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Shanghai--Inaugural 200km brevet--Adrian Hands http://cycling.ahands.



April 14, 2007

Having recently moved to Shanghai, and living there

during a PBP year, Joe Keenan found himself unable to
attend the brevets to qualify for PBP-2007, so the
unflappable Mr. Keenan contacted Audax Club Parisian
and negotiated permission to open up the nation of
China to randonneuring—ROC was born!

I make it sound simple, but it must have been anything ROC—Randonneurs Of China
but. The ACP is famous for intricate and perplexing
rules, and planning a 200km brevet route in fast-developing 21st century
China—where maps are obsolete before the ink is dry—surely an insurmountable task
for most men.

From thirteen time

Table of contents zones away, Joe sent out
Thu: Getting There the "You are all invited"s
Fri: Intro to Biking in China in February, which
Sat: Brevet Day struck me as an
Sun: On My Own opportunity not to be
Mon: A Mission missed. Winning "airfare
Tue: Homeward to anywhere in Asia" at
a benefit auction proved
"You're all invited."
that it was meant to be.

Getting There
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Okay, I'm in Shanghai, now what?

After just-enough-time to change planes stops in

Detroit and Tokyo, I'm at the PVG airport on Shanghai's
east-side ("Pudong"—"Dong" means "east"). Is the
Shanghai Racquet Club shuttle-guy looking for me? I
don't see him. Should I grab a cab? I did not print out
the address for the SRC. Is it well known enough that I
do not need an address? Unfortunately, I had failed to Chinese Visa
adequately plan this far ahead. I know the downtown
YMCA, as well as the Mingtown Hiker's Hostel, have been recommended by
cyclotourists, and beds in Shanghai run as little as USD $ 6.00 per night, but I've
made no reservations, have no addresses or phone numbers, the rail service is down
for the night and I've never been to China, or even east of India, before. This is the

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way to start a vacation!

The airport's business center provides e-mail service

and Joe rescues me by giving me the phone number
for the front desk at the racquet club. The desk-man
speaks Chinese and can give my cab driver directions.
Joe has the futon ready in the guest room, even though
my last indication to him was that I'd show up on
Friday (tomorrow). A westerner walking through the Shanghai Airport
corridors of the Shanghai airport is greeted with calls of
"Information?" from every hotel and rental car booth in the airport. I tell the girl at
one of the rental car booths that I need to find a taxi. "Oh, we have," she replies. In
China, as in India, when you rent a car, a driver is included.

A half-hour later, while climbing into the back of the car, I note the low-fuel indicator
while the agent relays the directions to the driver—and then we're off into the
Shanghai night. "America good," the driver exclaims. Well, sometimes. "Clinton," he
recalls, and gives me a thumbs-up in the rear view mirror. "Okay, yeah, but we've got
George Bush now," I reply. He looks puzzled. "Bush," I repeat, but the name doesn't
ring a bell. Maybe I'm not pronouncing it right?

He gets on the cell phone, passes a semi on the right

and then cuts left—right in front of the semi. I guess
that's how it's done here? The semi driver gets on his
horn, so maybe not. He hangs up the phone, laughs
nervously and becomes excited about the address
we've given him. "Oh-ho, great distance," he stretches
out his arms and looks at me, then makes more phone
calls while speeding down the freeway. Eventually he realizes that he doesn't have
enough gas and starts to panic, tapping on the gage to emphasize to me our
predicament. Well, what does he want me to do? I've already paid the agent
four-hundred and fifty RMB; Do I need to buy gas on top of that? Yep. I think he says
fifty. I agree. Then he says one hundred—hey what happened to fifty? "Hundred!
Hundred!" Okay, a hundred. He pulls into a station, the attendant pumps one
hundred RMB, I hand him a 100 RMB note making him so excited that he skips
around the cab and gives me a hug! Now we can cut-off semis with a full tank of gas.

Nearing midnight, we're off the freeway and stopped at a red light on a wide avenue.
A line of cars to our right is turning left in front of us—odd? The left turn lane is on the
right-side of the road. You see a lot of peculiar things in Shanghai.

Around midnight, we enter "Forest Manor". A sentry

stands duty at the entrance where gold lettering
reflects the floodlights before a landscaped
entrance-way and the palm tree have their trunks
wrapped in "Christmas" lights. The Shanghai Racquet
Club is a splendid complex of lush landscaping, paved
walks, ornamental lighting, rhododendron, ponds, pools
and fountains. Inside, the building is finished with Forest Manor
hardwood floors and solid hardwood doors. The roomy

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garages hold no cars—everybody walks, bikes and uses the shuttle or hired car here.
Joe shows me to the shower, the futon and I'm in for the night.

Intro to Biking in China

Friday, April 13, 2007

On Friday, Joe sets me up to ride his recumbent around

this side of town while he finishes up some paperwork.
I ride out of the SRC complex to Bei Qing Highway—a
busy four-lane with bicycle paths on either side.
There's white-on-blue signs, reminiscent of those in
Germany, indicating the four-lane is for cars and the
outside lanes are for bikes. These Chinese bicycle
paths are mostly separated from the auto path by a low Big four lane highway with bike
wall, and they're much wider than the paths in lanes behind the guard rails on
Germany—in fact they're wide enough (12 feet?) for a both sides, but use as you see
car, and it's not uncommon to see a car creeping down
one of them. Bikes often use the "car lanes" too—most
traffic control in China seems to be only suggestive.

Actually, in China, vehicles are divided into two groups:

two wheelers and more-than-two wheelers. So
motorcycles, scooters and electric bikes are all together
with bicycles. Two wheelers are very popular, and the
motorized versions have long been limited to an engine
size of no more than 150cc. Now, concerned about air
pollution, the government is phasing-out gasoline-
fueled two-wheelers and many have switched to LPG or
electric. Electric bicycles of all sorts are very common,
including the conversion kits that replace the front
wheel with a wheel with an electric motor built into the
An electric two-wheeler in
hub. These have no problem doing 20+ mph and are Shanghai
silent. In India, men and boys often ride bicycles, but image from IEEE Spectrum (June
I've never seen the ladies in India pedaling—they 2005)
always seem to opt for scooters or the "auto" (a
three-wheel motorized rickshaw—what they call a "tuk-tuk" in eastern Asia). Here in
China, women bicycle, and everybody dresses formally, so you see many women
pedaling in high-heels.

Back home, in North Carolina, pedicabs or rickshaws are just beginning to appear in
the larger cities. I don't recall seeing any in China or India though. Bikes here are
widely used for transportation and for hauling large loads of all sorts of cargo, but for
the most part people traveling by bicycle pedal themselves. The "auto-rickshaw" may
have killed the pedicab in India?

