14degrees off the beaten track
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April 29th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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Today’s distance / ???????: 64 miles / 102km
Average speed / ????: 11mph / 17.6km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 48m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 4280mi plus 280mi (?) / 6889km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: 1875m
Descent / ??: 215m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N44° 31′ 29.00″, E082° 29′ 36.60″

There are times when the stars align, and everything is so perfect, you wonder what could possibly be better.

I woke up this morning and noticed the wind was still blowing west to east. Tailwind. I gobbled down the breakfast that was made for me, made polite conversation with the family…but my mind was on the road.

A lake near Santai, Xinjiang Province, China

Packed up, I headed out. Already, along the short flat plateau my mind was awake and energized, snowcapped mountains towering above the frozen lake.

Smooth roads near Santai, Xinjiang Province, China

The same as yesterday – smooth road, tailwind, next to no traffic…awesome.

And then it began. 35km of downhill. Tailwind. The Longboard Larry board was in its element. Sooooo incredibly stable. I mean…rediculous. I was wishing I didn’t have the trailer attached; without the trailer I could have made the most of the wide expressway to carve out wide tracks in the fresh virgin blacktop. Like a fresh layer of black powder. A slowmoving truck every 15 minutes passed by. The wide stable board made foot braking an ease. Wow.

35km downhill from Santai, Xinjiang Province, China

About half way down the massive downhill, the wind turned on me. The headwind was not entirely unwelcome however. Trying to stop the 20kg plus rig from 30km/h on the downhill is tough work. It is painful in the sense that it takes at least a couple of mm of shoe rubber to pull the thing to a halt.

The headwind is handy because I can tuck myself into an aerodynamic arrow, and then either stand up or spread my arms to create drag to slow me down. No foot dragging required.

Endless road and sky approaching Wutai, Xinjiang Province, China

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Just like there is no instantly regenerating pavlova. Mmmmm. Pavlova. The downhill ground to a halt, and I had to face the reality of distance longboarding again. That is, you have to push to go anywhere.

I pushed on after lunch and a two hour nap, and was just about to leave the expressway onto a side road that had appeared, when I was stopped by the police.

“Where are you going?” the officer asked officiously in Chinese while eyeing up my mode of transport with suspicion.

All officiouness (is that a word?) faded when I told him I was headed for Shanghai.

“Shanghai?! On that?!” he asked incredulously. The boy in him took over. He promtly stepped on the board and grabbed my shoulder for support. He roared with laughter and slapped me on the back. He almost fell over. Caught himself with great style. His face saved, he congratulated me on my efforts, and urged me to take caution, before driving off, waving. There are times when I love being in China.

Towards the end of the afternoon, I noticed that some of the bearings on my skateboard and the trailer were all but seized up. The last few days of wet conditions and mud had taken their toll.

Bearings roughed-up from road construction from Korgos to Santai, Xinjiang Province, China

I took shelter from the sun in an abandoned mud hut and changed out the bearings for ones that I had reconditioned in advance in Los Angeles. Whenever I change bearings, I usually clean the old ones out with hot soapy water and re-lube them to re-use later. One set of bearings will last me a good 2,000km to 2,500km. Especially the Bones Swiss 6 bearings I am using. Very durable.

Changing bearings on the road near Wutai, Xinjiang Province, China

As I was working, I heard what I thought was someone calling to me. It turned out to be goats bleating as they were driven along by their master outside.

Near Wutai, Xinjiang Province, China

I continued on for another few hours. I must say, at this stage, I do much prefer the trailer to the pack. In the US, I was carrying all my gear on my back. This was such a huge physical pressure on me. Sore ankles, sore feet, having to balance with all that weight, crazy.

With the trailer, I feel free. Today I even played with jumping on the board from once stance to the other; from goofy to regular. With a trailer, so much more of your energy is directed to forward motion. With a heavy pack on your back, half your energy is going to simply moving the weight up and down as you push.

One thing that will need to improve is trailer stability. I have had no issues with this perse. If I pack the trailer right (with heavy stuff low down), then normal skating does not cause tipping. Hard, sharp carving however, especially downhill, is a bit suspect. Cruising at 30km/h, I was not keen to push the trailer to its limits, as a tipped trailer sliding to a halt on a downhill would do not great things to the drybags holding my gear.

At the end of the day, literally, less energy is required to pull a trailer. At the end of the day, I still feel like walking about. I still have energy. At the end of a 5 hour plus day on the board with a pack on my back, I had energy only for one thing; to collapse and rest. Not so with the trailer.

It is still early stages yet. So far the trailer has proved to be durable (great hitch design by Longboard Larry and Cory Poole), and had proved to be perfectly userfriendly even when I need to pull it by hand.

I am camped tonight beside the expressway behind a mound of dirt.

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    Permanent Link     Comments (1)

Comment by Aunty Les — May 4, 2008 @ 7:15 pm | post a comment

Great to know that the trailer is working out well. Great photos as per usual.

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