Days 241 Through 250

Day 241

I'm close. I'm really close. That thought keeps going through my head, sometimes obstructing my ability to think of anything else. Torturing me. The past several days have passed slowly, the riding has been really sluggish. Its not windy, its not too hot or too cold, and I'm not going through steep mountains or barren stretches of desert. No. Whats slowing me down right now is mostly mental. Well, that and maybe the bike, which is less than idea shape after 10,000 plus miles of riding.

Day 242

Another long, sluggish day. Grey skies, pollution, and dust. What else is new. Rural, but decently busy roads. Lots of honking, coming out of the air horns on the buses and trucks. It's so loud that sometimes it makes me jump and momentarily loose control of the bike. I've mentioned this before. Don't care, I'll mention it again. The honking is killing me. Every single vehicle seems to be laying it on when they pass me. Have to keep the bike together. Have to keep my mind together.

Day 243

One thing that's really nice about this bike trip, is that I get to be my own boss. That said, I'm taking today off. I'm tired. I've been biking for a long time. Things are going slowly, quite possibly because of my mentality; I'm constantly thinking of getting to the end, touching the water in Shanghai. So when I woke up to rain today, I decided to take it easy.

I'm in a small town out here. Smallest place I've taken a rest stop in who knows how long. I like it here. In two days I'll be in the huge megalopolis of Nanjing, and from there until the end, I except to be biking through city after city. This may very well be my last time I get to experience small town China. So why not chill for the day.

Day 244

On the bike again, 100 km ride into Chuzhou today. It feels like the rides are going in slow motion. But whatever, set myself up well for an easy ride into Nanjing tomorrow.

Day 245

Bit of rain, bit of hills, but into Nanjing I went. Spent about half the ride just getting through the metro area and trying to figure out how to get across the Yangtze River. As I got to the center of town, got hit by torrential downpour. Despite my rain gear, I got soaked (along with half of my stuff...). Hard to navigate, as my phone was soaking wet and kept malfunctioning.

Eventually found a hostel. They had a hard time checking me in as I couldn't give them a flight number for my arriving flight into China. I stood wet and shivering in the lobby for quite some time... This place is full of internationals, felt weird, but nice to be able to talk with people.

Day 246
Nanjing. My last rest stop before the 3-day run to Shanghai. They just had the youth Olympics here, an event that I honestly don't really care about at all, but the city went all in. Huge banners all over the place are still hanging, advertisements everywhere, they even use painted the roads with the official "Nanjing Youth Olympics" symbol. Crazy amount of energy put in to this...

Today I went to the Nanjing Massacre memorial museum. Obviously, its dedicated to the Nanjing Massacre, an event during the Japanese occupation of Nanjing before WWII. Not necessarily a "fun" experience, but very fascinating. I  have to admit, after visiting similar museums in South Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore, it seems like there's a bit of a trend here - lots of east Asian countries really hated the Japanese haha.

Of course part of the fun of visiting a museum in China, or anywhere else where I don't trust the impartiality of the government, is trying to figure out what really happened and what is being propagandized. No doubt something terrible happened here, but there were some questionable displays, most notably the entire room about the Japanese surrender after WWII, which didn't once mention the atomic bomb... Interesting place.

Still trying to dry myself off from the rain that soaked all of my stuff on the way into town yesterday.

Day 247

I have a problem with my bike. The nuts on both my front and rear axle keep coming loose, causing the wheels to swag side to side and jam up against the brakes. I suppose the biggest problem with this problem is that there's an easy temporary fix (just screwing the nuts back in), which has prevented me from actually trying to fix the real problem (stopping the nuts for continuously coming loose). I'm soooo close, I just want to keeping kicking this can down the road until I get to the end. But this is getting worse and worse, very possibly contributing to my sluggish performance lately. Today I took my wheels apart to try to figure this out. I'm still not sure whats going on here. I noticed there's' a slight bend in the rear axle, don't know if that's to blame, but I replaced it to be safe, and cleaned and re-lubed everything. Come on bike. Don't crap out on me now!

Besides from working on the bike, I didn't do much else today - got some laundry done, went out for a bit at night with some "instant hostel friends."
My old rear axle

Day 248

So here we go. The final push. The last stretch. Whenever the scale of Eurasia has started freaking me out along the trip, I always just concentrate on getting to the next rest stop. I've been trying as hard as I can to break this trip into dozens of smaller trips, and just thinking about things leg by leg. Lisbon to Madrid, Istanbul to Samsun, Kyzylorda to Shimkent. Bit by bit. Well now I'm officially on the ultimate leg. The final 350 kilometers of a 17,000 km journey.

From Nanjing to Shanghai should be crazy. Not just because I might actually finish this ride across Eurasia, but because there are so many fucking people here. From Nanjing to the end, I'll be going through at least two cities per day which have over 3,000,000 people - leading towards Shanghai, the most populated city in the most populated country in the world. I keep thinking back on the desert in Kazakhstan, where it was quite the event when I was lucky enough to get to a city big enough for a supermarket. Funny how things have changed. Should be fun!