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Even though it rained last night, some people still wear

dust masks when out of doors. I think in Japan they
wear them to guard against the spread air-borne
viruses and bacteria, but in China I think they're worn
to keep out the dust. To the north, Beijing suffers from
the encroaching Gobi desert. Here, I'm not clear if the
A Shanghai Sculpture
particulates in the air are desert dust or urban smog or

Turning east on Bei Qing Highway, then south into a community known as
"Zhuditown" (pronounced something like "Judy-town") the streets are crowded and
lined with people doing business—cooking food, selling rice, produce (watermelon,
roasted corn on the cob, carved pineapples, apples), brown eggs and all manner of
goods and services. The smell of street cooking and the occasional "incense" of
burning trash remind me of India.

In Zhuditown, a right turn at the tee intersection,

through some barricades and eventually the road
leaves the dense and bustling Zhuditown to cross some
overgrown fields. I continue up the road and take
another path into another small village community.
The path quickly becomes to narrow for cars and
there's more cooking, curb-side tailoring (I guess that's
a sewing machine—it looks quite different from a Outdoor pool tables are all over
"Singer"…) and a canopy covering four pool tables! I Shanghai.
can only guess that the five-star luxury hotels in
Shanghai probably have a high turnover of pool tables, and since everything gets
recycled in a country like this, the discarded pool tables probably find their way into
these open-air back alley establishments—just a guess. Passing a small Chinese school,
the sound of children singing drifts from the open windows.

There's a man with a small air compressor / bubbler on

the bridge over a canal. He's sorting through buckets
of small water creatures. Everyone smiles at the 'bent
and gives "thumbs up". I return under the elevated
freeway, turn east on Bei Qing again and go back to
the SRC.

After lunch at Rendezvous Café (I had a delicious

mixed-mushroom dish, which the waitress described as
"little bit spicy". I'm from Louisiana, and my wife is Canal fish
from southern India—both places known for peppery
cuisine—and I'd say it was more than a "little bit"), Joe and I head out for a longer
ride, covering the same ground—in Zhuditown there's a guy bicycling with TWO
full-grown slaughtered hogs draped across his bike—farther west to inspect a section
of tomorrow's brevet route. We cycle through some light industrial areas. Joe points
out roads that were not there two weeks ago. On one of these new roads we see
several Chinese Driving School students practicing. There's a pile of glass in one curve
and a severely dented tree. Apparently somebody flunked driving school. That's the

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ONLY glass I saw in the road in China. Things like glass bottles are too valuable to
waste by breaking them in the road.

A landscaping crew is watering plants with pumps drawing water from the canal. Two
bicycles are parked against the canal bridge. I do not doubt for a minute that they
have carried those pumps and big hoses to this spot on those bicycles. Watching the
Chinese gives one a whole new understanding of how much weight one can transport
bicycle—even without a trailer! We detour to explore a freshly paved tractor path
through a rice paddy. In Germany, the tractor paths were asphalt and were heavily
used by hikers and "Nordic walkers". Here they are cement and the culverts are
cement-lined too. It all makes the south Louisiana rice paddies that my mother's
family owns and operates look somewhat primitive. I'd like to show this to my nephew,
Peter-Ray, he'd appreciate it, but he'd probably prefer to stick with the Louisiana way
(more mud, less cement, bigger tractors!)

Speaking of tractors, the "Caution: Tractors" road signs look the same as those in the
west, and the tractors silhouetted on those signs look like the ones that China exports
in large numbers. But a tractor here looks nothing like those on the signs. Around
Shanghai, tractors have an exposed motor with a large exposed flywheel and big belts
way out in front of what looks like a low-cab pickup truck. These tractors rather
resemble some kind of tricked-out 1940s California hot-rod dragsters. Think of an
altered-fuel Nomad, chopped and welded to the back of an industrial tiller.

Around 4:30pm we meet up with several expats at the

Shanghai American School (SAS) for the Friday evening
pub ride. This was an amazing ride—Andy led us for a
long twisty ride, all on those little cement tractor paths
and narrow alleys. Uncountable turns, patches of
gravel, arching pedestrian bridges, tree nurseries,
canals and back-alley after back-alley. We rode pretty
fast considering the conditions and the locals seemed Friday pub ride
to get a kick out of watching these funny-dressed
laowais race through the village, lots of hooting and thumbs-up gestures. Eventually
we came to a super crowded pedestrian intersection were vendors baked, roasted and
sold peanuts, cookies, sweet cakes, meats and countless other snacks. The pub was
on the second floor of a classically curved-eaves building but, as we had started late
and the sky was now darkening, we didn't have time to go inside today. They pointed
out the corner window overlooking the intersection and pedestrian bridge over the
canal as the location of the usual Friday pub-ride table.

Having suffered severe food shortages in the recent

past, plumpness is commonly considered a desirable
trait in children here. But combined with changing
diets and a more sedate lifestyle, this fondness for
flabbiness is rapidly bringing about a new health crisis
in China—Childhood obesity. I did not see a lot of that,
but one shop keeper brought out a really unfortunately
fat infant to proudly display. Sad.
Canal pedestrian bridges

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have bike ramps!

We get pretty close to
home before dark, but
just after sunset there's
a loud 'wishhing'
sound—Andy somehow
flats BOTH of his tires
What are these numbers? while descending a
they're all over the place…
bridge. There's always
something unexpected
popping up in China. Even the eggs have serial

The Inaugural Shanghai 200km Brevet

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Early Saturday morning Joe and I ride out to the brevet

start—farther down Bei Qing, then turn and head deep
into the business district. Past banks and subway
stations, high-fashion stores, Joe points out "Bubba's
Texas-Style Bar-B-Que and Saloon" on Hongqiao Lu
("Lu" means "Rd"). Across the street is what looks like
a half-size replica of the U.S. White House. Lots of
bankers and business executives bicycling to
work—actually, appearances may be misleading, as This fellow has got a good sized
even the guy busting up concrete by hand is dressed load.
more like a banker than a construction worker. But the
large numbers of bikes parked at the bank, and the women cycling in heels, leads me
to believe bankers bike to work too. There are also plenty of guys biking to work with
hard-hats on—working construction, or is that what people wear for bike helmets
here? Somebody has been selling roasted corn and I'm surprised at the cobs and
husks littering the marble steps and planted areas, but each morning the city sends
out hoards of sanitation workers who clean all that up in no time. Throughout the
city, and throughout the day you hear the clanging cow-bell of the "bone and rag
man" on his utility trike picking up all forms of recyclables and compostables.

