Sunday, July 19, 2015

Yin and Yang

IChinese philosophyyin and yang (also, yin-yang or yin yang) describes how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang.  And such were the last two riding days of the trip.  

The ride from Lanzhou to Pingliang would be our last opportunity for traveling off of the designated route and we were looking forward to do so.  We were also getting well into loess terrain and would be riding through the Loess Plateau which I was particularly excited about and hoping to explore as much as possible.  A small group of us headed off to the North on a road that on the map looked interesting enough.  Finally getting out of the city and into the country side the road started to deteriorate to a point where we stopped and questioned going any further.  The consensus decision had us turning around and heading back to the main road where the conditions changed but were just as bad, only in a different way.  While some abandoned the adventure making a bee line to the expressway, myself and an other headed off to the South in search of whatever.  After about 100 miles or so heading South East we turned North and spent the rest of the day riding up and over and down and through and around terraced farm plots that covered almost every inch of ground on the flat valley bottoms and the surrounding hillsides.

That was a great day.

The last riding day from Pingliang to Xi'an was to be short and easy with a planned meet up early afternoon at the hotel to go and get the bikes washed before packing them into the containers.  The day started out well enough and we were making good time on the express way, at least until we were stopped by the Chinese traffic policeman who escorted us off the expressway.  Turns out that just as the signs have said all along, motorcycles really aren't allowed on the expressways in China.  Guess things are a little less laissez faire the farther East you travel - this is not necessarily only a Chinese affliction.  When I asked why we couldn't proceed on the expressway I was told it was too dangerous for motorcycles and that we would be much safer on the two lane national road.   I questioned the policeman's danger level acumen having likely never driven in Detroit - I don't think he understood the reference as he just smiled and pointed towards the exit behind us.  Sure enough within minutes of being escorted onto the national road we were faced with trucks traveling towards us at high speed in our lane around blind corners... this is what safety looks like on a Chinese road.   I made another attempt to get on the expressway a little farther down the road and was unceremoniously escorted off again.

At some point I entered into a small city and was vigorously waved away by a very determined Chinese traffic policewoman from continuing down my intended route.  Quickly checking the GPS I didn't think this would matter as there appeared to be ways back on the highway on the other side of the city.  Turns out there weren't so I headed up a steep switched back road that headed in the general direction I needed to go.  Up on the plateau the fog and drizzle moved in and I slowly poked my way around roads that did not exist on the GPS trying to maintain a trajectory back towards the route track.  As I approached the "black line" I felt better and figured I would be back on track soon, until the GPS showed me crossing over and passing the route and realized it was in a tunnel somewhere below me.  After backtracking down the off the plateau and through the city, this time ignoring the vigorously waving determined Chinese policewoman I was back on the right road, but now in jeopardy of missing the 3PM meet up time at the hotel in Xi'an for getting the bikes washed.

The fog and drizzle had followed me down from the plateau and the drizzle quickly turned to increasingly heavy rain.  With a now perceived race against the clock and the lousy weather I found little patience for slow moving traffic and proceeded to pass pretty much everything on the road.  As I was passing a slow moving bus a small dog was racing across the road in front of us.   On my re-entering the lane in front of the bus, the bus driver honked his horn which stopped the little dog cold in his tracks then turned and ran right into my path.  I looked back in my mirror and saw he wasn't moving.  I had a quick thought of stopping but it was mostly to give the bus driver a kick in the ass for honking his horn more than anything else.

The remainder of the ride was mostly spent figuring out how to navigate into and through the city of Xi'an with some extra time spent circling in a few round-a-bouts trying to figure out exactly which road was the right road to take.  If the waypoint in the GPS had been anywhere near correct I might have made it to the hotel before the 3PM meet up time, but as it wasn't and I arrived closer to 4.  In the end it didn't matter as the plans had changed (this is China after all), and the bikes would be washed on the way to the container the next day.

That was not a great day.

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