Days 211 Through 220

Day 211

Its funny how sometimes the days you have been dreading for weeks turn out to not be so bad, and a random day you didn't think twice about can be terribly exhausting. Today was the latter of those two. Today seemed innocent enough, destined to become another small paragraph entry on this blog, but that just didn't happen. I knew I was going through hills today, but the map kind of led me to believe I going to be following a river down though a valley. That ended up not being entirely true. I did go down hill by about 500 meters through the course of the day. But for every 100 meters down, there was seemingly 99 meters of up. Up and down, up and down, all fucking day. Still, whatever, I did this all the time along the coast in Turkey.

What really made this day hard, was that it inadvertently ended up becoming a double day. I got to my location for the night, was not impressed by the town, and decided to keep going just a little bit more in search of greener pastures. Plus I had finally reached back up with the freeway, and figured the ups and downs of the small roads wouldn't be allowed on the interstate. Well, I was right about that, but a nice flat road came at the expense of a huge sloth of dangerous tunnels and bridges. In fact, there was barley an inch of this road that wasn't either a tunnel or an aerial structure. I was exhausted already, and being on this main interstate connecting Lanzhou to Xian now required me to basically sprint the entire time for fear of my life. I was incredibly uneasy the entire way, but, I was making really great time. It didn't take long for a cop to pull me over, and insist I use the frontage road (which was much calmer but also much longer and full of steep grades).

So back to the slow road I went, and I soon realized, there wasn't really going to be any good place to stop until I got all the way until my planned stop for tomorrow, which was still several hours away. By this point I was exhausted to the point where it was starting to get hard to put thoughts together in my head, and I was pretty dizzy. So I stopped to eat a bit, but my food supplies where running low as was my water. Ok, lets go. The frontage road went off on a tangent, as I spent hours climbing a mountain that the expressway bypassed with a big ass tunnel. When I finally go to the top of this mountain, I felt like shit. I could barely stand, had to take a break. I rested my head on the handle bars, closed my eyes, gripped the bike. Every time a car came past I almost fell down because I was so tired and off balanced. I was exhausted to the point that I was starting to get scared. Only one thing to do though. Keep going. Get into town. Down the hill, the city came into view, and I started to feel a small bit better. Then I started to get chills. Come on, get to town....

I finally entered development, but as with many other cities, it was all either vacant buildings or industrial stuff. Still things were starting to shape up. Then, I let my ego get in the way, some kid wanted to race me, and well, no kid can be allowed to beat the guy whose been riding across Eurasia for 211 days! This happens all the time, and I haven't lost a race yet. But, today my impeccable racing record was tarnished with my first loss. That's when I knew I was really spent. I finally found some hotels, but I was really worried about checking in, I felt like I was about to throw up, pass out, or maybe both - it was hard to just walk into the hotel. And of course this had to be the night when the clerk found it necessary to spend 20 minutes explaining all of the hotel policies and amenities to me... Finally got into the room, thank god. That bed looked so tempting, but I knew if I decided to lie down, I wouldn't be able to get back up, and I desperately needed to eat before I fell asleep. I was incredibly nauseous, and the last think I wanted to do was go back into public to buy food. I soon found myself squatting over the toilet, throwing up. Then I took a shower and headed out, getting the tamest thing I could find on the menu of a local restaurant, and passing out.

I have felt similar to this after some other long rides, especially that one time my friend Blake insisted that we ride 300 km in one day back home, but I have never in my life felt quite this drained after a day on a bike, or doing anything else for that matter. Today was, by far, the hardest day of biking in my life. Ever.

Day 212

There have been a handful of days in my life where I was ridiculously dead after a bike ride. One thing those days all share in common is that I didn't touch my bike the next day. I fell asleep last night thinking there was little chance I was going to want to ride today, but I'm going for it. Granted, a nice easy 60 km day, progress towards Shanghai nonetheless. Got into town early, still kind of phased from yesterday. Spent most of the afternoon finishing the TV show Dexter on the computer in the hotel room.