At the brevet start, near the Zhong Shan Metro Station

downtown, we were soon joined by Xianshi Cui—great,
local interest! Then Damian Burke, Bernard
Kearsley-Pratt and Chris Torrens join us. Joe goes over
the procedures, hands out cue sheets and leads us off.

Unpacking, at the start

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We cycle back up Hongqiao Lu, through Zhuditown,

past a guy biking down the road carrying a ten-foot
step ladder, (upright!), under the freeway and to the
first (unstaffed) control. Joe has a "Shell" gas station
indicated on the cue sheet. "Don't stop there for food
or water, though. In China, gasoline stations don't sell
those." I guess it doesn't make sense to them—why would you buy food at a gas
station? Yuck! Most gas stations are "Sinopec". China only began allowing the
foreign multinational companies to build stations in 2004, and Shell jumped in with
plans to build thousands. Another trend Tibet would like to avoid?

In Zhuditown, and elsewhere in Shanghai, street-side

vendors sell fresh-cooked meals and roasted sweet
potatoes to passers by. They're making "youtiao" by
rolling dough into a foot-long, half-inch-thick stick and
dropping the sticks into frying oil. The dough puffs-up
a bit like a donut (and may have a touch of honey in
it). They scoop these out of the oil and stand them up
in a galvanized pail. I see some people buying these to Fresh-cooked breakfast, curbside.
go with their soup. At the same stall, they're cooking [ Slideshow ]
"Shaobing"—circles of dough with sesame seeds that
are roasted inside a roadside oven. The chef lifts a lid from a hole on top of the oven,
takes the dough into an upturned hand and sticks it to the sloping inside wall of the
oven to cook. One option offered is to make a sandwich with two shaobings and a
youtiao in the middle. I go for the third deal: "jian bing"—they cook a sort of thin
savory pancake or crêpe spreading the batter in a big circle on the round griddle
using a special tee-shaped jianbing spatula, crack a brown egg to cook on top, add
cilantro, onions and chow-chow sauce, then break a youtiao in half on top, roll all that
up like a burrito or dosa, fold it, cut in half and drop into a clear bag. [ Slideshow ] I'm
not sure how much I'm supposed to pay, but one yuan (about twelve cents, U.S.)
seems to cover it.

Joe instructed us to disregard the cue sheet after the

first control, due to some last-minute road closing, and
simply double-back the way we came to Zhuditown
and then make our way to Rendezvous Café, "Adrian
knows the way." (Gulp) Uhr, I guess I did it once…I
can find my way back to Zhuditown and then Bei Qing
Highway, but miss the turn to Rendezvous Café.
Papa John's delivers, by bike.
Note the electric motorized-hubs.

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By now we're separated, and I decide I've gone WAY too

far up Bei Qing highway so I turn around and head east
again on the wide ped/bike/scooter path—though they
have paths on both sides of the highway, two-wheeler
traffic flows in both directions on both paths. You have
to be aware that many bicycles have been retrofit with
electric motors built into the front hub, so they whiz by
at up to about 20mph silently—much quieter than Up the path along Bei Qing
hybrid cars—but they counter the quiet by blowing the Highway

horn, constantly.

Motorcycles have long been limited by law to 150cc

(some skirt the law by adding a side-car, to make it a
three-wheeler and no longer subject to the 150cc
limitation). Now China is replacing all the gasoline-
fueled scooters with electric and LPG/propane fueled
models. The LPGs are less costly to operate than
gasoline and seem to produce a much less foul
exhaust—nice when you're sitting behind a couple at a
red light. Three wheels—no 150cc limit.

While riding the brevet, we felt a lot of headwind

sweeping across that flat plain. I didn't see any wind
turbines while in China, maybe because visibility was so
low. Shanghai has plans to install thirty-thousand
megawatts of wind turbines by 2020. Analysts say that
China's geography is well suited to wind power and
could provide over three million megawatts.

The big blue trucks apparently need to let the air horn
wail almost continuously, lest the built-up air pressure
make the whole thing explode? In Asia, horn honking
doesn't imply anger or threat, just "I'm here". As in 30,000 megawatts by 2020

India, it all seems chaotic except the one rule taken

seriously is: "don't hit anybody, no matter what they
do." A large vehicle blasting his horn and bearing
down upon a cyclist is cause for alarm in the west, but
not here, as the driver is operating on the principle that
if you're moving in front of his path NOW, you'll be
somewhere else by the time he arrives at that spot.
This, of course, is true assuming that the cyclist does
not stop. But the driver is prepared to stop, should the Up the path along Bei Qing
cyclist fail to move—a preparedness that Andy has Highway
tested repeatedly, while his cycling buddies close their
eyes and cringe.

In India, the heavy trucks are made by "Tata"—the huge family-owned conglomerate
that now dominates communications and technology in India and recently made news
by taking over a huge British steel firms, one of the largest in the world. Tata paints all

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those trucks school-bus yellow. In China, big trucks are all painted blue, though the
appear to be manufactured by a wider variety of suppliers, including "Porland".

People are very friendly and they are amazed by the

recumbent bicycle—they pull up alongside and drive
real slow, etc. Sometimes they look expressionless,
especially the older folks (I'm told many of the older
folks were raised to be wary of foreigners), but I say "Ni
Hao" and they get a kick out of that. Some speak
English, most do not, but when they recognize an
English speaker they call out "Hello!" or "Hello! How are
you?" They giggle at any response because "Hello! How
are you?" is just about the extent of their English—just
as "Ni hao ma?" is about all the Mandarin I know.
Xianshi grabs a swallow of tea at
The two-wheeler paths are very much shared and
multi-use. Today I'm faced with a giant yellow steam-
roller coming down the path, head-on, but there's room to squeeze by on his left.
There's always something unexpected popping up in China. Now that I think about it,
a steam-roller is technically a two-wheeler, isn't it? I think his engine displacement is
over the 150cc limit though. Encountering the rest of the brevet group barreling
westward, I do a 180° again to chase them. By the time I catch up to Xianshi, the
others are barely visible and a twelve year-old school-boy, in uniform with book-sack, is
riding right along with us on his mountain bike showing no sign of difficulty with
matching our pace.

Bang-bang-bang! Gunshots? No, firearms are banned in China. Aha, fireworks—is it

a holiday? Joe shrugs, "Somebody is always setting off fireworks in China."

