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Week Eight Chapter - 19 ~ 22 June 2007 - China

National Flag of Turkmenistan

"The journey is difficult, immerse. We will travel as far as we can, but we cannot in one lifetime see all that we would like to see or to learn all that we hunger to know." - Loren Eiseley

"The shortest distance between two points is not a very interesting journey." - R. Goldberg

"The shortest distance between two points is . . . a damn shame." - T-shirt legend, Touratech-USA

Starting location for this week: Pingliang, China

Ending location for this week: Xian, China
Planned mileage for this week: 187 miles (299 kilometers)

Nî hâo (The simplest form of "Hello" in official Mandarin Chinese)

The GlobeRiders Silk Road Adventure 2007 has come to an end. This, the Week Eight Chapter, is the final. After 53 days and thousands of kilometers of travel, our riders have made it home. The bikes have been containerized or crated, bound for distant garages in North America and Western Europe. All the horses are in the stable.

Our high-spirited group of adventurers are slowly readjusting to their local times zones and life at home, after living in a truly alternative reality for many days. As a group, we’ve journeyed through layers of civilizations, centuries of history, deserts, mountains, valleys and cities that only a handful of our planet’s inhabitants will ever see.

Although the border crossings were frustrating at times, what we almost universally found is that people accepted us for what we were, strangers in a strange land, travelers from a foreign country. Instead of being met with hostility, suspicion and hatred, we were instead offered the open hand of friendship, a hospitable cup of tea, a warm smile.

To everyone we met along that way, thank you. To our riders, fair winds, and I hope to journey again with you again someday. To those of you who undertook the “virtual tour” with us via these Journal Chapters, thanks for joining us, and thank you also for the email, comments and feedback. It was a grand adventure, and I hope that you will all set out on adventures of your own someday, wherever they may take you.

Be Well, Safe Journeys,

Mike, Your Webmeister

* * * * * * * * * *

The many forms of "Hello" in over 800 languages and other useful words and phrases are courtesy of Jennifer's Language Page.

To find out what time it is there (or anywhere!), visit The World Clock.

To see where they are now, visit the Navigation Technology Chapter.

For more information about China in this week's leg of the Silk Road, please visit the resources listed below:

- The World Factbook, maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States:

- The Consular Information Sheets, provided by the Department of State of the United States:

- The web-based, free-content encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia, maintained by "GlobeWriters" everywhere":

Rewind to Day 42 - 11 June 2007 - Gobi Desert, China

Geocaching is an outdoor sport that involves the use of a Global Positioning System ("GPS") receiver to find a "geocache" (or "cache") placed anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small, waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasure". Geocaching is a unique take on an earlier game called Letterboxing in that it uses two recent technologies, the GPS and the Internet. Participants are called geocachers

Helge unknowingly created a GlobeRiders tradition back in 2001 during the GlobeRiders Iceland Expedition, when he gave out the Lat/Lon (Latitude/Longitude) or waypoint for some spare tires that the riders "cached" there. Subsequently, a geocache was buried in the desert during our first Africa Adventure, and a band of riders created one on the Silk Road Adventure in 2005.

On 11 June 2007, our group stopped to recover the geocache buried by the 2005 riders, reclaimed it's contents, and provisioned with new mementos for the 2009 group (or, any other groups of riders who finds it before they do). The rules are simple, what you find is yours to keep, but you replace what you take with new "treasures".

The 2005 group chose a suitable geographical feature, appropriately (or, perhaps "inappropriately") named Pleasure Nipple Mountain. The unpopulated and populated images to the left should paint the picture for you. Me, I would have named the feature "Madonna's Mounds".

For the record, and for the benefit of any future riders who make their way along The Silk Road, the Lat/Lon for the GlobeRiders Silk Road Geocache are:

N41 41.271 E95 12.008

Happy Hunting!


Day 48 - 17 June 2007 - Lanzhou, China

This is a difficult story to write, but it tragically happened to Jeff and his family back home in Virginia. Jeff, our friend and one of the guides, and his wife, Teresa, sadly lost their 18 year-old daughter, Renee Shelkin, in an automobile accident on June 14, 2007. She had just graduated from West Potomac High School. No one wants bad news, particularly this painful, particularly thousands of miles away, but fortunately, Jeff was able to get home quickly.

