Posts from — November 2008
daily distance: 61km
total distance: 15,404km
riding time: 3-4h, but really: who cares?
The Yellow Sea. And me.
I arrived. At the Yellow Sea. Today. Just under 10 months ago I started pedaling in the Black Forest and have now reached the other end of the Eurasian continent. The idea wasn’t to head to Beijing by bike. I somehow wanted to get to the Yellow Sea. There it was before me now. As I was nearing it, tears started rolling down my cheeks - a whirlwind of memories flashing before my eyes as I drew closer and closer and could start smelling the salty air. And then it lay before me.
The end of a trip in some ways, but not in others. I began with no real vision of what it would be like 10 months ago and had no real idea what things would turn out to be this morning. I just let it happen. And the feelings were overwhelming as I arrived at the coast and plunked myself down to take in what was ahead. What it would feel like. Here is a - rather vain - attempt at describing the mixed bag of emotions, all swirling in my head at the same time:
- joy: I did it!, from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
- disbelief: did I really do this?, from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea? Pinch me!
- gratitude: for having made it safely; I know that some of you were worried about me many a day and I am grateful for your concern and glad that I wasn’t hit by a vehicle (despite a good number of close calls), never seriously injured and never really was in personal danger by other people
- early onset of nostalgia: while I’m glad that I did arrive, this also marks the end of an era for me; the free-wheeling days of being almost completely free to do what you like are drawing to a close and they will be missed
- lonesomeness: I was there by myself, no one to meet or greet me; in some sense this was welcome as I could just linger in my own thoughts and strange as it may seem, it was one of the first moments when I did feel alone in the last months
- fatigue: the last weeks have been grueling and have taken a toll on me, both physically and emotionally; as I was sitting there, I could feel how drained I was in every respect
- and an overwhelming and vast emptiness that started to open up … leaving this won’t be easy, but the memories that have literally amassed during this trip will stay with me for a lifetime
Did any of the many sacrifices that were involved in getting here make sense? I don’t know and I don’t want to think about it right now. Let me just say this: my hunch is yes. Over the past few days I have been receiving a good number of emails that have informed me that people enjoy the messages that they are receiving, that they feel that they are part of the journey and that I take them along for the ride. That is the best that I could hope for. For me personally, I got so much out of this experience, I would not want to miss a minute and I hope I could convey as much for the past months.
And I want to thank YOU! Yes, you. Without the feedback that I received through messages, emails, comments and other means I could not have done it. Thank you very, very much.
For those wanting some raw facts:
total distance on the bike: 15,404km
distance in vehicles: about 1,300km
climbing: well over 100km
days on the road: 252
flat tires: 0
helpful people: too many to count
The day started out with me not feeling badly, but not feeling great either. I was there and knew that this would be the end of the biking part of the trip. I took this as a good sign.
And so I rolled along. The km markers didn’t fly by, it was slow going. All the while I knew I would get there. My stomach was still not in great shape, but I motored along. Took a break here:
And then moved on. I had decided to head north and evade a larger city. And then I started to feel the pull of the Yellow Sea. I couldn’t smell the ocean, that would be difficult given the wind conditions. But I knew I was close and so eventually I turned off the main road and just headed east. I had to thread my way a few times, but kept the general direction until I hit a bridge and a good road on a dam running next to a river. I followed and just wanted to arrive. And didn’t want to arrive. But really I did. And then I saw two buildings ahead of me - spaced about a km apart, signaling the river gates and I knew I was there. Past a construction site and then I got the first glimpse of the Yellow Sea. I could smell the salty air of the ocean now. After taking in where I was, I sat down …
I don’t know how long I was sitting there, but turned away eventually and went to the city of Ganyu where the waves of exhaustion were washing over me in a way that I hadn’t experienced them before. I just passed the time hanging around after taking a long, hot shower in my hotel.
There will be a few more postings here in the next few days as I am heading to Beijing and then on to Germany. So do stay tuned.
November 30, 2008 10 Comments
daily distance: 124km
total distance: 15,343km
riding time: 6-7h
It was an early out after the night with the farmhands and surprisingly little snoring. I had some wind from the front and some cold temps in the morning, but other than that things seemed to be OK. Body was better than yesterday. I took an early break after about 40km to do some updating so as to be reasonably current with the website and then moved on.
The rest of the day was riding through very mildly rolling terrain, where all sorts of things were sold among them trees and these guys …
And lots of other things …
And if someone thinks that I am loaded down, look here.
