14degrees off the beaten track
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June 20th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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Today’s distance / ???????: 43 miles / 69km
Average speed / ????: 9.8mph / 15.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 22m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 5053mi plus 377mi (?) / 8132km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 105m
Descent / ??: 585m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N40° 30′ 58.90″, E095° 46′ 38.70″

At last some decent downhill. Dead straight for about 50km too.

The rig on National Highway 312 near Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

A quick peek out the window of the truck stop this morning, where I was sharing a room with Valentinas, and I saw that the wind was blowing towards the east. Perfect. When I know the wind is blowing my way, or there is no wind (a rarity in this part of China) it is very easy to get up and going.

Valentinas prefers a later start, so I sneaked out of the room, trying not to wake him. I ate my usual breakfast of Nestle Cereal Drink (kind of like Weetbix, except in a powder form) with some soy bean milk powder and figs, and as I was about to leave, Valentinas wanders out to see me off. Valentinas is heading in the same direction as me, but is heading to Dunhuang, south of here. Dunhuang is famous for being a cultural haven. I don’t care. Get me to Shanghai. If it is out of the way, I don’t want to know about it.

Once again the first hour of skating is great. The sun rising across the hilly land scape is wonderful.

Early morning cruising near Xonliuyuan, Gansu Province, China

I skate for two hours with gloves and a woolly hat on. It is chilly, but I feel alive. The tailwind pushes me along between the hills, heading downhill all the time.

At last I am spat out of the hills, and once again each push is swallowed up in the immense vastness of the plain that stretches ahead of me. When skating through narrow gorges, the sense of speed and progress is amplified. The mind is stimulated. Forward energy is concentrated into a feeling of wonderful forward motion.

Out in the plains, it is as if the energy is displaced. Dissipated. All I can do is hunker down and push onwards. Endless forward motion with no visual result once again.

A roadside scrounger, looking for anything worth anything; bits of coal, plastic bottles, clothing etc, is a welcome diversion from the monotony.

Roadside scrounger near Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

He was a friendly chap, and we spent a few minutes admiring each other’s modes of transport. “There are many cyclists from other countries that travel this road,” he said. “But you’re the first I’ve seen on a skateboard!”

He confirms that it is about 10km to town. “I take my time, and from here it takes me about two hours, stopping to pick things up” he says.

Roadside scrounger near Guazhou, Gansu Province, China Roadside scrounger near Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

It looks to be more than 10km, but the road is as straight as an arrow, and distances are deceiving in the desert. A headwind starts to blow, and the last 10km into town feel like 100km, despite the gradual downhill. As trucks pass on the opposite side of the road, heading in my direction, I have to tuck down in an aerodynamic pose to lessen the massive rush of air as they pass. It is like surfing. As the truck approaches, it pushes a massive bow-wave of air towards me. I duck down, diving under the wave, waiting for it to pass, and then pop back up again.

I was happy to arrive in green Guazhou. Treelined streets and friendly, inquisitive locals greeted me.

Keen locals in Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

First impressions of the city:

  • These people must have never seen a foreigner before. Even when walking around without my skateboard, people stare. Much more than in Xinjiang province. Once guy asked me if I was Kazakh or Uyghur.
  • It is a green city. Cool and refreshing.
  • It is Chinese. I am no longer in Xinjiang. No more ethnic diversity.

Keen locals in Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

From the main National Highway 312, it is a solid 4km south into town, as is the case with many other cities I have visited on the way on highway 312 (Hami and Turpan and Shanshan are also that way). At the t-intersection that leads into town, there are many very new-looking truck stops and truck repair joints.

Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

I need a place to stay for a few nights, and an internet cafe, so head into town. I’ll be staying in Guazhou for three nights and heading out again on Monday.

I checked into the Bus Center Inn (for a reasonable 20RMB a night – 2 Euro) in the center of town.

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    Permanent Link     Comments (12)

Comment by Scott — June 22, 2008 @ 10:30 am | post a comment

Great posts, Rob. Man, that part of China looks like a cross between Kansas and the Mojave desert–not good–but you seem to be making good time. Praise the lord of culverts! In Kansas, although I didn't sleep or hangout in them, the culverts were the only place to get a little privacy for roadside "duties."

Keep on keepin' on.


Comment by Mum — June 22, 2008 @ 4:28 pm | post a comment

You seem to be making good time. About the long flat stretches – does listening to music help time go past more quickly?

Comment by Rob Thomson — June 22, 2008 @ 6:07 pm | post a comment

Mum, listening to music certainly makes the time go more quickly, as does listening to sermons. I get many sermons from http://www.themeetinghouse.ca. They get me thinking about other things, and get my mind off the endless roads!

Comment by Alex — June 23, 2008 @ 1:11 am | post a comment

Hey Rob,

great to check your pics too! China seems to be a great experience. Keep it going and stay in touch…

we will hit the road today again and leave Dresden heading further north….updates shall follow in Berlin, probably.

See you and take good care


Comment by Chris J — June 23, 2008 @ 6:10 am | post a comment

Hi Rob,

Another great update and more gorgeous pictures. I have a whole file now of just sunsets that you have taken in different countries. Beautiful stuff.

I don't know which is worse/better no rain for 2 months or rain everyday. It is now rainy season here in Nagoya…

Comment by Cornell — June 24, 2008 @ 9:56 am | post a comment

Rob; Wow that landscape looks bleak and beautiful at the same time. The straight roads must be mind numbing at times. Love your photos and many are on my desktop in a rotating fashion. I loved one of your photos so much that I posted it on the Canon Camera Forum along with a photo challenge that I am hosting this week. I hope that is OK, but that photo just blew me away and show the real potential of that camera!


Regards Cornell – bluecoyote

Comment by mahmoud — June 24, 2008 @ 6:18 pm | post a comment

solid updates Rob. Nice work with the photos too.

Comment by mike c — June 24, 2008 @ 11:56 pm | post a comment

Sweet Rob.

I've been listening to sermons when I'm biking to and from work for the last 3 weeks. I'm really growing spiritually because of them. The dude is called Clark Taylor. He's an Aussie guy. Really good stuff.

Comment by Aunty Les — June 26, 2008 @ 12:29 am | post a comment

It hardly seems believable that there can be all that green in the towns and cities and right outside them is just brown desert.

Comment by Daniel N. Lang — June 26, 2008 @ 2:27 am | post a comment

Hey Rob!

You're doing a really wonderful job – I really envy your discipline in updating the website regularly and thereby doing such a good job keeping your readers informed! I hope they know what they're having in you.

The picture of the early sunrise reminds me to the magic of these first (and at sunset last) moments of the day, the summer gold for the early birds! It's that time when you get in this Buddha like state of mind, it's the time that compensates for all the hard parts and that makes you just fly! And sometimes you even get the right music track like "Beautiful place" from SomaFM playing :-)

Enjoy China and live China my friend!

Comment by Carl — June 27, 2008 @ 5:32 pm | post a comment

I can't believe it, again a week has slipped by without so much as hello/ goodbye… While I've been building trailers and camera stuff and brackets recorders power converters and all that…

takes me back when I bumped into your thread watching your filming in japan and all that.

and look at you now, will try and have abit of time tomorrow to catch up on what you've been up to.

best regards


Hope the road is a gentle slope in your favour and there's a cooling breeze helping you along. PS I still think your a nutter!

all the best from darkest surrey.

Comment by Aunty Les — July 1, 2008 @ 11:55 pm | post a comment

That's a lot of straight road. The longest stretch of straight road in Canterbury is something like 20kms.

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