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Weather

Istanbul, Turkey
August 25, 2016, 11:05 am
Partly sunny
Partly sunny
81°F
humidity: 65%
wind speed: 20 mph N
sunrise: 6:24 am
sunset: 7:47 pm
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Frankfurt, Germany
August 25, 2016, 10:05 am
Sunny
Sunny
23°C
humidity: 60%
wind speed: 9 mph ENE
sunrise: 6:30 am
sunset: 8:23 pm
More forecast...
 

August 25, 2016, 4:05 pm
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy
78°F
humidity: 65%
wind speed: 9 mph ENE
sunrise: 5:40 am
sunset: 6:55 pm
More forecast...
 

Xi’an – The Silk Road Terminus

The photos have been added to the earlier photo-less “Great Wall” post.
PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
Day 52, Tue June 23, Lanzhou-Pingliang – 332 km (206 Miles)
Including today, only 2 more riding days!  As we ride southeast approaching Xi’an the beautiful remote valleys and snow capped mountains, terraced crops, give way more villages, towns, and small cities along G22.

It’s an overcast day with scattered rain.  Once again, we try to ride the National Road parallel to the G22 Toll Road.  After 40 minutes creeping along on the National Road, forced off the road a couple times, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the center of half-dozen villages, we jump onto the toll road and ride safely to Pingliang.

In Pingliang we stay at the Guangcheng Hotel, The Foot of Kongtong Mountain, Pingliang, GZ China.  35.550946, 106.593876.  This is a new 2009 5-star hotel resort located in a remote stand-alone complex east of town.  Our building was 200 meters from the main lobby and restaurant.  Not convenient in the rain!  It was a wonderful facility but for us there was only taxi access to local color.
Day 53, Wed June 24, Pingliang-Xi’An – 306 km (190 Miles)
Another overcast rainy day.  While we had a short 200-mile day today, getting to a bike wash was the day’s concern.  Tomorrow we load our motos into containers and /or crates.  Vehicles crossing international borders must be spotless!  Caked mud, dirt, vegetation harboring insects or plant seeds in the vehicle undercarriage can get the entire container rejected

First we were going to meet as a group outside of Xi’an and go to an auto wash near the hotel.  But with our scattered travels, getting all to meet with no GPS location would be difficult.  The decision was made to find a bike wash on our own.  Finally with today’s rain, we’ll wait till tomorrow and wash the bike on the way to the container cargo facility.

Today Ken S and I had no desire to attempt to ride the National Road.  We find the first Toll Road on-ramp, blast pass the toll booth only to run into 8 uniformed traffic police at a traffic stop.  Normally we just ride past and ignore them but this time they were spread out across several lanes blocking our progress waving us to the side of the road.  While we chat with the police, Kainan is waved over joining us.
Kainan (KTM), Ken (BMW R1200 GSA) and myself (Suzuki VStrom) were stopped, lectured, turned around and escorted the wrong way through the toll booth, the wrong way back to the on-ramp and off to the National Road.
We smiled, thanked them, waved goodbye and rode the National Road 8-10 kms to the next Toll Road on-ramp.  Again we blasted pass the right side of the tollbooths and continued on our way.  In all my travels across China’s toll roads, this was the only time I was blocked from toll road usage … the last day riding into Xi’an.
It was an easy GPS route off the toll road to the Grand Park Xi’an Hotel, No. 12 West of Huancheng South Road, Xi’an, China  N34 15.095, E108 58.342. Another 5-star hotel in the center of local color.  It’s across the street from the South Gate of the Old City walls and the Drum Tower, Bell Tower, and Great Mosque and the Wangfujing Shopping Center.

Kurt D was leaving the next day.  At dinner he had to give the traditional farewell comment by himself.  The rest of us were making ours tomorrow.  Kurt gave a heartfelt summation of his Silk Road experiences … the new friendships, camaraderie, and challenges achieved.   He said in a few words what many of us were thinking.  Well done Kurt!

Day 54, Thu June 25, Xi’An
Xi’an was once the largest city in the world and served as the capital for 11 dynasties.  Xi’an was known as Chang’an.  During the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-24AD) it became the starting point for the Silk Road.  It continued to be the key hub for the major trade routes between China, Central Asia and Europe during the 7th and 8th centuries.
The first item is “bike wash!”  Customs requires a clean moto.  If your moto is dirty, the entire container can be rejected.  Sim and the local guide find an auto wash next to the container cargo lot (N34 23.070 E109 05.829).
It was 200 meters from the auto wash to the container loading yard.  While parking and turning off the key to the V-Strompasourus I realized that it was over.  The amazing Silk Road Adventure is over!  No more worries about “Will the engine start in the morning?  “Will I have enough rubber to get to Xi’an?  “Is there a pot hole that will crack my rim?  “Is the chain lubricated enough?

The V-Strompasourus is on the left, the next moto to be tied down. Jim, Chris and I watch Helge secure the tied down points. We loading 12 moto into a this container heading to Tacoma, WA.

Ian untangling ratchet straps while I get ready to write ID info on my Jesse Bags.

Our Tacoma, WA bound container is the white one on the left.

12 motos into a small shipping container for Tacoma, WA, 2 motos and the side-car rig to Bangkok, 2 motos in individual wood crates to Heidelberg, Germany.  We are done by 2PM.
Day 55, Fri June 26, Xi’an Tourist
Before 1974 Xi’an was a little known Chinese city with only national historic awareness.   At one time it was the center of all China and the start of the Silk Road.  This all changed when Kublai Khan moved the capital of China to from Xi’an to Beijing in the 14th century.
In 1974 a small group of farmers were digging a well and discovered terracotta fragments.  Then they dug out parts of a life-size terracotta solider.  This discovery and the four decades of archaeological unearthing and over commercialization made Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors the new favorite international China tourist attraction.

Bence H behind a full size terra-cotta warrior replica. It costs approx $1,500 to purchase and ship home.

The terracotta warrior modern mold fabrication is popular with the tourists.

Terracotta Warriors - When you first walk into the main building, the immensity takes your breath away.

This is the first of 3 covered pits.

Terracotta Warriors Selfie

Sign indicates site of original well that uncovered the terracotta warriors in 1974. #6 sign is the oldest recorded brick wall - 210-209 BCE.

2 horse chariot and driver. The wooden chariot has long disintegrated.

Terracotta Warrior - Kneeling Archer. He's hands indicate a crossbow. There were 160 of these found in Pit 2

Double-layered flat hat and square-toed shoes, chest only armor indicate a Middle-ranking Officer

Armor-Clad General - one of 7 found in the pits.

Standing Archer - Archers were never used in hand-to-hand combat so no armor. 172 were found in Pit 2

Cavalrymen with his saddled war-horse. 116 similar grouping were found in Pit 2. His left hand held a crossbow.

Partially uncovered pit in front, original covered in back. All the terracotta warriors were crushed from the collapsed roof and layers of dirt. Each was reconstructed like a 3D puzzle.

Another uncovered pit.

Bronze chariot found in a separate area.

Building 1, site of original water well.

Building 4 - a second huge site

Terracotta Warriors Museum

Tonight is the last dinner together.  Two riders already left.  Kainan R and Kurt D departed right after the motos were loaded into the container.  As per tradition, each rider gave a brief summation of their Silk Road experiences.

The mix of riders worked out wonderful.  Everyone had what it takes to be an adventure rider.  I sincerely hope that I have the opportunity to ride with any one of these riders in the future.  Through out the 56 days (Istanbul to Xi’an)

Day 56, Sat June 27, Departure Day
Today is the official GlobeRiders Silk Road 2015 departure day.  All riders except Joe H, John R, Gary S and myself depart the hotel for the Xi‘an International Airport.  Some left as early as 4AM.
We say goodbye to two group leaving before 9AM then we spend the morning bicycling around the Old Xi’an City Wall.

The original wall was built initially during the old Tang Dynasty (618 – 907).  It was extended by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  It’s the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world.

Xi'an City Wall, South City Gate

South Gate sun dial. No reading, it was an overcast day.

John R, Joe H, Gary S and I rode the entire 8.5 mile city wall.

After the extension, the wall now stands 12 meters (40 feet) tall, 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) wide at the top and 15-18 meters (50-60 feet) thick at the bottom.  It covers 13.7 kilometers (8.5 miles) in length with a deep moat surrounding it.
John R, Gary S and Joe H had a Subway sandwich just inside the South Gate.

John R and I went to look for the Bazaar Area.  I wanted to do some last minute shopping and John just loves to explore.  After some wondering around we find the Bazaar behind the Drum Tower in the Muslim Quarter around the Great Mosque.

Barbque pigs feet

John R checks out fresh meat!

Barbecue crabs

Grilled squid

Butcher at work

Home made chili pepper sauce.

Two men pounding nuts with huge mallets.

There was a lot of yelling while the mallet whacked the nuts. Great show!

Day 57, Sun June 27, My departure day
For me an incredible journey is over.  I’ve been reflecting what has transpired over the last three months.

The day-by-day transition from Europe (Dunkirk, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece) to Eurasia (Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran) to Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan) to China has been incredible.

Nationality

As an American of Japanese descent at home I’m American.  On this trip, Europe, Central Asia, & China I’m considered anything but American.  Most think I’m from China or Japan.

When riding in Europe and Eurasia few initiate conversations with me but many want to have their photo taken with me.  Opposite in China most try to start a conversation with me but few wish to take a photo with me.
Roadside Waves and High Fives

On our travels west to east most us riders’ wave at the local people we encountered.  This opens doors to all kinds of social interactivity.

From the start in Turkey, it seemed 90% waved back and when we stopped, friendly locals would approach to talk, invite us to have tea, offer water or food.  Children especially would see us approach and run the side of the road smiling and waving.  This continued through Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran.
In Central Asia, Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan, maybe 60% waved back.  A few of the kids would run to the side of the road and hold their hands out for a high-five as we rode pass them.  I did not participate in this.  The speed limit in all villages was 40 kph (25 mph).  A high-five at 25 mph resulted in a fairly solid smack to a 5-6 year old’s hand.  That combined with the dirt, gravel and rocky streets, dogs, donkey carts, 3-wheelers, an occasional 4-wheeler appearing in front of me was outside my safety margin riding one-handed.
The children’s innocence changed in Tajikistan.  From Kalaikhumb to Horog young boys, 8-10 years old, in the remote villages and farms stuck their hand out for a high-five and held a stone in their other hand.  If you didn’t high-five them, they threw the stone at your back!  This happened a half-dozen times and was the only negative incident of the entire ride.  The stone throwing ended at Horog.
Time & Distance

Pre-Silk Road – Heidelberg, Germany (April 17, 2015), Dunkirk, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Istanbul, Turkey (May 2, 2015) 4,285 km (2,663 miles)

The Silk Road – Istanbul, Turkey (May 3, 2015), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, to Xi’an, China (June 25, 2015) 12,915 km (8,025 miles)

Total ride – Heidelberg, Germany (April 17, 2015) to Xi’an, China (June 25, 2015) the total distance traveled by motorcycle was 17,200 km (10,700 miles).
The Rides

18 motos started, 17 finished. There were 16 BMWs (650, 800 GSA & 1200 GS & GSA), 1 KTM 990, and 1 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000.  The only DNF is a 2014 BMW R1200 GSA.