Another Biker Out on the Road

Day 213

Today to Xian. Semi-tough day out on the road, lots of people, lots of traffic, especially farming stuff. Still, entered the walls of Xian feeling great. Nice hostel, nice people, and a great employee, named Miracle, who in a strong Chinese accent very enthusiastically used the phrase, That's so fantastic! waaay more than anyone ever should in casual conversation. I give it to here though, she never made a single grammatical mistake when speaking English... Anyway, really nice to be here.

Day 214

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again, I am in no hurry, and it feels so good. I'll be in Xian for a while here. Some things I want to see, also the opportunity to take a couple of days off to just do absolutely nothing.

Day 215

Xian is famous for its Muslim quarter, which basically feels like a mini Xingjang province all over again. Cool place, great food, nice atmosphere. This entire city is pretty cool, big place, but its core is still completely surrounded by its old fortress wall. Also finally got to city that has a subway system! Haven't seen that since Almaty, Kazakhstan.

For the first time on the trip, I'm starting to think seriously about logistics for when I get to Shanghai. I am excited about that. I had a couple of friends express interest in riding with me on the last day into the Pacific Ocean, but everything seemed to be falling through. Then my friend Charley contacted me a couple of days ago. He's now officially in. Only catch is that he can't make it to China until almost two weeks after I was thinking of finishing up. So that means I have two weeks to kill between here in Shanghai, hmmmm so many possibilities. Now more than ever, I am in absolutely no hurry! Anyway, things are shaping up, today I finally booked a flight home out of Shanghai.

Day 216

Went with my friend as he looked for some Muslim prayer beads in town. Turned into a multi-hour search. Good way to inadvertently see the city.

Day 217

K, time for the mandatory trip over to one of the biggest tourist traps in China, the Tomb of the Terracotta Warriors. Interesting place, as long as you can get over all the touts and overpriced food. Lots of warriors, pretty cool...

Day 218

Walked around with a friend from the hostel and one of the employees around the city. Over to some interesting buildings, including Xian's famous bell tower. Ate some more food in the Muslim quarter.  Think I'm ready to head out tomorrow.

Day 219

On the road again, got a late start. Got a bit lost out of town which resulted in unnecessarily climbing a huge hill. That took up a lot of time. Then I got a flat tire, that took up more time. Then it started to get dark while I headed down the road. Not to worry though, there was nice cheap hostel just down the road, right at the base of the famous Hua Mountain. Or so I thought... Turns out there's a huge difference between Huaxian and Huashan. Now, before you start thinking, ya of course those are different, no shit. They are pronounced almost exactly the same, and transliterations oftentimes vary quite a bit from map to map. Tonight was not one of those times though... So I climbed up this big hill where I though the Hostel would be, only to find miles of untouched forest... I  ended up biking in the dark, without any real working lights for several hours trying to find this hostel, until I finally realized my mistake. Felt pretty dumb about that one. Spent the night at rest stop hotel, not the cool hostel at the foothills of the mountain I was searching for. At least my hours of searching did result in pretty good distance covered today.

Day 220

Rainy day. Got pretty wet. Then something shitty happened.

I was biking up a hill when I suddenly heard something weird coming from the back of the bike. Then my pedaling started to get really easy, and I realized I wasn't moving. Turns out my freewheel snapped apart, and was no longer connected to the wheel. I suppose you could say it was free of the wheel... Basically this meant I couldn't pedal until I replaced the freewheel. Freewheels are heavy and are not supposed to break, two excellent reasons for me not to be carrying a spare one. No replacement meant no biking, which was a bit of a problem because I was out in the middle of nowhere. This was the worst case scenario. So I did the only thing I could do, I walked. Walked for hours. Finally got back to the last town I had passed. emergency stop here until I can fix this freewheel, see the extent of the damage, and figure out why it broke.