In April 2010, Eleanor Moseman left Shanghai on a journey of more than 10,000 miles, across 3 countries, on one bicycle. This is where she updates from the road.
  1. November 26 – When the police make you stay and try to get you blitzed. (Illegal photographs of Xinjiang Police).

    The strange terrain between me and the tarmac. There are remainders of salt or something on the dirt.

    Coming up from camp.

    There is a short strip along some trees. I notice they are growing in the direction of East, so I know I’m not insane thinking I have a headwind. There have been worst, but it’s there.

    Only a small bottle of water. This has happened to me once before, but I don’t think about that day very often these days. Main concern today is to get to a water supply. My map says there is something smack dab in the middle of the two towns. I’m not sure why it kind of translates to cow area/center lake…I learn this means pumping fields for oil/gas/etc.

    The closer and closer I get to this center point (about 85km/85km out) the traffic becomes almost nothing except for the occasional worker van/bus loaded with folks in their red uniforms. I wonder if I confuse them with my red matching jacket.

    There are strange stone structures on top of the gravel/sand dunes.

    The sky is getting smoggier and the fields are becoming filled with oil pumps, which do kind of look like fields of mechanical bulls (NOT the kind you hear about drunk people trying to ride).

    View from google maps.

    (Please take note dear reader, that when I use ” ” in my dialogue with people I am speaking Chinese and it’s translated here for you)

    So things are not looking very good around 4 in the afternoon. I have no water, so I know dehydration is already beginning to kick in. If I camp, I’ll still be hungry because I have no water to cook my food and can of extra salty “Fried Sardines with Black Beans” is not going to quench the thirst. It’s looking hopeless, especially as I pass through the intersection of the mid point from nowhere to nowhere and it’s nothing but smokestacks, refineries, coal trucks, and oil pumpers. I can see a wind farm off to the North towards the Mongolia border.

    I stand in the intersection look all around, turning slowing clockwise…examining what my options are. Face West and tell myself, “power on”. I’ve got about 3 more ours of daylight against this headwind.

    One or two motorcycles pass me coming from where I’m going. The passengers wearing the red uniform of the China Oil/Petro companies.

    The sun is setting and I’ve only 1 hour before sunset. I’m beat, I’m hungry, I’m dry/dehydrated, and just feeling like, “What the f*#k am I doing?!” Dismount and walk the bike hoping for a car to come by and offer me a hitch. Hitching only really happens when the cyclist is pushing the bike along the road.

    The sunset seems to turn everything orange, I think of correspondence with Ed Genochio every time I see orange.

    A white, typical double cab pick up pulls up to me heading from the East.

    The driver is Han and the front and 2 rear passengers are obviously Kazakh, the one rear passenger closest to me is looking a little blitzed.

    “What are you doing?” asks the driver.
    “Resting, I’m going ahead but I have no water.”
    “Where are you from?”
    “United States.”
    “One person?”

    After I state I’m American the drunkest looking Kazakh hands me his water bottle, although already half drank. (My imagination is turning it into a bottle of Hep/TB/etc when looking at the water, and smile and hand it back, “no problem”.)

    The Kazakhs are all talking in the truck, nothing that alerts me but gives a feeling that they are discussing where I should go or how they can help. I’m anxiously awaiting an offer to throw my bike in the back and get a lift.

    “Can you understand Kazakh?” asks the driver.
    “I’m sorry I can’t.”

    The driver smiles. The Kazakhs are now telling him something. There is a discussion and the driver tells me about 3 km up there will be a place to get water. To stop there. He points ahead and that it’s on the hill. I thank them graciously and give a big smile and go on.

    No working bike computer, so I’m estimating km counts or trying to find road signs, facing me or stopping to read signs going the other direction.

    There is music coming from the sand dunes. I see cows so I KNOW there has to be life around. If there are herds of any animal there has to be water around which leads to some type of human life.

    I debate whether they meant here or if there is a place further down the road. After riding past the gravel road for about 3 minutes I get off the bike, stare off into the dunes and see about a half a dozen little white concrete blocks. A few cars.

    Take a deep breath and push my bike through the dunes and past the cattle.

    The music hits a point in me, a strange feeling of comfort and excitement rushes over me – especially when I push over the final dune to see about 20 Kazakhs dancing on a small concrete area in front of a block house, with a yurt to the left. There are others standing around.

    I pass a police officer in his desert camo on his phone, “Hello”. This is expressed with an uncomfortable, yet confident, wave. He looks at me a little confused.

    The strange looks from the people is nothing new. Except out here I feel that the women are little more apprehensive than Tibet. Tibet, the women will run to the road to pull me off just to offer me tea and tsampa.

    This is an area I really wish Brandon was with me…feeling I should be traveling with the opposite sex.