My 2004 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 performed as expected.  The only minor problem was the negative battery terminal working loose on the washboard Pamir Highway between Murgab and Sary-Tash, Kyrgyzstan.
The wheels on the motorcycle goes round and round …

All riders had new rubber in Istanbul.  Either new tires on all motos shipped via container or installed new tires waiting for them in Istanbul.  The tire of choice was the new Continental TKC70s.

Many of the riders planned a tire change in Dushanbe, Tajikistan – only 4,500 mi from Istanbul.  However once in Dushanbe, the Continental TKC70 had plenty of tread and a couple riders decided not to change.  Those that did change tires in Dushanbe saved the half-used tires for a tire emergency (which happened to several of the riders with damaged and flat tires).

I did something entirely different and mounted very hard street tires.  I made the decision go the entire ran the entire 17,200 km (10,700 miles) on one set of tires:

Rear tire:  Metzeler ME 880 Marathon 160/70B-17

Front tire:  Michelin Anakee 2 Adventure Touring 110/80VR19F.

I did finish with plenty of tread front and back … however, the front tire, a Michelin Anakee 2, developed hairline cracks 2-inches off center parallel in the direction of travel.  The hairline cracks were discovered in Sary-Tash, Kyrgyzstan.  There was plenty of tread and no core belt showed through the hairline cracks.  I inspected the tires daily after riding.   Tire pressure checked every morning.  I was certain the roads in China would not be anything like the Tajikistan Pamir Highway.
Engine Heatstroke

Another minor problem was overheating in stop-n-go traffic.  Normal engine temperature gauge was 2-bars.  In stop-n-go traffic the gauge would go to 3-bars and after a few minutes the engine would stall.  So all stop-n-go traffic involved clutch feathering and slightly higher RPMs via throttle control.  The engine temperature gauge never got to 4-bars and there was no loss of radiator coolant.

Headlights – One Eyed Jack

The V-Strom has dual headlights.  And the headlights are on when the key turns on.  This is a good thing to increase our visibility to other drivers.

All countries we rode through DO NOT travel with headlights on.  Starting in Turkey all oncoming vehicles flashing their lights and ride their horns notifying us to turn off our headlights.  We acknowledge their ON/OFF headlights with a friendly wave.  We all rode with lights on to make sure we were seen.

I converted to dual HIDs before my 2011 TransAmerica Ride.  One of my HID headlights started looking yellow in Murgab and went dead by Lanzhou.  The remaining HID headlight maintained my daylight visibility to oncoming vehicles all the way to Xi’an.
I don’t need no stinkin’ oil change.

I’ll probably get some flack on this but I planned and rode the entire Silk Road, 17,200 km (10,700 miles) with out an oil or filter change.  With 100% synthetic oil I had run motos 11,000 miles several times with no ill effects.

I’m from the “If anything can go wrong during an oil & filter change in the middle of nowhere it will!” and “If its running good, don’t fix it!” school

The 2015 GlobeRiders Silk Road Riders

I’ve long known that moto travel open doors and create unique one-to –one experience.  Motos help encourage conversation and creates smiles.

The GlobeRiders Silk Road 2015 brought together 18 independent and unique personalities, riding skill levels, and world travel expectations.

This is an adventure unlike others where the traveler is just a passenger.  This was a unique opportunity to travel through 11 exotic and legendary countries with each rider controlling his own direction, path and speed.  Yes, we all had a common goal each day but we individually chose how and when to get there.

When you spend 56 days with 18 other travelers sharing food, exploring 3,000 year old ruins and city walls, wondering through the many vendors, sounds and smells of a central/night market, picking up motos, fixing flats, sharing fuel, strong bonds can develop.  Now the mere mention of a location or activity brings a flood of memories and grins.  i.e. the tunnel of terror, toll gate running, teakettle fill ups, border crossings, blown shocks, flat tires, lost boys, the magnificent Argos Hotel in Cappadocia, the small Caravansaries lodgings, yurts, etc.

I can honestly say I would travel and adventure with any one of these gentlemen.

I also highly recommend the GlobeRiders Global Adventures.  They are currently taking reservations for Silk Road 2016!

FYI – the cargo container with 12 moto arrived at South Sound BMW, Friday, August 14

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!” There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Subscribing or Unsubscribing: You can subscribe a friend.  Just go to the upper left tab on this page and click SUBSCRIBE. You will be given the option to Subscribe or Unsubscribe.  If you dislike rambling babble enter your email address and click the UNSUBSCRIBE button.  You will be removed from the subscriber list.

Great Wall

Day 44, Mon June 15, Turpan-Hami – 401 km (249 miles)
At 4:30AM 4 riders depart from the hotel to the dry Lake Ayding, −154 meters (−505 ft).  It’s the 4th lowest point on earth depending how you measure.  It was a 2-hour round trip, approx. 35km each way.  By some measures, it is also the hottest and driest area in China. 42.684048°, 89.261119°
Gary and I depart at 7:30AM preparing for the hottest temps.  We skirted around the tollbooth and locked onto a 110-kph speed.  Imagine our surprise when dark clouds formed ahead of us and it started to rain.  This was followed by an aggressive cross wind.
For the next 4 hours rain and wind kept us busy.  This stretch of the toll road had a new layer of asphalt on the right hand slow lane.  This caused long stretches of water to pool in the center of the road.  Crossing that puddle to pass trucks in high cross winds made for interesting handling.  Traction was a concern because rain is so rare around here.
We pulled into Hami around noon.  It rained all afternoon and into the night.  Our hotel is Hami Hotel Building 6, No. 4 Yingbin Road, Hami, China. N42 49.680, E93 30.911
Day 45, Tue June 16, Hami-Dunhuang – 406 km (252 miles)
It’s another short day of riding.  We are entering the southern boundary of the Gobi desert which stretches northeast up into Mongolia.  The Gobi Desert is the 5th largest desert in the world.  The scene and scenario is pretty much like yesterday … rain, wind, trucks and maintaining good tire traction.  Getting through the G30 tollbooth gate is fairly easy now.  My procedure to turn off my headlights, enter the tollbooth area solo next to a group of vehicles or beside a truck.  We don’t seem to notice the upset guards anymore.
The last 60 miles G215 is a 2-lane road SSE. It’s a rough asphalt patched, very straight road.  The hotel waypoint is way off!  After wondering around a plant nursery for 20 minutes, we show the address to a local and he points us in the right direction.
The Grand Soluxe Hotel Dunhuang, No. 1339 Yangguan Middle Road, Dunhuang, China is a 5-star!
Dunhuang means “Blazing Beacon.”  It is one of four frontier garrison towns (Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Zhangye & Wuwei) that patrol the Great Wall as it runs westward.  Blazing Beacon refers to the fire beacons lit from watch-tower to watch-tower to communicate attacks from the northern Mongol horde.  The Silk Road ran through these four towns.  Dunhuang was the eastern crossroad where the Silk Road split to the northern route above the Gobi through the Kyrgyzstan / Tajikistan / Russia and the southern route into Pakistan & India.

The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang is one of the ‘big four’ world-heritage attractions in China.  The others being the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Terracotta Warriors.  Our Silk Road adventure visits all but the Forbidden City.

Day 46, Wed June 17, Dunhuang Local Discovery
The day starts overcast with sprinkles.  First thing on our agenda a visit a whisky factory … with tasting!

The whiskey comes out of the little faucet lower right.

Sampling

This stuff packs a kick-in-the-butt!

The main stored in earthen vats.

This prep of the main stuff was very unusual.

The distillery staff and riders

Mid-morning we went to play on the Mingsha Sand Dunes.  After all, on a Silk Road expedition, camel riding is a required experience.

Of course we had to partake in a cheesy tourist camel ride to fulfill our Silk Road traveler image.

That's David D behind me.

Rider Gary S leads our caravan.

At the camel stop, you can pay a few yuan to climb a huge sand dune and slide down on a wooden sled.

Riders Terry G and Patrick O near the bottom

The Crescent Lake.

Bence H getting ready for his ultralight air tour of the Mingsha Sand Dunes and Crescent Lake.

We finish the day at the Mogao Grottoes.  Beginning in 360AD, over a period of 1,000 years, hundreds of carved out grottoes were built into to steep sandstone cliffs along the Dang River.  After massive restoration, 492 grottoes of Buddhist scripture and painting are on exhibit.  Unfortunately, no photo inside the grottoes.

The IMAX style theater at the visitor’s center shows 2 separate films that are very well done!

Beginning in 366AD and continuing over a period of 1,000 years, hundreds of caves were dug out of the steep sandstone cliffs lining the Dang River.

There are almost 500 caves of Buddhist scriptures and painting. Unfortunately, no photos allowed.

Inside this grotto/cave is the huge lying Budda.

Many of the incredible paintings were still intact, not destroyed.

Day 47, Thu June 18, Dunhuang-Jiayuguan – 373 km (232 miles)
It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.
Chinese proverb
Seeing, touching, experiencing the Great Wall of China was high on my Silk Road list.  The Great Wall of China surfaced in my farm boy awareness in the early 60’s because of the space race.  It was claimed to be one of the few man-made constructions that could see from the moon.  This was debunked after astronauts in low space orbit, 100 miles, could not identify the Great Wall with naked eyes.

Earliest record of the original wall construction was the 7th century BC!   It runs along the northern border of China to protect it from the invading horde of Mongolia.  It is not common knowledge just how long the Great Wall is … 21,196 km (13,171 mi).  Almost all photos of the Great Wall show the tourist sites near Beijing and the Badaling Great Wall near Zhangjiakou both where the wall has been totally rebuilt.

During the Ming Dynasty, anything east of Jiayuguan was considered the wild, wild west – an autonomous region .  The Great Wall’s western terminus was here at the Jiayuguan Pass.  The Jiayuguan Fortress was first built in 1372 and completed in 1540.  Also known as the “mouth of China” because of its position at the end of the Great Wall.
Day 48, Fri June 19, Jiayuguan Local Exploration

Main gate of the Great Wall fortress at Jiayuguan.

At the fortress, entry fee was determined by height.  Chris P and Marty K measure up.  Chris still had to pay the adult fee.

Buddhist shrine inside the fort.

Scale model of the old fort.

Snow covered mountains surround the fort.

A reenactment of the Royal Court activities.

On the right is the fortress wall and on the left in the Great Wall running west towards Overhanging Great Wall.