The impact was palpable on our group – people were solemn and contemplative. Words of compassion and solace were shared amongst us, in some way hoping Jeff could hear them on his way home: “It could have happened to any of us," "why did this have to happen?" “what a senseless tragedy,” “it’s not fair to lose a child.” We thought a lot about our own loved ones miles away. We probably drove even more cautiously that day and looked out for each other more than usual.

We reflected on how people generally thought we were the ones at risk on a motorcycle tour, when in fact, everyone is at risk (even those at home going about their daily lives) – just being alive puts us at risk. And we were all so alive at the time - -particularly upbeat, always smiling, humorous Jeff. Motorcycling is Jeff’s passion and being a newly hired guide on his first GlobeRiders trip put Jeff on cloud nine. Every morning we’d hear him say, “It’s a great day to be a GlobeRider.” We were all high on life – and then came a devastating low that affected Jeff and Teresa’s life forever.

Jeff, call any of us anytime if you need anything. We’re grieving with you, we miss you, we’re your first, but not last, GlobeRiders family. We think of you every day and offer you and Teresa our sincerest sympathies and prayers.

For contributions: In lieu of flowers, the family knows that Renee would want to help another deserving student get a chance to go to college, as she was preparing to do. Please mail
donations to:

West Potomac High School Scholarship Fund
6500 Quander Road
Alexandria VA 22307

. . . and ask that they be in the memory of Renee Shelkin.

Day 50 - 19 June 2007 - Xian, China

Hi Everyone

Well the trip is over and we all have to head home now back to reality.

I Have always enjoyed traveling alone, being able to do what I wanted when I wanted. I was going to cross Russia on my own, at least that was the plan for a long time. My fiance Mary did not mind me doing a big trip but she did not want me on my own. To try and find someone to travel with in the same direction and time frame is hard.

After taking this trip I can highly recommend the GlobeRiders tours. We had a great bunch of people with us and I think it makes it more fun, and you will learn a lot more. You can ride on your own if you want and stop where you want most of the time. It is easy to find one of your new friends that rides at your pace or stops where you do.

On this trip I have gone on roads that, if I was on my own, I would not have even looked at. I have found myself in some very out of the way places meeting people I would never have met. Meeting locals well off the tourist trail was one of the highlights for me.

From talking to other riders and guides you find learn a lot more about the area and customs of the places you travel through. This can save you learning them the hard way!. In the evening you will know who likes going for a drink, walk, take photos, a fancy meal or just eating something quick. This person might not have been the one you rode with that day.

You always have someone at hand to help fix something on the bike or lend you tools. On this trip we always had FUN AND LAUGHTER together, I know I would not have had the same fun on my own.

Also once I signed up for this tour, I had a date of the 1st May to be in Istanbul - this helped me get going,otherwise I could have kept putting it off for different reasons.

You still have to ride your own bike, look after it, carry your own gear. For your family at home its easier for them to know your with someone, I know mine were more relaxed when I reached Istanbul after traveling on my own through Europe.

It is a great experience, Life Changing. My advice to anyone thinking of going on a bike trip is, stop putting it off and just go and do it. Get signed-up and then there is no turning back. It all falls into place after that.



Day 51 - 20 June 2007 - Xian, China

G is for Great Group!

G = Great group
L = Lots of Laughs
O = Outstanding riding
B = Beautiful scenery
E = Extraordinary peoples
R = Remarkable cultures
I = Incredible history
D = Delicious food
E = Exceptional guide service
R = Riding challenges
S = Special memories

The above are just a few outcomes of a GlobeRiders motorcycle adventure – expect great things and great things will happen. Many factors contributed to having a fabulous trip, but in particular (from what I heard our last night), it was this group of people coming together that made it special.

To our most frequent riding companions, Jack and Roger: Mike and I thoroughly enjoyed your riding style (consistent, solid, and dependable) and your company (always pleasant, sincere and easy going). We were together for the downtimes - with Roger in his first pannier episode and with Jack during his exciting motorcycle wash - and we were there for the all the upbeat moments which fortunately dominated our trip.

