May 11, 2008
WOW - that's all I can say... WOW!
What a place this is - I love CHINA!!!! OK, so language is hard, and
dinner last night was so hot (spicy) that I couldn't eat - just burned
my lips off! But what a place. All the pictures you have seen on TV -
like the tanks parading in front of Mao's picture...Well, no tanks but
I rode my bike down that same street! We have been peddling with the
crowds. Sometimes it's easy, other times you have to fight. And I
think they laugh at us with helmets on our heads and lights on our
And so much to see - buildings going back centuries. And the city is
doing everything to look "pretty" for the Olympics. Lots of
construction still going on. Building are being cleaned and painted,
trees are being planted. There is just such an energy level here.
Wonderful, wonderful wonderful!!!!!!
May 15, 2008
We felt the earthquake ( I think). We were in the Forbidden City,
walking on 1000 year old pavement, when
I lost balance a bit and kind of staggered as if drinking. We saw on
the news that office workers were evacuating buildings here in
Beijing, but for us it was a non event.
We are however, enjoying the very popular game of Cycle Dodge as we
peddle these streets. It is great fun.
Cycling in China
We've been in Beijing for 2 weeks now, riding our bikes every day to
get around, with what seems like millions of other cyclists, tho their
bikes look a little more low tech.
I think I can now state the rules. There are few.
The ONLY space that anyone has even limited rights to is the space
that you currently occupy. One foot or even one inch in front of you,
regardless of speed is up for grabs. And, cars, trucks, buses and
taxis have supreme rights. The rule 'right turn on red after stop' is
followed here, except for the 'stop' part. Etiquette does not require
even a glance toward oncoming traffic for the right turn candidate.
Just go, and others will just have to stop. Also, if stuck in
traffic, your bike may get a friendly push to help clear those who are
An auto horn here is used 10% as a warning 90% as a complaint, and
there is much complaining here.
The concept of personal space is quite different here. After a day or
so we realized that the hair raising 'close calls' we were
experiencing were not at all. These folks are used to making that last
millisecond 3 millimeter move to avoid catastrophes, and we all go
about our merry way. And EVERYONE seems to be half riding, and
sending text messages.
Janice and Doug.
May 27, 2008
Illin' in China
Doug is still at the hotel, we've both been pretty sick a terrible sinus/throat/wierd food illness for the last few days.
I'm doing better now so I expect Doug to be OK by tomorrow.
July 3, 2008
Curse or Blessing
Prices for cold drinks and a table in the shade in the middle of
nowhere in the *$$ Gobi desert
Iced Tea .35
Bottled water .28
refreshing icy cold bottle of beer .17 cents.
How am I supposed to be able to ride a bicycle with that kind of temptation!
We are now back in 'China' (Zhangye) after weeks in the Muslim world
of Western China, we passed the west end of the Great Wall and entered
traditional China. No more mutton and noodles. The food has improved
We came across a French group of 100 cyclists riding from Paris to
Beijing, with 7 support cars, 5 trucks, a chef, a refrigerated beer truck,
and portable hot showers. We saw a German guy who is walking from
Beijing to Germany with all of his gear on a small cart.
Our group has just one van as support, we also have in this group of 15
folks 3 that have already ridden bicycles around the world. These are
world class long distance cyclists. Two have sponsors paying for
everything, including free bikes, some others have partial
sponsorships. Half the group is Polish. The conversations around the
campfires are also in Greek, Dutch, as well as English. We are
about the weakest in this group, but getting better. This is a very
interesting way to travel.
We've cycled 1500 miles in the wasteland desert of west China,
following the ancient Silk road. It's hot, dry, lifeless and WINDY.
We've been caught in two sandstorms. The first was the worst. We
stopped to take photos of the dark clouds on the horizon, and in
minutes, we were engulfed. Stinging sand at incredible wind speed. We
hid in a ditch for a few minutes, and it just got worse. We got on our
bikes to head back the short ride to the last town that we had been in.
Doug hopped on his bike and just flew with the wind...me,
well I'm not quite the expert biker...Doug made it to the town and the
police took him in the building and wouldn't let him leave. By
now, I'm trying to crawl under a rock to stay safe. The police are
asking Doug who else is out there and he's trying to explain I'm out
there and a little past us are 2 other bikers. Well after much soul
searching I was finally able to get out of the hole I was in and also
back to the police station. So the 4 of us sat there for a few hours
while the police feed us fresh melons, cold water and the wind howled.
About 10 other members of the bike group were also picked up when the
storm hit. What an afternoon!
We have been riding almost every day, generally we get a "rest day"
every 6-7 days and have been averaging around 100km (60 miles) per
day. A few days have been pretty ugly - over 140km and a wind blowing
in your face! The best part is when we get to an oasis town, they are
beautiful. Picture hours baking in the sun while riding your bike on a
flat, hot, tar road...you come down a slight hill and off in the
distance...is that trees??? Yes! trees, grass, sometimes even flowers!
It's amazing how a little shade and water can change your mood.
