I had travelled China 20 years ago and recently returned to ride with the Shanghai H.O.G.s to the third annual H.O.G. event in Qingdao. Though the roads are challenging and traffic a real-life video game where you’re the target, I had found a Zen traversing these roads. I found new friends, foods, and fantastic experiences. Like riding an American Harley-Davidson motorcycle through communist China. How apropos. The Chinese can get large-cc Japanese motorcycles but they want Harley-Davidsons, the icon of personal freedom worldwide.
Day Four Qingdao to Linyi
Leaving Qingdao I lament that there wasn’t more time here. It’s by far the most beautiful city I’ve seen so far. Sister city to Long Beach, California, it’s a port city and renowned for its Tsingtao beer. Boasting 27 miles of beach, Quindao has become a vacation destination. The return to Shanghai took us even further into rural China. Open roads and open space constrict to small, industrialized manufacturing cities. The air hangs thick with the smell of coal. Used to fire the furnaces of industrialization and to heat rural homes, China’s air quality and pollution control is sorely lacking. It is a modern day industrial revolution similar to what America went through 100 years ago, leaving these towns with serious air and water issues. The smog can be so oppressive that first stage alerts restrict airplanes from landing! Linyi, like most Chinese cities, feels like it’s suspended between the past and the future, and again, like every city I visited, dozens upon dozens of new high-rise structures are being built. Everyday life is a cacophony of sound, bizarre machinery, honking horns, buzzing scooters, and overloaded bicycles rattling by on bumpy roads. Of course every time we stopped we drew a crowd. Some gas stations still adhere to an absurd belief that it’s safer to pour gasoline into a motorcycle with a pot, which doubles spill potential and triples fill-up time.
Riding these Chinese roads is reminiscent of great Chinese author Lu Xun. In his short story My Old Home, after 20years away, he like me, has seen the dramatic changes. Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made.
A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. - Lao Tzu
I had gotten to know Jay Chang on this journey; his exuberance for riding was contagious. Born in Shanghai, his family moved to Canada when he was 19, and he finished his BA in Vancouver, Canada. After graduation he worked several different jobs before deciding to move back to China. Now he is the CEO and owner of the largest Alcoa fastening system distributor in China and told me that the 2008 financial crash took a serious toll on the Chinese economy. They also went through some difficult times and 40 percent of Chinese business went bust or almost bankrupt during this world financial crisis. Fortunately his is on the rebound.
Dinner in Linyi was hosted by one of the H.O.G. members and we all sat outside on the sidewalk and dined on a busy street. After dinner, we were escorted to the People’s Square only to find a celebration in progress. By now I’d figured out that shadowing Jay was the hot ticket: young, handsome, smart, and wealthy, he always knew exactly where the action was. Yes, that’s Jay with Red Army soldierettes. They can handcuff me anytime.
Filling gas into a tea pot
Dinner on the streets of Linyi
Dirt roads become temporary bridges