China is where Critical Mass got its name. Ted White's

1992 documentary, "Return of the Scorcher" looks at
bike culture in China, The Netherlands, Denmark, and
the U.S.. In the film, New York bicycle designer George
Bliss, describing the flow of bicycle and car traffic in
China, used the term "Critical Mass" to describe the
way informal turns-to-cross at intersections were
naturally negotiated and shared where traffic signals
were relatively uncommon. San Francisco commuters
Curbside bicycle repair service:
picked up on this term as a better moniker for their A bucket of sudsy water, pump
"commute clot" movement. and tools.

China does have traffic lights now—many very modern

styles with separate signals for bicycles. In the dense
downtown areas there are some streets where bicycle
traffic is prohibited and many intersections where
traffic is controlled by a uniformed police officer rather
than a signal light. I did see one officer writing tickets
to cyclists—probably for running a red light.

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Outside of the city, the land is all flat, dusty and devoid
of interesting geographic details. The highway
stretches out full of cars and blue trucks with guard
rails separating it from the two-wheeler lanes on either
side. I had hoped the air would get better, but it never
really did and made my decision to wear contact lenses
a poor one. There are interesting things to see though Workers in one of countless small
—e.g., a Dutch windmill standing inexplicably at one tree nurseries. New roads are
farm-road intersection, with no sign to explain its going in all over the place, and
every one of them gets
reason for being there. There's always something landscaping, shrubs and
unexpected popping up in China. ornamental trees.

There are frequent tree nurseries. Shanghai is building

new roads at a stunning pace, and each road is lined
with ornamental trees, landscaping and hedges. In
the recent past the countryside was stripped of trees
for firewood, the booming Chinese furniture exports,
etc.. Since 1990 logging restrictions have been in
place, trees are being replaced in China, but a heavy
appetite for forest materials is now being satisfied by
striping forests in Russia and other countries in the

One of the blokes in the fast group has suffered a

crash. They've finished cleaning up the wounds and
the bright red spots where he's lost skin and flesh from
his arm, leg and cheek glisten in the dim Chinese
sunlight. He's ready to go, and they quickly disappear
ahead of us again.

Lots of cars are slowing down to look at the

recumbent. Lots of "thumbs up" gestures.
Trees are bound with ropes—best
Occasionally we have to leave the two-wheeler lane due explanation: makes them grow
to bad surface, or a guy drying cut vegetation in the taller and denser
path. When that happens, we just move on out into the
highway lanes, and nobody seems to mind. Looking for
an indicated turn, we meet up with a bunch of young
recreational cyclists finishing up a break. They're also
headed to Suzhou. It turns out they're students from
Fudan University in Shanghai and there's at least fifty
of them. A couple of them even have racing bikes and
"Fudan U" cycling jerseys. They gather round, I take
pictures of them and they take pictures of me, the
recumbent and the egg-beater pedals.

On the way to Suzhou, a few more types of vehicles join in the mix, including an
enclosed three-wheeler that's bigger than an Indian auto-rickshaw and some cargo
haulers made from a large motorcycle front-end welded to a cart or small truck
rear-end. I guess that's what they did with their old motorcycles when the law

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restricted two-wheelers to 150cc. There's always something unexpected popping up

in China. After cycling around some kind of official check-point (toll-booth? Internal
passport control? I dunno, I bypassed it.), I'm surprised to see sky scrapers on the
horizon. That must be Suzhou?

Just before the Suzhou control, Xianshi and I meet up

with the other guys having lunch. They've been to the
control and are about to head back to Shanghai—into
the stiff headwind. In a market store I pick up a bottle
of water, bottle of green tea, bananas, apples and a jar
of lemon wedges that have been preserved in salt.
These salt-preserved fruits are common in this part of the world and the store has
row-upon-row of endless varieties. The crystallized ginger ones are good, but I can't
read the labels and just grab the lemon wedges. You're probably only supposed to eat
one or two at a sitting, but I gobble a bunch—I guess I'm getting a good dose of
sodium and vitamin C. One trip to the men's room—there's lots of toilet facilities here,
but they're not free. Inside, an attendant takes your coin and hands you some paper.

An old woman with bad teeth is hanging around watching as Xianshi and I eat. She
motions and says something in Mandarin toward the plastic bag of purchases I've set
onto the ground and my feet while I fumble with my pannier zippers. Is she telling me
not to litter? No, Xianshi translates—she's interested in my plastic water bottle.
Apparently she can collect some deposit for returning the empties, so I finish off my
water and tea and give her the empty bottles.

I swear I saw a Chinese Rastafarian trudging up the path, but didn't get a
photograph. There's always something unexpected popping up in China. In these
headwinds, the aero position of the recumbent gives me a significant advantage over
Xianshi and I quickly open up a gap, stop and get a photograph of his approach. I
hate going home with nothing but pictures of people's back-sides. When I stopped to
change film and batteries, Xianshi got a big gap ahead of me, so when I came to the
"turn right on road to the police kiosk" point on the cue sheet I was on my own
deciding if this was the correct road to turn. There's a police kiosk here, and a
bunched of caged dogs (for sale?) but the cue sheet says "to the kiosk", not "at the
kiosk". How would I know if the road went TO a kiosk? In randonneuring, one is
expected to keep careful track of odometer readings and cue sheet distances, but I
lost track. At home, it's easy because the territory is so familiar. Overseas, it's more of
a challenge. I take the right, and the next left, which should take me back to the
highway, but it doesn't look right. I try turning left at the next intersection, but after
a few miles, and a large arch across the roadway sign announcing in Chinese and
English: "Obeying traffic regulations is a matter of life and death", the four-lane
divided highway ends where people are pushing bikes and motorcycles down a
narrow path to a pedestrian bridge. They point towards the bridge when I ask
"Shanghai zai nar?", but I don't think that's the brevet route, so I go back to the
intersection and try going straight ahead instead of turning. You'd think a major city
with skyscrapers would stand out like a sore thumb on this desolate plain with so few
trees, but I can't see a city skyline anywhere. At least once I think I see tall towers,
but they turn out to be grain silos.

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After crossing this plaza, theres an intersection of farm

roads where I continue on the forward one. That road
soon shrinks to one of those small, newly paved
concrete tractor paths. We're close to Shanghai
—Maybe Joe incorporated a bit of the Friday pub ride
into the brevet? Next, the tractor path ends beside a
complex of dwellings. There's some single-track that
could be part of the pub route, but Joe wouldn't put
that on a brevet route. The little boy by the path and
Um, I think I missed a turn.
the young man in the field are ignoring my presence
even while the Akita by the road barks himself into a
frenzy while I ponder the cue sheet. Turning back, I meet a family walking the path
atop the canal bridge. The daughter speaks some English and helps me find the right
directions. Happy to be back on track, I roll down the pedestrian bridge sitting
upright, then ease back into the seat, lift my feet up to the pedals, click-in with a snap
and shove some speed into the wheels. A little boy walking up the path with his
grandparents squeals with delight at this sight. I guess I am something unexpected
this time. It's fun riding a racing recumbent in China.