The Shiguanxia Overhanging Great Wall is 6.5 km northwest of the Jiayuguan Fortress.  It is an extension of the Fortress.

After lunch we walk this section of the Great Wall.  The Overhanging Great Wall was erected on the 150-meter-high (492 feet) mountain ridges with approximately a 45-degree slope.  Most of this is a restoration.  The hike to the tower requires many rest breaks!!

Seen from away this part of the wall resembles a dragon hanging over the mountain, explaining where its name comes from.

This section of the Great Wall has been totally reconstructed.

Ken S approaches the steep section with the watch tower.

Looking back down the wall.

There are two watch towers ahead.

The wall is visible as it disappears in the center horizon.

Day 49, Sat June 20, Jiayuguan-Wuwei – 481km (299 miles)
We are on the road at 8AM.  Today’s ride has stretches that run along the western terminus of the ancient Great Wall.  We are on the look out for Great Wall encounters.
Ken S, Kerry G and I stop in a safe area along the toll road.  Ken thinks he knows where we can find the Great Wall.  We exit the G30 Lianhuo Expy Toll Road and ride north on G312, a 2-lane road heading up through a range of foothills.  Most of the remains of the wall are short runs that look more like dirt mounds.
Our encounter is at the top of the pass at 38.889001°,  101.090712° (38° 53′ 20.4036″, 101° 5′ 26.5626″).

This bare rock wall was ¼-mile of a small country road.

Terry G

ken S and I next to a huge rock wall.

After we get back on G30 Toll Road, the Great Wall runs parallel on the south side then crosses the toll road to the north side.  This stretch of the Great Wall is still a wall.  It’s been broken where they built roads through it and all the towers are just mounds.  38.660199°,  101.256242° (N 38 39.612, E 101 15.375)

I'm approx 25 m off the toll road. The Great Wall is behind me.

Great Wall, photo by Helge

Great Wall, photo by Helge

Today was full of excitement as we rode along side and around the Great Wall.  It’s amazing that this national treasure is so accessible and hundreds of miles of the original structure so exposed.
Our day ends at Tianma Hotel, No. 41 the West Avenue, Qiongliang District, Wuwei, China.  Went around the block the wrong way and ended up riding into the hotel on a pedestrian-only street.  N37 55.688, E102 37.701
Day 50, Sun June 21, Wuwei-Lanzhou – 287km (178 miles)
Most of us realize our adventure is almost over.  We have 3 more stops — Lanzhou, Pingliang, and the eastern terminus of the Silk Road … Xi’an (Chang’an).
Helge encourages us to make the most of the last days of our adventure … get on the National Road and meet people and explore the local area.  The problem is the closer we get to Xi’an, the worse traffic on the National Road becomes.  Everyone becomes more aggressive.  With the daily rain and wind, close calls are daily dinner topics.

Helge encourages us to make the most of the last days of our adventure … get on the National Road and meet people and explore the local area.  The problem is the closer we get to Xi’an, the worse traffic on the National Road becomes.  Everyone becomes more aggressive.  With the daily rain and wind, close calls are daily dinner topics.

Our day ends at the Grand Soluxe Hotel, No 428 Quingyang Road, Chengguan District, Lanzhou, China, a 5-star hotel.  N36 03.299, E103 49.326

Day 51, Mon June 22, Lanzhou Local Sites
Lanzhou has a 2,000 year history.  In the 1400 it had a major fort and was critical to the eastern stretch of the Silk Road.  The famed Yellow River runs through the city.
Lanzhou is one of the 10 most polluted cities in the world!
We start the day at the Lanzhou Provincial Museum.  The three sections are: Silk Road, Dinasours, and Chinese political history.

Various Silk Road routes - Green-northern via Russia, Yellow-our route via Central Asia, Blue-Sea route

Small statue

Small statue, horse

Buddhism Shrine

Everybody loves dinosaurs!

?

Joe H and Mammoth

There was a section on the political history of China

At one time, the entire city’s irrigation water supply was via waterwheels from the Yellow River.  First used in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  Until 1952 there was still 252 working waterwheels.  A typical waterwheel could raise water 15-18 meters (49-59 feet) to irrigate nearby fields.

Water wheels lifted water from the Yellow River into the city's irrigation system

The square boxes captures water and pours it out into troughs above ground level.

Before the bridge was built across the Yellow River, folks cross on animal skin rafts.  So of course this mode is now a tourist attraction.

The animal skin raft uses 8 pig skins.

Ken S, John R, Bence H and Bob D were the only ones brave enough to cross the Yellow River on one of these animal skin rafts.

The Yellow River current was pretty swift!

P

The raft will cross the river and beach on far right of the photo.

Lanzhou Zhongshan bridge located at the foot of Bai Ta Mountain is an ancient bridge. It is referred to as “the first bridge over Yellow River”.  History of the Zhongshan iron bridge dates back to 1372.  Back then, there were floating bridges made up of ships tied together with ropes and chains.  However, it was neither sturdy, nor safe.  After over 500 years of use, the floating bridge was retired in 1909, and an early version of the iron bridge was built.

The historic Iron Bridge

Temple on the other side of the Iron Bridge

One of the more enjoyable things we do is visit schools.  In the afternoon we visited a middle school in Lanzhou.

We were welcomed by the school's staff.

We had refreshments and chatted with the staff.

The young ladies were English language teachers.

We are introduced to the class then split up into small groups.


This is my group of 5 students. English language is mandatory! In fact one of the math classes is English Only. They have 3-4 hours of homework every day.

Kurt took his BMW over to a car wash next to the hotel.  In a couple days when we get to Xi’an we all have to do a detail bike cleaning.  All of us rode in mud and dirt playing around the Great Wall. A few riders even had dirt naps yesterday.  To get most of the mud off, many of us followed Kurt and got our moto washed.
Tommorrow … Pingliang.

CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Subscribing or Unsubscribing: You can subscribe a friend.  Just go to the upper left tab on this page and click SUBSCRIBE. You will be given the option to Subscribe or Unsubscribe.  If you dislike rambling babble enter your email address and click the UNSUBSCRIBE button.  You will be removed from the subscriber list.

China Border Crossing

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Day 38, Tue 09 June- Sary-Tash to Kashgar, China, 306 km (190 miles)

Last night some of us slept in yurts and the rest in homestay rooms. Woke up to light rain.

After riding in the chase vehicle for a day, a couple riders helped John M re-mounted his windshield and John is back riding with the group.  All-The-Gear-All-The-time pretty much saved John from serious injury!
The road from Sary-Tash to the China border took us over the very windy and snowing Irkeshtam Pass; 2,950 meters (9,680-foot).  The cloud base was low but the drop down through the gorge is spectacular.  This road is an good 2-lane paved with minimal potholes.

The hard cross wind left little snow on the road but in the back of our minds, we were worried about the Kainan, Bence and Shiree who at the same moment was crossing the 15,270 feet Ak-Baital Pass!  We later learned there was 4-6” of snow on the dirt, gravel and rocky pass.  There was a mass accumulation of moto snow naps!

In 2-hours we were at the first border gate.
The Kyrgyzstan/China border took ~7 hours.

We are crossing one of the worlds most remote international border crossing.  The weather was wet.  Light showers on and off.  It was a gray, colorless kind of a day.  Very few tourist come through this border crossing and with motos, this is new for most of the border agents.  It was bureaucracy at it’s finest!

Now don’t get me wrong here. 7 hours is fast for a group of 20+ with motos!  The GlobeRiders China guide, Sim, has all our info including passport photocopies, passport numbers, vehicle proof of ownership, VIN numbers, and was at the border when the doors opened.  Without our guides’ border assistance, this whole crossing could take several days.
i.e. at the 1st China gate, they held the entire group at the gate and allowed one moto at a time to ride 40 m to the check point booth where the rider went inside with passport and vehicle registration.  This checkpoint took 3-4 minutes and when the rider exited the booth, the guard signaled the guard at the gate. The gate guard lifted the gate and allowed 1 rider to ride the 40 m to the booth where he stopped, parked, gathered his paperwork and entered the building.  It was taking as long to ride to the booth and get ready as actually processing us in the booth.
Sorry, no photos of this border crossing.  No photos allow at at the border.

At half of the checkpoints they collects all the passports and with the master spreadsheets expedites our group approval and processing — but we still hurry and wait … and hurry and wait … and hurry and wait …

Our 1st stop was at Kyrgyzstan exit gate.  This was a drop gate and only passport was checked.  We proceeded 5 km to the 2nd stop, the China entry gate to show passport.  There is a 3rd checkpoint then around the corner a 4th checkpoint.
We were directed to park in a very tight 3-row formation in a huge empty parking lot surrounded by empty buildings.  Of course experienced moto riders with fully loaded motos never park where we can’t ride off.  I wait in the back of the pack and park in the 3rd row 5m from where the guard is pointing.  Then we were herded into a waiting room while our passports goes through immigration.
Suddenly, a custom officer came in and shouted some instructions.  A young American lady working in China became our unofficial translator for the next 6 hours.  She said, “They want everyone to sit upright, talk quietly and be our best behavior because the “big boss” was arriving for an inspection.”  At that point all immigration work ceased as the staff and management ran from building to building standing at attention as a line of vehicles drove around the area.
Finally we were processed one at a time through customs.  We were instructed to bring in our entire luggage from the bikes.  I decided to only bring one small bag.  Again they checked passport, China visa, the bag was X-rayed and visually inspected.  Then we went out to our bikes and waited another hour for them to come inspect our bikes and go through all our cases.
Finally we rode in a convoy another 70 km to the 5th and final border station in Wuqia/Uluqqat.  Here there we had our passport, visa & vehicle registration checked.  Then the next window the agent wanted passport, visa, vehicle registration, a detailed agenda of our ride, and all our medications.  This was the agent with the big stamp!  This took 15-20 minute each!  17 people processed, one-at-a-time.
Finally, we were done and standing by our motos.  A couple bays over, all the incoming trucks had to drive through a spray booth.  We could see some of the agents were thinking we should ride our moto’s though the spray booth!  None of us knew what kind of poison/ disinfectant they were using and we wanted nothing to do with the ride through.  After a 20-minute discussion, they called a pickup with a large tank on the back and the driver drove along our motos spraying one side of our wheels.

Yup!  It’s a grey kind of a day!

Thinking we were through, we were directed through another gate and across a weed covered field to another building where we parked and entered a room with a couple of agents.  Again we waited for 30-40 minutes and finally an agent and VIPs comes out with all our passports!

We were warmly welcomed to China.  It took a lot of cooperation and a special permit to allow large format motorcycles into China.  Please be careful and obey all the traffic rules.

We ride across the weed-covered field to a rusty iron gate and when we pass through, the village street opens up in full color … just like the Wizard of Oz!

