it had a bath in my room so I took one, the first one so
far,and damn was it nice ( I quickly forgot the 124KM). I also ate
at the hotel and I had Linda pick something out for me. It was basically
a whole chicken with lemon grass and celantro in a kind of sauce
and it was incredible tasting. Obviously I slept right through the
night ans decided I would only ride to Shuo Zhou the next day as
sort of a rest day.
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June 23rd (Wednesday) Zuoyun (Shanxi)
Posted: Sun, 27 Jun 2004 05:47:06
This was the dirtiest, dustiest and
windiest day so far. Leaving Datong was okay in the begining because
they routed all of the trucks around the Yungang caves. After that
though the left lane had been dug up for most of the way to Zuoyun.
The Chinese truck drivers happened to be at their annoying best
that day along with some of the cars as well. At times it hurt to
breath through my nose so I had to open my mouth and taste the coal
ridden air, it was suffocating at best. The trip was supposed to
take the 109 highway, which for the most part happened, but at some
point I ended up on a different highway (I don't recall any signage
or turn offs though).
Again this ended up working out fo
rthe best as a person pulled up on a motorcycle who spoke English.
His name was Ed and he happened to live in Zouyun and he got me
going down a small road that headed into Zouyun. He asked if he
could tag along and I hesitantely said yes.
As any cyclist can tell you, the
last thing you need is a vehicle riding along side you as you are
climbing hills. I personally like to suffer alone.
As we rode into to town he would
sometimes ride ahead and when I passed him he would ask if I needed
a rest. I guess maybe the fourth time I gave in. We talked a while
about similarities and differences between Canada and China, just
basic stuff like the trees and farming. I was planning to head to
Youyun after Zouyun (who names these towns?) which was another 26KM
but he convinced me to stay in Zuoyun as it was around 4PM.
We got to Zouyun pretty (how many
tumes should I say that name?) quickly and he helped me book a hotel.
He wanted to show me around so I told him to come back in about
half an hour so I could peel the dirt off.
When he came back to the hotel I
hoped on the back of his bike and became his bizatch (no comments
please). We went to the county fair to meet some of his friends
and then left shortly after (it was pretty pathetic). He wanted
me to meet his friend who taught English at the local school, and
even though I was hungry, I obliged.
We pulled into a compound that contained
maybe six buildings and his friend, Mr Hua (I may have spelt this
wrong) was walking across the courtyard. He had an urgent matter
to attend to but met us for tea shortly after in one of the buildings.
Mr. Hua taught middle school English and so we started talking about
again, the similarities and differences between Canada and China.
Nothing worth mentioning here but we eventually went for dinner.
We had a couple of beers with dinner and then Mr. Hua had to go
teach a class (hey it's China!). This is when the conversation started
getting interesting. Ed and I started talking about the Cultural
revolution (Ed is 35), freedom of speach and the events that occured
in 1989. Ed was one of the leaders in the student protests in Taijuan
which is maybe 400KM south of here. No major violence broke out
but he was jailed for 20 days with no charges. After he was released,
he caught wind of maybe 5 to 10 people being killed in Tiananmen
the night he was arrested. I shook my head.....
I explained for foreigners had filmed
and reported on the events and hundreds of people doid. His eyes
widened. Then I went on to explain how freedom to criticize the
gorvernment is one of our fundamemtal rights and in fact we sometimes
made a mockery of gorvernment officials. AsI had already figured,
this was also a right in China, however the ones who speak out are
silenced. Ed said that first you would go to jail, next you lose
your job and finally no one will hire you after that. I guess that
was if you were lucky. I mentioned the horse going to the glue factory
in 'Animal Famr' but he had never read it. He was very adamandt
about freedom of speech though and we dicussed how we thought China
might change - this gets real boring, so you may want to skip to
the end where I teach an English class.
Anyway I said that education is the
biggest problem, there are too many lackeys in China right now who
would never understand this freedom or fight for it. I said I think
revolutions are much different now than in the past when armed struggle
could change things. China needs an Education revolution, however
it is still very difficult to get people involved with politics
as most people really don't care for it until it effects them directly
(this is part of the convincing - not coersion). China would
be especially difficult as very few Chinese travel further than
there own village, even the intellects. No matter.
