China 1983 – The Food – The Daily Ride

The food during our journey.

In China, they consider it bad manners to offer vegetables to their guests. Even though the average family may have meat once per week, we had it every meal. While I am not a vegetarian, and we did not want to eat raw food because of the bacteria, we were starved for vegetables. We all spoke of what we wanted first when we landed back on USA soil and the majority said: “a huge green salad with all the trimmings”. Only a few said: chocolate. 🙂

We were always hungry. The riding was fun, entertaining, exhilarating and enlightening but made us hungry. The food was nothing like we were used to so “being full” was not something we experienced. Most of the food was good, not excellent, and clearly Chinese but different from the Chinese food at home. The Americanized variation has more flavor, likely due to the MSG, but also being able to order from a menu was comforting as we always thought we knew what we were eating. Not so in China. We were always presented with a buffet of dishes and each one, when we queried our guide, was “oh, very good, from the sea”.  Now I can tell you first hand that many times it was not from the sea nor did I know what it was. – One time it was pig skin deep fried. I nearly lost it. One funny antidote is that many of my riding comrades were vegetarians. When I told them it was not a sea plant but pork, they made their way to the bathroom.

On May 12, 1983 we were treated to a very special Peking Duck dinner. This was a very special occasion and ‘over the top’ with preparation and meats. The duck was served completely. I mean, each part of the duck with the exception of the beak was served to us. We felt obligated to try everything. I found a way to hide some of the ‘stuff’ and discard it later. They are very gracious and were proud to serve the duck, chicken and fish with their heads still intact. We barely made it through the dinner without vomiting. But, we all desired to please our hosts and raved about what we could honestly, like the decorative plates, radishes made into roses and their generosity. Each person went way out of their way so completely.

We always thank the cooks. They are pleased to receive our compliments.  Our American guide always thanked the women too and suggested they next be the cooks. The people do not accept that at all. There is a definite cultural difference is dining habits. The local people do not touch their food with their hands, are very adept at using chopsticks but…. All scraps are thrown on the table; or they spit them out on the table or floor. Apple peelings go on the floor. I was not able to watch our guards and companions eat. LOLJ

May 10 1983 we visited Tiananmen Square (Mao Square). The business city. Imperial Palace.

Public hand washing is common in the city areas

Public hand washing is common in the city areas

Trained to SH I J I a the HU a NG hundred and 50 miles for passengers and station we are riding first-class separate cabin covered soft seats a table and tea. As we wandered around the square we were constantly bombarded with loudspeaker provided music and news. However, the primary messages were all slogans; the news is political propaganda. “Let’s be stronger than our spirits; only one child; build a strong country; etc.

Our first day actually riding the bikes was from Beijing to NANGONG which is 67 miles. I rode 45 miles and then rode in the sidecar of one of the “control” vehicles. We had a small bus, the motorbike and sidecar, two jeeps and a truck as part of our group. In a small village we were greeted by people lining the streets.  Some places they clapped, some waved, all smiled or stared. When they all clapped I got tears in my eyes. It is just like being a dignitary. They run from the fields to see us. We are a very strange occurrence for them. Some have never seen a foreigner before.

We are staying in Nangong, a small village where foreigners never stay. The rooms are concrete with wooden beds and bamboo slats. A strong net covers the bed like a tent from the top with a cotton batting. We had two cotton sheets, a very heavy colorful pillow and a quilt — Chinese comforter which was warm and surprising heavy.

I learned only a few words in the most difficult language, Mandarin,

  1. lěng kāishuǐ 冷开水 means cold water (but always boiled first)
  2. nǐ hǎo or 你好 (Neehow) – means Hello
  3. xiexie 谢谢 (SheaShea) – means Thank You

I tried so hard to learn to count to 10 but without success. I did learn the sounds of the language in the letters MA.

mā    mother

má    hemp

mǎ    horse

mà    scold

Flat it means mother, with a slight upward tone is means Cloth , with a slight up/down tone it means Horse;  and with a singsong movement means correction.

One man we nicknamed bottoms-up because he always wanted to give us a beer. He was sort of ashamed of the dirt, etc.  Another man who walked with us for a distance said the people were not as friendly as we are. But he is wrong. Everyone is so shy but certainly friendly. They gather around to hear us speak.