Now that we’ve entered China, the challenge of long unpaved roads and Tunnels of Death are over.  Our new concerns are to understand China driving laws and riding within/around the restrictions.  Here’s what we know about riding in China now.
1)   Riding large motorcycles is absolutely forbidden for Chinese nationals.
2)   GlobeRiders and any motorcycle touring company have to get special permission (immigration, customs and insurance paperwork & fees) for foreigners to enter and pass through China with large motorcycles.
3)   Foreign riders have to take a Chinese driving test and are issued a Chinese driver’s license, license plate and vehicle insurance.  This took 2 to 5+ days in Kashgar.
4)   Motorcycles of any size are forbidden to riding on the Toll Roads that crosses the entire span of China.
5)   Motorcycles cannot ride up to a gas pump and fill from the pump’s nozzle.  Motorcycles must park outside the station and carry fuel in a large teakettle.
6)   Foreign travelers are required to be escorted with a licensed travel guide.  We are suppose to ride in a group with a guide in front lead vehicle and a chase vehicle with guide in the back.  The group is to ride a specific route with no deviations.
Motorcycles are not allowed on the Toll Road!

China has no large motorcycles.  There are millions of 2-wheeled rides that are electric, mopeds, step-through scooters, and mini-motorcycles below the 250cc range.  Allowing these underpowered mini-putts on the high-speed toll roads would very dangerous with vehicles traveling at 90-130 kph.

We are told that motorcycles are not allowed on the toll roads.  But after the chaotic and dangerous traffic on the National Road, for our own safety, we decide to ride on the toll road.  i.e. An opposing semi-tractor/trailer will cross over into your lane and force you off the road just to avoid a pot hole!

We have to sneak onto the toll road by hiding behind a line of trucks then ride up the right side around the tollgate.  The discovery of our presence at the toll booth is accompanied by a lot of hand waving and yelling and sometimes a uniformed toll operator’s chasing us by foot.

Yet once on the Toll Road, we ride past police with no problems.
Fill-er up!  What … a teakettle??????
Another unique law in China … motor scooters, motorcycles, mini-bikes, etc, cannot ride up to the gas pump and get fuel.  A gas station can get into big trouble if they get caught letting a motorcycle use the pump.  Motorcycles must park outside the gas station, walk to the gas pump to find a large tea kettle, fill the tea kettle full of gas (~6.5 liters/~1.7 gal), pay for the gas (approx. ¥40/$6.45 USD) and carry the teakettle over to the motorcycle and carefully pour the gas into the gas tank.  You must pay the ¥40 each time and you cannot get half a teakettle.
It seems that years ago, a carbureted motorcycle/scooter backfired as the rider started it and ignited the gas stations fumes and KAABLAM!  The station exploded.

The teakettle bragade was inspired for safety but is often more dangerous!

Modern motorcycles with fuel injection do not have that problem.  And once the station understood we needed 20+ liters for a fill up, most relinquished us using the teakettle.

Not only is this procedure very dangerous, fueling 18 motorcycles could take hours.  They let large vehicles have priority to the pump and teakettlers must wait.  A 22-liter/6.8 gal fill-up on the VStrompasourus is 3+ teakettles.  A fill-up of a BMW R1200GSA is 8 gal or 4+ teakettles.

I did a teakettle fill-up in Turpan (in windy conditions) and decided not to play the teakettle game any more.  I would ride up to a fuel pump, motion fill-up and sit there blocking all other vehicle from filling up.  Once they see we are foreigners and the size of our motorcycles and that we want a complete fill-up, they reluctantly give in and fill the tank.  Other riders compromised by pushing their motos to the pump and after fill-up pushing off the station property.
It’s about 30 km to the Luxemon Qiuibagh Hotel.  It’s a Chinese 5 Star.
Patrick O’s new BMW R1200 GSA has been making scary noises.  Now it really loud!  Fearing a catastrophic lock-up Bob D and Patrick put on their surgery togs and take off the heads.  They are looking for stuff rattling around the heads.   Something is definitely rattling around inside that finely crafted  & engineered Teutonic masterpiece.

Patrick O and Bob D pulling the heads off of Patrick's BMW R1200 GSA.

OK ... nothing was found. Sounds like the damage is inside. Maybe rings? Now what????

Lost Boys Report
Great news this evening.  Today with 250 liters of diesel fuel the industrial front-end loader cleared the road, a route around the bridge was made, the bikes were carried one by one in the front-end bucket across the river.  Our two lost boys learned valuable lessons.  Sometimes bad decisions only get worse!  If you throw enough money at a problem, it will usually get you out of most situations.

Now they were 3 days behind and had 2 international borders to cross.  Their little party consists of Kainan (KTM), Bence (BMW R1200 GSA) and Shiree in a 4WD chase vehicle with driver.

Day 39, Wed June 10 – Kashgar, China, Day 1 of 2
We are in the west most edge of China, riding our motos but are not licensed to drive motorcycles and our motorcycles are illegal without a Chinese license plate.  We spent the next 2 days going through the procedures to get our China driver’s license and vehicle plate.
Past GlobeRiders Silk Road excursions had to take a written Chinese drivers test and were issued a funky home made vehicle plate (that became a collector’s item).  I was looking forward to getting the funky zip tied China license plate.
Our procedure was …

Step 1: Vehicle ID and safety check — First thing Wed morning we riding 50 km to the traffic police office to have our moto’s VIN numbers rubbed onto special paper strips.  This takes 1½ hours for 16 motos.

Step 2: Then we ride back 15 km to a huge vehicle inspection area where we wait in one line for 2 hours then move to a second area for another hour.  Finally, a big stack of paperwork appears and each of our bikes are VIN checked, headlight checked, left & right turn signals checked.  We all pass the vehicle inspection.  We are back at our hotel in Kashgar by 1 PM.

Step 3: In the past foreigners had to pass a written drivers test.  To help us an official driving instructor would come to our hotel and give us a lecture on driving in China.  We started waiting in the lobby for the lecture at 8 PM.  The driving instructor arrived at 11 PM!

She brought one copy of the Chinese Drivers Instruction manual … one copy for ~30 foreign drivers!

The 15 min lecture stated,

“Max speed is 120 kph.

“Drive on the right side of the road.

“And fasten your seat belt!”

Then she wanted to take a group photo with all the bikers, then she left.

No … she did not give us our driver’s license and vehicle plate and there was no discussion about the drivers test.

Hopefully, tomorrow we will be issued China driver’s license and a license plate/card.
Oh, and this is where we found out that driver’s licenses are not normally issued to drivers over 60!  But, but money might take care of that.  And drivers over 70 have to pay $300 extra!
Kashgar Local Sites
The afternoon tour took us to the Id Kah Mosque, Abakh Khoja Tomb, Kashgar Old Town and National Street.

Id Kah Mosque

Id Kah Mosque

Abakh Khoja Tomb

Tombs around the Abakh Khoja Tomb

In Kashgar's Old Town plaza the kids fun ride are military tanks.

Lost Boys Report
Kainan, Bence and Shiree are through the Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan border crossing.
Day 40, Thu June 11, Kashgar-Akesu, China  465km (289 miles)
Step 4: After breakfast we rode back to the same vehicle inspection area and spent 3 hours in a dirt parking lot waiting for our driver’s licenses and plates.  Theoretically we could not move forward without these items but the wait could be days.  Helge made the decision for the group to continue on to Akesu while the chase vehicle and local guide wait for the China driver’s license and a license plate/card.  We rode on the National Highway but off to our left we could see the Toll Road under construction.
Todays ride started in farmland, lush and green.  The winds start and the rest of the day the entire horizon was a haze with blowing sand.  The Silk Road has many routes.  We are on the northern Tarim route which skirts the northern perimeter of the Takla Makan Desert.  This route takes us through the oasis towns of Kashgar (Kashi), Akesu (Aksu), Korla, and Turpan (Turfan).

Spent all afternoon riding in a mild sand storm. Many of the locals wear a nose/mouth mask.

We knew that the next 5-6 days were going to be hot.
Butting up to the southern edge of the Takla Makan Desert is the famed Gobi Desert.  Our Silk Road route continues through southeast through Hami (Kumul), Dunhuang, Jiayuguan.  All these skirt the southwest edge of the Gobi Desert.
Lost Boys

Kainan, Bence and Shiree are at the Kyrgyzstan/China border crossing.  They are riding hard to catch up.

Day 41, Fri June 12, Akesu-Korla, China  534km (332 miles)
Today was one of the longest ride days, 332 miles.  It was also starting to warm up.  High temps were in the mid-90s.  What a dramatic change.  Two days ago we were riding in a snowstorm!
We passed through more desert-like terrain with shrub and rolling hills.  The newly constructed toll road running parallel to us was still totally blocked.  Chinese road construction is excellent.
We finally get our China driver’s license and vehicle plate.

Left: China Drivers License; Right: New card for vehicle plate

China vehicle insurance papers

What a disappointment!  The vehicle plate has been replaced with a little plastic card the size of the driver’s license.  Everyone over 60 got their driver’s license and Gary S, the only rider over 70 got his $300 back!

Side Note:  We’ve been riding 5 days in China with no DL or plate on all kinds of roads.  There is usually a document check at each providence/state crossing i.e. Xinjiang, Gansu, Ningxia, and Shaanxi.  Anytime we get stopped we show passport and international drivers license.  The LEO has no idea what to do with us and once they find out we are an international group, it turns into a roadside photo op with the police and they wave us on.  On very rare occasion on the Toll Road, we are escorted off but no ticket or cash penalty.

Lost Boys Report

Kainan, Bence and Shiree are through the China border crossing.  They are a day’s ride behind

Day 42, Sat June 13, Korla-Turpan, China  388km (241 miles)
Todays ride to Turpan is clear blue skies, a little wind and temps in the mid-90s.  Turpan is one of the most remarkable oases along the Silk Road.  It lies 154 meters below sea level.  Turpan is Uygur (wee-grrr) culture.  The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia. It was the center of Buddhism before turning to Islam in the 8th century.
We are at the Tuha Petroleum Turpan Hotel, No. 230 Wenhua Road, Turpan, China  N42 56.755, E89 11.339
The Lost Boys have returned to the flock!

Day 43, Sun June 14, Turpan, China – Tourist Day

In the morning we walked the ancient city of Jiaohe, a Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) garrison that was destroyed by Genghis Khan.
In the afternoon we visited the Karez Well Underground Irrigation Channels, over 5,000 km long.  The first was constructed more than 2,000 years ago.  This was an ingenious way water was brought from the mountains to the Silk Road communities along the Takla Makan Desert.  This ample supply of water was key to Turpan becoming a major R&R point for all caravans on the silk road.

Karez underground tunnels brought water from the mountains to the desert villages.

This model shows the vertical shafts of the karez irrigation channels.

