(The story of how I tried all day to drive my motorcycle UP TaiShan and was very successful at NOT doing it!
THIS page will be followed later by the next days adventure.
On the next day I started in the early afternoon and walked...and walked...and...well...that is another story!)

..OK, OK... so I am not Dennis Hopper or a Hell's Angle or a Bandito... but I feel good! This is not quite in the beginning, but it is close enough. SOME Chinese people have a habit of absently pointing a way to go... maybe they don't understand you or maybe they want to get rid of you or maybe they are literal minded. For instance, I started out on a road that was near the central hiking trail (9,968 steps)and simply ask Tai Shan lui Zai Naili (where is the Tai Shan Road?)... and the reply... hummm...well, that's another story unto itself, but most often they would point in the direction I was going. So I went that way and always it ended far... very far, very,very,very far short of the summit. But hey, I am from Texas and I ain't gonna let something like that stop me!
Off a Cliff
..SO I kept riding. Most of the time the road was in real good shape. And if it wasn't then it was marked like this. No waste of highway signs or other such nonsense, just make a border of rocks and any knuckle head dim-witted enough to not notice deserves to go over the edge!
Which reminds me, I was driving one night near my "house" on a road I had been down hundreds of times. I know from experience that, that does not mean that I know the road, for things change here in China from day to day and some times from hour to hour. But anyway, up ahead there was familiar road construction marked by the traditional pile of rocks, except, (it was night time) they had added un-tradatonial blinking warning lights in the middle of the rocks. I was impresses with the "coming of age" evolvement of China...untill I got closer. There in the middle of the pile of rocks was a motorcycle!...on its side, its emergency lights tripped... and its hapless owner standing (I was glad he was able to stand) surveying his predicament...China!...some things are slow to change...and then, the guy probably deserved it...new meaning to survival of the fittest
"That long and winding road"
..Truthfully though, look at this concrete lane. These are real common in China. They are not very wide, not intended for trucks and most often not used by cars. They are the "real" farm to market road and are important. Its pretty interesting in that "chains" of villages appear to be contracted by the government to build their "own" roads. The kit: some steel concrete forms, a concrete mixer, plenty of concrete, plenty of "free labor" and plenty of time... from day light till dark... and then some. I see the villagers making and improving their section of these "new" roads. I will brag on them; "they do an excellent job!"
These roads wander seemingly forever but at any moment may suddenly disappear... I mean just stop and resumes as a wore to death, pot hole enriched, dirt/gravel like "road"... which is ok by me as long as it isn't raining.
Country Roads...take me...
..If you keep driving, (as I often do) you may wind up in a setting like this. It is prettier than the picture shows. That's the problem with video or photos, there is a depth of perception, smells, sound, Peripheral vision, 6th sense... all of those ways that us humans perceive out immediate reality, than can't be captured by "devices"... and the old adage "ya should have been there", though time worn, is absolutely true. So, if you like this commentary or the photos, you will like being in the photo even better. Just give me a call at 86-13580771186 and I will arrange fro your ass to be hauled right to any of these spots... hopefully, it won't be raining...
Meanwhile, back at reality ranch, if you keep driving still you will meet the
..When I happen upon these country folks I quickly try to make friends... and they have a hard time getting a word in edge wise...and then I have limited language skills so the possibility that the conversation is "one sided" is strong and may develop as follows:FARMER- "Well... you seem like a nice fella...so yer not Chinese... yeah... I got that... hu huh... well... what's that?... oh! well, er... good afternoon to you... ah... yer not Korean?... humm...oh! yer an American... well, I never met one of you... are you lost? My name?... well I am... ah uh...your name..well Maikemi, nice to meet you... you are sorry? Well... you are embarrassed? well er ah... no problem... Yes..... got it... you are an American... yeah... nice motorcycle... So you are not lost... well, if you are not lost then how the heck did you get all the way up here into my back yard???... oh... you are an American... yeah... I got that...hu huh... see you later? well. ok... then see you later..byby.."
Losing weight!
..I have a confession. As all editors do, I edit the photos... select the better ones and set aside the others. But in the case of me on the motorcycle... well, I could not find a "good" one. In all of such photos, gravity had arranged my soft central girth to settle against the dam of denim and sort of "mushroom" out. It is an unfair characteristic of gravity and gelatin like matter so... I actually "edited" the photos itself... and with my decades of experience in photoshop, modified myself to a cylinder like shape rather than the spare tire shape. I felt that I owed it to you, my friends and comrades to fess up.
On the up side, this is a clean, cold fresh mountain stream and my un re-touched feet feel really good!