    Within a minute I have about a dozen men and boys surrounding my bike and looking at me. On older, shorter, drunk man approaches me. He speaks Kazakh and I tell him I can’t understand, he talks to the other men and a younger man asks where I’m from.


    It’s translated, some understand.

    Smiles, “hellos”, “America” are coming from all directions.

    I tell them I need water and the drunk Kazakh man orders a little boy to fill up my water bottle.

    There is a ruckus that I can’t quite remember. I’m pretty sure it consisted of the typical questions of “one person?” etc…the same run down as usual.

    The boy comes back but the bottle is missing the cap. This makes the bottle nearly useless so I began to drink the water.

    The drunk Kazakh, which I will call “Teacher” (you’ll learn why later), asks me if I want tea and something to eat.

    “Okay.” Thinking that this could lead to a place to sleep.

    I distinctly remember seeing 3 officers in camo, there may have been 4. The dancing stopped for a little during the commotion but the music never stopped.

    The Teacher guides me into the concrete block with the typical coal burning stove and the large platform covered in carpets with tapestries hanging along the walls.

    There is the cloth opened up with 3-4 different types of bread and some candy. I’m handed a cup of milk tea, politely, with two hands.

    “Eat Eat.”


    I sit there and people take their turns coming in to look at me. I’m on display, nothing new. Two girls get close and I smile and say hello. The men of course are much more relaxed to make their attempts to talk to me.

    Approached by the officers, I’m asked for my ids.

    Handing them over, “Boss” – the one in charge, pretends to look through them as if he knows what he is looking at. Here we go, this is when everything is going to begin to change…and it’s not going to be for the best.

    Teacher asks me if I want to eat some lamb, if I CAN eat lamb. I say sure.

    The children are beginning to come and look at me. Of course I smile and say my hellos. The children are smiling, although some are shy and stand behind their parents. I begin feeling the women warm up.

    It’s dark outside, a man inserts a lightbulb outside so the dancing can continue.

    “Teacher” repeatedly comes in to make sure I’m okay, every time reminding me to eat and reminding a woman to fill my tea. He wants me to dance but I repeatedly remind him, “I can’t”. Kazakhs actually have an exceptional dancing ability.

    One tall man comes in with a felted white hat on that says “KZ” embroidered in blue. Every time a new addition arrives, he is told that I’m American and the smiles are exchanged. Big smiles…authentic warm welcomes.

    “Teacher” pushes a boy of around 8 years old to me. He tells me he is one of his students.

    “Hello. Welcome to my home.”

    I express myself with the biggest smile and say, “Thank you. What’s your name.” I give him something easy because I know if a successful dialogue passes between us, this will give the boy confidence and hopefully continue on.
    “My name is (insert Kazakh name here).”

    The whole room laughs, in a good way, and encourages the boy to speak more. There is some clapping. The boy is smiling.

    “Boss” is now telling me that when they are finished, the police will take me to a place to sleep. There is nowhere for me to stay here. I know this is complete BS and if they weren’t there I’d be staying with some local family, warm and well fed.

    The boy and I continue on in very basic English, “Teacher” is beaming.

    An portly old woman sits next to me, closely. The women begin entering and smiling at me.

    I know this game. Get in well with the children, show myself as a woman with a love for children, and things begin to fall into place. If I were living in a small community where we don’t have visitors, let alone foreign guests, I would be weary of any stranger that appeared. They are just protecting their families and I appreciate and understand this. After doing this long enough, I also know the game. Generally, don’t get to chatty and smiley with the men either. As soon as a woman warms up to me, I will latch onto her and leave men behind.

    This is beginning to happen.

    The lamb arrives. It’s nearly a complete lamb on a silver platter.

    It’s placed in front of me on the platform. “Teacher” sits next to me and “Boss” takes off his shoes and climbs up on the platform to my right.

    “Teacher” offers me baijiu. “No.”

    I can feel the women let their guard down even more. I sense them smiling and beginning to see I’m not that different from them. Beating that awful stereotype of American women.

    I deny multiple offers of baijiu. “Boss”, who is the officer in charge, has taken down about 10 shots of baijiu. One after the other. This is beginning to worry me. I question how am I going to get out of this. He tells me that shortly we will leave.

    “Teacher” has handed me a large knife to cut pieces off the lamb.

    “I can’t, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to eat.”

    He smiles, takes the knife off and cuts me off a nice fatty piece. Oh god, here we go again, how am I going to do this.

    Chew chew chew chew chew, gulp.

    I’m handed another, a little less fatty. He’s cutting faster than I can chew and gulp. Eventually, I have a little handful of mutton and a little handful of half chewed, large fatty pieces of spit up lamb.

    The old Kazakh woman hands me a sugar cube. I smile, “Thank you”. She returns the smile with a gentle nod of the head. The women and children, especially the two girls that have been there since the beginning, are getting closer and closer to my left.

