Day 766 – CHINA (SHAANXI and HENAN): From Shangnan to Xixia

Today’s distance / ???????: 45.6 miles / 73.4km
Average speed / ????: 9.5mph / 15.2km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 48m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6412mi plus 386mi (?) / 10,319km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 405m
Descent / ??: 600m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33°18′01.3″, E111°28′45.3″

A chilled out day of skating today, despite the heat.

Morning outdoor briefing for supermarket staff in Shangnan, Shaanxi Province, China

The orginal plan was for no skating today. I figured I would take the day to update the blog and perhaps put together some more video footage, but when I visited the internet cafe at 8am, they told me that they were told again today not to offer any internet access. No worries however, and I quickly got everything together and pushed on for a short skate to the next big town, Xixia, where I hoped internet access would be allowed.

The highlight for the day was entering Henan Province. This means that only two more provinces are between me and Shanghai. Exciting!

Entering Henan Province on China National Highway 312 from the west (China)

Heavy truck traffic, as always, was the main traffic along this route today.

Entering Henan Province, China, on China National Highway 312

This included my nemisis, the bee-hive transport trucks. What is up with this time of year?!

My nemisis - bee hive transport trucks (near Xixia, Henan Province, China) My nemisis - bee hive transport trucks (near Xixia, Henan Province, China)

The truck traffic all but disappeared however in the latter part of the day. Expressway G40 is open from near the border with Henan, and takes most of the heavy truck traffic off the smaller G312 highway. I was left with small car traffic and lots of motorbikes. Lovely.

Rolling terrain near Xixia, Henan Province, China

I pushed on in somewhat of a chilled out daze to Xixia, a city of much larger proportions than the small dot on my map indicated. Thankfully, the no internet restrictions were not in force here, and I was able to start the updating process.

All going well, I’ll have a new video out soon.

Day 765 – CHINA (SHAANXI): From Danfeng to Shangnan

Today’s distance / ???????: 36.1 miles / 59.4km
Average speed / ????: 9.0mph / 14.6km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 04m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6366mi plus 386mi (?) / 10,246km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 630m
Descent / ??: 710m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33°31′48.1″, E110°52′27.2″

Today was up or down. Nothing inbetween. Back on China National Highway 312 after getting bored with the consistent surface.

Near Danfeng, Shaanxi Province, China

During the steep climb below, a car full of police officers passed. Thinking nothing of it, I carried on pushing onwards, helmet dripping with sweat. A few moments later, the car pulled up beside me. Here we go, I thought…but to my surprise, one of the officers thrust out an ice-cold bottle of ice tea for me. I thanked him and took it, and they took off, smiling. Nothing esle was said. I was blown away.

Oh so much steeper than it looks (near Danfeng, Shaanxi Province, China)

I decided to make this a short day, and pushed on to the nearest town, Shangnan. The plan was to make some updates to the website in the afternoon.

Chinese architecture near Shangzhou, Shaanxi Province, China

My plan was thwarted however. I checked into a small inn, and made my way to the nearest internet cafe. “I’m sorry, no internet today,” I was told. I went to another internet cafe and was told the same thing. Upon asking why there was no internet, I was told that it was due to Olympic Games security, and the police had told the internet cafes not to allow internet access today. Weird. The internet’s internal server was working though, and I was able to spend a relaxing afternoon watching the movie Street Kings.

Shed near Danfeng, Shaanxi Province, China

Day 764 – CHINA (SHAANXI): From expressway tunnel to Danfeng

Today’s distance / ???????: 47.1 miles / 75.9km
Average speed / ????: 9.2mph / 14.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 07m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6329mi plus 386mi (?) / 10,187km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 385m
Descent / ??: 895m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33°41′57.8″, E110°19′34.0″

Sleepin in expressway tunnel east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

Well they say that the deserts are the worst for extreme differences in daytime and nighttime temperatures. I have to say, that that is not the experience I had last night. I was sweltering in a muggy 35 degrees Celcius during the day yesterday, and I was shivering last night in the tunnel with a cool breeze wafting through all night. A sleeping bag would have been handy.

Road workers arrived early to begin work in the morning cool. They were taken aback to see a foriegner curled up in a ball in the tunnel. They must have felt sorry for me; they gave me a big tomato to eat for breakfast.

