Today’s distance / ???????: 42.7 miles / 68.8km
Average speed / ????: 9.2mph / 14.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 38m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6522mi plus 386mi (?) / 10,496km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 160m
Descent / ??: 190m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N32°41′02.3″, E112°49′57.0″
A bit of a blase day today. I finished the day at just before 3pm. It was superduper hot. I thought it was supposed to get cooler after August…
Today’s distance / ???????: 67.1 miles / 108km
Average speed / ????: 9.3mph / 15km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 7h 11m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6479mi plus 386mi (?) / 10,427km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 410m
Descent / ??: 495m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33°00′57.6″, E112°24′53.5″
A tired start to the day, but things livened up a little with the most chickens I have ever seen in one place…this kid obviously prided herself on being the master of the chooks, happily jumping into the enclosure and terrorising the poor birds.
I tried hard to keep a grimace off my face as I watched distressed birds being forcefully shoved into small transport cages. These little packages of meat on legs are treated just as that.
Another interesting thing that I have noticed on a few occassions here in China are the horribly graphic posters outside some Traffic Police stations. These large posters show actual photos of dead people, with all sort of horrific injuries. Blood and guts, all on display. Don’t be dumb on the roads, or you’ll end up like these people. I guess that’s the message. Sometimes the injuries are censored with pixelation, sometimes now. Beware, if you click on the photo below, you’ll get the bigger version.
Despite the early morning drowziness, time flew by in the afternoon, with a great long centrury to finish with. I began to feel the pull of Shanghai however. I just want to be done with this country now. I have been here too long, and the bureaucrazies have not made it any easier.
The people continued to be wonderful however. I stopped at a small restaurant/inn for dinner, and propmtly a group of four guys sat down at my table. They were not the usual big drinkers that I have come to despise in China, and we had a very pleasant meal together. They paid for the lot, and my bill for the night at the inn!
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.
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!
Heavy truck traffic, as always, was the main traffic along this route today.
This included my nemisis, the bee-hive transport trucks. What is up with this time of year?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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″
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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″
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.
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.
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.
The hills in this area were truely stunning. I was happy to be on a gradual gradient.
The expressway passed through countless tunnels, the longest for the day being over 5km long.
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.
The end of the world is nigh. Walmart is in 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.
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 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZrLLG6jiZc) 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.
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.
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.
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.
They are well used also. People transporting all manner of goods by bike.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Tunnels and toll gates were the most active in terms of construction work. Internal walls were being tiled, lights were being wired.
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.
In other places, the expressway spanned massive valleys, giving commanding views of the surrounding landscape. A real pity about the pollution however.
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.
So I guess that’s a future low-cloud-making factory…
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.
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.