    “Teacher” keeps trying to take me to dance. I keep trying to get my camera out to get photos but “Boss” and his minions are preventing all my free movement with their controlling eyes and the fear that is beginning to build.

    The music is loud, everyone is dancing. “Boss” tells me it’s time to go and “Teacher” drags me out into the dance floor. I’m guided to the DJ where he introduces me to an older man, where I am introduced as an American. I’m directed to stand next to him so a photo can be taken. I shake his hand and smile at the DJ. “Boss” is looking for me and he is drunk.

    I take a deep breath and I know everything is about to change as soon as I leave this village. As soon as I put my bike in the back of that truck. (My stomach is turning just remembering the point where everything is about to change.)

    Pushing my bike up to the pickup, it’s to be loaded into the back over the tailgate and onto farm tools and hay. Another car is being loaded up that will be traveling with us. I repeatedly remind them NOT TO LIFT FROM THE SADDLE…”BE CAREFUL OF THIS!!!!!” Pointing to the triple crank as it’s precariously thrown in. Double checking to make sure my fuel bottle hasn’t fallen out.

    Nothing worst than a bunch of drunk men wanting to show off their muscle and intellect. Wait, there is…


    Blitzed “Boss” gets in the passenger seat and a drunker Kazakh gets into drive.

    Slowly down the street, through the dunes with a star filled sky, I can feel the bike bouncing around in the back. I pray that it’s okay, but there is nothing I can do at this point. This is stressing me, I hate the police. I really really hate the police.

    I can feel the truck moving from side to side of the road. He’s not going too fast and there is a car in front of us. I’m assuming he is just following the taillights at this point, or his drunk vision.

    “Boss” keeps asking me stupid questions and I respond with “I don’t understand what you are saying” or “I don’t know”. If I say “I don’t know” he responds with “Ai Lun, why don’t you know” and using this strange voice. A voice a man in authority would not use.

    Over and over, these trivial questions that I can barely make sense of are coming in my direction.

    He offers me a cigarette. I take it and smoke it. I’m stressed, I’m scared, I’m worried.

    “Ohhhhhh, Americans smoke?”


    At this point I’m just answering questions with yes or no or maybe, with no real idea of what I’m saying but giving him stupid answers to his stupid questions.

    At this point, in such a short ride, he has put his hand back and shook my hand telling me he is glad to meet me…oh, about a half dozen times, if not more. In these handshakes he repeatedly takes his middle finger and rubs it in my palm. I pull away quickly and firmly. This happened to Brandon in Tibet and we never figured out what it meant. We had assumed the same that it was something vulgar.

    “Aren’t you cold? You aren’t wearing enough clothes. Look at my jacket, it’s very thick.”

    He turns from his side view of me to completely around where he squeezes my arm but then moves his hand up and down my upper arm in a caressing, yet extremely firm, movement. Removing his hand he goes directly to my thigh and begins groping it telling me I don’t have enough clothes on.

    I immediately and firmly remove his hand and push it back to him. I’ve had enough of this.

    In a matter of 15km, I have had to tell the driver to watch the side of the road about 4 times! He’s nearly driven off the road more than a couple times and then “Boss” shouts at him, like the driver is a moron.

    I’m watching the road, shivering, scared.

    We turn off the tarmac onto gravel/sand. My natural defenses are turned on. I know I have to cry now…I have to cry as much as possible. There are visions of me being driven out to middle of nowhere with a drunk Kazakh police officer. I wouldn’t think this, BUT, I’ve already been groped twice in 15km. Also, from my past experience, the desert doesn’t contain the most sane folks of China. Visions of being locked in a room for hours, repeatedly being told I was going to die if I said anything…is flooding my memory.

    I let it all out. The tears are flowing.

    “Where are we going? Where are we going? Where are you taking me? I’m scared. REALLY…WHERE ARE GOING…where are you taking me? I’m scared.”

    Boss turns around and lights my face up with his cellphone.

    “Why are you crying?”

    “I’m scared, where are you taking me?!”

    “Don’t worry, it’s nothing” says the Kazakh man. I was really hoping he would worry about me and know something was wrong.

    “Boss” repeatedly asks me why I’m crying. “I’m the police, it’s no problem, it’s very safe, don’t worry.”

    I continue to cry. There is nothing I can do at this point. Everything is out of my control – I imagine myself ditching my bike and stuff, jumping out of the car and run into the desert.

    They point ahead to the lights and tell me that the police station is right ahead.

    “Why are you crying Ai Lun? Why are you crying? Why are you crying? Why are you crying? Don’t cry. Don’t be scared. We are the police.”

    It seems that I’ve set them off enough to push him off of me for awhile.