To the three Canadians, Robin, Pete and Vincent: They have more in common than just living in Canada – they are intelligent, reflective, competitive, perceptive, quick witted, and charming.

To the four amigos, Joe, Mark, Dennis and Bill: Four words: “Wild and crazy Americans”, “work hard – play hard”, “get out of jail free” – oh, that’s five words, but very important ones!

To the youngest, Jason, Enda and Rupert: Wise beyond their years, energetic, intuitive, respectful, and sensible. Imagine a Greek motorcycle racer who wasn’t a hot rod on this trip, an Irish motorcycle stuntman who doesn’t drink alcohol, and a Londoner who doesn’t stay up past 10 p.m. – and all under the age of 40. Who says our youth are reckless, selfish and undisciplined? The other admirable trait I observed in these young men was their loyalty: Jason for family and his dogs; Enda for his partner, Mary; and Rupert to the memory of his mother who died of cancer just a year ago.

Rupert is raising funds for research on Myeloma UK (a rare type of bone marrow cancer) as he travels around the world in 6 months on 2 wheels. Check out his website and help sponsor Rupert:

Just Giving - Rupert's World

To the “experienced” foursome, Yves G., Dan, Yves S. and Henry: Perfect examples of what happens when you grow old, but not up – irreverent, funny - if they could get away with it, they’d do it. And that’s why they’re our inspiration – along with their being so well-read, well-traveled, conversational, and intellectual.

Fortunately, none of these traits rubbed off on us.

To the staff, Jeff, Helge, Sasha (one of our local guides from Uzbekistan) and Mike Paull (not included in the picture were two of our other local guides, Kaz and Sim): incredibly experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful.

Whatever apprehension any of the riders were feeling at the beginning of the trip as to their riding abilities in foreign lands on challenging roads has turned into confidence. And we are all better world travelers than we were before. Much of this is due to the leadership of and examples set by Helge.

Mike Paull deserves special thanks for his talent and hard work on the Live!Journal. It’s not only a wonderful chronicle for us to have for a lifetime, it was an important vehicle to communicate to family and friends what was happening. It succeeded in moving people – laughing out loud at Joe’s money exchange story and crying about Jack’s accident with a sheep. We were able to share these and other stories thanks to Mike’s commitment, computer expertise, and creative story telling.

We’ve all had a phenomenal experience and Mike Mathews and I have had the extra added pleasure of doing this trip together as partners, and the only 2-up and the only non-BMW motorcycle – riding in style on an always clean Triumph Tiger.

Mike Mathews and Vincent are the only riders (other than staff) who have been on previous GlobeRiders tours. I know now why this gets under your skin, why it’s addictive. It’s a fabulous, adventure-packed way to see the world, experience cultures, hang with the locals in very unique ways and locations, and make life-long friendships with fellow GlobeRiders.


Tiger Lily

Day 52 - 21 June 2007 - Xian, China

Week 8 – China : Silk Road Iron Horses

China has been all anyone could have expected on a trip riding a motorcycle. Our motorcycles expose us to all the elements of sun, wind, rain, dust, mud, rocks, potholes, along with close encounters of many kinds with vehicles and people. Luckily, we have not experienced the extreme heat that is possible in this part of the country. The food has been pleasant for the most part, learning to eat things that look weird, don’t know what they are and taste, well lets’ say, different. The occasional KFC or findings of that Fast Food have been saviors to a few of our group.

The days of the journey are winding down, but there is still much to see in this vast country. City tours still have unique locations and experiences. In Lanzhou, some of our riders chose a different mode of transportation along the Yellow River, riding the sheep skin rafts that were used in ancient times for transporting goods and people across the river. The White Pagoda Mountain with a long history of religion sits high above the modern city as it continues to grow.