Ed also brought up the point of work
ethic as well which I already had a glimpse of. He elaborated and
said yes the younger Chinese do work hard but there is an age group
(many grew up during the cultural revolution) who work as little
as possble and sometimes use the government support. He said another
big problem is the one child policy as it has created a mushroom
effect (kind of like CPP in Canada) where the head of the mushroom
represents people who can't work or choose not to. This could cause
an economic collapse that would scare off all of the current foreign
investment. Anyway to the good stuff.
Jeff teaches and English Class:
We got back to the middle school around 9:30 and the students were
all still there, but I think most were leaving (pretty late though).
Mr. Hua invited me to go check out his classroom and as suspected,
it was full of students still. I was introduced and Mr. Hua and
Ed explained that the students could ask me question they wanted
(oh-oh). No one was asking anything, so I started printing stuff
up on the board like my name, where I was from, what I was doing
in China. This got the ball rolling but each time the asked a question,
they had to come to the front which is probably why they were so
shy about it.
The students in this class were probably
aged between 8 and 10 and some of the questions they asked were:
Who is the leader of Canada?
Response: Jeff Glen
Who is the most famous Canadian?
Response: Jeff Glen
Are you crazy?
Response: Next question......
It was seriuously a real hoot and
I started playing X's and O's with them. One little whipper snapper
even beat me. I always let them start and then after I made a fool
of them I showed them a cool handshake - yes I know cool handshakes.
They then wanted me to sing an English
song and after a little contemplation I sang 'Enter Sandman' - kidding.
They sang a Chinses song for me though
which was pretty good. Finally there was a picture of Mao next to
the chalkboard so I pointed to it and gave it the thumbs down. The
class erupted with laughter, I was saying 'Mao BAD', 'Maooooo BAAADDD'
and they were laughing shaking their heads (I guess I got the last
laugh - poor buggers).
Anyway that was by far the best time
I have had since I arrived here. It was so fun and the kids were
really happy. Oh yeah I told them School sucks too and the laughed
at that as well. Mr. Hau kind of laughed too, but I don't think
it was genuine.
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June 22nd (Tuesday) Datong (Shanxi)
Posted: Sun, 27 Jun 2004 04:56:57
I have been here two weeks but sometimes
it feels like two months! I honestly can't remember what working
was like and scarcely remember what good beer tastes like (poor
me!). The good thing is I am really having fun and I am getting
a taste of the Good the Bad and yes the Ugly (lots of it).
I still can't speak the language
and today happened to be more confusing then normal. I think I got
the stupidest taxi driver in the city, and he probably got the dumbest
foreigner. The guy had to stop for directions 3 times on the way
to Jiche (old steam locomotive works). I had to draw a freaking
steam train for the guy and he still took me to the Electric Locomotive
I was rolling my eyes to the security
when this guy who was entering the gate stopped to see what was
happening. He spoke English (somewhat) and he told me to come with
him. For whatever reason the taxi guy went and parked (get lost
buddy!) and followed us into the main building. There were more
security there and he spoke with them for a couple of minutes. By
the way, as predicted, the cabbie left the meter running - I knew
he would. Anyway we walked around the complex which had a road around
it as there were many building new and old. There were 6 old steam
engines sort behind a fence, so he motioned for me to jump over
and he followed. We took a whole bunch of pictues (they're coming,
I got them burnt onto a cd, so worst case scenario I mail it back
to Matt) and then walked around the complex to a newer building.
Wow! We walked in and there was some dude ina kind of staff room
who stayed put and the shop contained trains that were still being
assembled. Okay, trains are cool, and the funny thing was here was
some guy, a taxi driver and some foreigner takng pictures of the
new trains and how they were being assembled. Totally cool!
I was an awesome tour and the best
so far. The taxi driver, well he was a tool and eventually I had
to get him to just drop me off close to the hotel. I also saw Jiu
Ling Bi (Nine dragon screen) which was pretty cool and again
I will get some pics sent. I just need a computer with a CD player!!!!
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June 21st (Monday) Datong
Posted: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 00:28:04
I ate pigs feet/hooves!!!! I thought
it was a different part of the pig from my vantage point but when
I went and sat down at the table I realized in horror what I had
done. Everyone was watching so I had to try it, yuck, it tasted
like crappy spam (like there is a good spam). I also ordered some
crappy tasting brocoli and some other slices of pig. All and all
I didn't eat very much of any of it and had to wash it down with
a beer. Funny enough Patrick said I wouldn't have any problem in
the markets as I could just point - he was wrong!
