Days 251 Through the End!

Day 251

So here's the deal. I just need to leave China and then reenter in order to get a fresh 3 months on my visa. It doesn't matter how long I'm out of China, just need to leave and return. So I hopped on a flight, got into Manila at 4 am, and then flew out on a late night flight tonight, back to Shanghai.

Arrived in the middle of the night off the red-eye and found that my old favorite place to sleep in the Manila airport was still nice and quiet. Fell asleep on the floor, slept great, but then was startled awake by a fast approaching floor buffer at 8 am. Got some cash and headed out into the city. Its funny how different things are here. Hot as hell, inadequate and crumbling infrastructure, lots of beggars - there's no doubt, Manila is a mess. But I love it here. This place has so much character, and its quite refreshing to take a break from the somewhat stale and monotonous Chinese cities. The people here are much more approachable, both because they're friendly and outgoing and also because, they speak English! Oh man. The second point can't be stressed enough. It is soooooo awesome to finally be around people I can communicate with!

Manila also has something that's nearly impossible to find outside of the US, root beer! Picked up some Dad's, got some adobo, found a newspaper, and chilled in Rizal Park remembering all the good times I've had in years past in the Philippines and reflecting upon the bike trip.

Left Shanghai at 4am, returned to Shanghai at 11:40 pm. Several hundred miles and quite a bit of money later, I was back where I started, with nothing to show for it except for a new stamp in my passport. I fucking hate bureaucracy… Oh well, all in a days work, quite literally.

Day 252

Getting in around midnight and having no particular place in mind to stay, I opted to spend last night in the nearest and cheapest place I could think of - the floor of the international terminal. Another night sleeping in airport terminals. As with Manila, I had a great spot! Woke up at 5am, still exhausted but anxious to get out of the airport.

I hate making hotel reservations. They force you to be at a certain place at a certain time. No freedom, what an injustice… Besides, you never really know what you’re getting yourself into before you actually show up. I suppose that’s why I have not made a single reservation during the past 252 days. As a birthday present (two months ago) my parents offered to pay for a nice hotel for me to stay at when I finally reached Shanghai. This meant I had to make a reservation…

I had been looking forward to finally checking in to this hotel for quite some time. This hotel symbolized the party at the end of the journey, the dessert after the meal, the treasure at the end of the rainbow. I knew if I got here, I would be at the end. Here I am!

I checked in to a 2 bedroom penthouse atop a sky rise overlooking the city - spacious, luxurious, and let’s be honest - still a lot cheaper than most hotel rooms in the US… As soon as I got into the room I looked out the window down at the sprawling buildings of Shanghai below. I couldn’t help but smile, I even gave a fist pump. I made it! 

Day 253

I’m all ready to go and finish this trip already, but I’ve still got to wait for my friend Charley to show up. Today I went around town looking for a bike for him to use. Not a particularly easy task given that my friend is like 6 foot 7… Found a few options that should work though.

Charley got into town tonight. It was awesome to finally see a familiar face. Haven’t seen one since I parted ways with Blake back in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. That seems like a life and a half ago. It is such a surreal experience to be here in Shanghai, sitting at the top of a highrise with my friend from back home, getting ready to officially complete this journey. Everything is actually falling into place - the time has finally come.

Btw, Charley thinks the hotel is a bit of a dump, hahaha maybe I’ve been biking out here too long…

Day 254

The Last Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’ve been waiting to be able to write those words at the top of a blog entry for a looooooong time – a lot longer than 254 days.

So here I am - I’m in Shanghai, I’ve got my visa, I’ve got my bike, I’ve got an easy ride to the coast, and now I’ve got my friend – time to fucking finish! Before I even biked over to where Charley was going to pick up his rental bike, I got a flat… Then things went well until we had to find a way across the Huangpu River – the river that goes straight through the middle of the city. The bridge I was thinking of crossing turned out to be an elevated expressway with mile-long flyovers on both sides of the river, that wasn’t going to work. But its ok, I anticipated this might happen, I had a backup! Well unfortunately that one was not really any better….

After some searching, biking around, and talking to people we realized the only way to get across the river was going to be in a big ass underground tunnel. Six lanes wide and a kilometer long, it wasn’t going to be a fun trip to the other side of the river... Charley was out. No way I was going to convince him to illegally ride his single speed rental bike through this tunnel. And I completely understood his reasoning. For me of course, I had to do it. Can’t be breaking those rules, have to bike every inch to the finish!

