Dave in China

Mó​tuō​chē Lǎo​wài

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Monday, July 5: Motorcycle City
Today Alex bought a motorcycle. This means that tomorrow we begin traveling and I don't know when I'll be posting again. He'll be riding the bike he bought today and I'll be riding his old bike. I have never actually ridden a motorcycle, by the way. I've had motor scooters, but never a real bike where you had to shift gears. So in the morning I get to learn about that. We will be traveling by back roads, at least at first, so the traffic will be thin and I'll have a chance to get used to handling a big-boy bike.

We took the bus into Chengdu to check out motorcycles. On the bus, a couple of guys engaged us in a common Chinese pastime: Look at the Foreign Monkeys! They did not know that Alex could understand what they were saying. It was mostly along the lines of, "That one has a beard but the other one doesn't! Only one has a beard!" Alex and I later agreed that yes, this can get old after a while, but it is worth bearing in mind that it is essentially harmless. You can't say that about America, where a Chinese traveler who spoke no English could get into serious danger.

We got some lunch while we changed buses in Dujiangyan. You see this everywhere: Chinese Food. As though there were some other kind around here.

On the ride into Chengdu we saw an unbelievable amount of construction. I have seen dozens of projects so huge they would be front page news in any American city. Here? It's like weeds growing in the yard.

The cycle shop Alex had in mind is located in a block of warehouses in the shadow of an overpass, an area where motorcycle-related businesses cluster. Alex takes his bikes to one of these shops, where the mechanic is reasonable and does conscientious work. While they talked motorcycles, Grandfather passed through carrying a pot full of beans in water and Grandson played games on the computer. Wife made sure some of the money was collected up front.

After a good while having different bikes rolled out for Alex to inspect, then haggling and test-riding, Alex settled on a 200 c.c. Jialing on/off road model. Jialing is the most trusted and reliable Chinese brand.

We then had an hour or two to kill while the bike was set up and little niceties like turn signals were addended.

Wandering around the rather bleak concrete landscape, we came across a graveyard of discarded children's animal rides. Sad, creepy, poignant... naturally, I loved it.

Sometimes, in riotous and raucous China, you come across a quiet place. Maybe not a temple garden, but still, a place of relative peace.

This is a parcel shipping business; the Chinese equivalent of UPS. Something about it struck me... the stark simplicity, all nonessentials stripped away. Bring us a box, we'll put it on a truck.

We stopped in for a bit to eat. The staff of this small, food-providing concrete cavern seemed quite amused at the appearance of two unanticipated waigoren demanding noodles.

Many children in China have the thousand-yard stare you expect from Vietnam veterans. It can be unnerving.

After Alex got his new motorcycle, he dropped me off at the bus station for my first solo journey in China. He helped me buy my ticket and told me how to make the transfer in Dujiangyan. I was a bit nervous but also excited to be traveling on my own, even just a little bit.

This is a street scene from the bus.

This woman hopped up onto the bus at a stop and sold these Chinese shishkabobs for 15 cents. I bought one and was glad to find that it was tofu. It was very spicy.

And now it's time to hang my laundry out to dry, for tomorrow I must pack everything into a backpack and hit the road.

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Wow, just WOW.

(Deleted comment)
I agree with Dave (not that you didn't) but yes, this is where fun goes to die. I am fascinated by things like this. There is an unusual yet honest melancholy about it. Entertainment items that are designed that we chose to celebrate and spend a happy moment in having their own secret lives.

So much going on for you in just one day!

I love that last photo of the spicy tofu woman with the pedestrian just walking by. It's one of those everyday moments that our eyes absorb constantly but often isn't remembered, yet it defines so very much of our day's experiences.

My favorite photos are usually the ones that accidentally capture something you would normally miss.

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