Today I took a taxi out to see Yungang
Shiku which is the BUddist Grottoes built for the most part in the
fifth century Wei dynasty. I know there are bigger Budda's in other
parts of asia but I was totally blown away by the size.... of their....
Budda's. Your start by walking through a wooden anteroom and then
you sort of can see into the cave. As so as you enter the cave it
opens up and you can see the foot of the Budda which is the size
of a small car. What's more impressive is actuall size of the cave
and that all of the walls have carvings and paintings. There is
even an image of Vishna which I guess relates to the origins of
Buddism, I am not very good with religion so I apologize if I am
way off. Anyway the place is absolutely amazing and I would come
back to see them again.
The next trip on the agenda was the
locomotive factory Jiche Cheliang Chang which caused me further
grief the next day. Anyway the taxi driver I talked too wanted to
take me to Xuankon Si (hanging monestery in the cliffs 70 KM away)
for 150 yuan which was very pricey. So I tried to see what it would
cost to go to Jiche instead and he said 100 yuan (15 KM away) -
So I said 'No'
He said '100 yuan!!!!' like it was a deal...
I said 'No', then I said
'Datong, how much',
he said '30 yuan' (15KM away same direction)...
and I said 'okay take me to my hotel.'
The cultural revolution really left
a gap in the generations as far as work ethics. As mentioned before
most of the Chinese bust their tale, especially people under 30.
However, males between the ages of 35 to 45 seem to be very lazy,
especially in the bigger cities.
When I got to the hotel he offered
to take me to Jiche again for 80 yuan this time. Hmmm lets see,
we are now about 5 KM away and I just gave you 30 yuan.
I preceed to leave the vehicle and then I heard
I sat back down with the door still open, looked him in the face
I closed the door and we began to drive away, then I stopped him
and got out anyway. He deserved it! It should have cost about 20
yuan to get there max.
This kind of disturbed me though.
As much as one might think the government has a tight lid on things,
the opposite is actually true. Only ones who speak loud are silenced
and never heard from again, everyone else does as they please which
is why it is so chaotic over here. The streets are the best example,
no one follows the rules and no one ever enforces them. Even the
most backward street designs in Europe still have some kind of order
and the police do enforce the law when they are present.
Datong is trying to enforce it a
bit by having 3 foot guard rails down the center of streets, traffic
police and a timer display at major intersections. People still
don't always get it as the other day I witnessed a guy pull a left
turn on a red light at about 30 km/hr. The people who were cut off
simply honked and kept driving while a few others did 'see monkey
Probably the only thing that keeps
the body count down is the fact that the cars are small and mostly
pretty slow. That is changing though as I now see the odd SUV.
After getting back to town I decided
to visit Huayan Si (monestery built in the 11th century) which was
a very impressive building with tonnes of great art work but I became
bored very quickly as I didn't know any of the significance except
when and why it was built. This temple is still activly used by
buddist as there are prayer cushions on the ground so it was pretty
quite in there too.
Okay the best part for last, really,
I hope this is not too boring....
While I was at Yangung Shiku I had
a little bit more of the rock star syndrome. We'll call it RSS so
when Potter finally gets it we can label it. I find most great stories
always begin with some young little whipper snapper with a big huge
bandage one his chin trying to get your attention. There was a group
of probably about 10 students ages 8 - 10 (no idea) that were doing
a tour and when they saw me the started with the 'Halo', 'Halo'....
hi little dude....
I started reading the document I
bought for the tour and they keep peeking over at it so I showed
it to them, the thought it was gold- China is doomed. When I took
a picture where I wasn't supposed to the thought I was Budda himself
(or Potter) and they dragged me outside to get pictures of me with
them. I found it pretty amusing as they all wanted a picture, the
teacher kindof rolled her eyes (communist bitch - just kidding,
she was patient). After about 15 minutes of pictures they finally
left for good, or so I thought. In fact they were gathering troops
to stage another trap. Maybe 30 minutes later in front one of the
bigger Budda's they all came running over again - the kid with the
bandage still makes me laugh. This time was different though as
this time they had pens and little pieces of paper etc. (oh oh).