Cut away of actual irrigation tunnel

Finally we saw the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, the flaming Mountains, and the Emin Minaret

Turfan Imin Minaret

Turfan Imin Minaret

Turfan Imin Minaret

Tonight’s dinner included traditional Uygur folk music and dancing.

Ian, Patrick, Ken, Bence, Kerry, James


Dean, Gary, David, John, Chris & Helge

In this folk dance, John R, Ken S, David D, and Gary S are all courting the lovely maiden.

Gary S courts the young maiden with his duck dance moves.

Gary S wins the maidens hand.

Tomorrow we ride from Turfan to Hami, China.  The distance is only 250 miles but … it will be one of the hottest days at 110°F.  Normally we depart from the hotel around 9AM.  Gary & I decide to leave at 7AM to ride in the early morning cool.

We are entering the Gobi desert region and reportedly one of the hottest areas in the world. We only have 250 miles today be we double up on bottles of water.

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I’m worth 13 cows?

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Day 35, Sat 06 June – Khorog Tourist/Afghanistan
Today is a big day!  I signed up for the Silk Road excursion for many reasons … the unique opportunity to ride across 9 Western Europe countries and 10 Silk Road countries, 17,000+ km, over a 2.5-month period and more specific the opportunity to ride in Iran and Afghanistan.

For many years Afghanistan has refused issuing visas to US citizens.  This year the visa restriction was lifted.  So eight GlobeRiders were awarded entry visas — the Lucky 8.

Several of our GlobeRider members were refused Iranian and Afghan visas.  i.e. Israel passport, a US citizen career military officer was rejected, and other decided not to apply for Afghan visa because of ISIS, Taliban and terror concerns.

So today eight riders spent an afternoon in a small Afghanistan village and concurrently, 2 riders whet on an independent ride along the Tajikistan/Afghan border and cross over a mountain pass to the Pamir Highway back to Khorog.

The VStrom takes 92 octane. TJS 5.40/liter = $0.86 USD/liter or $3.26 USD/gal

The Lucky 8 arrived at the “Friendship Bridge” (37.527941°, 71.503971°) that crosses the river into Afghanistan at 9AM.  It took 2 hours to exit Tajikistan immigration and customs.  We ride 200 meters across the iron bridge and now we do Afghan immigration & customs – 1 hour.  While we were waiting our clearance, two pickups pull into to the border checkpoint.  The first had a gun turret in the back-bed and the second … a dead body covered with a green blanket.  While our imaginations were running amuck, we later learn it’s a villager who drowned.
Our original plan was to ride to a lake/village 30 km in Afghanistan.  However, the Afghan border officers said “No, that area is dangerous!  You must stay here along the river.”  We turned right along the river on a horrible rocky dirt road and rode 6 km to a little village.
Some of the villagers were suspicious of us but most were curious of foreigners riding large motos.  One villager who spoke limited English quietly asked one of the riders, “Why are you here?  Don’t you know I can get 12 cows for you!”  The inference being, if he turned an American over to the Taliban, he would be rewarded 12 cows.
The Lucky Eight spent 2 hours walking and talking with the villagers.  I purchased an Afghan cap and was wearing it as I walked around.

The adult Afghanistan men were open and curious. The females were no where to be seen.

8 motos parked on a dirt Main Street.

Villager packing bags of snuff.

Everybody wants their photo taken. The guy on the right spoke good English and visited New York City.

At the street market, this man was selling birds..

Young men were friendly and curiuous..

School was a beehive of activity. The boys were out front everywhere, the girls hid their faces and disappeared.


I've always wanted an Afghan tribal pakol hat. This villager spoke english and helped me purchase the hat. It cost TJS50 or ~$8.00 USD.

As I walked around the village wearing the hat, these guys smiled and pointed to their hats and this photo.

After a couple hours, we rode south along the river to find a place to take an “Afghanistan group photo”.  The road turned to river sand and … down I went.  I official did a dirt dive in Afghanistan!  A hundred yards later, I did it again on the other side!  Guess I like to keep things symetrical.

Me riding out of the Afghan village. This stretch of the dirt road was in decent shape.

GlobeRiders Afghanistan 8 - L to R: Dean T, Kurt D, Ian C, Bob D, John R, Joe H, Gary S and Helge P

After the photo, we returned to the Afghanistan border to cross back into Tajikistan – it took approx 2 hours.  This one-day excursion was short but we have great memories of our time in a previously forbidden country … Afghanistan!!!!
The Lost Patrol
Kainan R and Bence H did not get Afghanistan visas.  So they decided to go out exploring on their own.  Kainan R (KTM1190) and Bence H (air-cooled R1200 GS) found out the hard way that the cross-over pass was snowed in and the bridge near the summit was washed out!  They were told that there was a good possibility that the road was closed.  They decided to go check it out anyway.  They had a satellite telephone, a Delorme InReach Sat Tracker with text messaging and their Garmin GPS units.
At 5PM they sent a DeLorme InReach Sat text message to all but Ken S happened to see it.  The message indicated, “we are hopelessly stuck at the bottom of a long grade.  It was not an emergency situation and we are going through our options.”
Apparently they had passed through many ice and snow banks crossing the mountain road.  Now they were in snow/mud bogs where their BMWs are getting sunk to the frame/saddlebags.   They had been going through a cycle of getting stuck, unpacking, dragging the motos out, standing the bike up, repacking, riding 10-15 meter only to get stuck again!  At the bottom was a larger river with the bridge was washed out.  There was no way to cross and no way to return back up the ice/snow covered steep grade.
Now a rescue operation began with Helge and his support staff.  With a sat phone, GPS and DeLorme InReach texting they walked 20+ km back up the way they came in and were rescued around 2AM by the GlobeRiders 4WD chase vehicle.
Day 36, Sun 07 June – Khorog to Murgab, 315 km (196 miles)
The rest of the GlobeRiders depart Khorog.  The Pamir Highway leaves the Pyanj River and continue north east to the 14,000 feet Ak-Baital Pass.

Patrick O on the Pamir Highway

A perfect day ... a road, a bike, a river, blue skies, snow capped mountains and no time limitations.

We saw this ol' cable & wood plank bridge.

Patrick O walked out on the planks and a car stops and a lady runs over, grabs Patrick to photo bomb the shot. She was yelling at her husband to take a photo too.

So far my favorite country for the people is Iran followed by Azerbaijan and Turkey.  My favorite country for riding is Tajikistan.
As I round a bend, I see Chris P parked in the center of the road on a spread out roll of carpet!  We’ve encountered some pretty strange things on the Silk Road.  But a large roll of commercial carpet played out on the Pamir Highway?????

I ride around a slow sweeper and find Chris P and moto parked on carpet in the middle of the road.

A few seconds later, John R joins him!

Today John M ran off the road, and endoed/flipped his water-cooled BMW R1200 GSA shearing off his windshield and bending some crash bars.  John doesn’t remember a lot but a nearby shepherd came to his aid getting his bike up and back on the road.  By this time Joe H noticed John was not behind him and returned.  Together Joe escorted John approx. 100 km to Murgab our next night’s stop.  Being extra careful about a possible concussion, John and his BMW rode in the chase vehicle the next day.
Lost Boys
Long story short …Today, Sun Jun 7, Kainan R and Bence H and chase vehicle got back to the hotel after we left.  After some sleep they decided to hire a huge industrial front-end loader to clear snow banks off the road and cut a new road around the bridge and carry the bikes across the river.  They also had to hire a chase vehicle for Shiree, Kainan’s wife.  The rescue attempt will take place tomorrow – Tue, June 9.
Pamir Hotel was the only thing in the village.  2 storied, many rooms with only 2 toilets and group showers (no hot water!).

Chris P flying by.

Ken S, Patrick O and me on the road summit of the 4,655 metres (15,272 ft) Ak-Baital Pass. it is the highest point of the M41/Pamir Highway.

Crossed into Kyrgyzstan over the 12,840 foot Kyzyl Art Pass.  Snow all around but the road was dry.

4280m (14,042 foot) Kyzyl-Art Pass

Kyzyl-Art Pass. We just rode through the notch in background center. Beautiful blue sky day.

Border crossing from Tajikstan into Kyrgyzstan took ~4 hours in the harsh cold wind and light snow.  Most of the time was waiting for the Kyrgyzstan chase vehicle exchange.  It was ~40km of dirt and mud road between the two border stations.
We stop mid-day at Karakul Lake, Kyrgyzstan.  This lake was created by a meteor ~10 million years ago.

Karakul Lake, Kyrgyzstan - Created 10 million years ago by a meteor hit.

Gary S taking a break.

These girls were playing a hand/pebble game kinda like jacks. Took a minute to convince them to let me take their photo.

This section of the Pamir Hwy was potholed, muddy, and radical washboard!  In a 30 km stretch of washboard, my Strompasours’ engine started cutting out!  When I got to smoother gravel or sand, the engine ran strong, but, when the road turned washboard again, the engine lost power again.  At first I thought it was fuel starvation/my fuel pump going bad.  But, I noticed the GPS was cycling off/on/off/on.  I was able to maintain a 60-70 kph speed to stay with the group to the Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan border crossing.  Since the loss of power happened during violent shaking, my suspicion was battery terminals.  And yes, the negative terminal’s bolt was loose!  When I encountered washboard, the cyclic jarring was enough to break contact and momentarily kill the engine.
No hotels in Sary-Tash.  We stayed at Aygul’s Guesthouse & Yurt Camp!  A third of the riders slept in yurts and the others in a guest home.  No running water, no heat, and the single toilet was an outhouse with a slit in the floor!  There was a wash basin but ran out of water.  No bath or shower.

Aygul's Guesthouse & Yurt Camp, Sary-Tash, Kyrgyzstan

The guest house is on the left.

The outhouse is the little building in center right. It’s a long walk in the rain!

Outhouse - straddle the slit and take great care not fall in OR to drop flashlight, TP, glasses, wallet, keys, hat, etc. into the pit of despair.

Lost Boys

Today the front-end loader used all the diesel fuel clearing the road but did not get the bikes across the river.  The rescue attempt continues tomorrow.

“What is the most important item to take with you on an around-the-world adventure ride?”
Some of you might ask this question.My response is, “TP/toilet paper!”  It’s neatly packaged in a waterproof ziplock baggie and located in the front left pocket of my riding jacket.  When not riding, it’s in my left back pocket.  A backup waterproof ziplock baggie of TP is located in my left saddlebag pannier.

FYI: throughout the entire Silk Road 12,800 km (8,000 mile) route, 60% of the toilets did not have TP!

Every one of the Silk Road riders has had an occasional episode of the “Silk Road Squirts.”  We are eating a lot of strange (to us) yet wonderful foods with unique flavors, spices, aromas … and I try everything.  In every city/village there is a street market in which several of us wonder and consume foods of all kinds. With all-the-gear all-the-time riding, adventure riders cannot travel efficiently with diarrhea.