Traffic was heavy out of Nanjing, but then subsided surprisingly quickly. Found myself on freeway with not a car in sight. Then I realized the road wasn't open to traffic yet. So weird, the road had all the street signs, and sidewalks, and trees, and separately graded roundabout intersections, even a BRT system all set up  - but no one around. Then a few miles down, I started to pass row upon row of empty skyscrapers lining the empty highway. Its like the government was just waiting to flip a switch and open everything up... It was great, essentially a 50 foot wide bike only road! Then the road suddenly ended and turned to dirt. Just when I worried about all the crowding in this part of China... Haha didn't take long to find some more people though. Tonight into Changzhou, regional population of 5 million, and a city most people have never heard of.

Day 249

Today: start in Changzhou (5 million people), quick lunch in Wuxi (6 million people), and then stop for the night in Suzhou (11 million people). I'm sensing a trend as I get closer to Shanghai... The ride was exhausting! Large parts of the were spent riding on 6-lane highways, built underneath another 6-lane freeway... Lots of people, lots of skyscrapers, but surprising also still some areas which could have been marked as semi-rural (as long as you took a picture at just the right angle...).

Spent tonight in Suzhou, the so-called "Venice of China." As you can probably guess, the city has a lot of canals... They were cool, but I had to cut my sightseeing short when I realized I had a really big urgent problem I needed to deal with...

You see, I have a one year visa for China. One year, that's a long time, more than enough time to complete my entire Eurasia trip, let alone the Chinese portion. The problem is, you're only allowed to stay in China consecutively for three months on any given stay, then you need to leave the country and reenter in order to get another three months. I knew this. Problem is, I had erroneously dismembered the day I had entered the country. If I don't leave the country in the next few days, I will overstay my visa, and that would be bad. I've been told its at-least a 100 dollar penalty per day you're not supposed to be here, as well as the possibility of being banished from China for up to 10 years. Overstaying my visa is NOT an option. I need to leave the country on a visa run ASAP, a fact I was oblivious to until tonight.  I don't know how I was stupid enough to do this.

Spent hours tonight trying to figure out the best option. Hmm, whats the cheapest and fastest way to get out of the country? I could take a bus to Hong Kong, a train to Russia, a boat to Taiwan, a flight to Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta, Guam, fucking Delhi... Then of course there were all the combo options, like the train to Beijing, then the flight out from there... I was drowned in options. After careful thought, I decided the flight to Manila was the best bet. Only problem is, it leaves tomorrow night from Shanghai. No room for error now, I NEED to get to Shanghai tomorrow.

The highway on top of a highway, very popular around here.

Still following my faithful G312

A canal in Suzhou, the "Venice of China"

Day 250

The day I enter Shanghai. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. Two reasons for that. First, I was incredibly nervous that something might delay me today and cause me to miss my flight out to Manila. A broken spoke, cracked freewheel, or even just a flat tire might make it impossible to reach Shanghai in time to find a place to leave my gear and get to the airport for tonight's flight. If I missed that flight I was in some seriously deep trouble with Chinese immigration. Second, I was VERY excited. Just absolutely ridiculously ecstatic. After 9 plus months of biking, I was finally getting into Shanghai, the last city! Can't remember the last time I was this excited. I had been dreaming of the day I rolled into Shanghai, now I was here! Today would be the day I would get to Shanghai, today would be the day I NEEDED to get to Shanghai.

People on top of people and highways on top of highways for almost all of today, as I aimed right towards the center of the biggest city in China. Lots of new roads too. As with the outskirts of Nanjing, I found myself biking on a lot of brand new highways which still weren't open to cars. In many spots I was biking on roads still under construction, and I would have to swerve around steam rollers and bulldozers to get through. Occasionally the road would just end. Figuring out what to do when that happened was always fun...

As I got closer, I got more anxious. I just wanted to get there already! The the typical signs of a entering a metropoltian area - a huge mall, then the first subway stop, then the first ring road. The streets started getting busier and busier, filled to the brim with buses, vespas, electric bikes, rickshaws. I was getting close.

After hours of fighting through traffic I finally saw out in the distance what I had been waiting for -The innermost ring road - the official entrance into the central business district of Shanghai. I WAS HERE!!!!!!!

Now hold on. I'm not done yet. If anyone actually clicked on that "rules" tab on the top of the page ^, you'd know I have a very specific rule for where to start and end the trip. I'm biking across Eurasia.  Asia doesn't end in the middle of Shanghai, it ends at the Pacific. Ocean to ocean. Those are the rules. Today is not my last day of biking. Still one more short trip left to make this official, and that's a trip I'm not making for another couple of days, when my friend Charley gets here to bike over with me.

After I got into the town, the excitement of being soon gave way to getting down to business. I needed to find a place to put my bike and my gear, then get over to the airport. Luckily, I was able to stash my stuff at the hotel I'm planning to stay at here, and I even had a little free time to explore downtown and find a place to take a quick shower. Hopped on the subway over to the airport, and it became obvious I had plenty of time to catch my flight. Anxiety vanished and I was just left on cloud nine as I walked through the airport on my way out to Manila. Life is good. Really couldn't be any better in fact!!!

Suzhou's CBD

Brand new roads

I finally found FoxConn!

Was riding with a new-found friend for a couple miles

This is what the 6-lane highway turned into

The beginning of the subway line

Couldn't have said it better myself