The transliteration of Chinese characters in to Latin letters isn't precise. Even on

consecutive road signs, transliteration varies. For example, though the prior and next
signs say "Bei Qing Lu", this one says "Bei Ching Lu". I'm desperate for familiar
landmarks and I think I've found one—the "KTV" building—it looks different at night,
with so many multicolored flashing lights. I think it's some kind of broadcast studio,
but later learn KTV is a chain of Karaoke bars, or Karaoke bar fronts for illicit activities
and a good place to get beat-up and/or robbed, I'm told. In any case, not a landmark
as they are numerous. A light rain begins to fall, and thankfully I start to see banners
hanging from the street lamps reading "Forest Manor". I'm looking for the Christmas
light wrapped palm trees and Rendezvous café when a voice across the street calls
out my name—it's Joe! He's at Papa John's Pizza and happened to catch sight of me
as I passed the café. We start to discuss the ride and I tell him that I rode with
Xianshi most of the way—Is he in yet? "No, but…here he comes now!"

Joe is surprised that we took so long to finish. It's a good thing I didn't detour to
explore the road-side attractions. I guess I should have warned Joe that back home
our RBA tells me "You're early" on the rare occasion that I finish a brevet with more
than an hour to spare.

Great ride, great adventure, plenty hours, nice weather, got lost, found my way back,
and saw a lot of unexpected things—the perfect brevet. Wiped out, we go back to
Joe's for soup, Joe gives me maps, helps me find the street for the hostel and I turn in

On my Own
Sunday, April 15, 2007

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After a brief morning walk, I meet back up with Joe and

Susan who treat me to breakfast at the Rendezvous
café and then take me to catch the SRC shuttle bus
into town. Today's mission: find and check into the
hostel, buy a clean shirt, do laundry, e-mail, and food.
I've just stepped out of the Portman Ritz-Carlton when
two young ladies approach hesitantly. "We're students
and would like to practice English." We exchange Joe and Susan at the Shanghai
pleasantries "bye-bye" and they point me in the Racquet Club

direction of the subway.

Next, I'm stopped by someone wanting to sell me a fake Rolex watch, then another,
then…okay, I'll buy a watch so that I'll have a watch on my wrist and can tell them,
"No thanks, I've already got one." Finding a bike shop, I browse the many
commuters, folders, hybrids, etc… at great prices and expect to be descended upon
by an eager floor salesman at any moment, but it doesn't happen. The
aggressiveness of the street hawkers is not reflected in the shop clerks. The next
street hawker snickers at my watch, "Ha! How much did you pay for THAT? Never
mind. Want to by a Mont Blanc pen? Cheapa-Cheapa!"

I don't understand this. These hawkers have learned a foreign language (English)
—that's not easy—clearly they must be intelligent and educated. How is it that
they're stuck hawking junk to tourists?

Asking around, I eventually find the metro station and

manage to purchase a (USD $ 0.60) ticket for "Line 2"
to Nanjing Lu. I had read about crowded subways and
automatic glass doors installed to prevent pushy
crowds from toppling people off the platforms, but I
saw no evidence of any of that. There seemed to be
plenty of room, no automatic glass doors and no pushy
crowds when I rode metro Sunday afternoon, nor One of MANY walking tours.
Monday morning. Leader carries a flag, participants
get a cap.
Emerging from the subway, I find myself in "tourist
central". Tons of Asian tourists wearing red Nike caps are being corralled by their
walking-tour leader, identified by flag and bullhorn.

And there's one guy who wants to know if I want to buy a shirt.

As a matter of fact, buying a clean shirt IS near the top

of my to-do list. I'd read that these guys will show up
and lead you down tiny dark twisting alleys and up
rickety flights of stairs to a hot little room where
tourists are rifling through piles of fake designer clothes
heaped on tables. I think with the modern Chinese
economic boom there are not too many tiny dark alleys
left, but he did lead me around a corner and into a
second floor shop where a Norwegian couple was

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pensively looking at clothes and an aggressive Van Gogh is featured at the

Shanghai Museum
saleswoman sold me two T-shirts and a silk robe for my
wife. A couple other saleswomen tried to convince me
that I needed belts, bags, etc… but I declined. I did buy an MP4 player, as I'd lost
mine just before the trip. "Thank you for shopping with us. We should buy you a
beer." That sounds like a great idea, buy me a beer. So they lead me back down
Nanjing Lu to a hotel lobby where the shirt guy is sent for beer which, it turns out,
that I am buying, at a reasonable price…for the U.S.. Okay folks, enough of this. "You
want massage?" Sure, who doesn't? But what I need is a shave and haircut, who's
got a straight-razor?

So they lead me back up Nanjing Lu and down another

alley where welders are throwing sparks and dropping
heavy things that go "clang!" and into a barber shop
where they negotiate in Chinese with the barber.
"Charge him triple and give us half," is probably what
they said, but it was still a deal compared to costs at
home. He starts combing through my hair and
trimming it. "No, no, how can I explain—what's Two-wheelers downtown.
Mandarin for 'bald'?" I rub my hands across my head
making razor sounds, point to the bare skin on my hand and he understands. By
now, these traveling salesgirls are making me nervous, so I keep my duffel bag at my
feet while the hot towel, shaving cream and razor are applied.

Okay, shirt, shave, haircut…now what? "Buy me a

Gucci bag" is suggested. Um, No thanks. I take duffel
my bag and set out in search of Mingtown Hiker's
Hostel, eager to put some distance between me and
Nanjing Lu. One great thing about hostels is that, while
they generally are located with convenient acces to
transportation and the local action, they seem to also
be off-the-strip enough to avoid the tourist-hells like
Nanjing Lu.

Room 310 bed 6, I'm assigned, but I find bed six is full
of clothes. Bed two is clean though, so I unload my Nursery delivery

stuff there and find I've lost the bag with the shirts and
robe, but still have the MP4 player. I head out for a
walk—AWAY from Nanjing Lu—to explore and procure a
meal. The hostel is just two or three blocks west of the
Waibaidu Bridge over Suzhou Creek at north end of The
Bund (the multistory stone 19th century buildings put
up by the Japanese, European and American banks on
the waterfront along the Huang Pu River).