Expressway construction worker goes to work (G70 expressway east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China)

It didn’t take long for the action to start once I got skating. First up was the tunnel at the top of the pass. This was the big one. At more than 5km long, with no lighting, it was an exciting skate.

5km long tunnel on G70 expressway east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

Here and there workers were adding the finishing touches. Needless to say they were surprised to see a person on a skateboard in the tunnel.

5km long tunnel on G70 expressway east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China Expressway construction worker at work in tunnel on G70 expressway east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

5km long tunnel on G70 expressway east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

Onwards to the light, it was a fast downhill skate until lunch time. With not many options in sight on the new expressway, I stopped and hopped the guardrail to buy a snack at a small store next to the expressway. I bought an icecream and a bottle of cold water, savouring the coolness in the heat of the day. A few locals, curious to see what the foreigner was doing, came over to chat. One of them was Chang Yong, a post-grad Computer Science student. He invited me to his home next to the store.

Chang Yong’s mother was very confused when he explained to her what I was doing. “You’re alone? How many countries? On a skateboard? Why not on a bicycle, at the very least?” she asked.

She was concerned that I would get lost since I was travelling alone. She was also concerned for my safety, travelling in so many countries. Chang Yong explained that his mother had never been outside the province she had grown up in, let alone outside the country. To travel alone around the world was a very foreign concept to her. “I would like to travel, like you,” Chang Yong said. “But I am afraid that my mother would worry too much. What did your parents say when you said you wanted to travel?” he asked.

I explained that in New Zealand it is totally normal to travel outside the country. Perhaps not as much as what I have ended up doing, but normal all the same. I explained that my parents were supportive of my idea. He just shook his head, amazed at the difference in thinking.

Chang Yong’s mother, obviously concerned with my immiment demise heading out on the deserted expressway again, insisted that I have lunch at their place. She made up a delicious tomato and egg noodle soup, of which I was made to consume two massive bowls of (not at all to any objection on my part). It was a wonderful rest in the heat of the day, and I was feeling ver refreshed as I made my way out again.

With the Chang family near Shangzhou, Shaanxi Province, China

Chang Yong trying out the longboard rig near Shangzhou, Shaanxi Province, China Chang Yong trying out the longboard rig near Shangzhou, Shaanxi Province, China

The entire area here is dedicated to corn growing. It is harvest time, and corn is being dried. I pushed on through the corn fields, finally leaving the expressway in seach for a place to stay in Danfeng.

Corn drying in the sun near Shangzhou, Shaanxi Province, China

Day 763 – CHINA (SHAANXI): From Xian to an expressway tunnel

Today’s distance / ???????: 50.4 miles / 81.1km
Average speed / ????: 7.5mph / 12.1km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 41m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6282mi plus 386mi (?) / 10,111km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 800m
Descent / ??: 85m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33°55′26.8″, E109°33′08.7″

Drummer in Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

The celebrations began early in Xian today. Today was the Closing Ceremony day of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. These drummers were outside a big screen at the entrance of a big shopping mall in downtown Xian.

Drummers in Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

Onwards it was for me however. I had a slight tailwind and the day was fine.

As I was rolling out of Xian, it struck me that with just over 1500km to go I had absolutely no idea of what lies up ahead from here to Shanghai. Interestingly my image of the terrain from here to Shanghai is all flat. This is often the case with me. If a country is totally unknown, I usually expect it to be flat. Dunno why.

Scenery east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

In any case, flat it was not. The whole day I was pushing up a slope. About 10km out of Xian, I once again found my way onto the under construction G70 super expressway. Needing not to worry about the road surface or traffic, I was free to enjoy the quiet picturesque surroundings.

Hilly scenery east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

The hills in this area were truely stunning. I was happy to be on a gradual gradient.

Hilly scenery east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

The expressway passed through countless tunnels, the longest for the day being over 5km long.

5km long tunnel on G70 expressway east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

Towards the end of the day, I gave up to the fact that I would not be finding a convenient inn to stay at tonight. About an hour after dark, I stopped in a tunnel for the night.

Day 762 – CHINA (SHAANXI): In Xian

The end of the world is nigh. Walmart is in China.