We traveled to  JI Shen which is 19.2 miles where we had lunch and visited a jade carving factory. We were able to watch some of the artisans. Very difficult and precise work. Jade is a very hard stone and key to many Chinese sculptures. We were treated to an introduction to the creation of jade jewelry and gifts. Everything at the jade factory is done by hand. The cloisonné, a very complex multi-layer process is even completely done by hand; each wire sanded, dipped in glue and placed with the stones and glazed. Exquisite work. I did not buy anything as carrying items only added to the complication of bike riding with all your possessions. Plus, I did not want to lose an item and did not want to spend my cash; I did not know what to expect for the duration of the trip. Today, in 2016, I am sad I did not buy several pieces. They would be a treasure.

We traveled another 16.8 miles to Hengshui. This is only one of many stops along the road to have a drink and walk a little. (Note: we are now about Beijing is about 155 miles south of Beijing.) From Hengshui we traveled 14 miles to our next stop; arriving at 9 AM. From there we traveled 23 miles to Jinxing where we visited a tower; at noon we had lunch. Following biking 8 miles to Anling we continued 13 miles to Wootico. After another 4.8 miles we arrived at an internal border of some sort. Here we had a major change of everything: a different truck, different drivers, different bikes for the people that were using Chinese bikes and, we lost our American guide (No explanation, warning or long goodbyes). We traveled eight more miles to Dezho where we stopped for the night at 6 PM.

On May 14, 1983 we biked from Dezho to Linyi.

Coal is dumped on the street in each village. Each person brings his shovel and bucket to take his share of the coal. In the rural areas, the house buildings and roofs are made of equal amounts of straw and mud. Women throw shovels full of mud up onto the roof presumably like maintenance layers.

One time while riding in between stops I needed to use the bathroom. Our whole entourage stopped so I could walk to a private bathroom in a village outside of Nangong and before but near Jinxing. Now you need to understand this bathroom was just a pit in the dirt though it is long and narrow like the Japanese bathrooms only theirs are indoors and tile. I must say it was not any more disgusting than the portable bathrooms at sports arenas or carnivals in the USA. But I still did not like it.

During the entire trip in our small portion of China, we noticed people were experiencing respiratory issues; they are always spitting. We felt like we were in a swarm of germs even though all streets are lined with trees. And, I did become very ill after several days of breathing the germs in this country with germs my body was not accustomed to.

May 14, 1983 we biked 72 miles today. I used 12th gear during this portion for about 10 miles. It was very pleasant to get so much travel with little effort. We have been experiencing a headwind every day until today. Today we had a tail wind with approximately 20 miles of side winds.

Jinan is just the opposite of Nangong. It is very modern 1950s. They have Western toilets etc. The area was built by the Russians for themselves; it is used as guest houses now. While riding from Jinxing to Jinan we rode along the yellow River. We crossed the bridge, looked at the backyards of homes; they were as pigsty’s; and it was raining. This was not inviting, but then, we did not stop either. Just passing through.

On the way to Mount TiaShan we observed a new technique being employed in farming.  Every inch of land was terraced. Masses of women were watering the fields while the men fertilized. The women were using a cart to carry the necessary supplies.

As we began to climb Mt. Tiashan, we encountered mostly elderly people. The first woman we met with bound feet was not shy about her picture. The second group of three women with bound feet came from many miles to climb. Mt. Tiashan is a memorial to worship Buddha before their death to have a better afterlife. Very important in their culture. Some ladies wore a flower in their hair for a granddaughter or another symbol for a grandson.

It is over 6,000 steps to the top of Mt. Tiashan. We climbed with people from numerous walks of life including four university teachers learning English. We saw Chinese laborers making concrete slabs and bricks. Terraced farming and water stations. Young men carrying 50 kg of patricia-on-mtn-chinacement powder to the top of Tiashan.  Large temples are possible at the top due to peasant labor carrying the materials to the top.  Many died. Carved red writing on one rock states that this shall be a worship place for ever. The picture shown here with me by one of the rocks means I have climbed the highest of the five scared mountains in China.

Visiting in Jiinan , we were escorted into a kindergarten class near a diesel factory. There are 5,600 workers, a third of which are women. When a woman has a child she gets one year off at 80% pay to stay with the child (first child only). The child goes to kindergarten at three years old. As formal education begins we found the students to be very talented; all skits, songs etc. teach them to be polite and to modernize China.

Tonight lodging is a  hotel; it is a large hotel only for tourists. The hallways are very dark and the hot water is only available between 6 and 7 PM. However, when we do have water it is not useable. The water comes out with black chunks; we did not want to take a bath and brushing our teeth we used cooled boiled water.