Mingtown Hiker's Hostel

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Across the river is Pudong, and many modern and

post-modern towers, exemplified by the famous "Pearl
Tower". A "Tourist Tunnel" connects the two—some
kind of cable-car pulls pedestrians through a
Disney-esque underground light show, but I didn't
check that out, preferring to walk the waterfront and
the neighborhood north of the Bund instead.

A flash of lightning, a clap of thunder and the hawkers that were pushing postcards
are suddenly possessed of umbrellas for sale—wow, how did they do that! At least it's
something useful, but the rain is so light that I don't bother. I've developed a new
strategy for dealing with hawkers: they know I'm not Chinese, but that doesn't mean I
speak English, right? From now on, I'm Turkish. I just raise my hand and say "Hayir."
Soft at first, and then forcefully if they persist. Then "alahaismarladik" (good-bye).
"Hayir" is "No," I think…or is it "yes?" No matter, either way, I do not speak English.
"Hayir. Hayir. Hayir!" I don't know if they believe me, it's hard to not let your facial
expression give away that you just understood what they asked, but if they just get
the message that they're wasting their time that's good enough.

I'm curiously eying a just below street level "foot

massage" shop (there's thousands of these in
Shanghai; they say the best ones are run by blind
people) when they invite me in. Fifty minutes for a few
bucks. Lying down on the massage bed next to three
other patrons in various stages of the fifty-minute foot
massage, they set beside me a glass of some kind of
tea, I think, but I'm not sure—it might not even be a
drink at all, so I don't touch it. There's a big TV
mounted high on the wall in the center of the room for
the patrons to watch, and for the masseuse to twist her
neck to see. I kick off my shoes and the lady takes away the stool suspending my legs
to soak my feet in hot soapy (herb infused?) water, then wrap my feet tightly in warm

Propping my feet back up on the stool, she applies medicated soap and begins a
thorough scrubbing and a series of rubbing, kneading and beating that goes right up
to the knee, including a grab-and-pull on each toe individually making a loud popping
snap when the toe clears the hand. I've had some weird motor-nerve problem that
has caused muscle loss, mostly in my left arm, but my feet feel like there's not much
flesh there anymore either. I wonder if this is supposed to hurt, or if it's the lack of
normal padding on my feet that makes it uncomfortable? Foot massage practitioners
say that tender spots in the feet reflect problems elsewhere in the body, which can be
treated by working those spots. I think I've got a lot of spots that need working. Foot
massage is said to improve ones mental health, reduce stress, boost circulation, and
relieve blood stagnation.

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Now for supper: The dumpling shop up the road offers

a variety of dumpling dishes and noodle dishes. I get
dumplings filled with cabbage, red pepper and sesame
oil. No forks here—chopsticks! Concerned about
deforestation, the Chinese government is phasing out
disposable wooden chopsticks by levying a five percent
tax on them. Returning to the room at the hostel, I find
a Korean guy has checked in and been assigned bed Dumplings
two. There's still clothes on bed six—girl's clothes. I Photo from
better not move them and lie down, she might freak
out if she comes back late at night and finds some grungy old man snoring in her
bunk. We check with the desk, move me to bunk three. That settled, he's anxious to
get out for a good Chinese foot massage. "Have you had one before," I ask? "All the
time." He says it's not supposed to hurt, so maybe I'm just tender, or maybe he's had
so many treatments that his feet are tough. I turn in early again tonight.

A Mission
Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm up early, so I head out to see what the city is like at

4am. In the lobby, there's no one at the desk, but
there's somebody snoring on the couch. The door is
open, so I head out into the pre-dawn. The street
vendors are just bringing the oil up to a boil for today's
jian bings and stoking the ovens for Monday morning
Shaobings. The streets are beginning to fill with bike
and motor-scooter traffic. Skies were clearer on Monday.

I walk through the north neighborhood and to the

waterfront by the Bund and join a pair of old men doing
their morning backwards walking. Calisthenics are very
popular here, especially with older people—you see lots
of what looks like brightly-colored adult-sized
playground equipment installed in public places and
everywhere people are propping a leg up on a rail to
stretch their hamstrings. One of the old gentlemen KIte flying on the Bund's
bids us adieu and the one remaining leads me through riverwalk.
a long series of repeated stretches moves. For a couple
of the more advanced stretches he motions for me to sit out. Other people are
jogging or flying kites, and one guy rides up on a bicycle with a unicycle strapped on
the back. He parks the bike and proceeds to ride the unicycle around the waterfront.

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At the north end of the

waterfront, bikes are
showing up ridden by
people in brightly
colored "pajamas". One
bikes up with a
boom-box, puts in a Morning dancing club warming up
cassette and the dance on the Bund's riverwalk.
club begins their
warm-up exercises.
Chinese YoYo
After the sun came up
the day turned from cool to cold. I head back to the
hostel for my jacket, passing through the
neighborhoods north of the Bund again. In a small
park lots of groups of older folks are gathered for
various exercises. A group of men were twirling
Baoding Balls—chrome plated metal balls, you hold a
couple in one hand and manipulate your fingers to
Kite flying on the Bund waterfront
make them twirl around one another. One guy handed
his to me to try and my hand immediately sank as they
were much heavier than I expected, which gave them a laugh. Several groups
practiced calisthenics, or dance accompanied by classical Chinese music on cassette.
One small group of women were practicing swordplay.

Near the hostel, I stop

for a curb-side breakfast
of jian bing. There are
lots of food vendors on
this block. The next
block west is all small
industrial supply shops,
one nothing but gages,
some old, some new,
Unloading the unicycle
some analog, some Unicycling
digital. Lot's of bikes
and scooters in the street—its crowded here, but not as crowded as India. A portly
and jovial chef strutting his way down the street, dressed in white uniform and white
chef's hat, buys a zucchini from a street vendor then saunters over to the next vendor
to jibe and cajole him while munching that raw zucchini like it was a fat cigar.

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Checking my e-mail, I find my wife has sent me just

what I want—a mission: "Find me a Kwan Yin statue
(Avalokiteshwara) or pendant." A what? I google it,
The Great Firewall of China blocks Wikipedia, but I
found out that in China, she's known as Quan (or Guan)
Yin (or Lin). The girl at the desk finally understands
what I'm asking about, draws the Chinese characters
and tells me that I can find these at the Jade Buddha
temple or the Longhua Temple. She circles the temples
on my map, offers that the two French girls in the
lobby are heading to the Jade temple also and we can Heading out in search of Quan Yin

travel together, but when I'm ready to go they're not

around and I'm not about to go stalking them, so I set out on my own, though it
means crossing the dreaded Nanjing Lu.