Our Silk Road Iron Horses have been branded by the local Chinese artist with words chosen by each rider. The Tiger has a new name and is branded ‘Tiger Lily’ forever. Traffic has increased greatly and so have the opportunities for close encounters of the “unwanted kind”. We are ‘seasoned’ riders now and we ride well as a group when compared to the early days of our journey. It was very different to find traffic police in the middle of Xian directing traffic at such a busy intersection.

Entertainment continues as Linda, Enda and Joe host an awards ceremony with many of the riders receiving special commendations for talents exhibited along the trip and recognition of special events that took place and unique personality traits learned by all. Sorry, can’t tell you about all the awards - most are very special to the occasion.

With no riding days left, we head to the shipping facility to load our motorcycles in the container. Helge inspects the container for leaks. We really don’t want any more moisture in the container on the long journey it will take back to Seattle. Straps laid out, wood cut into the proper lengths, hammer, nails, and boxes to package all the panniers that will be shipped inside along with the bikes: the loading begins. Look for a special mop and broom to arrive in Seattle during the middle of August.

Our final adventure ends with the tour of the Terracotta Warriors. The head of a warrior discovered by a farmer digging a well more than 30 years ago uncovered a vast history in China. What history in a country!

Thanks to all my new motorcycle friends for an incredible journey, thanks to Linda for being a great companion and passenger, and thanks to GlobeRiders for making the Live Journal for communication to the outside world and making it possible to experience this unique part of the world that few Americans will travel, especially on a motorcycle.

Mike Mathew

Day 52 - 22 June 2007 - Xian, China

The Last Riding Day on the Silk Road – Good News, Bad News

I don’t know why people say, “I have good news and bad news,” because everyone always wants to hear the bad news first.  So . . .

Bad News It’s our last riding day.
Good News We all arrived safely into Xian
Bad News It was our last Chinese breakfast together.
Good News It was our last Chinese breakfast together.
Bad News We decide on who gets how much in tips.
Good News Helge is out there the last morning working for it - cleaning everyone’s bike (see picture).
Bad News Jeff couldn’t be with us the final few days.
Good News Jeff’s trusty horse of steel made it with Helge riding it (albeit
a tad dirty).
Bad News Dan’s motorcycle did not make it (a fuel pump issue put ole’
Bucepahlus in the chase vehicle for the last riding day).
Good News Dan bought Helge’s motorcycle and rode it proudly into Xian.
Bad News Dan thought that just because he bought Helge’s motorcycle he
became the leader of the group.
Good News Fat chance.
Bad News t was raining the last day and had been for a few days before.
Good News It was cool and not blazing hot like it had been 2 years prior.
Bad News Driving through rain with muddy, bad roads got everyone and
everything nasty dirty.
Good News Mike and the Tiger got nasty dirty.
Bad News We had to ride as a convoy together for the entire last riding day.
Good News With the bad weather and bad roads it was probably best to go slower and stay together.
Bad News Naturally, there were mixed emotions – quiet and pensive as we approached our destination and the end of a fabulous trip and at the same time excited to successfully make it to Xian and soon to be home with loved ones.
Good News There’s no shortage of stories or photographs to share our experiences with interested family members and friends.


My sister, Christine, and I used to enjoy hearing about the world travels of my grandmother’s two lady friends.  (I think we remember them mostly because they used to bring us trinkets from distant lands).  Now I feel like I’m doing the same thing – traveling to exotic lands (and bringing home trinkets, of course).

As Mike and I landed in Istanbul (the end of April), he looked at the airplane monitor for the distance was 5,400 miles.  He made the comment to me, “Do you know we are about to ride a motorcycle more miles than we just flew!"  We were both amazed at this realization.  We both thought, “it’s going to be a long ride.”  But it really went by so fast. 

We’ve traveled 8,000 miles (12,000 km) for 53 days through 8 countries:  9 days in Turkey, 4 in Georgia, 3 in Azerbaijan, 1 on the ferry crossing the Caspian Sea, 5 in Turkmenistan, 6 in Uzbekistan, 3 in Kyrgyzstan, 3 in Kazakhstan, and 19 in the People’s Republic of China.  Sometimes it seems like it was all in a blink of an eye.