    We arrive outside the locked gate of the police station and the Kazakh stops and turns of the engine. The car that was traveling with us is parked behind. Boss stays in the truck with me while the driver exits and walks towards the back of the truck.

    I feel very strange, physically. Is there an earthquake? What’s going on? Why do I feel like I’m moving? The truck is rolling down the road towards the wall of the police station. Boss is turned around looking at me and I point ahead to the wall and steering wheel and begin screaming “HEY HEY HEY HEY!!!” and shaking my hand and pointing. The Kazakh jumps in and makes an attempt at controlling the truck while braking. Not very successful.

    Boss grabs the steering wheel and it drives off the embankment into a ditch, through a fence, and stopped by a small tree.

    Boss gets out and expresses his ignorant manliness by a lame attempt at pushing the truck out of the ditch with the Kazakh driver trying to rev the engine up and backwards.

    (I hate Boss, I wish the gears had slipped in that truck and ran over his fat face.)

    Extra hands and we are finally out. Boss gets back in the truck and starts laughing about how he thought it was an earthquake, then shouts at the driver.

    We unload the bike with again special attention called to the saddle and the crank. Of course as soon as it’s on the ground one of the younger drunk officers makes an attempt to get on and give it a ride. I push him back and express very firmly, “NO.”

    I push the bike to the station with the 3 uniformed officers, including Boss, and we enter to be greeted by warmth and another desert camo dressed officer. Took notice of the SWAT/riot gear sitting in the entryway.

    Boss shows me his id and credentials which mean nothing to me. I know enough about desert/basin dwellers to know that the people stationed out here can’t be the greatest of the force. There is a reason these morons are in the middle of nowhere.

    Sitting down Boss sits across from me looking at my Passport.

    “You are so beautiful ‘pretty girl’ (美女).”

    “No, I’m not”.

    He hands over my passport and visa to the other officers to photograph and enter my information.

    “Yes, you are. You are so beautiful. When are you leaving tomorrow?”

    “Uh, 8:30” but then I remember that sunrise isn’t until after 9:30 so I go back and reply with, “around 9:30”.

    “Yes, you can’t go too early. You are too beautiful, the wolves will eat you.”

    The only wolf I see, and will see, is your fat face holding back your fangs and drool.

    He gets on the phone and there is some movement and progress being made around the office. My passport and visa are handed back to me and I’m told that we will be going to his friends who has a place for me to sleep for the night.

    Outside we discuss the situation of my bike outside and if I have anything that will be damaged by the cold. As I rumble through one of the panniers they get frustrated, especially Boss, and he dismisses me and directs the officers to take the bike up the steps and inside.

    Again, BE CAREFUL OF THE SADDLE!!! Of course every DAMN time, they want to lift from my beautiful, newly repaired, Brooks. I pull one of the officer’s hands off the saddle. I’m getting fed up with this shit.

    I help direct the bike against the wall next to the SWAT gear.

    We walk through a pitch black field with the tall officer and Boss. There is a dim flashlight, which they don’t use for most of the way because obviously they’ve stumbled drunk through this cow path before.

    I see some typical concrete block Chinese homes, about a dozen. It’s pitch black except for the lights on in a small home with a concrete wall around it. Boss tells me that the couple with the little boy at the Kazakh village will be there along with his friend.

    The door open to the home and I see 2 women, 1 man, 1 officer, and a little boy around a table with a large amount of food. One woman exits, whom I haven’t seen before, and leads me to a door that opens to a two bed guest sleeping area. The small coal stove is going and the room is quite warm. I set down my bag and gratefully say “Thank you, it’s very comfortable”. I’m hoping this will be the end until morning and lock the door and be rid of them.

    No, Boss instructs me to go have dinner with them all. So far, with my personal reactions with Boss and observing his power over the other 3 officers…I know it’s not up for debate.

    “No no no, I’m okay, I’ll just rest here.”

    “No, eat together.”

    I enter the living area and sit at one end facing the door. If you know Chinese culture, the guest of honor usually sits at one end facing the door.

    The food is simple, good, Chinese food. Conversation basic and trying to help the little boy with his English. The boy is to my left and a lower ranking officer from the Kazakh village to my right they were there upon my arrival.

    Dinner is short for the us before Boss starts ordering shot glasses and busting out baijiu. Boss passes one to me and I let him know that I do not drink…I WON’T DRINK, “I can’t drink baijiu. REALLY REALLY REALLY, I CAN’T DRINK BAIJIU, it will give me diarrhea and make me throw up”. I have to keep all my senses as alert as possible.

    Boss is getting very frustrated with me and another woman, who I find out is pregnant. She is told it’s not problem, I guess fetal alcohol is NO PROBLEM IN CHINA?!?! We are getting bossed and I finally say I will drink a beer and she agrees to a fruit beer, basically a pineapple O’Douls.