As soon as I signed a few (totally embarassing to the point of annoyance)
about twenty more or so came running over (shit, entrapment!).
Now I know why Hockey Player autographs
look like scribble, after a few signings (and honeslty as most people
know I only print in capitol letters just like my dad) you start
getting real lazy with the pen and try to sign/print as quickly
as possible before more savages come over. I was obviously not adept
at this skill and should have wrote 'JEFF' instead of 'POTTER -
BASS EXTRODINAIRE - AND JEFF'S BEATCH'. In hindsight I should have
got a photo with all of the little fukers in it, but I just wanted
to escape so bad I hurried on to the next cave.
When exiting the Yangang caves though
I saw an erie sight that made me duck down behind some lotus flowers.
The little monsters were burning an ephigie of me with those little
notes pinned all over the body. Has anyone heard from Potter lately,
I a little worried.
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June 20th (Sunday) Datong 90KM
Posted: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 03:44:48
Breakfast was good and the day started
very quickly as I pulled 20KM in about an hour. Unfortunately I
wore an old pair of bike shorts and have the saddle sores to prove
it (they are now retired). The ride was pretty uneventful but the
last 15KM was the blackest, dirtiest patch of road on earth. The
scenary - a nuclear poer plant. When entering Datong it looks very
tiny as the city is hidden in a cloud of pollution. Walking around
tongiht however I realize it is very large, in fact the next to
Beijing the largest so far. There are endless food markets on one
side of town where you can order and then sit down in kind of a
beer garden. I am a little tired though so I opted for a restuarant.
Hopefully I can send pictures soon, I just need a computer with
XP or 2000.
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June 19th (Saturday) Yangyuan
120KM (I'm fukin tired!)
Posted: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 03:39:32
Well I'm glad I decided to quite
early yesterday (I was feeling like a pansy). In the back of my
mind I was considering going straight to Yanyuan from Xuahua skipping
the unkown town. I figured I was already on the outskirts and knew
where to go - who am I kidding! All I can say about the unknown
town is the 109 highway, expressway, and railway all crossed through
it. Other than that I am not sure why there is a town there. We're
talking dirt road and brick houses and garbage everywhere, no hotels
here, so like I said I got lucky.
Today I covered a hugs distance and
rode altogether 8 hours. I had a few stops and quite a few breaks
near the end. Highway 112 which is what I took to Yanyuan is in
the middle of reconstruction or maybe it's being built, couldn't
tell in some places. 26 km of the journey was dirt road (good prep
for Tibet) and on some of the climbs I was doing between 6 - 8 km/hr.
A lot of the downhill was pretty rough as well and had to crawl
down sections as I am not fully convinced the connection between
the trailer and the trailer arm is tough as nails. To cool off and
reduce sweat (I didn't know when I would see water again) I took
off my shirt and helmet which helped alot.
Before I reached the unknown town
I pulled into a gas station (the only building with people in it
along the whole 26KM). I mimicked eating and drinking and he waved
me to come inside. After I walked through the plastic drapes (they
are on every building which is probably the same throughout the
hot spots in Asia) I saw a lady and to other gentlemen having lunch
- rice wine included. I was pretty grungy so I fit right in.
I was hesitant to eat at first due
to me experience in Yanqing but this was friends and/or family inviting
me to have lunch with them (and I was freaking hungry). I honestly
couldn't help but pig out which they found very amusing - I didn't
care, I thought ya laugh, your not the first and definitely not
the last. They wanted me to try everything which I tried to oblige
and to be honest the food was really good, especially the chicken
- I'm sure of it, they even said it was chicken when I mimicked
flapping wings. I don't need a guid, I just need Potter, he speaks
the language of the people. At the end they filled one of my water
bottle with tea which I didn't end up needing. They also refused
money - ofcourse.
Okay this is a bit of a long one
After the unknown city (lets just
call it Yakima as I think there are resemblances) there was still
a lot of up and down along the road and by the time I arrived on
the outskirts of Yanyuan I was dead tired. The town had two major
streets and one came to a dead end/dirt road. There was a big commotion
everytime some people recognized that I was a foreigner. I guess
I'm lucky I got rattled in a test tube, right Russ? Anyway what
that was an old story but basically I have kind of squinty eyes
and my face is always dirty when I arrive in a town so they don't
always catch on. After 8 hours of riding it's real hard to be accomidating
to the whole town. I eventually found a hotel (first floor room)
for a 100 yuan which came with breakfast. I found this out when
they banged on my door at 7:30 - the Chinese sometimes have a funny
way of looking out for you. Overall it was a big tough ride which
I need to have, so I'm happy.Tomorrow, Datong....