The beginning of the end...watermelon bought at Walmart in Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

If there were no Chinese in the store, I would have thought I was in the US of A. Walmart is OK. Really, it is. Creates jobs, and they have the power to make good things happen. But one thing they lack, is regional diversity in their store layout. Apart from some fake immitation ‘life-size’ Terracotta Warriors here and there in the Xian Walmart strore, it was all standard. Right down to the fried chicken tenders that I fell in love with in the southern US states.

Upon my return to the hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to see a package waiting for me. Gavin from Surrey Skateboards had sent me some new bushings for my trucks a few weeks earlier (from the UK), and I was honestly not too hopeful of them arriving before I had to leave Xian. But there they were. Along with some sweet stickers.

Chinese kid loving his Holey Truck sticker in Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

The bushings he sent me are harder than the ones I currently have on my trucks. Holey Trucks come standard with Ruby Red bushings, which are 88A durometer urethane. Gavin sent me some super hard Mello Yello bushings (99A) and some in-between Bibi Blues (95A) bushings.

Just the other day I had seen this video from a skate store in the US ( whereby a skate truck had been setup with differing bushings. Keen to give it a try, I installed the Mello Yello barrel bushings on the back (where the back truck has more load on it due to the trailer hitch), and the Bibi Blue bushings on the front, with red cone bushings on top on both trucks.

Holey Truck bushings Holey Truck bushings

The harder bushings on the bottom make for a marginally harsher ride, but I am loving the extra stability that they provide. Since I’m not concerned too much with carving ability, but still like to do it a little every now and then, the softer reds on top still let me carve nicely. The trucks are now even more dangerously stable on the downhills.

Holey Truck bushings

Day 760 – CHINA (SHAANXI): From Yongshou to Xian

Today’s distance / ???????: 60.3 miles / 97.1km
Average speed / ????: 11mph / 17.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 28m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6232mi plus 386mi (?) / 10,030km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 130m
Descent / ??: 530m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N34°16′35.4″, E108°57′22.2″

Like two days ago, today was also a head-down foot to the pavement pushing day. At times I had to remind myself to look around at the scenery, which consisted of apple trees, some more apple trees, and the odd apple tree amongst the apple trees.

I was once again on China National Highway G312, after the wonderful smooth new G70 expressway construction ended and the expressway became a full-fledged open to the public expressway. On the good old G312, I was back in the thick of it, mixing it up with semi-trailers and dust.

Dusty roads approaching Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, CHina

The major challenge today was dodging honey bees. This really does seem to be bee transport season, with two large trucks loaded high with bee hives passing me, leaving a good 10km of road swarming with disgruntled bees. I was running the gauntlet, and my main concern was getting bees stuck in the ventilation holes on my helmet. Previously, this is what got me stung. A bee gets in there and they are not happy.

For 30 minutes I was pushing at full speed, a regular tap, tap, at bees would hit my helmet and sunglasses. Not fun. Mum, I did think of you…I doubt you would have enjoyed being there! (Mum isn’t a fan of bees)

I was hoping to make it to Xian today, and I was surprised at how fast I was moving. A slight tailwind, the remnants of the rip-roarer yesterday, was taking the edge off the air friction as I pushed, and by lunch time I had an easy 19km/h average speed.

Pushing on, I soon came to the ourskirts of Xian, and was welcomed with a massive cycle lane leading into the center of the city. This is one thing I really do love about China. The smooth, massive cycle lanes. 20km from the outskirts of town into the center of Xian. Wonderful.

Smooth fast skating in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China

They are well used also. People transporting all manner of goods by bike.

Using the bike to transport anything and everything in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China

I was cruising at just over 20km/h, so nearer to the center of the city, I had to skate on the main road, due to there being too many cyclists to dodge. As always however, I was given masses of room, with the only danger being cars slowing down and holding up traffic, just to get a better look!

I am being followed by a tuktuk in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China

A question I get asked frequently about my skateboard and trailer setup when I am seen moving fast is “Is it electric motor powered?” I can understand the question, as there are many electric bicycles in China. The person posing the question will poke around, looking at my skateboard, picking it up, turning it over, trying to find the source of the speed.

However, as smooth as it may look when I’m riding it, the only motor powering this setup is noodle-powered!

