I started riding, like most kids, when I was about 5 years old. From the very beginning I realized what a wonderful thing a bicycle is. It gave me the freedom to explore, be it the neighborhood, the town I lived in, or the world.
When I was a freshman in college, I went on my first tour with dormitory buddy Andy
MacGee from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. While the trip was rather short, it opened my eyes
to a world of unlimited adventures, with my bike and me.
I started on the East Coast of the US and cycled to my friends and relatives houses along my way across the country. At San Francisco, I took a left turn and headed south toward Mexico. In San Diego, I volunteered to crew on a 30-foot sloop to Cabo San Lucas. I was thinking that I might go to the Panama Canal to try and get a small boat to New Zealand. However, eight days of sailing convinced me that I was a landlubber at heart, and any major bodies of water would best be crossed by plane.
The great thing about trips is the people you meet along the way. Some are just on a short vacation, and others are out there for the long term. These are the people I found most interesting. I would seek them out and get their stories, learning the tricks, discovering what to look for and what to avoid, and sharing great experiences.
Back in the first-world culture again. It was good to be able to replenish supplies of items such as medicine and mail packages with some degree of certainty that they will arrive where they were intended. While the multicultural population provided some tantalizing food treats, it was not as stimulating as being in Indonesia. We got our necessary visas for Malaysia and Thailand, and then hit the road again, up the East Coast of Malaysia.
We found Malaysia to be much more advanced than Indonesia and consequently not so interesting. There were some good stops, such as the bungalows in Cherating Lama and the ship building town of Kuala Terengguanu. But the wealth the Malays acquired had distanced us from them. There were few people seen along the road except in cars and hardly any bicycles.
Uli and I went to Suan Mokkh, a Thai monastery that offers a 10day mediation course for those willing to abide by their monastic rules of silence and good behavior. It was something I was very interested in doing, and both Uli and signed up. While I didnt end up joining the monastery for life, I did find some peace in myself. Uli also came to the realization that his trip was over. He was anxious to return to Germany to see a woman he had been writing to over the course of his yearlong trip.
Once again on my own, when I arrived in Bangkok, I thought I would try my luck at "teaching" English. My cousin, Ken, had gone to Korea many years before and found his calling there, as well as his wife. It sounded good, particularly as I was in no hurry to return to the US. Also the pay in Korea was substantially higher than other Asian countries. So after a quick six-week tour of the north of Thailand, including a weeklong trek in the Golden Triangle, I returned to Bangkok to fly to Seoul, South Korea in mid-September.
During the process of getting additional spare parts for the bicycles, we made the fortuitous acquaintance of Mr. Lee who owns the Flying Ball Bicycle Company. He was the resident expert on cycling in China, and had several notebooks full of Western cyclists letters to him describing their adventures in China. Here we learned that the only way to enter China with a bicycle was to either go to Macao, or through Pakistan on the Karakoram Highway. Macao was a short ferry ride from Hong Kong, so we quickly opted to try that route. We also read about areas closed to foreigners, encounters of cyclists and the police, fines and forced bus rides. It all sounded very adventurous. We were psyched.
The next morning we were excited to try to take the big plunge, entering China with our bikes. After reading and hearing so much about the hassles and difficulties, cyclists being denied access, or being deported, we were more than a little anxious. On the way there, Rainer got his customary daily flat tire. After plenty of expletives, we arrived at the border, hot, sweaty and greasy.
Gingerly we walked our bikes into the inspection area, leaned them against the walk as inconspicuously as possible and filled out the usual border forms. We held our breath hoping no one would tell us to get out. Without a word, the border guards took our forms, and motioned for us to put our bags in the X-ray machine. That was a surprise. After that we were free to go. Still not believing our luck, we jumped on our bikes and rode as fast as we could praying the officials wouldnt come running after us (China continued).
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