We expect the landscape to change greatly in the next week, we have
just started into an area that has extensive irrigation and a lot of
farming. Not the big commercial farms that you may see at home, these
small farms that are all worked by hand. We have not seen any big farm
equipment except on trucks! It's amazing to think that they feed a
population this large with these small farms.
We have just passed our 6 month point and have biked more than 4200
miles since we left home. Our longest day was 125 miles, with a 3000
foot climb at the finish. We have been wet, cold, tired, achy and
loving every minute of it! Our only problem is figuring out where to
We are healthy and happy and hope you are also.
July 7, 2008
We're having more fun than any two people ever deserved.
The best thing?
I've lost any concept of the word 'exotic'...
this is normal now, after nearly 3 months, I'll never be the same.
Final thought: This country needs plumbers.
July 10, 2008
Even with the problems here this place is a fantastic experience.
We have peddled these two bikes over 5000 miles now. It's the best
thing we ever did. The people here treat us like stars, food is great
(now that we've left the Ulghar (Muslim) area of the central China
desert). We complain about the food out there, and there is only one
choice, but two can have noodles, veggies and slim meat serving for
less than one dollar.
We have less than 3 weeks now on the bike trip to Beijing. We have
decided to head down to the city of Haiku, on an island described as
the Hawaii of China. We may be there for a while. We will first take a
shot at going to Tibet, but while the area is open again after months
of being sealed off, it seems that if you go, they've restricted
access to any sights so much that you can only look at the train
So, it's off to the beach, then Viet Nam and the rest of South East
Asia. We've perfected the squat crap, so we're fine here. ( Janice
does still hit the heels of her shoes occasionally, but they seem to
July 18, 2008
Pollution...this country must have invented the word. After you run
out of a hole in the floor that serves as a toilet for these folks
that hasn't seen a mop since the Ming dynasty, the choking fumes of
diesel and some solvent that they use for everything except ( I hope )
cooking seems refreshing.
July 18, 2008
Well, let me tell you about pollution...
I knew it was bad but didn't realize how bad it was until yesterday.
Yes, after biking all day, we arrived at our hotel in Xi'an. It's
always a treat when we stay at a hotel - little things like a shower
and maybe even hot water! So here we are, in a great city, it's about
9pm so we decide to get a couple of beers first then take the long
awaited showers. I walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror and
..what??? My eyebrows are black!!! What has happened???
Well, the past few days we have been riding in the rain through "coal
country". So imagine a person a bit damp from rain and maybe a little
sweat biking through a cloud of coal dust. Even after you wash your
face the eyebrows are still black! The good news is that after some
scrubbing, a beer and more scrubbing I now have blonde eyebrows (maybe
a bit tender due to the scrubbing!). I don't want to think about what
I have been breathing - guess it's really a good thing we've stopped
July 31, 2008
I have recently made a discovery about Chinese drivers or to put it
correctly, "Chinese people in motion".
Imagine yourself at the mall the Saturday prior to Christmas. Your task
is to get from one end of the mall to the other in as little time as
possible and without stopping. That's correct - Don't use the brakes.
Here are the general rules:
- Bigger is better. If 2 people are approaching each other, the
- Never look behind you. If it isn't part of your current space than
it isn't important.
- Right turns do NOT require a glance to the left. This relates to #2
above, once you make the right turn anything that was to your left is
now behind you.
- Faster is better. Need not say more.
- Pass anything and everything. It doesn't matter where you are going,
just pass that guy. This is especially important in tunnels and
construction sites - who wants to look at someone's back?
- If you see an opening in front, take it. This is very important in
intersections. Again, since this is so important I will repeat, take
ANY opening. Example, you want to make a left and the "mall" is packed,
just cross traffic and cut to the left around the coffee kiosk, then
quickly move back to the right side. Remember - don't look anywhere
except in front of you!
- Left and right sides of road are open to all, any direction.
And, we have never seen someone waiting to make a left turn. Amazing,
but they just go, and on-coming traffic stops.
Now - do all this with a combination of cars, scooters, motorcycles,
bicycles, trucks and maybe a stray goat for the heck of it.
August 9, 2008
We made it!
We crossed China by bicycle!
We biked 3,200 miles across desert, mountains, rain,
wind, heat, sandstorms and some of the world's worst food and
plumbing. We were so close to camels we could smell them and rode
our bikes up to 1000 year old temples. We climbed a sacred mountain
so steep that we held on to chains bolted to a rock face for the
entire day. We ate food we don't want to think about and drank
more water than we thought was possible. We learned to use
eastern toilets (sort of) and were grateful whenever we could
get a hot shower. We rode with bikers from Poland, Greece, Italy,
Holland, Lithuania, and Scotland. We met bikers from China and
could not understand anything they were saying. We taught Chinese
cabbies language that might make a New York rap singer blush.
We have had the adventure of a lifetime - one that we never thought was
possible. This has been the hardest 75 days of my life and also the
The Chinese people have been wonderful, and difficult to
understand, in more ways than one. We hope we have left them with a
Next: Olympics then to the south China beach resorts for sun and sand.
Happy as ever, Janice