Day 759 – CHINA (GANSU and SHAANXI):

Today’s distance / ???????: 70 miles / 113km
Average speed / ????: 8.7mph / 14km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 7h 50m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6172mi plus 386mi (?) / 9932km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 590m
Descent / ??: 850m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N34°48′53.4″, E108°05′30.4″

It’s days like this that make it all worth while. More than 100km on a recently paved, brand new six lane expressway that is still not open to public traffic. It was a wonderful break from the traffic, noise, and haste of China National Highway 312.

Today, this was my cycle lane. All to myself. OK, and a few road workers.

My cycle lane for the day (newly paved G70 super expressway not open to traffic between Feiyun and Yongshou, Shaanxi Province, China)

The road is the trans-China super expressway, the G70. I have been more or less skating in parallel to this expressway ever since I began the journey across China three months ago. At times it disappears; a mere imaginary line on a civil engineer’s plan, to be constructed in the future. At times it is in full use by hoards of fast moving vehicles, all transporting China’s future to the masses. Today, the G70 was quickly moving towards completion between Changwu in Gansu Province, and Yongshou in Shaanxi Province.

On a surface like this, void of distractions, all I have to do is skate. No cars to think about, no surface imperfections to keep an eye out for. Push, and that’s all. Everything else can blur into oblivion.

Brand new expressway not open to traffic near Changwu, Gansu Province, China

The ocassional other sneaky locals were also making use of the quiet expressway, surprised at the foreigner who had also found a way onto the ribbon of blacktop.

Brand new expressway not open to traffic near Changwu, Gansu Province, China

Tunnels and toll gates were the most active in terms of construction work. Internal walls were being tiled, lights were being wired.

Brand new expressway not open to traffic near Changwu, Gansu Province, China Tunnels on new expressway not open to traffic (but open to skateboards) approaching Yongshou, Shaanxi Province, China

Tunnels on new expressway not open to traffic (but open to skateboards) approaching Yongshou, Shaanxi Province, China

At one point, the expressway cut through an area of old cave ‘houses’. Some of these caves in the area are still used as storage spaces for the locals.

Cave dwellings near Feiyun, Gansu Province, China

Cave dwellings near Feiyun, Gansu Province, China

In other places, the expressway spanned massive valleys, giving commanding views of the surrounding landscape. A real pity about the pollution however.

View from overpass on G70 expressway approaching Yongshou, Shaanxi Province, China

I had made the comment to a taxi driver in Xian a week earlier when I was there that I liked China a lot, but the air pollution was a little bad. “What air pollution?” she asked. “It’s just low cloud. It will rain soon, you wait and see. Pollution. Hah.”

Yeah. Low cloud. Whatever.

New earth dam being constructed near Yongshou, Shaanxi Province, China

So I guess that’s a future low-cloud-making factory…

View from overpass on G70 expressway approaching Yongshou, Shaanxi Province, China

I only left the expressway two times today. Once to eat lunch, and once to find a place to sleep. Lunch of course was beef noodle soup. This stuff burns so good.

Beef noodle soup with egg near Yongshou, Shaanxi Province, China

From mid afternoon, a strong wind started to blow from my back. It pushed me on with great ferocity, but as I had expected soon brought the rain that was following close behind. For a solid three hours I skated in heavy rain, still on the new expressway. I was happy to be off the G312 with its heavy traffic, uneven road surfaces, and road grime.

Towards the end of the day today the expressway climbed to 1,200m to a tunnel where at last I descended fast to Yongshou.

Day 755 – CHINA (SHAANXI): Gear Reviews

Long overdue, I spent a rainy day here in Xi’an inside the hostel lobby using the free internet to write up some reviews of the gear that I have used over the last few years. If there’s anything in my kit lists that you would like to hear my opinion of that is not included in the reviews, then please let me know and I’ll sort it out.

Gear That Worked
Gear That Didn’t Work

My kit-lists:

Skating kit-list
Cycling kit-list

Day 755 – CHINA (SHAANXI): Holey Shiny Trucks Batman!

New holey trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China

I can’t remember the last time I was this happy…all due to a little brown box waiting for me at the hostel reception this morning.