(Other mission:) There's a particular kind of bicycle lock

I hope to acquire while here—the circular sort that
permanently attaches to the seat stays and immobilizes
the rear wheel when locked. Though they're standard
equipment in Europe and Asia, they're very hard to
find in the U.S..

At another curbside "bike repair stand" (they just pick

a corner with a place to sit, set out pump and supplies,
and voilà —instant small business), through a series of
pointing and gestures I'm able to communicate to the
Chinese bike lock.
proprietor my intentions to purchase a lock. He motions
for me to sit down, then to my surprise he hops on to a
motor scooter and takes off. Wow, right in the middle of
this big city he can leave his repair equipment and not
worry about thieves. After about ten minutes he's back
with locks and other supplies. I buy one lock, and then
try to indicate that I'd like to buy the other one too. He
immediately shakes his head "no" while waving me
away, leaving me thinking: "How odd? I'm not allowed
two, I guess," then I realize that he thinks I'm asking
for two-for-one. I pull out the cash, and he gladly sells
me a second.
The repair stand where I bought
The feared Nanjing Lu is crossed this time without locks.
incident, being careful to walk briskly and avoid eye
contact. A couple of blocks south I met an older
Chinese gentleman named George. He was wearing a
"Bear's" cap and told me that he is a "technology
consultant" and used to live in New York. When I told
him I was looking for breakfast and a shirt he showed
me the best dumpling stand—said that these were
much healthier than the others and then helped me
George helping me out
buy a T-shirt with Chinese calligraphy. Sean had

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bought one with Chinese characters meaning "I have no money" when he was
teaching English here—probably a good thing in the vicinity of Nanjing Lu, but I had
to settle for "Lóng", the Chinese symbol for dragon.

The accent over the "ó" means that your voice should
rise as you pronounce the vowel—very important, or
else you end up with an entirely different word and
meaning. I.e. it's not an "accent" but a graphical
representation of the shift in tone. The other three
possibilities are voice dropping, voice dipping down
then up, or voice steady, each similarly depicted with
the appropriate "accent" mark above the vowel. "Dragon" is cool, but can't I get a
"mind your head" shirt?
Then George told me that he had an English student,
"Ms. Gu", who is divorced, would like to find a husband and move to America. "Um,
I'm already married, George." "That's okay, I'll bring her by after work—maybe you
know somebody, or can ask around when you get home."

I said "bye-bye" to George, pulled out my map and

turn east toward the river then south again. On an
elevated walk over the expressway I strike up a
conversation with an older Chinese gentleman. He
warns me that the merchants at the temple will
ruthlessly overcharge me and I must offer them one
tenth of what they ask. He tells me, "You must
accept!" Bamboo scaffolding

"Accept," I ask?

"Maybe that's not the best word. What does it mean, 'Accept'?"

"Um…Agree," I say.

He laughs, "Oh no! Opposite! What's the best word?"


"Yes, yes, you must Persist!"

That settled, I asked about the recent history of Shanghai and China: how have things
changed in recent years?

"It's much more open now. You can criticize the government."

I asked if protesting is allowed, but he seemed to not understand the word, so I

explained: crowds with signs and maybe speeches. "Oh no, not that, but you can

"Oh, so letters to the editor at the newspaper then?"

"Sure," he said, and I nodded. Then he added, "of course, they won't print them."

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I find my way to Fuyou street and find myself in a

crowd of tourists (including Americans and Europeans)
and more walking tours, but thankfully here it's too
crowded for the street hawkers. Unfortunately, KFC is
pretty big here. I swear I saw one labeled "AFC" in
India. Asian Fried Chicken? American Fried Chicken? I
guess they don't want to have to explain what
KFC is pretty big here.
"Kentucky" means, in India? In China, since few speak
English (unlike India) nobody would ask.

The temple is approached through a mall-like tunnel of shops. I tell the first
saleswoman who approaches that I'm looking for Quan Yin statues and she tells me
they don't have them. I think the shop owner hears this exchanged and probably
wants to fire her.

The guy at the next shop shows me a really expensive

jade statue, but I tell him I don't want jade. He takes
me across to another shop and pulls out some beautiful
statues and quotes a price. "Oh no, too much." Just
as the guy on the walkway says, the salesman punches
the number into a calculator and hands it to me. I
punch clear, enter a number a LOT lower and the game
Statues sold
is on. This isn't so terrible once you've got the hang of
it, and you get the hang of it pretty quickly walking
around Shanghai streets where people try to sell you stuff you really don't want and
then start calling out drastically lower numbers as you walk away.

I end up buying a couple statues from him and, after

touring the crowded temple grounds, a suitcase from
another shop, as I arrived in Shanghai toting only a
small duffel and now need to pack a few things, plus
someplace to put the stuff you can't carry on a plane
any more (e.g. a tube of Chinese Crest toothpaste).

Okay, now I'm wearing a T-shirt—nobody in China

wears T-shirts. Even when doing manual labor, they
dress formally. I'm also wearing Crocs (those odd
plastic shoes) and a yellow cycling windbreaker, and
I'm pulling a tourist suitcase. No way am I going across At the temple

Nanjing Lu like this, so I go northeast to the river and

walk up the waterfront. The sky is much clearer today,
but looking across the river the towers of Pudong are
still seen through Shanghai haze. Some cool ferry
boats are taking on tourists—mostly Asian tourists. I'm
almost to Waibaidu Bridge when two young ladies,
arm-in-arm approach and ask a few questions,
practicing their English. Okay, their in a pair like this
for mutual protection, right? That's a good sign,
they're awfully friendly and tell me that they're Temple, and LOTS of tourists

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students, one acupuncture and the other Chinese around Fuyou Rd

history. I show the acupuncture student my bad arm
and ask if acupuncture can help. She says she can't but maybe her teacher could.
Okay, good, that was an opportunity to set me up, but she didn't take it. I'm a bit
wary, after the Nanjing Lu experience, but we chat about Shanghai, Chinese
dynasties, etc., and everything seems cool. They tell me there's a Chinese Tea Festival
today and invite me to go. I missed yesterday's temple festival in the park…a festival
would be great, so we set off into town.

