Saturday, August 28, 2010

Driving in China

Yesterday we drove to Chengdu. We left at 5 am because three have been lots of landslides and the roads were reputed to be very bad. It turned out to be good that we left so early because it took 11 hrs to get to Chengdu (our personal best on the drive is 7.5 hrs) and that meant we got in at 4 pm, giving us plenty of time to get our haircut, go out to dinner, and show a newly arrived undergrad our flat to see if he wants to share with us (he does!). Oh, and we got to eat Baobing with real bing. Yum!

On the drive I was thinking about my favorite things about long-distance driving in China and came up with: podcasts (we listened to car talk, wait wait, this american life, and planet money), books on tape (we listened to the Alchemist), and driving ourselves and thus trusting the driver. I also noticed that during the drive there was a steadily decreasing quality of gas station bathrooms. At the first gas station the bathroom almost could pass the test of being clean enough to be in a developed country. The second was a bit dirty. The third was so gross that if we had had a choice, I wouldn't have used it. However, there was no choice. In case you're wondering, the worst things about long drives in China are: other drivers, the roads, buses, trucks, 3 wheeled carts and tractors, and the bathrooms. Oh, and the food. we take all our own food for drives and lots of water. We have, however, gotten totally used to long drives. We did the 11 hr drive with just the 3 bathroom stops (where we also swapped driving).

The road turns out to have been ok. The first 5 hrs went according to schedule and we were past Ping Wu before we really hit the traffic. The first was a hold up for 30 minutes (until 11 am) and then after that there were regular stops and often the other side of the road was mostly ripped up, creating an uncontrolled 1-lane road with 2 lanes of traffic.

Today we had a fabulous (but long!) bike ride with the Chevron expats who mountain bike every weekend here. Most of the group did half the ride, but since that was only 1.5 hrs, 4 of us decided to complete the loop. We were unfortunately given bad directions and rode quite a ways up a large hill (>1 hr up) before the 2 who had done the ride before decided it probably wasn't the right way. We then spent about 45 minutes trying to use the iPhone to figure out which way to go before we just called the guy who mapped the ride and was leading our ride before he had to leave early. Oh, did I mention we met at 6 am, which meant we left the house at 5:40 and had to try to find somewhere we'd never been before in expat land? It was exciting. Fortunately our friends' driver came and found us. In any case, we got turned around and finished something resembling the right ride. We definitely did the wrong thing at the end since instead of a loop we did a lollipop where we went back down the same evil hill we started up first thing in the morning (and which got my unwarmed-up-self up to a heartrate of 199!). In any case, we did a 5 hr ride of unknown distance (including the stops to figure out which way to go) and burned over 2300 cal each. Wow. We got home safely and now know where to find the starbucks where everyone is meeting tomorrow at the more civilized time of 8 am for another ride.

Dessert is coming soon, so I'm off for now.

a :)

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