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June 18th (Friday) Near Xuanhua
Posted: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 03:14:37
Well before I begin I would like
to mention a few things from yesterday that I forgot about. The
first one was the nuclear reactor I saw about 1 km form this town
I passed through. I was hesitant to take a picture because I was
paranoid. That was nothing really....
But really the bellboy who helped
me yesterday (Danielle was his name) went for beers with me after
his shift. Apparently he has never travelled and works 7 days a
week. The vacation they get is once or twice a year and it is usually
2 days. We talked about Mao and the cultural revolution and how
it hurt education but he seemed to think Mao was okay. The only
positive I can think of was expelling foreign powers and reclaiming
China - I didn't mention Tibet though (he's only 21). Overall it
was a great conversation but I really need to learn the language.
On with the story -
I woke up today a little late and pretty tired still. I went to
the supermarket where I had to buy some Lays potato chips - Colin
I want that bag of ripple Lays you promised, I am dying for some!
They were in the shape of a pringles
container and they tasted nothing like Lays - oh well they went
down pretty quick. I also bought some noodles for mornings as the
hotels always supply you with a thermos of hot water and it stay's
boiling hot for 2-3 days. Finally I bought a turtle, although I
think he was dead. I released him next to the running trashy black
running water next to the sewer and he didn't even flinch. Maybe
he died of old age, the mortality rate for turtles is pretty high
in asian countries, must be the hot weather. Anyway.....
The intended destination today merely
shows up in Chinese characters on the map - let that be an omen
to anyone who travels in China. Everyone I talked too called it
something different, and it was like say Vaaannncuver or Vancohver
or what the newfies call it, it was completely different - then
So I needed to get on the 109 highway
which was apparently by the expressway or was the expressway, people
kept pointing to it. There was no on ramp but I knew that was not
the right way. So I stayed on the road that lead me there and kept
heading west which was the correct direction. Well it was the wrong
way, which I realized when I came to a dead end at some dirty little
village. This was after 15km of climbing, although very slight incline,
it took a long time to get there. One of the village said 'your
going the wrong way dumbass' and pointed back to the expressway.
Was I a little frustrated - hahaha (that was an evil laugh).
So I started heading back which
was actually not bad as it was downhill and I was doing over 25km/hr.
However I have noticed the weather changes rapidly in China and
I heard thunder, then it poured. Then the wind picked up and was
actaully blowing me a bit which was suprising considering the weight
of the bike - I was thinking mommy help me. When I finally got back
to the expressway, oh yeah I tried what looked like a short cut
to it but it stopped in some other tiny village about half a kilometer
away, I spoke to the cops at the tollboth heading the opposite direction.
He explained to head back to Xuahua for a short bit and take a left.
From there I will find the highway that follows the expressway (this
coversation was in complete hand signals). I was still pouring when
I got to the turn off and I was pretty tired. It was 3 o'clock so
I decided instead of trying to do 40 more KM to get some rest and
try it again the next day. No elevators so we carried my gear up
to the third floor, since then I have been getting first floor rooms.
Now that I am writing this it is clear sky with some cloud. This
is the second time since being in China that I have seen blue sky.
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June 17th (Thursday) Xuanhau 61KM
Posted: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 06:43:19
Today was a great ride! I finally
rode through the countryside which was beautiful and for 50% of
the way, there was only famr vehicles and motorcycles. I was still
on the 110 highway which turns into a back road I guess as the freeway
veers north after about 26KM. I kept having the uncanny feeling
that I was heading down the wrong road but since I had th compass,
I figured if I went in the general desired direction, fuck it. I
still kept asking the locals though - haha. At one point I stopped
to ask which direction Zangjiakou was and some local boys (bizatches)
started riding along side me. I quickly veered into an alley and
pulled out the pistol i bought in Beijing. Boy where they surprised.
I guess we all lerned something that day.....
