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Published: September 16th 2010
The industrial city of Yueyang in Hunan province is famous for a few things; large electromagnets, agricultural products, textiles and tourism. But it's claim to fame for me is the fact that it is the location where my Chang Jiang motorcycle has been going through an extensive rebuild and restoration over the last couple of months. My friend John's brother has a shop in the city near a still flourishing Chang Jiang engine factory, a handy location for obvious reasons! Two months ago, I had my bike trucked over to his place to be worked on while we were away for the summer. This past weekend, Philip (my son visiting in China) and I took the two and a half hour train trip to the city on Friday night and rode back on the finished CJ the next day.
As always, it was once again an adventure as we set off on the train from Wuhan surrounded by non-English speaking Chinese travelers. We ended up on a "hard seat" but on this short 3 hour trip it was not a big deal. The only problem was trying to figure out where to get off. By the time we got to
Yueyang, we had about five people watching out for us. It ended up being pretty obviouis since most of the passengers emptied off the train at that point.
John and his brother were waiting for us at the station with my sidecar to take us out for dinner and then to our hotel. We all piled onto it and they pulled out into oncoming traffic and started heading down the road the wrong way. Oh yeah, it's China...that's what they do here. Even the traffic direction is only a suggestion, especially if you are on a scooter or motorcycle. When we arrived at the small restaurant, a group of kids gathered around us and stared and tried to speak a little English. And we had the token looky loos checking us out as we went into the restaurant. The kids kept ducking their heads into our little private room until the staff finally told them to go away.
The area is known for its spicy snake and a type of cold pureed bean soup that is poured out of a pitcher into cups. The snake was great and accompanied by a huge plate of steamed crabs. The little
crabs did not contain much meat but were delicious. They were a lot of work for a little bit of food! Unlike North America, the legs were too small to bother with for the most part. The body was the good stuff here. The top of the shell was pulled off, the lungs scraped away, and then the stuff inside was scooped up and eaten. A little more meat was made available when the body was cracked in half. We were told that it was mainly eggs we were eating but that didn't seem to make sense. In any case, we ended up with a huge mess on the table after consuming a couple of dozen of the critters!
The next morning we visited the little shop and picked up the motorcycle. John had to head back to Wuhan and then off to Shanghai that morning so he only had time to give us a quick view of Dongting Lake, the second largest lake in China and a walk through a small tourist area.
Phil and I headed back to Wuhan before lunch. Stopping for gas with John and his brother was the highlight of the day. The
old woman who was dishing out the gas didn't want to put it directly into the motorcycle for some strange reason none of us could figure out. She thought it was "too dangerous". As we all stood there discussing how ridiculous it was, she filled up a watering can with gas and then poured it into the bike. This was repeated two or three times since the can could only hold so much gas. It was the silliest thing that any of us had ever seen!
We took road #107 the entire distance so it was quite easy to find our way. Most of the trip meandered through wooded areas and the towns along the way were obviously making their living from the wood and stone resources from the surrounding area. One town had pile after pile of small diameter trees along the side of the road. Every business in town seemed to be dealing with these things, whatever they were. I don't think they were bamboo so I'm not really sure what kind of wood it was or what they were used for. Scattered in between this stuff were chunks of nice hardwood logs which were probably going
to be used for some type of furniture construction.
Any time we left the populated areas, the traffic was pretty much non-existent. Most people use the freeway which paralleled the road we were taking. Along the way we saw lots of water buffalo tied to trees along the roadside, a common site in rural China.
We stopped at a large hot springs resort along the way for lunch. It was about the half-way point. The waiter didn't speak any English but he was a creative fellow. He left and returned with a large box of little bilingual stands that are placed beside buffet dishes to tell people what they are. We went through the box and picked out a few items for lunch. Not exactly a menu but it did the trick!
It took about six hours to get back to Wuhan with all the stopping we did along the way but a good time was had by all...
News Flash....Phil just got a job teaching English in Changsha, a city a few hundred kilometers south of here, so he took off on Tuesday on the bullet train to meet with the employer and then back
to Wuhan and off to Shanghai for a week of traning.
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