They ask me about my wife, my family, do I have

e-mail… A few blocks later, as I'm carrying the
suitcase, one remarks, "You are so strong." Uh-oh, let's
see, going back over the exchanges since we met I've
gotten "You're so clever", "You're so handsome" and
now "You're so strong"—this is suspicious, but I've read
that Chinese etiquette calls for rather gushing
compliments, so maybe it's all innocent, but we'll see…
We cross a street and walk into an open food-court type
area within a large building. Uh-oh, I was thinking of
an outdoor festival in a crowded park, but then there's Buy a pet turtle? They actually
a sign for the Tea Festival reassuring me that it's all on did NOT try to sell me these—pet
the up-and-up. The sign points to an elevator which turtle salesmen are after the
domestic market.
we take to the mezzanine level, walk down a few doors,
into a store where a traditionally attired lady shows us
to a room. A small room (Uh-oh) and she brings us a tray with hot water, tea cups,
jars of tea, and a photo album. We sit while she goes through the album with us—tea
history, tea varieties, tea formalities, the emperor's tea etc.. I ask about the price—50
RMB per variety. She pours us cups and says we are to drink in three swallows. Um,
okay, but I'm going to savor mine. "Don't you like it?" "It's wonderful, but I'm going
to sip it." Gosh it's hot in here. "Hey, do you feel something…something right here,"
she asks pointing to the bottom of her chin? No, should I? They say you can buy
anything without a prescription in China…

Okay, that's it, this is freaking me out. I put 50 RMB cash on the table and make a
break for it. Half expecting a couple of Chinese gangsters to block the door, I hit the
mezzanine, elevator down, across the food court and back to the street without
looking back. Okay, what happened? Maybe nothing, maybe it was all innocent. Or
maybe that's just how it goes around here—when you live in a place where you can
only earn in an artificially weak currency, and everything is priced sky-high for
tourists, maybe what you do on weekends is find a tourist who'll treat you to tea. In
any case, I think I'll stick to talking to old men, even if they don't speak English.

I pack my stuff away at the hostel, get the skinny on how to get back to the airport
tomorrow morning, and go for a walk. I need to ask somebody about what just
happened. The young man working the floor at the "5 Modern Mart" speaks great
English, and is pretty relaxed. He just kind of shrugs and says something like some
people are friendly and want to talk, others… Okay, I'm relaxing. He's finishing off a
quart of beer. "You can do that? at work?" "No problem—I paid for it." "Heh, yeah,
but even if you paid for it, you can't do that in America." There are two ladies and

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him working the shop. One's working the register, they don't speak English, and they
want him to keep an eye out for shoplifters. They're clowning around a lot—he says
the manager went to a meeting, so they're a bit more relaxed. The eggs have no
serial number here, and they must be fresh—they still have bits of hay and stuff stuck
to them. He asks me about my wife, my family, do I have e-mail…the same questions
that raised my suspicions with the girls earlier—I guess it is innocent, that part
anyway. He has one daughter—that's the "one-child policy". They say families are
very important in China. I guess that makes the questions about kids, especially
foreigner's (multiple!) kids, more interesting.

He says he learned English by talking to tourists, and has a night job dealing antiques
with his father. Day care is too expensive. I tell him young parents in America
struggle with day care expenses too. He says cars are expensive, "I mean it costs SO
much to buy a Ferrari or a Beamer." Uh, yeah, I feel your pain on that one. He's got
plans to open a tea house on a college campus—a quiet place where students can go
to study, hang out, drink tea and smoke. He takes a meal break and we go over to
the dumpling shop. No sooner have they brought us our food when I hear somebody
yell from the stairwell. Even though I don't understand a word of it, I don't have to
turn around to know it's the older of his two co-workers fussing that they need him
back at the store. When we go back to the store, I clown around with them: pretend
that I'm shop-lifting, jump behind the counter and say to the customers (in English)
"Welcome to 5 Modern Mart. How can I help you?", and stand by the front door
imitating the hawkers by holding up an apple and calling out "looka-looka! cheapa-
cheapa!" Once again, I grow sleepy early and retire to the hostel.

As I walk into the hostel, there's somebody I recognize at the table by the door…it's
George! I tell him I've already eaten, so Ms Gu comes by and we just sit there and
talk. George says she's got a career as a trade broker, so she doesn't need money,
just a husband in America—American or Chinese, doesn't matter, he can be crippled,
have only one-leg, she'll take care of him. And if I can find somebody, she'll give me
"Senx". What?!? "Oh, I don't know the English word…uh…money for arranging the
matrimony." Okay, well, I don't want any money, if somebody comes to mind, I'll let
you know. I explain that I have a plane to catch in the morning, they excuse
themselves and I hit the sack early again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Up around 4a.m. again, but this time I've got a place to

go. Pack my stuff, I think one of my roommates has
just turned in for the night. I walk to the metro stop,
even though it's not open yet I want to make sure I
know where it is located. One more walk to the river,
one more stop at a jian bing stand, one more Shanghai
subway ride. Metro signage

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The subway lets me out at the MagLev train

station—the only commercial high-speed magnetic
levitation line in operation anywhere in the world.
Coach fare is US $ 7, first-class is US $ 14. I spring for Maglev fast! 30km in 7minutes
1st-class, might as well spend a few of the RMB still in
my pocket. There is NOBODY else in 1st-class, and
1st-class is pretty much the same as coach, just two seats per row instead of three.
The maglev leaves the station on its elevated railway. A digital display clicks off the
steadily building speed. When it hits 300km/h we're passing cars on the freeway
below like they're standing still—seven minutes to cover the 30km to the airport.
Silent, except for the "bang" as our train crosses paths with its twin headed the other

Some last-minute gift shopping at the Shanghai airport

revealed that back-and-forth bargaining goes on even
here. I asked the Japanese guy sitting next to me on
the flight from Tokyo about KAL flight 007 back in the
1980s—"Oh yeah, it was shot down right about where
we are now." Back in Detroit, the homeland security
agent wants to know why I went to China, then what
do I do for a living? "Software," I told him.
"Macintosh," he asks? "No, Linux." He points my
passport at me and says, "Macs run Linux."

On my first group ride back home, I noticed I had to Crossing Alaska on the way home.

readjust to traffic in the states when the other riders

called out "Car back". In China, you don't do that. For one thing, there's ALWAYS a
car behind you. For another, it will blow the horn. And thirdly, it is of no
relevance—when you're in front, your only concern is what is in front of you. For
people behind you, getting around you is THEIR problem, not yours, no matter what
they're driving. And it's everybody's responsibility to not hit anybody else. It all
seems to work out, though the WHO's "World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention"
ranks China the top country in the world for both road deaths (600/day) and road
injuries. But then I think the U.S. isn't all that far behind (118/day) when you adjust
per capita (0.3 billion vs 1.3 billion).

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