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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.

10 comments to Xi’an – The Silk Road Terminus

  • Tom B.

    Amazing all around. Thanks again Dean for the great write-ups.

  • Larry H.

    This was an amazing ride Dean! Congratulations! Thanks for following up and finishing the ride report it was really appreciated and enjoyable.

  • John H

    Such a great adventure!
    Thank you for taking the time to share it.

  • Bill W

    Dean,

    Please tell us that you bought a Terra Cotta Warrior and shipped it home.

    Great trip, and as usual your writing and photography took us along for the ride

    Thanks for sharing

    Watt & Murf

    • Dean

      I did buy six terracotta warriors! My terracotta warriors are 6″ tall. Helge said several years ago 4-5 riders did purchase a full-size terracotta warrior replica. The cost then was approx $1,000 shipped to the U.S.

  • Michelle Rader

    Thank you, once again, for allowing us to vicariously share your amazing ride! Your photography is terrific and your descriptive writing made us feel like we were there. Many thanks!
    (And Tina Cronkhite – thanks for recommending that I follow Dean!)

  • Ernie Conner

    Dear Dean,
    I have had the pleasure of following your journey through your wonderful narratives and photos. What an amazing journey! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing journey!
    Greetings from JoAnn as well!

  • Roger

    Dean,

    Thanks for taking us along on your adventure. As usual, you did an awesome job of giving us a feel for the culture and history of the different areas you traversed. We’re looking forward to hearing more when we touch base.

    Roger & Karen

  • Jerry W

    Dean, thanks for bringing us along the great adventure! Wow, what a journey. I may never ride the Silk Road but thanks to you I have some idea what it is like. See you at Gfest.

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