China by Bicycle :: April - October, 1998

Subject: Finding the fork.
Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 14:28:57 -0700

12:05 Fang Yuan Hotel; Beijing -- China :: 14 MAY 98

Hmmmm. Been a while since I've written. Lots of distractions.

The thought of extending this trip to include the Silk Road, westward of Xian, has been in the back of my mind since Jay first suggested cycling China. Initially, three months here seemed enough time to spend a month with Jay, ride to Xian and continue onto the Silk Road for at least a significant portion, though certainly not all the way to Kashgar. Eventually, it became clear I wouldn't get very far beyond Xian in that time. On top of that, the ride into Beijing forced me to acknowledge how isolating and psychologically arduous a solo journey alonng such a remote stretch of highway would be. It was tough at times even with Jay's company in much more urban environments.

The Silk Road's lustre was off. Rather than give in to it, I hung notices all over the internet: "Cycling China--Companion Sought." A long shot. Even after a couple weeks of posting to every conceivable newsgroup, on any travel page with a bulletin board, joining every list server I could find, it proved to be a long shot which never paid off.

Instead, last week, I found a message on a touring web page with the title, "China ride partner." Until yesterday I didn't allow myself to believe it would actually happen, but the email exchanged in the last few days bolstered my confidence enough to let you all know: I made a wise decision in buying a one-year/open-return airfare.

Beginning in Xian, around the middle of July, I'll be cycling the Silk Road, perhaps well into the autumn, with a 28 year-old Alaskan woman I know only through a few exchanges of text. We have agreed to one interim destination, Kashgar at the far western frontier of China and the beginning of the Karakorum highway. After that, who knows? Pakistan? If the political/visa climate improves, Tibet? Or branch into Kazakhstan before reaching Kashgar? Nothing compels us to circle a point on a map, or a day on the calendar. "The ride stops here," isn't in either of our minds, only the adventure ahead.

Some opportunities find you, others must be sought; some promising forks are obscured, and others well posted. All share the quality of an adventure to be had. Take the plunge. Carpe diem. All share the possibility of opportunity missed. Keep your eyes open, ears pricked up, intuition on alert. Follow your heart. It knows where you want to go.

Since 1200 kilometres seperate Beijing and Xian, I'll still get an excellent taste of cycling China alone. There's plenty to see along the way so the journey should take all of June and a little bit of July. Knowing a companion will meet me there dulls the edge of solitude sure to accompany me.

This course of action, like all my plans, is subject to change without notice. Different day; different carpe.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program of exploring Beijing.

~~~ Responses Sought ~~~
Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don't see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as you love your self;
then you can care for all things.

  graphical element Attributed to Lao Tse
The Tao Te Ching
Chapter 13.
trans. Stephen Mitchel