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Published: July 16th 2009
Yesterday, under scorching sunny skies and 150% humidity, we took part in a large motorcycle parade, one of the major publicity events of the Wuhan International Yangtze River Crossing Festival. It followed a 24.5 km circuit route across Number 1 and 2 Bridges through Hankou and Wuchang. Today, the swimming race across the Yangtze River occurs, which is the reason for being for the festival.
We had to wake up at 4:30 am in order to rush across the Number 1 bridge by 6:00, a strictly illegal activity for motorcycles! Our early morning plan worked and we successfully evaded the police and arrived at the starting location by 7:00, after a couple of short stops. We were the first to arrive but others soon started drifting in as we ate our wonderful Wuhan hot, dry noodles for breakfast from a nearby street vendor. We found a little shop around the corner that had instant coffee packages. A plastic cup, coffee crystals, enough hot water from the owner's thermos to dissolve it and topped up with ice cold bottled water. Voila...a cool, coffee drink for the morning for one RMB or about 20 cents!
I have no idea how many
bikes there were but there were definitely way over a hundred by the time we took off. Official t-shirts were handed out to everyone to keep us visible to the organizers. They had to have some way of knowing who was part of the group once we got into the city traffic. There were decals galore which we proceeded to paste onto our vehicle...it is looking very used at the moment. Three of our friends with their vintage CJs were the first motorcycles in the procession and us and another friend were the last two. Those of us at the beginning and end were given huge flags to carry so Nancy couldn't just sit and relax!
We were inundated with people wanting pictures while we waited around to start. I can't even begin to say how many people took pictures of us, posed with me and/or Nancy for pics or posed in our bike, with and without their kids! It was a photo op for them; vintage bike, the only foreigners in the crowd, and one of the only two females in the parade. They also loved our six speaker, 800W sound system which was blasting out the tunes
They had their own route, I guess.
as we sat around! I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we ended up in some Wuhan newspapers. The group of us with the older CJs certainly get all the attention wherever we go.
We finally took off after a short opening ceremony by the Mayor and organizers. The 24.5 km ride took us across two major bridges and along countless city streets. I was kept busy keeping track of the bikes in front of me, and watching out for the photographers who were zipping around us the whole time sitting backwards on scooters taking pics and videos of the group in motion. The incredible thing is that all this distance is just one section of the city. Even though the road had been blocked off for us the entire distance, and the police were keeping traffic away from us at every intersection, I still had to keep my wits about me watching out for some of the crazy drivers who tried to push their way into our midst. We finished the ride without any major incidents or injuries, only one slightly damaged bike that was involved in a little fender bender along the way. We would have taken
some pictures of the ride but we were both too busy; me driving and Nancy holding the humongous flag!
All the riders were given 60RMB in cash by the government for their PR efforts. I stood in line with the rest and received my money. I have to say it's the first time I have been paid to be in a parade! Then it was off to yet another tremendous eating fest at a local small restaurant for about a dozen of us. The main organizer of the event was with us and he ended up paying for the lot so it turned out being a cheap day. Again, almost every dish we had was different from our past pigouts. One of the "special" dishes we had was bull penis and hawk testicles...and I didn't even know that birds had balls. I'm not sure if it was really hawk but that was the translation we were given. In any case, it was some kind of bird. Would that appear as "Cock and bull" on the menu?
We were invited to go for coffee after but really wanted to get back home before the rain came that we could
see was fast approaching. We weren't quite quick enough and ended up in a torrential downpour as we rode up onto Number 2 bridge. Luckily, it didn't last long and we had been sweltering for so many hours, we really didn't care.
All in all, it was a fun-filled day. After this last week, I have to admit I am feeling very comfortable now driving in the city traffic and can cross lanes and elbow my way in between vehicles with the best of them. In two days, we take off early Saturday morning to head back to North America for three weeks. Will see some of you soon.
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