May 17, 1983 I am becoming sick. I have a very sore throat and upset stomach. I keep riding my bike and I made approximately 25 miles then got on the bus. I remained very ill during the rest of the trip; after arriving home I continued to be on antibiotics for three solid months. I had a very advanced case of bacterial pneumonia. One of the ladies had a course of antibiotics with her. She gave them to me after I had tried Chinese Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, rest, etc. with no relief at all. Likely, with the strain of bacteria and how invasive and deadly it was to me, I would not have survived the trip without her doctor insisting she carry antibiotics with her.  Praise God for His protection and her physician’s Wisdom.

We ended up on a very small street going the wrong way it was too small for the bus to fit. The bus hit the scaffolding for a roof repair. We were all pretty concerned for the workers but our guides consider them peasants.

During the same part of the journey Marguerite fell and bruised her rib. She fell off the bike down into a ditch where she lay helpless. Ji and Grace brought a hot water bottle and ice from the sides of the freezer and were trying to put the ice into the bag using chopsticks. If it wasn’t for the sadness of Marguerite being hurt, you can imagine that we wanted and felt like rolling with laughter.

Our first morning in Beijing as I went out on the street and saw the crowds in the city I began to cry. It was very emotional to see all these dear people dressed

Learning the daily routine of excercise

Learning the daily routine of excercise

identical in their mau suits all trying to make their way to work with the husband pedaling a bike the woman riding on the bar holding the single child. Many others were in the square doing tai chi.

At the Great Wall, walking on the wall brought a similar reaction from me and many of my riding partners as we watched people working with hand tools repairing the road. And also knowing that this wall was created with practically slave labor using peasants driven by military and many died in the wall. While it brought a similar reaction as seeing Mount Rushmore in the USA it also brought a sadness that is certainly not present at Mount Rushmore.

I am just now getting around to writing a private letter to Ms. Huang Ya Yar (Grace) who was our Chinese translator guide helper and friend during the second half of our journey. She is a Chinese Nationalist whose profession is speaking English.

Huang is the family name and Ya Yar is her own name.  9# TiYuhuan Road; China Sports Service; Beijing, China. I plan to write to her in the next few weeks and hope that I still find her. She was a delight to know and I feel bad that I have delayed my time doing this.

We stayed at a sports hotel; we were up at 6 AM with four hours of sleep. Early out on the street by the hotel without the gates by the wall there were bicycles cars and buses walkers everywhere. Looked like chaos but every one of the people knew exactly how it worked. There was a bus for our bikes and one for the people we left at 10:15 AM per summer palace. It is the summer residence for officials like the Emperor. The palace has numerous hand-painted wooden pagoda like buildings. A lake and walkways with painted pictures on wood all above. At lunch at 11:30 AM about 15 dishes for us to choose from. Started with the cold things.

Our bus is very modern with air-conditioning. Their buses are very old and they pack the people in like sardines. It is very windy and the dust comes up heavy. I close my eyes during the worst as my soft contacts gave me much trouble. It is very warm and wonderful, over 80°F; the sun is shining. Tomorrow I will wear sunscreen. Today my hands during biking took on sun where they once were burned in Hawaii about six years ago.

All the Chinese people are so friendly. We try to use our few Chinese words like nehow; they usually laugh and mostly answer hello in English. I saw an older woman and spoke to her; she smiled and allowed her picture to be taken. She had her feet bound and could hardly walk.

The water is warm even when we get boiled cold water because they have little refrigeration. We can get Coke or some strange orange drink or beer. I’m drinking more pop than I have since I was a teenager. The rooms are handmade from some straw looking plants. They keep the streets very clean. Our food is always too much and usually includes ham and some cold cuts of which none of us will eat. They then throw it out even though they have little to eat because they feel we are not clean. We eat with our hands and don’t spit. We will not see it but they eat and spit on the floor.


TODAY, the German Transrapid constructed the first commercial high speed Maglev railway in the world in 2002, from Shanghai’s Longyang Road subway station in Pudong to Pudong International Airport. Commercial operation started in 2003. The 30 km trip takes 7 minutes and 21 seconds and normally travels at a maximum speed of 267.8 mph. During a test run, the Maglev has been shown to reach a top speed of 501 km/h.

While two railways travel between Shanghai: and Beijing – Jinghu Railway, a high-speed Maglev railroad to Beijing is also in the works.

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