I crossed a ton of rivers and canals along the way. The going got rougher towards the end of the day. I was spent again, out of fuel and couldn’t go much further I felt. But on the other hand I feel confident that I can get to the coast tomorrow. See here why I feel this way.
The closer I get now the more images of the tour come back to me. Things like getting Easter Eggs early on while still in Germany or images of Greece where people helped me out when things weren’t the best that night.
I found a place to hunker down for the night … twice as much as last night, but what do you get to when you double next to nothing. It was a good place after all.
November 29, 2008 3 Comments
daily distance: 120km
total distance: 15,219km
riding time: 7-8h
I have had stomach issues throughout the night. Add no sleep because of the noise below the window which seemed to be getting worse and worse the longer the night went on and you get the feeling … maybe. My whole entire body seemed to be seizing up. I felt literally down and out.
Somehow though in the morning I crawled out and left Dangshan and decided that I would try to move on somehow. And I pedaled one stroke at a time. It was slow going, but it worked. I covered 10, 20, 30 … and so on km until I got to the Xuzheng, another one of those big cities where I found an internet cafe to update and then pedaled out again. I was intent to not go for a long time and didn’t. Only 30km or so more after Xuzheng and that was it really. I stayed in a farmhouse which cost practically nothing but was the only place in that village. The alternative would have been a 20km detour. Not having that right now.
I ate easy stuff throughout the day, bananas, apples and some cookies. It sort of worked and feel better now stomachwise. Though I am officially worn out now. I don’t want incessant honking or headaches or weakness to continue. I just want to get to the ocean now. It is about 200km from here, so two more days and then I am done.
On the other hand, I looked at this map a litte bit ago and realized how far of a way it has been crossing the continent. Oh man …
November 28, 2008 No Comments
daily distance: 143km
total distance: 15,099km
riding time: 7h
Tonight was a great dream … Pretzels and Nutella. Oh my goodness, that will one of the first things I will eat when I get back to Dland. My father squirms at the thought I am sure, but hey …
This was a long day again, during which not much did happen. I passed this mark
then this …
and also this …
It is flat country with a whole bunch garbage unfortunately strewn all over the place. It seems like the environment is a good pit for pretty much anything you can come up with in your head.
I am pretty focused on finishing up now though the long days seem to be catching up with me quite a bit now. Today was no exception. It was much longer than I had wanted it to be and I just hope that the body holds up somehow. As I am writing this in Dangshan (pretty gruesome town with a pretty gruesome hotel - the bathroom in the only room with a shower was a definite no-go), I am feeling pretty out of it and not well at all.
November 27, 2008 2 Comments
Day 248 (China): restaurant at km marker 652 at G310 - km marker 468 on G310 (how much longer can I sustain this?)
daily distance: 165km
total distance: 14,956km
riding time: 7h
It was one of those days that had the best and the worst. The best was at the beginning and in the afternoon. The worst at night. So this may blemish my view a bit.
The morning saw the folks from the restaurant taking such good care of me. We had already figured out that they were Christians and were keen to help me for that reason. I now also understood why one of them kept repeating the phrase “one book” over and over again. Once I took a look at her book (or rather at the maps in the back) I understood what she meant. They were amazing … thank you very much.
And again, I can’t post the pictures in the size I would like to … my apologies.
The night though was terrible, too much noise from the road which was right adjacent to the building and lots of honking going on. Ouch …
Once underway I had a huge massive tailwind into Zhengzhou, overcame the last hill for the trip (this time I am certain - all is flat as far as I can see) and plunged into this mad and busy city. After construction kept me moving in the wrong direction at first I got into the center - very disappointing - and moved on and out. I for some reason found the right road. It wasn’t G310, but who cares about it when you get this.
Granted, it was boring, but when you want to cover miles this is great. The wind pushed and pushed and pushed and I moved along nicely. I reached Kaifeng, my goal for the day at 1:45pm and after some time on the web moved on. I thought about going to Lankao, but moved past quickly and went further. It seems like I just want to get to the end of the trip now. But there is still some distance to go.
So, I get to a place and it is a hotel. People are happy and excited … except for one guy. The owner. He wants nothing of the foreigner. It was frustrating to say the least and made me angry for the first time in a long time. Really angry. The typical hand waving: No, No! And I couldn’t help but get in his face for this. I shouldn’t have and didn’t want to in the end, but that’s what happened. I left and had to go through the darkness for another 5km before finding a grubby and smelly place that I could stay at. But the food in a little place not far away was good at least.
This was the first time that I felt that the end of the biking part of the trip is drawing near. And I feel slightly nostalgic and melancholic about it. Not sure … but I suppose this is normal.
November 26, 2008 1 Comment