So the second most important item …  Imodium.

“Praise the lord and pass the Imodium!”

The Strompasourus is holding its own!
Out of 18 bikes, only 2 are non-BMW.  Kainan R’s KTM and my 2004 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000.  The Strompasourus has been a workhorse.  Rebuilding the Olin rear shocks and Hyperpro front socks was worth every penny!  In Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan I experienced 7 days of the worse possible roads with potholes, gravel, shale, sand, rocks, washboard, mud, water crossings and surprise whoops that got both wheels off the ground.  The front wheel, engine skid plate and center stand took many hard hits.

The Strompasourus just keeps trucking' along. I did not do an oil change or tire change for the entire 10,800 mile ride.

Helge did not want me to ride a Suzuki V-Strom because of the cast aluminum wheels.  Aluminum wheels on the Pamir Highway is an invitation to disaster if a big rock or pothole appears at speed and cracks the aluminum wheel!  At the time there was another V-Strom rider and together we convinced Helge that we would take it easy.  But Helge’s final word was “if you crack your wheel, its up to you to get your bike back to Xi’an in time for the return shipment.”  I agreed to this arraignment.

So with the thoughts of a cracked rim behind every route, line, speed decision, I gained a reputation of being the slowest rider of the GlobeRiders group.

Well, after the Pamir Hwy crossing, my front wheel has 2 significant bent wheel rim areas.  There are no rim cracks and the tire is holding air.  I check it daily.One of my HID headlamps has burnt out.  This is not a problem since we do not ride at night and the one HID left gives me plenty of awareness.
My Jesse Panniers (saddlebag) are proving their ruggedness!  They were squished in Alaska and rebuilt.  In 2011/2012 I took many dirt naps in Central & South America.  While the bags are no longer square, the covers still close and are somewhat watertight.  There are hair-line fractures in the corners where I had to bang the cases back to square with a big rock.  Still the covers still manage to close and lock.
My confidence and riding ability has improved immensely!  There are several excellent riders and following them is like going to school.
¾ of the riders have hit the dirt at least once!  I’ve had 6 dirt naps. Several riders have 20+ dirt naps.  This type if riding requires absolute attention to the road.  Any distractions or loss of concentration and you can find yourself in a classic dirt dive.  Most of these are tip overs … lost of balance while coming to a stop.
James M and his 2013 BMW F800 GS went down in the rain Turkey.  A couple weeks later the SWmotech saddlebags fell off on the Pamir Highway.  The main support bolts sheared off from all the stress.  This was fixed with new support bolts.
Joe H’s water-cooled BMW R1200GSA has blown both front and rear stock shocks along with a bent front rim.  Joe is an incredible rider and in his early days raced everything with 2-wheels.
Patrick O’s water-cooled BMW R1200GSA is on a truck to Xi’an — possible broken piston rings.  It sounds horrible!  Patrick will finish his Silk Road adventure in the chase vehicle.
John R’s water-cooled BMW R1200 GSA has blown 2 headlight bulbs.  John had backup headlamps.
Terry G’s water-cooled BMW R1200GSA had a rear tubeless tire go flat by Murgab.  He attempted to patch with sticky rope plugs but missed the original leak, planting the sticky rope a fraction off the leak.  The leak continued even after 2nd & 3rd sticky ropes were placed.  He replaced the tire with a used tire only to get another flat the next day.  This time sticky rope plugs did the job (so far).  Over half the riders had new tires waiting for them in Tajikistan.  All used tires that had tread were saved for emergency use.
Kainan’s KTM has had a half-dozen flats.  He’s so proficient at fixing flats that he’s back on the road in 20-30 minutes.
Marty & Billy’s BMW with sidecar is doing fantastic.  I’m amazed how Marty handles that rig over these challenging roads.  They did have wheel-bearing problems with the sidecar wheel but were able to replace it.  The constant pounding of the Pamir Hwy’s dirt, gravel and rocky road caused two taillight wires to short and blew the fuse.  Bob D helped Marty trouble shoot and fix the problem.
13 cows indeed!  The adventure continues.  Tommorow we “wait” our way into China.
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The Pamir Highway

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Day 32, Wed, June 1 – Dushanbe Tourist
Yesterday’s Anzob Tunnel of Terror was the main discussion at dinner.  We’re at the Serena Hotel, Rudaki Avenue, Dushanbe, Tajikistan for 2 nights.
We’re on a tourist bus that takes us to the city’s main square.  First we stop at a 40-meter monument to Ismolili Somoni, the founder of the Tajik Nation.  When the USSR controlled Tajikistan, there was a statue of Lenin here.  All of Tajikistan is systematically erasing everything Russian from monuments and names of streets, squares, and cities.

40-meter monument to Ismolili Somoni, the founder of the Tajik Nation.

There are Lions on both sides of the Ismolili Somoni statue.

A war memorial

The president's residence

18 miles outside of Dushanbe is the ancient city of Hissar.  This area features an 8th century mosque.

Ancient city of Hissar.

Madrassa, a place of education

The Hissar Mosque

Reconstructed city walls

Our route out tomorrow is on M41, known informally and more commonly as the Pamir Highway. The route has been in use for millennia and forms one link of the ancient Silk Road trade route.  The Pamir Hwy traverses the Pamir Mountains through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. It is the only continuous route through the difficult terrain of the mountains and serves as the main supply route during Russia’s failed occupancy of Afghanistan.  The Pamir Highway is known as the second highest altitude international highway in the world (4,655 m).
Day 33, Thu Jun 4 Dushanbe-Kalaikhumb, 359 km (223 miles)
Super test of adventure bikes!  The road M41/Pamir Hwy heads due east out of Dushanbe.  It’s an occasionally semi-paved road that’s mostly dirt, light gravel, and sand.

The Pamir Highway

Afghanistan is on the other side of the river.

The rugged, beautiful mountains were a surprise. I was expecting desert!

VStrom on the Palmir Highway

Kalaikhumb is a small village at the intersection where the Khumbob River joins the Pyanj River on the Afghan border.  Tonight we stayed at what is described as “Guesthouse/Homestay” in Kalaikhumb.  This was the best in the little village.  It’s basically a 1-star home along the river where various areas are converted into sleeping areas – indoor and outside.  This seemed to be a trucker’s lodging.  A few rooms had cots, the rest had mattress’ on the floor.

Homestay patio. The area under the canopy slept 6 people. Meals were served in the same area and at the tables next to the river.

Breakfast

One of 6 sleeping areas.

It had 2 toilets — a western porcelain stool with flusher and a porcelain squat hole-in-the-floor unit.  No toilet paper.  Behind a second door, a tub with shower.  No guest towels!

Door on left is bathtub with shower, door on right a western porcelain toilet. Across the patio was a porcelain squat toilet. The sink at the left was the only running water. All dishes and cooking water came from this water source.

Homestay patio from the other side.

While walking through the village we find a brand new luxury hotel.  Hopefully this is where next year’s GlobeRiders Silk Road 2016 will stay.
Day 34, Fri, June 5 – Kalaikhumb-Khorog, 235 km (146 miles)
Departing Kalaikhumb we gas up at the edge of the village.  There are gas stations but sometimes they don’t look like gas stations.  This one is a tanker trailer with gas distributed with a pail!

David D fueling up from a tanker truck.

John R & Ken S

Selfie

The historical Pamir Highway, officially called M41, is an amazing challenge for adventure motorcyclist. While most of the road has a paved base, long portions along the river are full of potholes, gravel, rocks, shale, mud and dirt.  All the mountain passes are dirt! .  The road is heavily damaged in places by erosion, earthquakes, landslides, and avalanches.
The length of the road is 1,252 kilometers between Osh and Dushanbe, going through the Pamir Mountains

It’s one of the world’s most famous routes for the adventurous travelers and lies mostly in Tajikistan, the highland country of Central Asia.

Sorry, not many photos!  The main goal was to get down the road safely.  I was concentrating on my line over dirt, gravel, mud, and potholes.  Keeping my aluminum wheels away from huge potholes, rock ridges, minimized my photo opportunities.

The road along the river was mostly 1-1/2 lanes dirt/gravel, which occasionally went to a single-lane with steep drop of into the water.  On coming traffic was an occasional tractor/trailer or 4WD Expedition vehicles.

http://www.dangerousroads.org/asia/tajikistan/430-pamir-highway-tajikistan.html
We stay at the Hotel Lal, 5/1 Azizbekov Street, Khorog, GBAO, Tajikistan  N37 29.431, E71 32.626
We are here for 2 nights.  I gave this hotel 1-star.  Interesting place with a couple dozen rooms.  Has little bar/restaurant on same property.  Some of the rooms were OK with private baths. We were assigned to rooms with shared bathroom/ showers however, there was no water the first day (no showers) and on the second day, water for a couple hours but no hot water!

On the way to the hotel, we ride by this mother-of-all pothole.

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Samarkand & Tunnel of Terror!

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Apologies!  I’m now only a couple days behind. There was very poor internet or no internet past Ashkhabad.  Samarkand & Khujan, Tajikistan.  I’m now in Dushanbe, Tajikistan trying to catch up.

Day 29 – Sun, 31 May – Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Bibi Khanum Mosque

Bibi Khanum Mosque

I think I'm so strange looking that people ask to have a photo with me. Of course I respond "only if I can take a photo of you too!".

This is one of the oldest mosques in Samarkand. All Silk Road caravans stopped at this most before entering the city.

Chorsu Domed Market

Ladies selling bread dough at the Chorsu Domed Market.

Every family makes their own special bread.

Bread!

Samarkand The Registan Square

Samarkand Registan Square -

Very curious and friendly boys.

This Madrassah (school) was the building on the left.

Gur-Emir Mausoleum Tamerlane

Mausoleum for Tamerlane and family.

Ornate archway to Tamerlane's Mausoleum.

Tamerlane

Tamerlane's stone is the black marble.

Day 30 – Mon 01, June – Tajikistan Border Crossing
Border crossing are now just another days ride.  They are typically short mileage days.  No one can predict what kind of delays can happen.  Sometime an important piece of paper is lost.

Plus the fact there are 18 riders and 2 staff to clear.

Day 31 – Tue 02, June

301 km (187 miles) Khujand to Dushanbe

Today is the first mountain passes day.
We just arrived in in Dushanbe, Tanikistan after negotiating the 5km infamous Anzob Tunnel, aka “the tunnel of terror!” It’s a 2-lane, no lights, water raining from ceiling, huge potholes and patches and no ventilation, exhaust fumes are overpowering.  The lane on our side is blocked every ~100-200 meters (single lane for both directions) with broken down vehicles, tunnel scaffolding, & equipment.  Among the potholes, patches, the original road’s steel rebar lay exposed clanging as we ride over them. Traffic is helter-skelter sometime coming at you from both lanes.  Average speed was 15-25 mph.

