Friday, August 04, 2006

First Wave, Intact

Whew. I finally made it to Jinan today. Within a few minutes of arrival, we threw around a few potential routes for the trip; variations that could include Laos or Vietnam, but it sounds like we'll stick with the original plan.
After a group dinner at the Cracked Table, where they serve the best god damned Kung Pao Chicken on earth (George knows the proper name for it in Mandarin this time around), Mike and I did some practice riding around town.
We started with a pretty technical off-road trail that wound up a mountain in Jinan. We cruised around hairpin turns along sheer cliffs with no guardrail, but the road was completely devoid of other traffic. A perfect environment for getting my motorcycle legs.
Cicadas brought on waves of bizarre screeching sounds. As we rounded a turn and the yellow sun glowed through China's haze with all the strength of the moon behind clouds, I couldn't help but howl in excitement.
We crested the mountain and sat at the top amongst a handful of laborers with pickaxes who were contouring the hill and planting cedar trees.
I led the two of us back down the mountain and onto the highway. I picked a random neighborhood marked by a handful of gigantic buildings under construction, which were hiding behind them a filthy, ancient neighborhood. We picked our way up a rather technical and incredibly muddy track, weaving through garbage dumps, a few incredibly long deep and stinky puddles, and past an array of barking dogs, towards a set of tiny brick houses. The whole neighborhood stunk like the back alley of a Chinatown restaurant, plus a whole lot of flowing sewage. I'd arrived.
On the whole, I am incredibly happy with the bikes: they are shorter, lighter, and much easier to control than Matt's. Plus they have a speedometer, tachometer, and display indicating which gear I am in. I quickly got the hang of the bike, and feel pretty darn comfortable on it. The leather jacket, full helmet, etc are pretty miserably hot when we stop riding, but are totally tolerable at speed.
I've got a great feeling about this. We're on the cusp of a hell of an adventure.

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