Package waiting for me at the hotel reception in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China

I am using Holey Trucks, and so far I have hardly touched the original ones I began skating on over a year ago in Switzerland. They came standard on the Rollsrolls longboard that I bought, and have now held up to just over 10,000km of abuse not only over some of the roughest skating terrain in the world, but also supported me and my gear for that distance, a total weight of over 100kg at times. I am truely happy with their performance.

I emailed Holey Trucks, asking them if they could get some replacement parts to me, since the original trucks were getting understandably worn. In the photo below you can see the comparison between the pivot on new trucks, and the worn pivot on the old trucks. Over time, grit and moisture has worked like a grinding paste to wear down the pivot, which supports a lot of weight as it turns.

Old and new Holey Trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China

This pivot point is cradled in a low-friction nylon pivot cup, and this also showed signs of considerable wear. This means that after 10,000km, the pivot no longer fits snugly in its spot on the baseplate and this in turn means that the truck no longer turns smoothly. Rather, it jerks from side to side as I am trying to turn.

My original plan was just to replace the nylon pivot cups, but Holey got back to me and advised that the wear on the pivots themselves would cause issues, even if only the pivot cups were replaced. It would have been nice to keep the old trucks till the end of the journey, but when Holey offered to replace the trucks, I could not refuse.

I was truely impressed with how fast Holey Trucks got the new trucks to me. I was fully expecting it to take weeks for them to arrive. In less than a week they were here at the hostel. Ask any long distance traveller and they will tell you that getting replacement parts on the road can be a nightmare. Markus Wagner, from Germany, is cycling from Germany to China right now, and he had a horrible time trying to get replacement equipment to Turkey. Big thumbs up to Holey Trucks.

New holey trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China

It was 10am when I got the package from the reception, and it was just as I was about to head out the door for breakfast. Breakfast would now have to wait however…first things first…gotta get the new trucks installed.

Old and new Holey Trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China Old and new Holey Trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China


The floor in the hostel dorm room I am staying in quickly became my workshop.

New holey trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China

Off came the old trucks and on went the new ones.

New holey trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China

The difference in turning power was instantly obvious. Complemented by the nice wide, concave Longboard Larry deck, it is amazing how these truck turn. Very nice.

New holey trucks in Xián, Shaanxi Province, China

Still in the post are some harder durometer bushings, so hopefully those will arrive by the time I am back here in Xián in a week or so. I think some harder durometer bushings on the back truck will help with trailer stability, by reducing the amount that the rear truck turns.

As for the old trucks, I will be sending these to Surrey Skateboards (England’s oldest skateboard store) to be enshrined amongst all their other skateboarding history paraphernalia. Gavin, a long time resident of the Surrey Skateboards shop, is also the mastermind behind the design of Holey Trucks, and it’s only fitting that the furtherest travelled trucks in the world go that funky shop. I haven’t cleaned the old trucks properly (ever), so hopefully England customs is OK with Chinese/North American/European road grime entering the country…

Day 754 – CHINA (SHAANXI): Visa application in…

Well, I was hopeful that stories of complicated visa renewal application procedures were confined to areas near Beijing. Not so. In order to apply for my 30 day visa renewal here in Xi’an in central China, I required the following:

  • Passport copies
    • Copy of pages showing my signature and photo and passport details
    • Copy of page showing my entry date into China
    • Copy of page showing current visa
  • One passport-sized photo
  • Proof that I have 100USD per day in available funds for the duration of my applied visa duration. In my case, I had to show I had 3,000USD in available funds for my 30 day extension. The funds could be made up of any combination of cash, savings, or credit card credit. Yay for credit cards. It saved my bacon.
  • Proof of flight out of China. My flight is for the 7th of October, so is outside the expiry date of my visa renewal. This did not create any great concern. I asked for a 60 day extension, but “that is impossible” was the reply.
  • 160RMB (16 Euro) for processing fee.
  • Photocopy of my lodging receipt from my hotel (Ludao International Youth Hostel).

As for the proof of funds, a print out of my online banking statement sufficed. I have no idea how you would get on if you were planning to exit China into southeast Asia via a land border. I guess they would want to see an onward visa.

Welcome to China, our foreign friends!

Phfischhhh. More like sod off, you foreign devils.