Only From Failure Can Success Be Achieved!
09 MAY 2002 - SHANGHAI, CHINA
LAT: N31.19031 LON: E121.35405
[Hotel Yihe Longbai in Shanghai, China]
GPS TRACK SINCE LAST UPDATE
[7,343 air miles so far on Northwest, Japan, and China Eastern airlines, and not a single road mile driven yet.]
GLOBERIDERS TOUR DAY NO: 1
DAYS SINCE LAST UPDATE:
TOTAL DRIVEN MILEAGE TO DATE: 0
CURRENT ODOMETER READING:
TOTAL GASOLINE USED TO DATE: 0
TOTAL NO. OF AA BATTERIES USED TO DATE: 12
TOTAL AIRLINE MILEAGE TO DATE: 7,343
BIG MACS CONSUMED TO DATE: NONE
Today, the Globeriders are together for the first time, thus, I consider the tour officially started, and I'm going to change the format a bit. You'll note I'm starting off with the LAT//LON (Latitude/Longitude) of our current location or "waypoint", followed by a map showing that location. Next, is a second map showing the actual path or "track" that we've driven since the last update. The track is automatically generated by my Garmin MAP 176 handle-bar mounted portable GPS (Global Positioning System), and uploaded to my PC at the end of the day. This is followed by a few "stats" on the trip.
So why a statistic on AA batteries? So glad you asked, as that brings us to Today's Travel Tip! When selecting my battery operated widgets for the tour, I tried to take only those that used the commonly available AA-size disposable battery. That way, I only had to carry one size of spares, and if one widget goes dead (like the Nikon 990 digital camera, which seems to consume batteries at a prodigious rate), I can always swap batteries out of something else as a last resort. I know its not "green". I did investigate rechargable cells, but couldn't find a universal 110v-240V charger that didn't require a bunch of different wall transformers and/or adapters. Plus, the recharge times are too long. I did pretty well - my alarm clock, two flashlights, digital camera and GPS all use AA's.
Two goals were paramount on today's itinerary: (a). getting our Chinese driver's licenses, and (b). finding out the status of our motorcycles, which were last seen sealed into 40 foot China Shipping container in Tukwila, Washington, USA.
It was with great alarm that we learned prior to leaving Seattle we would be required to take an examination for our Chinese driver's licenses. No study manual in English was available, although we were assured the test itself would be in English. We hustled onto our tour bus and went to the testing place:
[Our first brush with Chinese officialdom. The testing bureau in Shanghai.]
[Helge pretending like he actually knows what he is doing. We were told the test would take about an hour - I don't think anyone spent more than 8 minutes.]
What a fine group of driving students were were. Every single one of us failed the test! Before you start with the disparaging comments, here's my best recollection of one of my questions:
You are involved in an accident involving injury to some persons or damages to property or business establishment. Although this matter has been presented to the People's Proceuratary Court for relevent consideration, an ending judgement is not to be obtained in the amount of judgement time stipulated by the govering regulation. It is likely that you would have not been at fault for the accident, but in such a situation, and in consideration of your obligations, you should:
(a). Pay 10% of the potential amount of damages resulting from such accident.
(b). Pay 30% of the potential amount of damages resulting from such accident.
(c). Pay 50% of the potential amount of damages resulting from such accident.
Bear in mind we had no study materials available. Having failed the test, we were nonetheless issued driver's licenses. We all suspect that this was simply a clever ploy to gain some hard currency, as examination fees were invovled, and to also insure that we were properly humbled before being allowed to run amok in the Middle Kingdom. First hurdle passed, on to find the bikes.
To make a long story short, we had apparently not been humiliated enough by having failed our driver's exam. The next 8 hours were spent riding in the bus from freight office, to custom's office, back to the freight office, over to the forwarding office, and round and round again. Yes, the container had arrived on 05 MAY, right on schedule. But, so sorry, one of your documents is missing. We also found out that the two bikes shipped from Australia over a month earlier had failed to arrive, the freighter they were on having been delayed a week in Singapore. It was a subdued group that returned to the hotel that evening.
