First ride… and a little catch.

 Finally got out for my first ride of the New Year! Went for a short loop, windy and cool out, because it has been  a month or so since I sat in the saddle. Roads are all clear form the Christmas storm, only took the road crew a week to get a plow on our road. The sun was out and it was nice, hope it will say this way for the rest of the winter :) 

 As I said, it’s been awhile since my last ride, so it’s time to catch up. Hunting season managed to take 3 weeks of my riding time, freezer is full.

 Melissa and I went to China with an education tech delegation, the members went to different schools to look at the way technology is integrated into the classrooms while myself and 6 other guests went sight seeing. Awesome and depressing at the same time. We went to see the Summer Palace of the empress dowager, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in Beijing, then we went to the Great wall. All worth seeing, but it was cold and they burn coal which made the air damn near unbreathable and blocked out the sun. There were bikes everywhere. Loaded three wheelers, packed ten feet high with boxes or bales and commuters on all the surface roads. Apparently Giant is big (hah) in China.Our last day in Beijing the winds kicked up and blew most of the smog away. That helped when we went to the wall, we could see forever… not really by close. Word of warning, hawkers everywhere on the wall, kind of takes away from the experience. 

 Next we flew to Xi’ an, close to where the Terra Cotta Army is being excavated. Another awesome sight… again with hawkers, but not nearly as many. We (the guests) got to visit a small farming village with a buddhist nunnery located there. We came across a wedding and crashed it. The grooms family was passing out rice wine (90 proof) and cigarettes. Being polite, I drank and smoked with them and was really surprised with the wine. Smooth. Oh, this was at 10:00 AM. The local guide was shocked I drank the wine, she called it “fire water”. The next day we went to the Big wild Goose pagoda, where they used to store the Buddhist teaching brought from India, and the city wall. They rent bikes to ride around the city wall. I really wanted to do this but it the wind was cold and wet and I am  a wussie-boy without my tights. So we drank coffee  in a little shop off the wall and talked about life in general. Deep for me. Xi’an is another packed city, loaded with bikes again. Fearless riders, they wove in and out of traffic that I’d never want to ride in. We only saw one accident, a rider was knocked off by a SUV, go figure, but he popped up and the argument started. 

 Lastly, we went to Shanghai and stayed in the French Concession of the old city. Very modern, the World’s Fair was there in 2010 and they had completed a ton of new construction for it. Not as many people on bikes here, this city seems much more western that either Beijing or Xi’ an. We all went to the city’s museum, four floors loaded with jade and bronzes. We said behind as the rest of the tour went to a silk rug factory and had to take a taxi to meet them for lunch. After riding in a tour bus and seeing everything from on-high, we were amazed by the driving skill of the taxi driver. It was a free for all on the freeway and he made it look so easy with all the people trying to occupy the same space we were in. Also went to see the Jade Buddha Temple. Another awesome sight. People were burning fake money and candles for the dead in the afterlife, apparently you can take it with you.

 All in all, we had a great time and would like to go again. Not in the winter time.. maybe fall. Never had a bad meal, no forks in most places but I managed to gain 5 pounds I don’t need. Beer is considered a soft drink there and available at most meals, still prefer coffee for breakfast. My major whines are: SMOG! bad does not do it justice. Flight time to and from SFO was 13 hours each way. I don’t like flying to begin with and getting stuck in coach class for that long is no fun. I did not get to ride a flying pigeon. I really wanted to ride that classic in it native habitat but I never got the chance.

 Next trip I hope not to bring back the swine flu… maybe we can go to some place warmer, oh say.. Aruba? :)