Mike Map

View Mike Map in a larger map

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Week 8 Shenanigans

Yet another pack of cyclists we ran into along the way to Zhengzhou.

Our Warm Showers host, Mr. Wang, editor of "Zhengzhou Cyclists News" magazine and VP of the "Zhengzhou Old People Cyclists Association."  65 and still a strong rider!  As well as letting us filthy up his place, he cooked us dinner, the centerpiece of which was goose-face soup.

He also broke out the good beer - some German variety that came in a can bigger than my head.

The next day, we were off to meet Shi Peng, a weird Karma connection of Xiang Liang's.  A while ago Xiang Liang found a phone on a bus in Beijing and became friends with the owner, Shi Peng's wife, when he returned it to her.  Shi Peng runs an interesting sort of business that does military-style team building workshops for company retreats and is a hardcore outdoorsman in general, so in addition to being somewhat indebted to Xiang, he was also enthusiastic about our trip.

So, in an incredible show of generosity, he took us under his wing for the entire weekend, chauferring us around and introducing us to people and footing the bill for every single moment of it.  First, he and his father drove us out to Kaifeng, the ancient capital, for some sightseeing.

Kaifeng in the evening

Xiang insisted we take this picture at the entrance to the Henan museum in Zhengzhou.

Some of the first-ever Chinese characters!  Inscribed on a tortoise shell, used for divining the future.

Apparently one reason that ancient Chinese is still so well understood is that for whatever reason there was a tradition of carving stories about certain rites and rituals into durable objects like this one.

A funeral suit made of jade tiles stitched together with silver and gold strings.

Statue of two people playing the ancient "liubo" game, the rules to which have been lost.

A radish carved out of ivory.

I didn't know I was capable of making that face.

Breakfast with the crew the next morning before mountain climbing.

I defied the "no climbing" sign.  Then, on my way scrambling down, I accidentally broke off a hefty chunk of rock.  That one on the left that is kind of protruding.  So much for protecting humanity's natural heritage.

My new Chinese name is "Wang Mai Ke".  "Wang" means king, so kind of stands in for Roy, while the other two are phonetic, but mean something like taking steps and overcoming challenges.

A big group of college girls requested that I grace them with my presence for a brief photo shoot.

While riding into town several days prior, we had exchanged phone numbers with two cyclists who liked our style.  They called us on Monday just as we were about to leave town and invited us to their company meal

Mingyu and I had seats at the head of the table next to the chairman.  Also, next to the stinky tofu.  After I politely declined to partake, he told me I was wasting my trip in China if I didn't eat it.  Sorry, not convinced.

A traveling opera was performing just outside where we stopped for lunch.  The dancers were a little confused and the stage looked like it was ready to collapse in on itself at any moment.  We only stayed for the first act, which was, to be generous, slightly painful to listen to.

But seeing all these old folks was really heartwarming.  They all looked so...grizzled.  I can't imagine what they must have lived through.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week 7 Sightseeing

After our short-lived stint with the big biker family, we returned to life as usual: getting a late start, eating a giant lunch, napping in forests, and quitting early in the evenings.

Here's how Mingyu and I entertained ourselves while Xiang was off doing hotel recon.

We continued through the mountains of Shanxi, with a few more brutal ascents tempered by occasional Eureka-moments, like this treasure-trove of jujubes that must have fallen off of a truck.  Had we gotten there about a week earlier, we could have feasted.  Instead, though, everything was a little on the mealy, nearly-fermented side.

More awesome views as we dropped about 800m in altitude coming out of Shanxi and into Henan.

I've got tears in my pants, holes in my shirts, and all the little sesame seed guys are falling off of my gloves.

We stopped one morning at a bike shop and were treated to a free tune-up.  The shop owner's son was wearing this shirt, straight out of a Buddhist parable.  The English is remarkably not totally terrible, no?

Next stop: the Longmen Grottoes, a Unesco World Heritage site just outside of Luoyang. For a little over a mile on both sides of a river, the hills have been carved like this, hollowed out and then inlaid with carvings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and other characters of Buddhist lore.  

In some places, the carvings are incredibly detailed and minuscule 

Others are nearly twenty meters tall.  

Back to the road again for some nice, flat riding and scenes of idyllic farm work.  Well, as long as you're just watching.

Crossing the famous Yellow River.

Xiang Liang is a true kindred vagabond spirit.

Having returned to somewhat more reasonable altitudes, we were able to break out the tents again.


A nice chill night - salad for dinner, card games for fun, and a reused water bottle of homemade wine some farmers on the street sold me for $1.50.

Why camping rules.

The next morning we headed to the Shaolin Temple, basis for that old TV show Kung-fu.  The temple itself was not particularly impressive, but all over the surrounding area were these schools where kids between 4 and 18 studied and trained.  We were lucky enough to pass by during training time.  These little kids were running, drilling, and tumbling like you wouldn't believe.


Imagine how strong they'll be if they do this every day for ten years.

Another nap in the park next to the temple.

Actually it wasn't the temple that I wanted to see, but the cave where (legend has it) Bodhidharma stared at  his shadow and meditated for nine years until he finally got it and invented zen.  I felt a little bit like a silly tourist for paying the entrance fee to the complex and  going up this long climb when I could have probably understood more about Zen by just meditating that morning, but then again, why pass it up?

In an effort to try to feel a little less bovine,* I climbed the steps barefoot and tried to do a little walking meditation.  Token gestures.  That's the cave behind me; I though it would be a little sacrilegious to take a photo of the inside.  All it was, though, was a space about 5x5  square feet, with a statue of the BD up on a pedestal in the back and a place to bow and light incense in front.


Up to the top of the hill to check out this statue of BD.

*I owe this word to DFW - I'll post the relevant passage here eventually. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Week 7 and 8 Eats

Note: I'm trying out a new format here because trying to coordinate several blocked websites at once is, surprise, a giant hassle.  

The day-in and day-out face-stuffing continues!  We have yet to enter the tropics, so there's nothing very exotic in terms of fruits and veggies here, but we continue to run into cheap, delicious food at just about every corner.  I wish cycling were more difficult so that I could burn more calories riding and fuel up bigger during breaks, but my body seems to have adjusted to the wear and tear.  I think I'm actually eating less now than I was when I was just sitting around Daegu doing nothing.  Weird, but anyhow, everything rules!  And, my re-commitment to veganism has so far been pretty easy.  Aside from the goat brain fiasco.