10 MAY 2002 - SHANGHAI CHINA
Once again, we boarded our bus, and spent the better part of the morning and early afternoon running around tracking down documents and forms. To cut to the chase, the Globeriders (well, 10 of us anyway, the Australian bikes are still clearing customs) are MOTORIZED:
[I can't imagine how any more people could have been involved in opening a simple container. Uniformed officials kept appearing, a ominous mini-bus with police markings arrived and disgorged more uniforms. I'll bet former President Bush didn't have this much brass surrounding his visit here this week.]
[With all the officialdom, we expected the worst, and had no idea what was coming next. SUddenly, a cheerful yard worker appeared with the bolt cutters as long as he was tall, and the super-high-tech security seal applied by the US Custom's people in Seattle was unceremoniouslysheared off.]
[As the doors swung open, our guide, Mr. Wu, suddenly ran in front and raised his arm. I thought that some sort of blessing ceremony was about to take place. In fact, he was waving us back from the blast of gas fumes than eminated from the container.]
[The Globerider fleet, minus 2.]
[Helge, Sterling and I had spent the better part of the day on 16 APR loading the bikes and securing them for shipment. The conatiner was unloaded in about 10 minutes once we got the first bike out. This is all it took, some 2x4's, nails, and four straps per bike.]
[Mission accomplished - a German-made motorcyle, shipped from America, weighing-in at almost 900cc's OVER the legal displacement allowed, properly licensed for operation in the People's Republic of China! ]
[A very smug (and relieved!) Yours Truly, at the Shanghai container yard.]
Our first stop was at a gas station. We were supposed to ship the bikes with less than a gallon of fuel in the tank. This poor pump attendant couldn't beleive how much gas was going into my tank. It holds a little over 10 gallons/41 liters, probably more than many cars in China. She kept shutting off the pump. I kept urging her to keep filling:
Our ride back to the hotel was unbelievable. TO say that we attracted attention was a massive understatement. In front, we had our "guide" car, the tour mini-bus, running with all flashers on. We drove in staggered formation behind. Our chase car, also with flashing lights, brought up the rear. This is the ONLY way we are allowed to drive our bikes. No one is allowed to ride alone, or without the two vehicles present. All 22 days in China will be driven like this, and the maximum speed limit for us will be around 45 MPH. Everyone was staring at us. Cars honked, would pull up to look at one bike, accelerate to the next, slow down to check it out, and so on, right down the line.
Traffic police were at most of the major intersections. We were waived through every red light. As we approached one intersection, a turn lane materialzed to our left. Three vehicles were waiting for the light to turn green. Coming up behind was a mini-van, paying more attention to us than to what was ahead. He paid dearly. Like a scene from "Speed II", we heard the screech of rubber on pavement, the unmistakable crunch of steel smashing into concrete, and the mini-van hit the divider, shot vertically, rotated over the car in front, miraculously missing the other two, and landed on its roof. We were waived on though.
Less than 15 minutes later, all properly formed up on the expressway, the whole caravan was pulled over by a police car, lights flashing, loudspeaker blaring in rapid Shanghainese. Motorcycles are apparently not allowed on any expressway in China, unless it is the only way across a river. Then, they may use the far right lane, but must take the first exit after crossing. I guess our mini-bus driver and caravan leader decided to push his luck, with the result of one bus, 10 bikes, and a chase car pulled over in rush-hour traffic. I can just hear the conversation that ensued - "I don't have any idea officer. Of course, we did nothing wrong as a bus in allowed on the expressway. These nefarious foreign devils have been following us all day. I hope that you can go back there and convince them to return to wherever they came from."
I guess the patrolman didn't feel up to the task. With a lot of shouting and hand-waving, he made it clear we were to get off the expressway immediately, but let us resume. We made it back to the hotel without further mishap. 39 liters of gas, one accident, and a police incident on our first day. This tour has just become an adventure!
Posted by Mike Paull at May 11, 2002 12:08 AM GMT