    The “cheers” begin. For hours this goes on. Boss and cronies make me chug my entire glasses of beer with their shot of baijiu. Ok folks, I can drink Chinese beer, it’s never been a problem…only the headache afterwards. I’m drinking tea still, to keep the drunkies away. When I say make, Boss likes to scream at me a lot. Shouting orders the drunker and drunker I watch him.

    Conversation turns to why was I crying and I said it’s because there were no women around and I don’t trust men. I have met bad men before and had problems. The women completely understood where I was coming from.

    THEN…Boss tells me he had to take me away because he heard some of the younger people talking about cutting my earlobes off for my earrings. My 5rmb earrings! This I find a little strange, as I don’t remember anyone staring at my ears. But he goes on and on about how it wasn’t safe and he had to take me away for my own safety.

    Boss continually gives me the damn handshake with the middle finger rub. I see him do it to the single woman living there, the hostess, and she pulls away and slaps him playfully and pretends to be disgusted. So, I’m right. It is vulgar.

    I finally ask the younger, tall officer, he’s 24 and I’ve been to address him as “little brother”. I ask him the meaning and he says it means “I love you” in English. Maybe these guys don’t translate “I love you” and “I want to take you to bed” (I’m being easy with my language here) the same way I do.

    Little brother and I talk about the Kazakh minority and ask him to teach me some. Boss interrupts this by screaming at him and I about something and now he’s going to sing a song. A serenade of sorts. I had a video but it seems that the undressed officer erased this with many other photos from that night.

    At one point when there was dancing with the others and I was sitting at the table, no one was looking and Boss grabs my right breast and squeezes. I push it off and pull away.

    A little later he pulls me up to dance for the second time. He is trying to pull on my body where his right hand is. If I had fat there he would be groping it but he’s basically just pinching my skin. I continually try to pull away but at the same time to go along with it the best I can. My bike is locked up and there is nothing I can do. The couple and child have left, but the hostess is still there.

    Around 3 in the morning, the older officer but minion is passed out behind me. Poor guy, Boss repeatedly was shouting orders at him to drink and I finally said, “no” when he was passed out and his head on the table. This is one photo that wasn’t deleted and took it after I felt a hand groping my bum.

    Boss and the hostess, during another one of his drunken serenades.

    “Little Brother” who seems to have a good and warm heart. I kind of feel that I can trust him. The man in the back is the husband of the pregnant woman and father of the child. He returned later in the night and acted very effeminate, he also deleted all my photos off my point and shoot. Take note of the baijiu bottles on the table, there were about a dozen on the floor.

    Of course I can’t include everything that happened that evening, because I’d spend all week going into details.

    But I did notice Boss getting angry when I was speaking with “Little Brother”. Granted, I was a little tipsy, especially when Boss barks orders at me for not finishing my entire glass of beer during his millions of “gangbei”.

    “Little Brother” leaves to go home.

    Around 2am he shoves a shot of baijiu in my face and the hostess. He states this is the last for the evening. Okay, finally, I’ll cooperate if I can just go to bed, please. I’m exhausted.

    Damn, I hate Moutai…tastes like hot plastic and gasoline!

    The hostess is cleaning up and Boss buys 2 packs of smokes from her. He asks me if I’m ready to “rest” I say “yes”.

    I assume he is only escorting to my room with his flashlight…but I’m still on guard.

    He opens the door and there is still some coal burning and there is no room light so he navigates with the flashlight. I’ve had this happen a dozen times where I have to arrange for bed with their flashlight and then they leave.

    I set on the foot of the bed as he adds some coal to the fire. The hostess told me he was a good man and there is nothing to worry about, I’ll never trust a whores opinion again.

    I’m looking straight ahead and he’s at my 9 o’clock and I watch his fat fingers fumble to turn of the flashlight.

    Every single hair on my body is standing straight on its end…I’m all senses right now. The room is completely black and he walks towards me and I watch the glow of the cigarette.

    Sitting down next to me, so that his legs are pressing against the side of mine…I watch the red glow of the cigarette butt fall to the dirty cement floor i n s l o w m o t i o n.

    Within an instant he’s on top of me and I scream at the top of my lungs, push him off me, while he tries to tackle me out the door but he’s too drunk. I run into the room with the hostess in hysterics…when I say hysteria…I mean complete hysteria. He’s the police, this could end very badly…I have NO POWER HERE.

    She starts screaming at him of what he did and he says,
    “Nothing, she just started screaming ‘aaaaaaaaaahhhhhAAahahaha’ and I didn’t do anything”.


    This goes back and forth between the 2 for about 15 minutes and then him trying to coerce me to go back to the room. Every time he comes towards me I throw myself back against the wall and start screaming. I’m going to act as insane as possible…nothing worst than a crazy ass foreigner.

