11 MAY 2002 - NANJIN, CHINA
LAT: N32.08555 LON: E118.79480
[The New Century Hotel in Nanjin, China.]
GPS TRACK SINCE LAST UPDATE
[Shanghai to Nanjin via Suzhou, 205 miles.]
GLOBERIDERS TOUR DAY NO: 2
DAYS SINCE LAST UPDATE: 2
TOTAL DRIVEN MILEAGE TO DATE: 245
TOTAL NO. OF AA BATTERIES USED TO DATE: 16
TOTAL AIRLINE MILEAGE TO DATE: 7,343
As I write this, we're in Nanjin, China, capital of Jiangsu province, and the final resting place of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the founding father of the Chinese democratic republic. SUn Yat Sen successfully led a revolution which ended the reign of the Chinese emporers. It's actually 1:00AM the morning of the 12th. We have to hit the road on our way to Xuzhou this morning at 7:30AM, just a few short hours of sleep from now, but, BLOG geek that I've become, I'm prepping the files for my next update.
We left Shanghai yesterday morning. Our two Aussie friends from down under are still sans motorcycles. Their bikes are here, but they didn't clear Customs before the work week ended on FRI. They're hoping to get the bikes on TUE and catch up with us. We started out the morning in the parking lot behind the hotel, readying for our first road march. Helge gave us a briefing, then, we parked the bikes in a semi-circle for a photo shoot.
[The Globeriders motorcycles, parked for a "photo op".]
Driving in China is like playing Death Race 2000 at warp speed, and the stakes are about as high as you can get. The traffic here is not the worst I've driven in, that award goes to Manila, Philippines, where my lovely and understanding wife, Aillene and I have a vacation home. In Manila, there are no rules, but the sheer density of the traffice there results in continual gridlock, where fender benders, and not fatalities, are the norm. China may have the world's largest population, but per capita car ownership is extremely low. You'd think this would be a good thing, but, fewer cars means higher speeds, and we see three or four serious accidents a day. You must develop a completely different mindset here. One needs to be super alert, have good situational awareness, and be able to predict the actions of others around you. Everyone assumes they have right-of-way. The key is to maintain your momentumn. That truck driver isn't going to slow down for you, but knows that if you keep your speed up, he'll miss you by the requisite 12 inches - if you slow down or hestitate, you're going to center-punch him. And if you don't have a horn, you better park your vehicle.... So far, we've not had one mishap, but then again, we're only 200+ miles into a 11,000 journey.
We stopped for lunch at a silk factory, where the staff was kind enough to put on a Fashion show after another of the endless series of "round table" meals we've been enjoying- this motorcycle adventuring is hard work!
Our biggest problem to date has been the crowds we attract anywhere we stop. The people here have an insatiable curiosity. Whether it's at a gas station, a quick road-side stop to make small repairs or adjustments, or simply parking at a restaurant, people, parents with children, taxi drivers and local merchants will appear. If no one was around when we stopped, literally hundreds of people will soon be milling around smiling, asking questions we can't understand, and generally having a good time checking us out. It's hard to get used to. For instance, at one stop, I had to pull something out of one of my panniers. To get to it, I had to take out my walking shoes and put them in the seat. They were immediately snatched up by someone, and then passed around. Everyone scrutinzed them most closely, judged the fit and finish of the materials, and would them return them to me with a big grin and the universal "thumbs up" sign indicating that they had passed the scrutiny of some of the world's most savvy merchants and consumers. Anything we do is watched with microscopic intensity. People want to touch the riding suits and helmets we wear, poke at the switches on the bikes, and are endlessly fascinated with our gear - digital cameras of all makes, exotic tools and parts, the amazing GPS systems, and the bikes and riders themselves. I've never once felt threatened, or, worried that something might disappear - it's possible that we're the most interesting thing that's happened in a while at the small towns we stop in. Our guides told us that many of these people have probably never been far from the town of their birth, have seen few is any foreigners, and most certainly have never seem bikes likes ours. I now know that "BMW" in Chinese is sounded out something along the lines of "Bao Mah"!
[A small group of "quality inspectors" at a gas stop.]
[I'm not making this up. When we stopped by the road, there was no one here. After 15 minutes, there were easliy over 200 people, and the crowd had spilled over into the street blocking traffic trying to get through. This scene is repeated everywhere we go.]
We made it to Nanjin, frazzled by traffic and crowds, but unscathed. Some night shots of another beautiful city in China:
[I won't eat there, but even the Golden Arches have a special glow in Nanjin at night.]
And, a great and wondefully appropriate closing shot for today's log. Rick Wetzel hails from Oregon, and rides a BMW "air-head" motorcycle. He obviously has a whimsical streak - check out this fine "hood ornament" carefully velcro'd to his front fender. Globerider indeed!
"The calendar is magnificent!"
"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"
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