Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gas, Food and Lodging

Just as in North America along the highways in China the services available at the next service area are clearly displayed on signs as you approach.  The problem is that whoever is responsible for making and putting up the signs is way ahead of whoever is responsible for building out the service areas.  Often and usually as the gas in the tank was running low we would come across one of these phantom service areas where there might be an exit ramp but the buildings were non-existent or in some stage of being built.  While a minor inconvenience it did promote getting off the dreaded highway and onto the roads and into the villages where the real China was to be found.   All in search of gas and food of course.

Getting gas on a motorcycle in China was sometimes an experience and a half.  In north west China the gas stations were all barricaded up behind barbed wire fence and manned gates.  The story we were given is that gas stations had been targets of Uighur islamic extremists and this was to protect against any further action.  A further complication was that motorcycles were not actually allowed to fill up at the gas pump.  There was a designated parking area where all motorcycles were to park and then a teapot was used to transport the gas from the pump to the motorcycle.  Now this might be fine for the local small motorcycles where not much more than a single teapot was needed to fill a tank but even the smallest tank of our group was going to require several trips to fill.  Not to mention the inevitable spillage out of the teapot while it was being walked across the parking lot and then poured into the gas tank on the bike.  But in China this was the way it was done because this was the "safe" way.  The only explanation I heard that made sense was the history of the local 2-stroke motorcycles blowing up while being filled at a gas pump.  Regardless this really didn't go over all that well with our group and there were several minor confrontations at gas stations that usually ended with us filling up at the pump.  One of techniques used successfully was to spill an excessive amount of gas out of the teapot as it was being walked over to the bike and as the bike was being filled.  It helped to make lots of explosion sounds and wave your arms around like a big mushroom cloud rising up into the sky.  Another technique that worked was to pay for each teapot with a 100 Yuan note and just smile as the gas station attendant had to provide another 93 Yuan in change.   They got tired of playing that game pretty quick.

After Jiayuguan our next extended stop was Lanzhou where we found ourselves in the middle of a huge modern Chinese city.  Even with all the modern conveniences and shopping malls there was still a night market where the streets packed up and the sights and sounds were endless.

There is even an attempt to retain some of the old.  You can visit a still functioning waterwheel and try crossing the river on an inflated sheepskin raft.

But mostly in China its bulldoze the old and build the new.

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