    I start with repeating my “oh mani padme hum”, a Tibetan prayer. I speak it in Tibetan so they are confused with what I’m saying and can’t understand anything. The prayer takes over me like a trance and I have memories of Tibetans and monks and pleasant moments rushing over me.

    They think I’m drunk out of my gourd but I’m not. I’m praying because it’s all I have at this point. Over and over and over.

    He continually comes over to me and reaches for me, again I throw myself to the back of the wall.

    The hostess comes next to me and tries to comfort me. I’m holding on to her crying. She tries to soothe me and says it’s okay and “it’s nothing” “it’s nothing” over and over and over.

    Every time boss approaches me, I scream, and she screams at him.

    I text Jason to call me. He calls and I hand the phone to her. Her first statement is “I don’t understand you” after Jason asked her what the problem was.

    Jason is screaming at her and she is acting like an idiot, saying there is no problem. Jason confirms she is an idiot and tells me to call the police and I say, “he is the police!”.

    This isn’t going anywhere and after over an hour Boss is still sitting smuggly in the corner denying anything. Saying he didn’t do anything. Over and over and over…

    I take a deep breathe, look him deep in the eyes, stand up…and scream in Chinese, “I’m an American and I’m going to tell the American Government and the Chinese Government and YOU are going to have a big problem. YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A BIG PROBLEM BECAUSE I’M AN AMERICAN!!!!!”

    He’s out the door in 2 seconds.

    Little Brother returns and he and the hostess try to soothe me. Little Brother says he will stand guard of my door all night. I say that’s not necessary and I explain to him and the hostess what Boss did. They acted a little surprised and there were some “oohhhhh’s”.

    The hostess gives Little Brother and I some drinks to take to the other room because it gets dry because of the coal burning stove. The both escort me in and light 2 candles for light.

    Finally, it’s over…not yet.

    Hostess tells me to lock the door when he leaves and shows me how, she leaves.

    There is something about Little Brother that I found harmless…and I still do, but he is intoxicated. Do not let the guard down.

    He sits on the bed across from me and we are smoking cigarettes. He tells me to get ready for bed and he will protect me, reminding me that he is “little brother”. Only the shoes are being taken off and I get under the covers.

    A couple seconds later he is sitting on the edge of my bed…tucking me in because he is “little brother”. He then asks if he can sleep next to me.

    “NO. You can sleep on that bed.”

    “Big Sister, it’s nothing, I’m little brother, it’s okay, no problem. I’ll just sleep next to you.”

    Come on…REALLY?! I may have fell for that when I was 16…but really? You think I’m going to believe that line. I laugh and say, “no, you can sleep over there, really, just me here…no room, i need to sleep. please leave and let me sleep.”

    This goes on for about 10 minutes of him asking over and over again if he can sleep next to me and that it’s nothing.

    At this point I’m just laughing at him, poor dear boy, “No.”

    Then we get to the point where I’m telling he needs to leave, nicely. That I’m tired and I need to rest because I have to ride tomorrow. Okay, on one condition…that we kiss.

    HAHAAHAHA…REALLY!?!? I have to kiss you for you to leave. Little brother you are talking to the WRONG kind of big sister.

    He points to his lips, “here”.

    “No. Please leave I need to rest.”

    “No? Why?”

    “Because, you are little brother and I want to sleep.”

    Again, we are going around in circles about this. He asks for one on the cheek. “No.” After some time negotiating my services to him he settles for letting him kiss me on my forehead, after I denied the lips/cheeks/etc.

    I’m under the covers with them pulled up to my neck at this point. I say I will allow it as long as he promises to leave afterwards.

    The covers are pulled up to my eyes just so I can peer enough over them. He kisses me gently on my forehead and I can feel him moving downwards as I fight pulling the covers upward. This is ridiculous…I start saying, “okay okay okay go go go okay go” as I sink further under the covers and making my head disappear to the best of my ability.

    After about 5 forehead to crown of head kisses he leaves. I jump up and lock the door. Good Night!

    It is also illegal for me to have photographs of Chinese police, but what they did was completely illegal so I’m exposing their scandalous ways.