The Strompasourus takes a tunnel nap!

We’re in stop-n-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic in the tunnel.  I rode into a 5-6″ deep water filled pothole.  The front wheel drops in and climbs out the other side.  When the rear drop in, the engine stalls and my foot is over the 6” deep pothole.  I’m at a dead stop, with nowhere to put my foot, the Strompasours slowly leans to the right and over it goes.  I step off standing.  Luckily there were 2 construction workers 5 meters away!  I was up and riding in 30 seconds.  No harm-no foul!  Fellow GlobeRider Joe Hutt comes to my rescues and helps light the road and blocking traffic from behind.

I was the only SilkRoad rider to take a tunnel nap!
The Serena Hotel is a 5 star.  Great rooms, food, comforts.  This is to prepare us for the next 5 days.  No internet!
Now the riding gets interesting.  We have 359 km (223 miles) to Kalaikhumb.  There is one high pass and several stretches of gravel roads.

Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Apologies!  I’m now one week behind. There was very poor internet or no internet past Ashkhabad.  (Uch-Adzhi, Bukhara, Uzbekistan; Samarkand & Khujan, Tajikistan.  I’m now in Dushanbe, Tajikistan trying to catch up.

Day 24 – Tue, 26 May – Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan

Start & End Location:     Ashkhabad, Turkministan (No riding today)

Hotel/Pension:   Hotel Oguzkent, Avenure Bitarap 231, Ashgabat 74400,

Money Conversion:

Turkministan : $1 USD = Som 25,329 or Som 1 = $0.000395 USD

For all its glory and reputation, Ashkhabad was not what we anticipated.  For the first time since starting in Istanbul, we were required to convoy into the city.  Our typical procedure once we got to the hotel, checked in and cleaned up was to immediately explore the area, usually in groups of 2, 3, 4 riders.  But at the Hotel Oguzkent, we quickly found out we could not walk to the left.  People start yelling at us and police turn us back.
The hotel was a magnificent marble beauty.  Huge, spacious lobby, all room doors except the cheap rooms faced in interior of the hotel atrium.

Hotel Oguzkent was a dream. Spacious atrium lobby.

Looking up from the lobby, very open ... very modern!

Here’s an example of our room in Bojnurd, Iran.  Our room had both the western stool and the eastern squatter.  Some of the riders only got a squatter.

Our bathroom in Hotel Nahar-Khoran. Mix of old and new. The rooms were functional.

Breakfast at the Hotel Oguzkent was a wonderful, well-stocked buffet spread.

Smoked salmon, meats & cheeses.

Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, veggies, and veggies in salad form.

Dried fruits and nuts.

Omelets, fried eggs, oatmeal, soup.

Breakfast out on the pool patio had this view.

Out on the breakfast patio the cityscape was ultra modern.

We put on our tourist hats and took a 40 minute bus to a Akhale-Tekke horse breeding farm.  Considered one of the oldest cultured breeds in the world, their genes are part of the Arabian horse and American Quarter Horse.

The stables were old and the horses were well maintained,

This was an albino stallion.

Black Beauty!

On our way back into Ashkhabad we stopped at Kipchuk Mosque, a $100 million dollar mosque built by the former Turkmen president Niyazov.   During worship it holds 10,000 worshipers.

$100 million mosque big enough to hold 10,000.

And that was the day.  We spent so much time at the horse ranch, 3 hours) we missed the Palace Square, National Museum of History and Ethnography, and the ancient Parthian Kingdom of Nisa (15 miles outside of Ashkhabad.
My roomie, Ken decided to sneak off and ride around Ashkhabad.  He was back in 30-minutes with a police escort.  It seems he entered the forbidden zone (government buildings, President’s palace) and was stopped, questioned, asked for passport which he didn’t have because the hotel’s in Ashkhabad keeps your passport until you check out!
Day 25 Thu 27 May – Ashkhabad – Uch-Adzhi, Turkministan
470 km (292 miles)

From Ashkhabad to Uch-Adzhi we begin to exit the green foothills, miles and miles of agriculture, farms, and into barren, desert like surroundings.  Towns and villages are much further apart and “Benzen” (gas) harder to find.  There are 3 CNG natural gas stations to 1 benzene station.

Again we are asked to convoy out of town.  Once we get into the suburbs, we are allowed to ride independent again.
~75 km out of town the road was a divided 4-lane is good shape.

Then for ~25 km when ever there was a bridge, only the north bound lane had a bridge so all the south bound traffic detoured to the north bound lane and back to the divided south bound lane.  This make our north bound 2-lanes into a single lane real quickly.

Then the south-bound lane turns to gravel and the north bound 2-lanes becomes a single-lane each way.

This is the mosque at the ancient remains of Marghiana.  It is located near Merv.  The ruins date back 2000 years.  There are at least 5 walled cities from different eras built on top of each other.  Everything is gone, the walls are now mounds.  This site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mosque on the cover of GlobeRiders' Silk Road DVD.

These huge mounds of dirt were once magnificent city walls.

John Riley, Terry Gautier, David Dardaris and I with the ancient walls in the background.

Dung beetle meets us at the Hotel Ak-Yol, Uch-Adzhi, Mary, Turkmenistan.

Tonight we stay at a fairly new hotel, the Asia Hotel, in Bukhara Uzbekistan.
Day 26 – Thu 28, May – Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan Border Crossing
296 km (167 miles)
Hot, hot, hot.  Water hydration is key as we ride north-east.  Mid-day temps are 100°F.  We each carry 3-4 bottles of water, several have Camelbacks.  Water is available from roadside vendors and markets.
At the border, exiting Turkmenistan was easy.  I was 3rd in line.  300 meters away at the Uzbekistan border things got a little nastier.  The agent wanted passport, maps of our travels and all our medications.  This slowed down processing to one rider every 15 minutes.  I got through easy … total of 3 hours, exiting at 2:30 pm.  Then the wheels came off the bus and riders behind me had wait period of ~15-20 minutes while the agents took breaks, found other things to do.  The riders at the end did not leave the border until 5:30 pm.

Again, no photos permitted at the border crossings.

In Bukhara, we check into the Asia Bukhara Hotel, sister hotel to the Asia Samarkand.

Bukhara is Central Asia’s oldest cities.

Day 27 – Fri 29, May – Bukhara Sites
Second day in Bukhara.  There is a Silk & Spice Festival and Parade.

Huge marionettes lead the Silk & Spice parade

Then came the horns!

Then at least 50-60 dance groups each with drums, a wailing reed instrument, and tambourines

This lady was the head of one of the dance groups.

John with 2 young dancers.

All wore bright, colorful constumes.

This 5 year old girl was off to the side but she had all the moves of the big girls.

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Out near the palace walls we saw a cock fight!

Summer palace of the last emir.

Mosque with 40 pillars (really had 20 but the reflection in the water made a total of 40!

20 pillars.

Through the century's this mosque went through 4 separate dome stages.

Hello & Goodby Iran

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Day 21 – Sat 23 May – Tehran-Gorgan

Start Location:  Tehran, Iran

End Location:   Gorgan, Iran

Distance:          408 km (254 miles)

Hotel/Pension:   Hotel Mahar-Khoran, Nahar-Khoran Gorgan, Iran

Money Conversion:

Iranian Rial: $1 USD = Rial  28,349 or Rial 1 = $0.000035 USD

409 km (254 miles)  We are in Tehran and need to be in Gorgan, Iran.

Great divided 4-lane road 90% of the way.  Top speed is 110 kph (68 mph).  Of course it was packed with speed control cameras and manned radar units.  Since we left Turkey, radar has been widely used by all countries.  Several of the other riders have speed tickets but I have not been caught yet.  I wish I had my Valentine 1 radar detector!

Here’s how we get to our destination safely.  Almost all the road signs have English subtitles.

Signs says approaching a town, speed limit is 50 kph (31 mph).

Caution, speed bumps in 250 meters.

Autos & pickups-110 kph (68 mph) buses & trucks 100 kph (62 mph)

Keep Right. Almost all road signage have English subtitles

The road signs are very easy to understand.

This sign was a problem. We just ignore these. What ever is was happens in 500 meters.

Oh oh! Ken wants to know "What's this?"

Bob joins in with his thoughts ... Turn left. Ken says turn right.

Then it really gets confusing ...

This is a police checkpoint. They put a crashed vehicle up on a platform to remind everyone to obey the speed limits.

We stopped at a roadside tea house for afternoon tea. The owner (in center) would not let us pay. With all our motorcycles parked out in front of his little shop, it became the talk of the village.

In another village, school just got out. We stopped and were surrounded with excited kids.

The 3 boys came riding up next to me on a 125 motorcycle.

The hotel Mahar-Khoran had very poor WiFi.
Day 22 – Sun 24 May – Gorgan-Bojnurd

Welcome to Turkmenistan!

315km (196 miles) – Again, a well maintained divided 4-lane road 90% of the day.  Lots of radar and a few aggressive car/truck drivers.
Our route took us through Golestan National Park.  Saw a momma sow and a bunch of piggies.

A wild piggy following a huge momma sow in the Golestan National Park.

Took a walk to the Bojnurd city center and it is our habit to say hello to all who pass us.

These two young ladies immediately said in perfect English “Where are you from?”

We respond with “America and Canada.”

Turns out they are 17 & 18 and are English teachers at the local University (our high school).

I took this photo of the guys and the two English teachers.

And they wanted a photo with me. They asked where our wives were. I showed them a photo of my family.

Hotel Negin, Bojnurd, Iran only had WiFi in the lobby.  Strong enough for text, photos took forever to load so I gave up.
Day 23 – Mon 25 May – Bojnurd-Ashkhadbad
Dumb and Dumber = Late for the Turkmenistan Border
245km (152 miles)
Today is a short distance day but a border crossing – Iran/Turkmenistan.
We were told to arrive at the Iran/Turkmenistan border by 12 noon.  The border crossing could take as long as 6-8 hours.
If you look at my tracks for today, you will notice a little additional track along the Iran border.  We were told to get gas at Quchan because there was no gas until Ashkhabad.

I was with a group of 3 other riders but we were all stopping separately to take photos.  At Quchan I found myself alone and decided to get gas on the other side of town.  The traffic in town was typical bumper-to-bumper, squeeze in here, dive in there and on the other side of town … no gas stations.  So I missed my first rule “Never pass known gas for unknown gas!” Then I made the decision that I had enough gas to get to the border (84 km / 52 miles) and continue on to the border.

The road was a fantastic twisty-turny with great sweepers down a very long and deep valley.  I was having so much fun I didn’t notice that I missed the turn to the border.  I rode 45 km in the wrong direction!  And there is no way I can be at the border by 12 noon.