Actually I think they were trying
to help and the kid even had an english text book in his bag (the
were maybe 10 or 11). I am finding and sort of expected, everytime
I stop people start to gather around. Potter this is how it feels
to be a rock star - touchee. It's actually pretty cool but I hate
not being able to communicate. the worst part when I decide it's
time to leave (because as usual the conversation is non existant)
I get a guilty feeling that I wasted their time.
On with the story....
The kid was okay but kept yapping ans I was happy when he had to
turn around. I think he wanted to warn me about the Red Guard that
were waiting for me (just kidding ma). As I mentioned the countryside
was awesome, rolling hills, a river about 20 feet wide in some places
all walled in by muntaind around 3000 feet tall. The 110 runs parrell
with a rail line so the biking was easy for the most part (railway
= max 6% grade). About 20km away from Xuanhau there was about a
2km climb but again no big deal and the night before I was able
to adjust me gears, brakes weight displacement so that shifting
was pleasant again.
Every big city in China (all cities
so far) have a modern city center, but dirty little suburbs and
trach allover the outskirts of town. The soot from the diesel trucks
is on everything and after a day of biking my arms, legs and face
are black (no exaggeration). I still can't get USB going yet (damn
I have some good pics) but things are going well. Today I stayed
at the Xuahau hotel and a person working there named Daniel got
me a deal and elped my find an internet places. Of course he walked
By for now.. things are cool!!!
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June 16th (Wednesday) Huanlai
Posted: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 06:25:18
Felt better this morning. Checkout
was a little confusing, but I guess they wanted to see if I stole
anything fromthe room. I did (they never check in NJ). I had to
pay 40 yuan for a towel but after that things went pretty well.
When I left all of the hotel employees (exageration) were waiting
outside to send me off (to the cops - kidding). I do wish I took
more time to learn the language as there was a total umcomfortable
silence there as no one could communicate with me - it was geniune
though (very sweet).
The bike to Haunlai was basically
rolling countryside and it rained the whole way (I had to use the
Oosoyoos garbage bag trick). There was some pretty dirty gutters
out there once you leae the city limits. When I arrived in Huanlai
I was having trouble finding a hotel so I rode up to a place that
resembled one. It wasn't a hotel but some guy who walked in at the
same time as me to use the washromm told me he could show me where
a hotel was. He preceeded to lead me to the precinct (doh - this
happned in Prince George once). He brought me into his office, made
me tea and starting calling places for a hotel(sweet!). The office
actually had a bed so I think the shift work is similar to Canada.
After he found a hotel, he and another officer walked me over to
the hotel (this keeps happening, but I don't mind). He then bargained
for me (so to speak) and got me a room for 50 yuan (normally 200).
I eventually wandered around the town (pretty dirty) but stayed
at the hotel most of the time, I still had the shits.
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June 15th (Tuesday) Yangqing -
Posted: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 06:13:34
Well I laye din bed almost the whole
day! Man I fell like a Chinese sewer. I tried to get ready for the
noon checkout but better judgement prevailed. I booked another night
at the hotel (yes I'm slumming it). I took some tylenol, pepsid
ac (or whatever), and diarehea antibiotic pills (thank you travel
clinic). I was able to eat a power bar and later that night I hobbled
over to the KFC (yes I know, believe me if you felt like I did).
Anyway very bad day.
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Posted: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 06:08:44
Well it started off as a rest day,
went on the internet, biked around the city etc. Then I decided
to go to a local place off the beaten path for some food.....
Ofcourse no one spoke english
but these guys montioned me over to sit with them and share some
food. There were drinking beer which seems to be popular in China
(no idea why) so I decided what the heck. As you may know already
the Chinese pour their beer into a little four ounce glass and sip
it from there. Well when Jeff from Canada sat down it was chug glass,
no sipping. I obliged but made sure they drank the same as I figured
I could out drink them (this always happens). Anyway I finished
the meals and decide to head into town (a block away) but they wanted
to take me somewhere - I declined. The city center was quit nice
at night and a little windy, so not too hot like th rest of Beijing.
I walked around for a bit and then decided to have a couple more
beers at a place I visited the night before and then hit the hay
(I know I have some of you worried - the other half laughing). Well
I hung out for a couple of beer and had a shot of something from
the cook (mistake) and then went back to the hotel. The next day
was the shits, literaly!
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June 13th (Sunday)
Posted: Sun, 13 Jun 2004 22:07:59
I feel a hundred times better!!!