  2. Email Correspondance from the Border Police in 东乌珠尔

    So along the way, I exchanged email addresses and phone numbers…and the occasional QQ number.  Every so often I get a random note from someone I have met along the way.  Please use Google Translate to get the jist of this communication.
    你好  我是 你的好朋友 ,还记得我吗、我是 呼伦贝尔的  你在哪呢  什么 时候还来呀   记得来找我哦
    me: Yes, yes, yes!!!!  I remember you :)  I’m sorry I have been very busy. 不好意思,我没有空。
    I hope to return to the town and photograph more people – I’m very interested in photographing 蒙古人 life/culture/horses/蒙古包。

    Ellen (American girl on bike)
    我是东乌珠尔边防派出所的,我给你登记 和照相 还记得吗。我在单位呢。 你在哪呢
    我现在上海。我回来应为没有钱。I will continue my bike ride in the Spring, after the holiday.  I must work and save money now.
    如果你是警察,我记得,会是不错返回拍摄一两个星期。我希望与世界分享这 些照片 – 有这么多美丽的地方和中国人民。
    我很高兴听到您的声音!你有一个朋友,说英语,对吗?我 跟她的电话。
    哦 原来是这么回事, 我现在很佩服你的善举,你的精神值得我们学习。爱是无国界的。
    If you translate anything, run the last sentence through Google Translate…you’ll get Chinglish, but if you have a half a brain…you can ‘figger it out.
    This email is from the border police of 东乌珠尔, where I suffered dysentery and made friends with the locals. Of all the police and security officers I encountered…this young man was very kind. After I had filled all the paperwork out at the local station, one of his co-officers organized a photo where I had presented each one of them with my legal stuff…a US Passport and my Chinese Work Visa…it was a fun moment…although I looked not very cute. Dirty, dehydrating, hot (41 degrees those days), tired, and trying to hold my intestines in.

    View Larger Map

    If you take a moment to view the larger map, see link above, you can see there was nothing around for miles, days, and I had been facing that damn headwind that TOO OFTEN comes across from the NW.

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  3. A lesson I allowed myself to learn (the first of many)

    Don’t be scared to ask for help and graciously accept when assistance is offered.

    (Unless the “helper” is a Mongolian rascal that lives in Hulun Buir and drives a motorcycle with a blue fuzzy seat cover with the Beijing Olmpic’s icons on it and has a ring finger with gout.)

    I don’t know what happened or how I developed an awful habit of not asking for help.  Maybe I thought it was a sign of weakness or a true character flaw if you couldn’t use resources to figure it for yourself.  There are some people that truly do think this – I have met a couple.  These are the same type of people that don’t seem to try anything new either – maybe for fear of failing because they refuse to ask for a helping hand.

    When I first began planning this trip, May of 2009, I thought I could use all the books and maps and resources possible to get concrete answers and just move along my way.  Sure, maybe I’ll have to ask for help on my ride, but heck, I can figure this out…right?  WRONG!!!

    Within a week or so I had sent out dozens and dozens of emails.  Hey! – you cyclists that think I have it “easy” because I have gear sponsorship – think again….hundreds of emails…HUNDREDS!…many go unanswered.

    It’s not the most awesome feeling to ask for financial or additional support.  Especially coming from a Western culture where money is not discussed.  Here, in good ol’China – people just come right out with it.  No taboo or qualm about it at all.

    In my very VERY early 30’s – I have this idea that I shouldn’t have to ask for financial help from friends and strangers…shouldn’t I be self sufficient.  Well, if we want to play the “be normal” game…shouldn’t I be married, own a home, and be on to my second child.  Yeah, don’t even let me meander down that road…………………..

    When I first started along, I was a little shy about asking.  That shyness broke real fast!  I was traveling along the Grand Canal taking roads that weren’t even 2 meters wide and I’d be lucky to even see a bicycle pass.  I just followed the compass in one direction until I hit a populated area.  Stopping to check a compass became too time consuming so I just began to read direction by the sun – or by the which side of my calves were burning from the late afternoon sun.  (For some reason, the giant blue work trucks will throw the compass off if you are too close.  You can watch the needle swing like a pendulum as the trucks drive past too).

    Rolling up into a small town or village, some will run right up to you and ask where you are going.  And in China – EVERYONE likes to give their opinion and advice.  Within in seconds people are pointing and debating which way.  Often times looking at my map and telling me what I already know.  How difficult can it be to ask for help in a country where nearly everyone WANTS to help you.

    It’s kinda AWESOME and really helped teach me that it’s okay.  It’s really okay to say, “Wo milu. wo yao qu ….” 我迷路。我要去。。。

    (Traveling in China…DO NOT ASK cops for help…more trouble than it’s worth.  UNLESS, you find yourself in a village of about 30 people in Hulun Buir and he is strolling along the dirt road.  Those coppers enjoyed posing me with some other coppers and taking a photo together examining my Passport/Visa.)

    Besides asking for help, I’ve always had a difficult time accepting the offer of a little assistance.  Why?  Heck if I know…maybe I think it will make me lesser of a person…weak, inferior, etc.

    Well, when you are exhausted, hot, hungry…you learn to accept all the handouts you possibly can.