So we decided to split up, I’d take the tunnel, he’d take a ferry, and we decided on a place to meet on the other side of the river. He didn’t have a phone, so if we got split up, I was biking to the end by myself, a depressingly sad situation after all of the planning we had done to bike the last day together. Everything had to go just right, or we wouldn’t be able to make this work. If the ferry wasn’t running, or I got stopped from entering the tunnel, or we had any other complications or major delays, we were on our own for the rest of the day.

I biked as fast as I could into this tunnel in order to avoid the police officer at the entrance from having time to say anything to me. The tunnel was dark and narrow, just like every tunnel haha. The road sloped down steeply as I got closer to the center of the river, and I picked up a lot of speed. I was flying as I got to the middle of the tunnel, and right at the halfway point, right before the road started to tilt upwards, I had a very unpleasant surprise- widely spaced grates. I didn’t have enough time to brake and my bike smashed over them, rashly bumping through the gratings and almost knocking me off the bike. I kept myself on the bike, but I counldn’t say the same for the basket in the front. It had started falling off ever since my departure from Kyzlylorda, Kazakhstan. As mentioned before, I had kept it together with zip ties, but now it was beyond repair. It snapped and I had to rush out my hand to grab it before it fell to the ground and was lost forever to the confines of the Fuxing Tunnel. Good thing I was able to save it, as I had a whole bunch of Charley’s stuff in there haha.

I made it through the tunnel, Charley made it onto the ferry, and we found each other at the designated meeting spot, not more than 15 minutes after we had split up - success! We continued towards the ocean, stopping briefly to get lunch.

As we got closer to the ocean, I had mixed emotions. I was anxious to get to the end, but also sad to think that this trip (and really my entire life for the past 3 years) was about to be summed up. But these two thoughts paled in comparison to the pure excitement and happiness I felt. We turned off the main highway to a secondary road, and then onto a small road which went out towards the coast - the last road of the trip!

We turned a corner and suddenly we saw it. There it was. The Pacific Ocean, taking up the entire foreground of our views. The water was full of trash and the shore made of up of concrete blocks, but it was the most beautiful beach I had ever seen in my life.

I climbed down the concrete blocks (after much trail and tribulation...) and knelt down to touch the water. That was it - I had offically finished the trip - ocean to ocean. I HAD BIKED ACROSS EURASIA!!!!!!!!!!

We sat on the shore for quite a while, drinking some celabratory beer. This couldn't have been any better - I had reached the ocean and was celebrating with my best friend.

Later that night, we met up with a friend I had made all the way back in Spain, at the very beginning of the trip. It seemed a fitting end to the day - reuniting with someone I met at the very beginning and happened to be in town for the very last day of the trip.

Incredible day, really just amazing!

The Last Road

Finally Reaching the Ocean

Post Trip

The intense traffic of the the cities, the equally intense isolation of the middle of nowhere, the neverending headwinds, the totally ending roads, frost bite in the mountains, and heat exhaustion in the desert made this trip the most difficult thing I have ever done, by far. It does seem to be some rule of nature though that the harder the task, the more enriching it is. I was forced to leave my comfort zone in ways I never thought possible, and, as a result, I met some of the most interesting and genuine people who walk this earth. I would definitely be lying if I told you every single day out there was fun, but it was always an adventure, and that's precisely why I decided to take this trip in the first place.

During the trip, life was not always easy, but it was always simple, I had one goal - get to the end. When I finally got there, it was very exciting, but that excitement also brought a feeling of uneasiness. The trip was over, what the hell was I supposed to do now?!

If there was one thing I have learned from my experiences traveling, it is that the old cliche rings true - life is about the journey, not the destination. In fact, destinations can be dangerous. Destinations can be a dead end, final destinations can be deadly. You always need to have something in the works, something planned, something to look forward to, something that challenges or even scares you, something that is bigger and better.

I am not done biking yet.

All of my Stuff, Waiting for the Maglev to the Airport in Shanghai

Thanks for Reading

I very much appreciate all of the people who have taken to the time to read portions of my blog. There may even be a few crazy people who have read the entire thing! I am incredibly flattered and humbled by the fact that people find something I have done worthwhile to read about. This trip would have been nothing if not for the people involved. From my long-time friends, to the couchsurfers, to the hostel "instafriends," to the people I met on the streets, to the people who biked with me, to the people who followed my trip online - you made this trip possible and amazing, thank you!

Until next time,