I turned around and backtracked 45 km to the missed turn.  I just rode 90 km to get to the correct road and was seriously low on gas.  The fuel gauge was on blinking reserve.  I pulled into a roadside area where a couple trucks were parked.  Across the road were 5 shacks with Farsi signs.  I asked the driver for “Benzene” and pointed to my tank.   He looks around and pointed at one of the shacks.  I walk up to the shack and inside was a line of plastic jugs of all sizes.  I pointed to 2 jugs and the guy carries them out to the Strompasourus along with a funnel.  The two jugs were approx. 6 liters of gas so I asked for 1 more which amounted half-a-tank.  The total was $30 USD.  Cheap for my predicament!  I turned and rode to the border where I arrived at 12:30PM.  I was 15 minutes late from the group beginning the Iranian border exit procedures.

Two bad decisions and a lucky break!

My emergency gas station. Funnel is still in the gas tank.

It took 2 hours to exit Iran and 3 hours to enter Turkmenistan.  We were warned no joking, no political comments, no photography, and during our luggage inspection any medicine could be confiscated.  For us it was waiting, then doing one procedure, then more waiting, and then going through another procedure and it continues.
Finally we are done and for the first time, ride in a convoy 30 km to a border check point where our documents were reviewed.
It’s 5:30 pm, the ride down from the border was a little like the Wizard of Oz.  Off in the horizon, we see a massive city gleaming white.  As we ride closer and closer the towers, golden domes, huge glass and stone hotels, government building get taller and taller.  Everything is white, clean, green, fountains gushing water and for the most part … drivers stay in their own lanes!!!!  Rush hour city center is helter-skelter but on the outskirts of the city, minimal driving drama.
Our hotel, Hotel Oguzkent, Avenure Bitarap 231, Ashgabat 744000, Turkministan is magnificent!
We eat on the 15th floor overlooking the city center.  And those that stayed up past 11PM, a magnificent 20-minute fireworks show to celebrate the city and end of the school year.
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The Tehran Jail

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Day 21, Sat, May 23, 2015

Start Location:  Tehran, Iran

End Location:   Tehran, Iran

Distance:          Tourist in Tehran Day

Hotel/Pension:   Laleh International hotel, Dr. Hossein Fatemi Avenue, Tehran, Iran

Money Conversion:

Iranian Rial: $1 USD = Rial  28,349 or Rial 1 = $0.000035 USD

Just a pre warning! Internet WiFI service is limited in Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan Kyrgystan and western China.  In some locations I may not be able to post so patience is a virtue.  By following my Delorme inReach tracks you can see where I am with a 20-minute delay.
No Credit/Debit Cards in Iran Because of sanctions against Iran, we can not use our credit/debit cards here.  With gas being our major expense, our $100 USD = Rial 3,200,000 goes a long ways.
Laundry is an everyday ritual.  All my clothing is synthetic quick-dry – LDComfort shirt, shorts, & Techsoxs.

When I check in, I ask for 4 large bath towels and 8 clothes hangers to be delivered to the room.  After a hot, sweaty day I get into the shower with my riding under clothing to soak the T-shirt, shorts and socks.  Toss them into the sink, add hot water & the free hair shampoo and do a vigorous hand wash then rinse.  Each piece is hand wringed to get all the water out, then rolled up in a towel to suck out most of the water.  Normally the wet clothing is dry in 4-6 hours.

Tourist
Today we put on our tourist hat and rode a bus to the Archaeological Museum which displays Persian antiquities, art and artifacts.

Tour guide Ali explains history of Persia/Iran on huge relief map.

Iron works weapons for early Persia.

Paying homage to the King.

Tigers from

Bull sculpture for column

Early Persian man preserved in a salt mine

Then we walked thorough the Sa’ad Abad Palace, the former residence of the deposed royal family of Iran.

Palace main entrance

The Sa'ad Abad Palace mirror entry

Amazing mosaic tile art

We walked through the Tajrish Bazaar.  I was shooting motor scooters and motorcycles to show various examples.  Big motos are not allowed in Iran.  Not sure where the limit is but our guide said 250cc.

A working man's trike.

Small moto's are the main source of cheap transportation.

Notice how he is protecting his helmet!

Economical carpet delivery

This is a windshield for a scooter. The main body is plexiglas but it has a glass porthole with manual windshield wiper!

When we first entered Iran we were told not to take photos of military facilities, utilities, government buildings, etc.

I was with all the riders and our Iran guide walking out of the Tajrish Bazaar towards the bus.  I shot the windshield wiper on a motorcycle in the bazaar.  I walk pass an old, well used blue 250 moto with a similar funky windshield.  I stop and take a photo.  All of a sudden someone is screaming.  I look around and it’s a policeman and he’s screaming at me!  He grabs my arm and starts to pull me to police hut 25m away.

But before we take a couple steps, our Iran guide Yuriy Kim steps between us and a vigorous discussion takes place between the policeman and Yuriy (which sounded like a big argument). I was unaware this beatup motorcycle was a police bike.

The final disposition was Tehran police vehicles cannot be photographed and if I erase the photo of the police motorbike I wouldn’t have to go to the Tehran jail.

Azadi Tower (Freedom Tower)

The empty US Embassy. A major history event during the Carter Presidency.

Tomorrow is Saturday in Tehran.  I’m choosing to leave the city at 5:00 AM to avoid even worst traffic than our Thursday arrival.  Our destination is Gorgan, Iran.
Subscribing or Unsubscribing: You can subscribe a friend.  Just go to the upper left tab on this page and click SUBSCRIBE. You will be given the option to Subscribe or Unscubscribe.  If you dislike rambling babble enter your email address and click the UNSUBSCRIUBE button.  You will be removed from the subscriber list.

Amazing traffic congestion

PHOTOS: If you want to see the photo’s full-size, click the photo, it isolates to a new page and click it once again.  Use browser’s “back” to return to blog.
CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Day 19, Thu, May 21, 2015

Start Location:  Rasht, Iran

End Location:   Tehran, Iran

Distance:          319 km (198 miles)

Hotel/Pension:   Laleh International hotel, Dr. Hossein Fatemi Avenue, Tehran, Iran

Money Conversion:

Iranian Rial: $1 USD = 28,349 Rial or Rial 1 = $0.000035 USD

Internet access: has become a major challenge.  Internet WiFI is available BUT a stable connection is not!  At 11PM I had disconnects every 5-10 minutes.   All social media is blocked.

On a scale of 10:

Baku hotel = 5 – stable Wifi but slow

Astara hotel = 4 – stable Wifi extremely slow

Tehran hotel = 3 – unstable connection WiFi extremely slow

No photo’s today.  Basically a repositioning day into the City Center of Tehran.
Because of the past embargo on Iran, US and Israeli riders could not get a VISA for Iran.  To ride the Silk Road they had to load the motos onto a freighter in the Port city of Baku, cross the Caspian Sea from to Turkmenistan.  The freighter has no schedule, no cabins or food.   Sometimes they had to wait 3-4 days for the freighter to arrive.  They purchase food before bording the freighter and payed the cook to prepare the food and pay the crew to give up their bunks for the overnight trip.  Once at Turkmenistan they waited 2-3-4 days for the freighter to unload!
One of our GlobeRiders is Israeli.  He cannot get a VISA to enter Iran.  He waited in Baku 5 days for the freighter.  We will meet him in Askhabad, Turkmenistan Mon, May 25.
GlobeRiders has never brought a group through Iran.  Our trip is the first to actually enter and ride big motos through Iran.  Our first time Iranian “tracks” were a combination of tracks from the Iranian guide and Helge.

It had a half-dozen minor errors which I as resourceful rider work around … riding on the forbidden toll road, jumping curbs, riding on sidewalks, riding against traffic on one-way streets, etc. anything to move towards the hotel in monster dog-eat-dog traffic.  If you missed a turn the next U-turn/traffic circle could be 1-5 km away.

Today is a short ride, approx. 200 miles, into a hell-hole challenge of Tehran’s legendary traffic.  We were told that motorcycles were not allowed on the toll road.  It seemed the “track” took us through every village, town, city in a straight line to Tehran.
Most cities main boulevard has 6-lanes divided.  The left lane is the left turn lane, which has 2 speed bumps before the turn, the center is through the city, the right lane is turning and loading.  The 3 lanes turns into 5-6 lanes of traffic with speed bumps and bottlenecks at each traffic circle. Vehicles are cutting from the far left lane to make a U-turn.  Many ride the line between the left & center weaving left & right to try and control both lanes.  So every vehicle is fighting for position and pushing other vehicles out of their lane.  We are in the middle of this!  In the tight jams we are walking our motos inching forward trying to avoid the really aggressive drivers.
I happened to be leading 3 other riders and in this inching traffic we are totally separated, as the aggressive drivers will push between us. As riders we are at total concentration, watching for the aggressive drivers, finding holes to shoot through, feathering the clutch, working the front brakes cause our feet are on the ground most of the time.  All the time our engine temp are at the high end of operation.  The Strompasours never went past 3 bars but after 20 minutes of inching along the engine begins to stall.  A quick hit on the starter button and all is good.
In the middle of all this chaos, drivers and passengers on each side of us want to talk!!!!!  “Hello!  Where you from?  Would you like tea?”  After forcing me out of my lane, they want talk and take my photo and invite me to tea while we inch forward!

This happened at least 25 time today.

Now we are 50 km from Tehran.  Between the GPS “Tracks” and autoroute to the hotel, I missed another turn and found myself on the forbidden highway.  At last 100 kmh!  I had enough of the suburb Tehran traffic so I rode the highway all the way into Tehran thinking if I get a ticket it can’t cost that much.  After a few minute I see scooters on the highway!

We later learn that some police will let large motos on the toll road.

Welcome to Tehran!

Curt from Thailand said he was 2.5 km from the hotel then missed a turn and then was 5 km from the hotel then 2.5 km on the opposite side of the hotel and again missed a turn and again was 5 km from the hotel.  This went on several time as he worked his way around the hotel.
All bikes and side-car rig were safely in the hotel parking lot by end of day.  In all of this there was only one asphalt nap.  Joe Hutt was stopped when a truck next to him nudged his pannier.  He was releasing his foot brake and clutch when tapped and by the time his foot got to the asphalt the water-cooled BMW was too far-gone and over he went.  A large truck blocked traffic while several drivers/passengers came over to help him up.  Joe said the truck driver shrugged his shoulders climbed back into his truck and inched away.  There was no damage to him and only some cosmetic scratches to the pannier.
In out hotel, out on the streets as we explore around the hotel, the everyday people we meet are friendly, curious, and helpful.
Tomorrow a tour of Tehran.
Subscribing or Unsubscribing: You can subscribe a friend.  Just go to the upper left tab on this page and click SUBSCRIBE. You will be given the option to Subscribe or Unscubscribe.  If you dislike rambling babble enter your email address and click the UNSUBSCRIUBE button.  You will be removed from the subscriber list.