..Coming down the road that I had went up... where I blabbered my Chinese to the sweet heart farmer... back down that pretty road I spied a family, or a mix of families. They spied me as soon and beckoned me over, first offering the proverbial beer and upon my apologetic refusal, offered up anything else they had. I settled on some "cola"... I think it was Pepsi and lingered. My lingering was not untended and within thirty minutes I was adopted... another uncle... uncle Maikemi (sounds like "my ka me"... -close enough-). I was happy to rest under the shade of the trees, by the clear mountain stream, within the circle of hospitality that felt as if it had been established from some time in the past... old friends as of thirty minutes... I guess there is a common thread among human kind. And remains unbroken through this big, big world... a thread at times unacknowledged but there to re-establish a bond... a bond of mutual need... as I am lost in China we are all lost, adrift in this life, clustering together for familiarity, always pursuing the same question... you to?..do you know the way?...do you know why we are here??? My Hong Kong friends assure me that while parallel universe theory may be fascinating, most mainland Chinese people are reasonable sure that the reason we are here is:........to eat!
Uncle Don
..I like Chinese girls. And they like me. From little baby girls up to full size ones. I do not know why.
Boy kids are wary and sometimes afraid and even if I ask them their name or their age at any moment, may break down and cry to their mothers. But girl kids sense that I am harmless, or can and have been easily rendered harmless by their older sisters... (I am just guessing as to why they are not afraid of me), but regardless, they most often pose, laugh, launch into a tight orbit for a quick close strike and then, just as quickly zoom back to within the protection of their mothers, and, from behind her skirt or legs, stare at me mischievously... I can't help but laugh. These two are no exception. The one on the left is sure she has my number while the one on the right still a bit tentative.
Family Photo
..With the aid of a big rock and a few pebbles I trapped the camera into a position to do a group shot. The kids are not in it, they are busy in the stream polishing walnuts against a natural abrasive stone. They are doing this as a gift for me. I could not understand what they were doing over there, out of camera range, until I was ready to leave and their small hands offered up half a dozen walnuts, cleaned to a shiny nut-beige.
But here, in this shot, all is ordinary. Just an ordinary guy with his ordinary friends having a picnic on the slopes of a mountain... so ordinary... wonder why it felt extraordinary...
Paper Corn Taco
..This little crossection of a meal is... ah... defiant. That is, it is more resistant to being masticated than it would appear to be. It is thin layers of corn (Chinese sounds like: "you, me"... that's how I remember the name for corn)sheets wrapped around dried fish. To the left is an approximation of sausage though I suspect it is one of the infinite variations on spam. I over did it with the sheets of corn, thinking there were more like a taco or tortilla material, when, in fact, they more represent corn "paper"... textured with a defined grain. But since I was responsible for packing so many sheets together, I felt obligated to chew my way through. And with the aid of an effective solvent (water) reduced the resistant leaves to mush. Now I know next time to construct my taco differently.
Cold Water WaterMelon
..There is a LOT of watermelon (Cee-gua)in China. I am not sure where the watermelon capitol is, probably in the south, but, since there is a vast trucking network that trucks any and everything to every corner of the country, there is watermelon every where. I am sure it is seasonal, especially in the north, but these days it is openly available. And then who needs a 'fridge when you have a cold mountain stream. I am not sure why there is a square hole cut into the watermelon. I assume it serves some purpose, but I didn't ask.
One Stop...;
..One stop service... the mountain stream is convenient for just about everything the family needs. Even the wash. I am not sure if the detergent is biodegradable, but they use it sparingly. The rocks act as natural scrub boards and then double as drying racks. I plan on copying this behavior on the next leg of my tour.
...Laundry Center
Lean & clean
..Along the road that follows the brook improvements are being made. One of these improvements is the planting of trees. And this fellow is the local tree planter. He keeps the trees wrapped in cloth over by the stream to keep their roots moist and comes out in the afternoon to do his planting. He is not in a hurry, had no apparent quota and treats each planting as an individual job. I have driven down many tree lined country roads but I never met the fellow who makes those roads look so nice and feel so comfortable to drive down. Thanks guy!
tree planting machine
..This guy don't need your friggin "yi qui" (Chinese for "1 dollar")
.. In just about every place that has any kind of commerce there are beggars. Some more than deserving and others just bums. Often they will be a person who is deformed in some way. They hang around restaurants and hotels and bug you with their bowls pestering you to no end for some "spare change"
But not this guy! He can carry his own weight. From his "tan" I would say that he works in the fields every day or does some kind of out door job. Maybe he is working with the tree planter. But, as is often the case, his curiosity drew him over to where the foreigner was. He just had to get an up close look at "one of us". That is one of the cool things. Driving down the back roads I encounter people that have never seen anyone but other Chinese their entire lives... that is, until a crazy Texan cruises up on his illegal Chinese scooter and says "Ni hao buddy..."!
Born to be wild!
..Audios! Or as they say in this land of mystery; "Jai tian" (see you later)... I bid my friends farewell and continued my quest for gaining access to a back road up Tai Shan. And although I was destined to fail, I was equally destined to live out a peaceful and wholesome afternoon...