    There is one major exception – MY BIKE!  At first, I was a little tolerant of people wanting to help hook up the panniers.  But then it just got out of control with big ol’ man sausage fingers being stuck in between my spokes (that sounds a little perverted).  Finally, I broke…the biggest sausages and the most aggressive stranger to approach outside a hotel to “help”.  I pushed his hand back firmly and looked him straight in the eyes and said, no I can do it!  (No quotation marks because it was in Chinese).  Usually I let girls and women give it a go because they are less aggressive and harsh with things.  The last thing I need is a broken bag.  AND, females pay MUCH closer attention to how I do it so they do it nearly perfect themselves.  The men…oh THE MEN………….OH….they have their own way to handle.

    (Dear Reader, can you sense the feelings I have for the opposite sex here?  This is for another very VERY long essay in the future.  In small towns and especially villages, the men are generally harmless and kind…but start getting into “cities” – it’s a whole ‘nuther story.  That will be also included in my “Rules of the Road – Women Edition”.  I’d love to write a research paper on this subject but I think it may be a little one sided as 90% of my sources would be women.   Does the problem lie with the fact that there are no men in the education system as teachers?  Children are raised my women generally, where the boy is coddled beyond belief?  Where are the role models?  Probably working, making money to support their family…I don’t know – it’s stuff that swims in my head every single day.)

    I don’t know if “solo” is the right word for my trip.  The amount of help and advice I have been given, and still receive, is beyond belief.  Every day, for nearly 5 months, someone offered me help of some sort.  Whether it was handing me water out of a car window, offering me a ride (no way), route advice, etc.

    What I’ve really realized is that when you, me, us, ask for help – we open up ourselves to others.  And with this relationship wonderful things can happen and evolve.  Sometimes, after riding for hours without any human contact or communication, I would pull over and ask a question I already knew just to see where it would lead me.  Okay, yeah yeah yeah…once it lead me to a dangerous place…but you get what I’m saying.

    So, I went from being afraid to ask for help to just going up to strangers with questions that I didn’t need answered just for human interaction.

    I have more about all this written in my journals, which probably sounds a little more poetic, but I thought I would share now.

    Every day I wake up wondering where I would be…I check the weather every evening to see how cold it would be getting in the NW.  Every time I get on my cruiser or road bike here, I get butterflies in my stomach.  When I road Lieutenant home from the train station a couple weeks back – I have a feeling towards it that I have never felt towards an in-animate object in my life.  She/He has a life of it’s own and when I gaze at her/him, I feel like he/she is gazing back with the same thoughts, memories, and experiences.  Weird, bizarre, crazy…maybe…it’s kind of my best friend and an extension of myself.

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  4. The Fear of Success, my introspective moments this week.

    I realize that I am more fearful of success than failure because if I succeed, I am clueless of what my future will open up to – but failure, that’s more predictable.

    “success” has nothing to do with finishing the route.

    “Success” is surviving with 120 pds worth of my personal possessions, keeping my sanity for 9 months, becoming involved in strangers lives, pushing EVERY SINGLE personal limit, overcoming daily difficulties (maybe not “successfully”), and creating at least 20 AMAZING photographs with one hell of a story.

    My friend and mentor, Mr C Dale, shared this with me today will think of this daily.

    (from Buddha) The five faculties of power are:

    * First, the faith to believe.
    * Second, the will to make the endeavor.
    * Third, the faculty of alertness.
    * Fourth, the ability to concentrate one’s mind, and
    * Fifth, the ability to maintain clear wisdom.

    36 Hours and counting.

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  5. Russian Visas, what a pain in the booty.

    I guess I never shared with you all that Russia has been taken out of my route.

    Getting a Russian Visa has proven to be more difficult than a Chinese Visa – and quite frankly, it just means I’ll be spending more time in China and Mongolia.

    First, you have to receive an “invite” from a registered Russian travel company/group. Okay, so if you google this you find places that do it between $100-$300 USD. My difficulty…I don’t know my exact date of arrival to the border so I wanted a 3 month Visa which made the price go up. It’s not like China where you have 3 months after your date of arrival – you have that time span when you applied and that’s that.

    I just could imagine myself settling for a 1 month and not making it, or being too early or some awful minor catastrophe. So, okay, I’ll apply for a 3 month Visa. I try this fellow in Texas: and it was the most awful Customer Service I have ever experienced. Rude and snarky and obviously could not read my email completely through before being a complete dick. Hey Tony Abrilian, now you are on the internet as being an awful business person.

    I go to another agency, they obviously know the ropes a lot better than the previous fellow. The problem is that I can only be issued the invite a couple of weeks before my entrance into Russia. That is impossible as I’ll be riding around China on a bike and have no guarantee of a Russian Consulate on my route.

    Strike it from the route. Shucks. What a pain and as an fyi, it costs close to $500 total for a 3 month Russian Visa. Bummer. I can spend that money in a better way, say 6 months worth of food on the road.

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