I got up at first light before sun up and started pedaling. There
were hundreds of trucks stopped along the highway, in fact almost
all of the way into Nanqing. I weaved in and out of the trucks which
was a bit of a pain as some parked to close to the bike lane and
I had to cut into the middle for a while etc. No danger as traffic
was moving, but the bike is heavy and hard to manuever quickly.
At one point I stopped for a breather and a few truckers got out
of their truck and to motrocyclist came around to check out the
bike. They were laughing at me (bastards), or maybe were laughing
at the fact that they couldn't believe the little contraption of
bike trailer I had or what I was doing. Shit, I guess they were
laughing at me (haha). After about 15km of climbing I finally crested
the last major hill and started on a downhill. The next 10 km was
mostly decending, so it was easy peasy lemon squeezy (Hedges quote).
I arrived in Yanqing around 7:30 - 8:30 and started looking for
a hotel. Although I wasn't physically tired I was very mentally
I rode around for a bit but no place
would take me, and no one spoke any English. Damn this is becoming
a typical Gillooley trip and it's only the first week!
Luckily for me I stopped by a hotel
off the main drag, I had no idea where I was going, but I wanted
to avoid expensive looking hotels. I went in and they said I couldn't
check in until 2PM, which wasn't going to work for me. At this point
the manager (her name was Sherry) happened to walk out and she spoke
English not to badly (nice grammer). She called another hotel that
could take me right away, grabbed her keys, and said 'let's go'.
I said 'um I have a bike', she said 'so do I let's go' (the keys
were for a bike lock).
I preceded to follow her to the other
hotel which was about a mile away. When we got there she totally
handled the front desk, she told them in Mandarin to rip me off
and put me in the dirtiest room (just kidding ma). Seriously though
when they wanted cash instead of visa, she walked me over to the
bank and back. I guess I probably had a desperate 'where's my mommy'
look to me as she was so helpful. I thanked her profusely and offered
to by her lunch or something but she declined.
That was probably the third or fourth
time since I have been here that someone went out of their way and
walked me to where I needed to go. Funny enough each time the person
was working, so I guess it's a little lax that way. Anyway in the
past I have helped tourist in Canada but I have never walked them
to where they needed to go. This is something that I will change.
On with the story -
I cleaned up and rested for a while, drank a tonne of tea which
is in the room already, went for a good meal and then decided to
go to Badaling for the day. I took a taxi for 20 yaun. Badaling
is probably one of the more restored sectionsof the wall and I guess
is probably the closest to Beijing as well. Previous to this trip
the Colleseum in Rome was the most impressive structure I had seen.
The Wall destroyed it. I have no words that can describe it accurately
and since it was a bit overcast, I don't think the pictures turned
out as good as possible. I guess I need to see the great pyramids
next to compare, I don't know but the height and length is massive.
I continued on a high by getting
in a arguement with the taxi driver on the way back, he agreed to
25 yuan but then tried to get 40 yuan out of me. I gave him the
Canadian, anyone who is unsure of the Canadian I can demonstrate
when I get back. Anyway I gave him 30 and got out of the cab (see
I have booked two nights at the hotel
so June 14th (today) is mostly for catch up and repacking of the
bike. I have already made some great improvements to make biking
a little easier and assessiblity to some items better. I am going
to head ot to Huanlai tomorrow and then onto Xuanhua the following
day (unless I'm feeling lucky again - haha). At this point, I will
make my first major route change as I will head west to Datong instead
of north and then south to Datong. Orginally I just wanted to bike
to different sections of the wall, but I figure I will see plenty
of it in Xian. This will actually take 5 days off the itinerary
but the rest of the planned trip from Datong forward will remain
the same. this should also allow me to get to Everset a little sooner
or compensate for extra days spent somewhere along the journey.
Finally, I can find internet places
no problem and they are cheap 1.5 yuan and hour. However they won't
let me hook up the USB to the camera, so no pictures yet. I will
spend the rest of today looking as I have some good ones of the
Bye for now
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June 12th (Saturday)
Posted: Sun, 13 Jun 2004 21:29:17
What a day! It took forever to get
packed up aand on the road. All I can say is GORON IS GOD!!!!! The
bike was a little bit of a pig (understatement) and I decided within
about 5 miles that I had to reduce the weight. Where I was originally
staying (Li Shi Hotel) the post office was less than a block away,
however it took my an hour or so to find the one closest to me location
(no fucking idea). I really brought way too many items of clothing,
for example 7 pairs of underwear. That didn't include 4 pairs of
bike shorts and long john's. So I sent back 4 pairs. I did the same
with t-shirts and turtle necks, I only needed one not 3. Anyway
I probably took off between 5 and 10 pounds. It was about 2PM and
very hot at this time.