Just think - the only motorcycle group to get a permit in China this year; going as high as 10,000 ft. and below sea level, crossing the Caspian Sea, and traveling 4 days through the Gobi desert.  Some of the countries we visited receive very few tourists, like only 3,000 a year visit Turkmenistan and we’re 21 of them - how many visit them via motorcycles?  We traveled through countries that bordered Afghanistan and Iran, and even attempted to drive to the border of Iran and Turkmenistan.

Lots of adventures (bad and good) made for our tight-knit group of riders. 

This bond and cohesiveness was evidenced the last time the group rode together on their way with clean motorcycles to load them into the container for shipping.  It was still raining in the morning of Day 51, the riders “put clutches out” at the designated time and hit the streets of Xian during rush hour traffic (which is all the time).  Although I wasn’t there, I heard from more than one person that the group stayed in a tight block making sure no other traffic was going to get in between them.  There was no resemblance of the somewhat tentative driving observed on Day 1 in Istanbul.  There was no hesitancy, no uncertainty.  These weren’t riders from separate countries – these were riders from one world – these were GlobeRiders!

Signing off from Xian, China - Day 53.  One of your GlobeRiders correspondent and belly dancer extraordinaire,

Tiger Lily

Day 52 - 22 June 2007 - Xian, China

Top Ten Signs You’ve Slipped Back into Bad Chinese Driving Habits (after returning home from a GlobeRiders Adventure). . . .

The riders have adapted very well to riding in foreign countries.  They, however, get influenced by other drivers’ habits, particularly the last country, China.  I suspect the riders have a few adjustments to make when riding back home.  So, this is as much a warning to loved ones as it is to the riders.  You’ll know you are back in the groove of riding through China when you do the following:

#10 You start honking – a lot!  The Chinese know how to use the horn,particularly taxis, buses, and trucks. Some of the honking (particularly in the beginning) was to say “hi”, “good on ya”, etc.  But a lot of the honking is to make sure you know they’re there or to let you know they’re not going to let you in.

# 9 You start going through toll gates to the right.  It’s a long story, but it was generally acceptable to go through a toll booth by moving all the way over to the right and going around the gate without paying.  When a truck blocked us, we just moved over to the sidewalk.  This bad driving habit will be a rude awakening for you, particularly if you try it while driving your car.

# 8 You start putting things on your bike.  The Chinese do not throw anything away – they are industrious people with a knack for using everything – from a dead animal to a dead truck.  Scooters and bicycles are driving by with what might look like garbage, but they’ll use it for something.  So, Jeff and Mark collected house fans.

#7 You weave in and out of traffic erratically, unpredictably, without warning – you don’t use your blinkers.

#6 You start spitting uncontrollably everywhere you go – even off the motorcycle.

#5 You cross a border into another U.S. state or another European country that doesn’t require you to stop at the border and without knowing why, you stop.

#4 You just park somewhere and expect a crowd to show up, and stay there until someone comes up and asks you a question about where you’re going or what you’re doing there.

#3 You pull into a gas station and first, force a gas station attendant to work, and secondly, make them put the gas into a bucket to then fill your tank – and argue with them until they do what you say.

#2 You hop on your motorcycle with your wife, girlfriend and/or kids (from the wife and/or girlfriend) all without helmets.

And the #1 sign you’ve slipped back into bad Chinese driving habits is:  You find yourself stopping at an intersection to block traffic for motorcycles in back of you (who aren’t there)!


Participants of the GlobeRiders Silk Road Adventure 2007

Black, Henry - USA

Boyadjian, Mark - USA

Briddell, Dennis - USA

Cummings, Vincent - Canada

Fawcett, Rupert - England

Gouzer, Yves - Switzerland

Hansen, Roger - USA

Jenkins, Bill - USA

Laumer, Joe - USA

Loumidis, Jason - Greece

Mathews, Mike & Sikorowski, Linda - USA

Moore, Dan T. - USA

Munn, Jeff - USA

Paull, Mike M. - USA

Pawluk, Peter - Canada

Pedersen, Helge - Norway

Shepherd, Jack - USA

Spoerry, Yves - England

Van Hecke, Robin - Canada

Wright, Enda - Ireland

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