Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 1+2

So I'm now at the end of my third day. Sorry I didn't give any emotional parting words before I left. I had too much to think and worry about. Much of that now seems insignificant and silly now; Will I have trouble finding hotels?, Did I bring enough?, Will I lose the ability to speak coherently from lack of human interaction for weeks at a time?. So far I've learned: I have too much, Hotels are easy to find, and everywhere I stop, except huge cities, a crow gathers and interested people ask me a standard battery of questions. 

The first day called for rain all along my days route. It was 10am when I had everything packed and ready to go and the rain was supposed to begin before 11. It was 35 degrees and muggy but figuring that the rain would cool me off soon, I had on all my rain gear. This turned out to be a mistake. I drove for three hours in this heat before deciding to start taking off my rain jacket. Turning north into the mountains near Yiwu, it started to cool off but it stayed in the 30s all day. The rain eventually did come at 5:00 in the afternoon and lasted about 10 minutes jus enough to make the black tarmac steam for a while. At 6 I started looking for a camp site but couldn't find anything good, I still need to work on my rough camping skills, so stopped in a hotel about 150km short of my intended goal. 

The second day again called for rain all day but I had learned my lesson and packed my rain gear within reach. I started the day winding through mountains at 70kmh on a small road that ran along a small river. It was cooler and the roads were empty. Perfect. But soon I took a wrong turn and ended up on a 150km detour. I begin thinking that if this continued I'd have to add a month to my trip. At this point I had to start considering how i would cross the great Yangtze River. There were three bridges on my map. One lay directly on my path to Wuhan, the other was a little north and the other option was far south around the edge of a huge lake. The first two crossings were expressway bridges, motorcycles are forbidden to use expressways, and the large southern detour was a normal motorcycle friendly highway. So I headed south but along the way I ran across an entrance to the expressway that lead towards the first most direct route to Wuhan and decided to just try to sneak past. They caught me and made me stop but one of the women working the toll booth spoke English. This was my chance. So I went into my stubborn yet nice foreigner routine and soon convinced them to let me take the expressway. They gave me an orange police vest and I set off. So far Id been crawling along at about 50-70kmh but now, along the straight expressway I was averaging 100 to 110kmh which is around 65 to 70 mph. I was making up all the lost time of the past two days in hours.

Then along a long flat section I saw the sky darken ahead of me and lightning flashed in the distance. The cars around me began slowing. I wasn't ready for this. My rain jacket was packed behind me and my pants were rolled up exposing the tops of my waterproof boots. I couldn't stop here so all i could do was take off my sun glasses and lower my visor. As the thunder became audible, the wind picked up and sent me drifting about the lane. All I could do was slow to about 100kmh and lean forward on my tank bag to provide the wind with a smaller target. Then the rain came. It was a down poor and almost immediately I was soaked. I could hardly see in front of me so I pulled up within sight of a truck and followed him through the storm. This went on for about 30 minutes and then slowly faded away. After pulling over at a rest stop to empty my boots, I found myself at the great Yangtze bridge! 

The Motorcycle Club's Hangout
Within a few minutes of pulling into the city of Juijiang just before dusk, a representative of the local sports bike club found me and invited me to eat dinner with them. We had tofu, fried pork fat, chicken intestines (which were amazing) and some mysterious vegetables and then went for a ride. We drove like mad men through the darkened city weaving through the cars and mopeds traffic horns blaring all the way to the club's hangout spot on a long colorfully lit bridge. More joined us there and a wheelie lesson or demonstration took place. It was quite the scene. Ducatis, BMWs engines from 250cc to 1000cc. When it was time to go, we were the last to leave. I followed my host out and we were joined by a guy on a dirt bike at the tail of the pack. We didn't make it more than 500m from the bridge before the dirt bike ran out of fuel. Luckily I was abbot to save the day by giving him my camp stove gas, which is actually motorcycle gas. This bought me a second dinner of sea food: crayfish, snails fish soup and also a place to stay the night. The guy on the dirt bike called his mum and that night I stayed in their guest room. 

Preparing to leave Juijiang
Breakfast with my host Yoken

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