Walked around this super small town. Realized there is not a single bike shop. Fuck. This might be harder than I thought. I went to some motorcycle shops, nobody had the part I needed... Then I tried my luck at a cart and wagon repair shop (not a lot of these left in the US...). Sure enough, they had it! The hotel didn't really have a lot of space, so I fixed up my bike on the sidewalk, which brought a lot of attention. Even a passing funeral procession didn't take away the interest in me. Anyway, bikes fixed up, good to go, but I never did figure out exactly why this happened. It was a brand new freewheel, which definitely should not have broken. Hope whatever caused the problem isn't still lurking around, I don't want to get stranded out on the road again like I did yesterday...
Biking down the road, minding my own business. I take a water break when another long distance biker comes up behind me. Its funny, I've been out here 8 months and I've seen a lot of bikers going the other way; this is the first time I've ever met one going the same way I'm going. This presented some social awkwardness. After we talked for bit, I started taking off down the road, as did he. Then I stopped a while later to get some more water, he stopped too. Then I stopped to get lunch, he did too. All of the sudden I was no longer biking solo. Now, I don't want to paint the wrong picture here, I was happy to have him along. He was a cool guy, but it was a bit weird because he spoke no English, and I speak no Chinese... But ya, he certainly made it easier to get a hotel room and find some good food. He was heading back up towards Beijing to his hometown, so we weren't planning on riding on the same route for more than a couple of days. So looks like I have a riding partner for two days.
Another nice day out on the old G310. Not too much to report, which can be a really great thing. Rode all day with my new friend, then we split ways at a junction. Great guy, but never did quite figure out his name... Back to being solo.
Everyone always talks about how bad the pollution is in China. What can I say, other than ya, its true. Its starting to get really bad around here. There's also a lot of material in the air, especially on the road where the trucks drop dirt and sand as they pass through. Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between what is bad pollution and what is just crap getting dumped and kicked up by trucks. Either way, its getting hard out here for the measly biker. Recently, I've been ending most days looking like I just slid down a chimney, black dirt all over my skin and clothes. I have to wash everything all the time...
Today I entered Luoyang, a pretty big place. I biked into downtown to meet up with a couchsurfer, who told me it was pretty far to their place and I should get in their car. Of course, this is against the rules, so I elected to bike behind them. She was in a hurry, it was starting to rain pretty hard, and she told me it was pretty far away, but rules are rules. So she started driving, I followed behind her on my bike. I was sprinting as fast as I could go because I didn't want to slow her down from getting back to work. I hate riding behind cars - you need to bike really fast to follow where the car is going which often leads to dangerous biking. I always seem to hit more potholes and almost get hit trying to swerve around traffic.Anyway, it was a looong trip, as we went all the way out into the suburbs. Must have been approaching an hour. I was exhausted, but couldn't stop to drink some water until we reached our destination. My stupid rules...
Instead of taking me to her house, as every other couchsurfer has ever done, we checked me into a hotel room. What!? Haha I was so confused. Anyway, she was really nice, and we went out to get dinner and see a bit of town.
Day off today here in Luoyang. Just one day off. I met up with my couchsurfer and her friend and we got some great breakfast. Then I went with one of them to see the sites. We went over to the Longmen Grottoes, which unknown to me was a hugely important archaeological site. Foreign heads of states had visited several times, and I realized that this is where all those shots for Chinese tourism commercials on CCTV were coming from. Sweet. Also the couchsurfer's friend was really knowledgeable about all of the things to see, it was like having a personal guide. Nice day.
On the road to Zhengzhou. Long day today, especially since I took a wrong turn which led me up a big mountain on a crappy road, and added about 30 km to today's ride. I found myself needing to pick up the pace to try to get to town before dark fell. Well, actually didn't really need to get to town before dark, just needed to get close enough that the highway was covered with street lights. Just made it. Actually turned out perfectly, as entering the city of Zhengzhou at night was a really fantastic experience. Neon lights everywhere, people out and about after their work day, playing traditional instruments in the parks and dancing to Chinese disco in the squares. All of the overpasses were also super futuristic looking as they were framed by colorful, changing, flashing fluorescent lights. Felt like I was at Disneyland's tomorrowland or something. Took forever to find the one hostel in town, was about 5 miles from where it was put on the map and buried on a random floor of a residential skyscraper with no signs and no room numbers. Literally took me about 4 hours to get here, super proud of myself for finding it haha.
So here we are, Zhengzhou. I'm going to be here for a loooong time. Well, at least my bike will be. As mentioned before, I have a lot of time to kill before I meet up with my friend in Shanghai. So I've decided to go on a spur trip up to Beijing for a week. Leaving the bike here, hope to find a train or bus up to the north capital, and then return in about a week to continue down the path towards Shanghai, finally finishing off the bicycle trip across Eurasia. Knock on wood...
Today's mission: find a way to get to Beijing. It felt so weird buying a ticket. Even though I'm just doing a spur trip and returning to Zhengzhou before biking on, I still felt like I was being lazy or something. But down to the station I went, long distance buses and trains of all speeds and comfort levels, it was actually incredibly confusing trying to figure out how to get what I wanted. Super crowded as well. Packed ticket offices with huge lines. I immediately started the miss the ease and simplicity of traveling by bike haha. Anyway, got a ticket, heading out tomorrow. The hostel graciously is allowing me to keep my bike and gear here free of charge. Sweet, that's nice of them. Just hope everything is still here when I get back.
|The train schedules|
|Definitely not KFC|
|Another guy doing a bike tour through China that I met in the hostel|