So, I continued on, past the point where most people would have turned around, off the end of the concrete and into the untraveled and mostly untrod weed covered, remains of a dirt road that skirted the mountain but did not ascend it to any appreciable degree.
bad road
..This was the last road that I drove. The motorcycle handled it really well. But these kinds of ruts were more than I had anticipated. They are from a recent "spent" typhoon that swept through the area. I drove on this road for maybe an hour and a half without seeing any tracks from another vehicle, and other than a couple of sheep herders and some mushroom pickers, saw no other people.
In the background is a goat. It had split off from its group of goats and was following me... a sweet little goat... and me being an Aries and all...I guessit wanted to see where the big goat was going.
..I crept up on this fellow. He didn't hear me coming... I mean, he may have thought it was a distant highway sound... I don't know. But I turned off the motorcycle, brought the camera up and then said (in Chinese) "Hello". He was a little startled but his first reaction was to clear a path for me, not at all bothered that I was trespassing or "in his space". So I hung out for a moment and made friends. It always feels good to make friends. It is pretty easy to make friends in a culture where people are more inclined to include you in their immediate reality rather than treat you with guarded skepticism, so familiar to the western cultures.
Handsome fellow...
..This is one of the mushroom pickers... though I looked in their basket and I think it was more of lichen that they were gathering.
..Hey, you know, I like women a lot, but is it my imagination or is this a really handsome guy? Truthfully, I have seen some movie star quality looking people here in some of the oddest settings. Sometimes, from the corner of my eye, I may briefly spot a wore out beat down street sweeper with high cheekbones, small wrist, long black hair... maybe 35 years old but weathered past recovery... a wrecked beauty... not a drug addict or an alcoholic... just not of value, born to no station and not unique. There are a lot of beautiful people here, but that asset often has no practical value and being "only skin deep" does not endure.
One world
..After the mushroom/lichen pickers, the sheep and goat herders, the deep ruts and generally rugged road I came around a turn upon this scene. I had to stop and take it in. I realized that I could have been anywhere in the USA... Oregon, Minnesota, California... just another country road in some country somewhere. I relaxed, took a swig of water, cranked the bike and continued, riding through the middle of a post card... sometimes, when at its simplest, life is good...
..Not so long ago I was driving my scooter in another area up in the mountains. I was at the top of a small pass and I had the bright idea of getting off the bike and climbing to the top of the mountain... take some photos and all. Well, to make a long story short, I got lost. In regaining my way I became some what desperate and in my struggle up a fairly steep slope I spotted trash... an unauthorized "dump"... like in "Alice's Restaurant". Without pride I climbed straight up through the debris found the road at the top of the pile, crawled onto the shoulder and on my hands and knees, unable to rise, gasp for air wishing only to re-establish my equilibrium and locate water asap.
So, when I spotted this pile of trash, I know that I had gained the road's end and would be upon a sizeable village within moments.
All is well that...
..I was almost astounded to find this scene a kilometer or so around the curve from the garbage dump. But, "all is well that ends well" (Chinese: hao shi do mo)and I felt well rewarded to have such a nice ending to such a nice day. Though dark was getting near I hiked up above the dam to claim a vantage point that gave me an over view of the setting. ..Tia Shan is a religious mountain (Taoism or Daoism)and this place is some kind of a religious place, but as is with most other religious places that I have visited in China, is quickly giving over to the religion of money. Still, the entry fee was only 1 Chinese dollar and all I had was a hundred so they let it slide. Even the folks that had showed me the way up to the lake didn't even charge me for a bottle of water... that is until I decided to leave and declined their insistent offer for me to have dinner in their restaurant. At that point they charged me 5 Chinese dollars for the water... including the entry fee to the lake... hey... that's ok with me. It was worth it.
Step by step
..Chinese do a lot of welding. They are whipping up buildings left and right and welding until all hours. I don't know why I was wary of the welds on this bridge, but as I walked across I was a little nervous and called down to a couple of swimmers asking if the bridge was safe. They assured me it was so I crossed. But just to clear things up a bit, I gotta tell you, I ain't no sissy and I was not afraid of the bridge falling and me drowning or something like that. It was my camera! If the bridge collapsed I knew there was nothing that I could do to keep it from being ruined. But, as you can see, no problem!
Don't run, swim...
..Nice clean cool lake and some chick swimming. So what's important about this photo? Well, it represents one of the great fears of the Chinese people, the fear of drowning. And this swimming stroke, well, its the national stroke of China, the breast stroke. Considering that most Chinese people can't swim the breast stroke is considered pretty advanced swimming, and even though it is slow, it is better than the alternative. So, if you can do the Australian crawl, you can rule in the pool and, if there are a lot of Chinese people real angry at you, just run for the water and simple swim away... wherever away may be...