So I continued on, the goal was to
get to Changping which is about 45 km out fro mthe center of Beijing
but I was kinda playing by ear (I would regret this later).
The highways and major routes are
awesome for biking. There is two lanes of highway in each direction,
then an area about a lane or two wide planted with trees shading
the road. After that you have a lane of traffic and then finally
a bike lane which is the equivelent of the traffic lane which is
shaded on the other side. So I would say the route was in the shade
for about 80% of the way to Changping. Since I was making pretty
good progress I decided to continue past Changping to Nanqing which
was another 35 - 40 KM. It was a few kilometers after this that
I started entering the mountain range. Oh, did I mention I was hung
over and this was one of the hotest parts of the day. Also the bike
lane became a standard meter wide for the rest of the through the
hills. The only shade was the mountain side.
After about 56 KM I was covered with
salt crystals and had nothing left in the tank. I keep thinking
just another 5km stop, then continue for another and we will be
there in 2 hours max. Well the two lowest gears wouldn't grab (I
think the panier bag was effecting it some how) and I had had enough.
I made the decision to needed to find a place kind of secluded but
not way in the bushes where the yeti were lurking either. Just before
I hit the first tunnel I saw a clearing on the side of the road
that had a fenced in elitrical transformer. It was perfect as I
could lock up the bike and only slightly noticable from the highway.
I threw down my gear, laid out my sleeping pad and crashed. I felt
like puking big time and tried to relax and wait it out. Luckily
I had a beer which I sipped on over the next half hour which cured
the stomach nasea.
Funny thing about the traffic on
high ways, the truckers are supposed to honk on croners and tunnels
as people are constantly passing in the oncoming traffic lane. There
are actuall signs posted where they are supposed to honk and of
course whenever they say my dumbass they honk ass well (usually
a few inches from my head). Anyway it was a pretty restless sleep
as about 10 to 15 trucks passed every minute, and this was all night
into the next morning (this is fact!). So I took a picture of my
dumbass to get my facial _expression. Tomorrow would be next better
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Posted: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 00:58:17
Hey Everyone, I found an internet
cafe that has USB ports!!!!! Okay I am only sending a few select
pictures as they are large, but I have some great shots, even somewhat
artistic. I am leaving Beijing tomorrow morning, June 12th, and
heading to the Wall. I will write a little more next time as I am
rushing to get a few things done.. awe shit that's a lie... I just
don't feel like it right now as I am organizing my pictures. I gotta
say it's a different world over here but in a lot of ways it is
very similar. These people work hard (well the young ones do) and
they already know they are not paid what thery are worth when compared
to North America. The more China opens up to trade etc the more
of a super power they will become, look out!!!!!!
Anyway enjoy the pics.....
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Posted: Wed, 9 Jun 2004 06:14:48
Hi Folks, Well I made it in one piece!
I had a bit of melencholy when the flight finally took off but I
am over that now. The first day I got in (it was Tuesday here) around
5PM. Beijing really is going free market, I didn't even get a ride
in a real cab! The hotel is actually nice but no one really knew
english when I tried to explain I booked over the internet (what
the hell is the internet anyway?). So far though everyone I talk
too, er actually everyone I say hi too is very friendly and helps
me find my way. However I enjoy just winging it as I end up seeing
more interesting parts of the city. If you like biking, all I canm
say is watch the locals cause no one stops for bikers or pedestrians
(even in bike lanes and crosswalks). hahaha - you thought Richmond
was bad, okay take away all the street signs and the lines on the
road and let em at it, now you have Beijing (the Italians even drive
Anyway it was too difficult to explain how the USB works to the
nice lady at the hotel, so no pictures yet. However I took about
40 or so as I visited Tianemen Square, the Forbidden city, the buddist
Stuppa and surrounding lakes. Very impressive!!! Bye for now!!!
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