Sunday, October 24, 2004

Bus roundup 

Bus roundup

First, my excuses for bad typing this post. I am tired; we had a
12-hour bus ride today. I have to stand on the space bar to get it to
work and that gets old. Quickly. When I press the left shit bar, the
following happens:

When I press the 'enter' key, this happens:
\Annoying. So let's move on. I have another hiking experience to
recount from last week (it's a good one. Let's just say that
I've proven again that I am related to my little sis).

Let's talk about busses. First, our ride back a few days ago from our
first jaunt to the mountains (see earlier posts about part of that
trip). On the ride out, the latter part of the ride was in the dark
(and fog snow rain. I also neglected to mention the karaoke [the tv
had music videos with the words playing over and over and over]
thruout the ride as well as the random singing. Before I am done with
China I may haveto give them a taste of David Allen Coe) and I am glad.
I don't think I would have survived it twice.

Background-in the past, I have had control issues (no, not my bladder.
That was a different issue altogether) involving vehicles. Cars,
motorcycles, waverunners, planes, jump ropes. If I am in control
(don't ask for plane stories. I am not allowed to speak of those ever
again) I am fine. If someone else is driving, it can be bad. But I've
been so much better! Until this ride.
Let me explain. We went up and over a mountain pass. The summit of THE
PASS was over 15,000 feet. It was cloudless that morning, cyrstal
clear piercingly beautiful blue sky and cold. The near side of the
pass wasn't too bad, as the driver was forced to go slow (i.e.-not
pass everyone on the road) because of the grade. Then we crested. The
far side? MAYBE 24 of concrete, no shoulders, no guardrails (though
occasionally there were 2' high, 4"x4" concrete pillars? And some
concrete little wedges that I swear are impromptu ramps for errant
vehicles), SHEER dropoffs. Not the CO style, we're talking a LONG way
down. 15,000', remember? Not a tree on the downslopes either. Just a
long tumbling ride down. No superelevation (banking), decreasing
radius curves (not ideal in any way in my opinion), very sharp curves
(buses have to run wide to make them), and other traffic. Did our
driver take it easy? Of course not. He was passing cars trucks buses
yaks and boulders at every 'opportunity' regardless of pavement width
or presence of blind curves. I crapped my pants. Twice. I have not been
that scared in a long time (Old Wolf Creek Pass in a motorhome,
anyone?). The driver didn't even notice, and neither did the rest of
the bus (except Rachelle who insisted on clutching my arm and
gasping/shrieking just in case I missed the gut-bombing look straight
down at the valley floor 5,000' down). Not fun. And this is the road
we drove at night in the fog/rain/snow happily singing karaoke
oblivious to death out the window.

Oof. We survived. Cool part-there was a very distinct cloud layer
(that we spotted in the next valley) at we're guessing 9,000'. I've
never seen anything like it. A solid cloud layer extending
out....forever. We saw some VERY far off peaks poking thru but that
was it. VERY awesome. Though one we passed thru it we didn't see the
sun until our next mountain excursion.

On to that trip! We left last Thursday to go up to Jiuzhaiguo National
Park (rip off touristy place. Overall it was a bad experience that
spoiled us on the place. But that is for a later post). It started out
fine. We thought for once that we had a sane/ calm/rational driver.
Not so much. Just manic. This trip followed much of the same route as
the previous (unfortunately we had to run thru the construction rutted
road narrow streets muddy mess again). This time it was raining, so
the mud soupy slickiness of the construct-me area was much worse. We
arrived at this section (a couple/few miles long) and our nice driver
went nuts. Instead of easing off the accel and onto the brake he
stuffed the accel peddle back under the floorboard as this FULL-SIZED
BUS careened and bounced up the road, in the left lane, narrowly
missing oncomingj trucks and buses and somehow not flipping ass over
grille or bouncing sideways off the road. It was not cool. Rachelle
leaned over and told me that she was sure our bus was tipping today. I
pooh-poohed her (complete with the honey jar and hand stuck in the
tree while piglet makes eeyore uncurl his tail just out of earshot!).
Until we hit back-to-back ess-curves for 9K miles on pavement (dad,
you would be in heaven on these curvy roads, except for the lack of
any sane drivers. You think Italian drivers are nuts? They would be
scared to drive here. Have I mentioned that pass-zones and
-no-pass-zones do not exist? If you want to pass you don't need
sufficient room. You pull over and honk and honk. That's it! Sounds
easy doesn't it? zoinks...). I thought we were either tipping or would
be taking one of those road edge wedge ramps into the river. Even the
Chinese on board were silent. It got so bad that most of the bus was
crash ready-1/8 of them were asleep, 1/8 were vainly trying to remain
upright in their seats while everyone else was either heads down hands
over their necks or against the seat in front arm or leg braced.

To make matters worse, this 11-hour trip took 14.

We had the same bus and drivers back today.Similar scenario only
slightly less manic behavior and dry roads. Today it took 12 hours.

Another 'need-to-mention'. On these long trips there are several
reasons to stop. For potty breaks, random breaks I have have yet to
figure out because nothing really happens, tolls, food stops, stops to
clean the bus (facede, I'm telling you. Looking good is important),
and stops at the top of hills/mountains TO WATER AND COOL DOWN THE
BREAKS!! No, this is not an exaggeration, I've watched it.

My thoughts. These drivers are ex-racers. What kind I am not sure.
Indy car mostm likely. They take to the curves as if they had small
low to the ground well handling cars instead of big old no shock
having buses! How do they take the curves? Come inwide at full speed
and slam on the brakes right before hitting the curve (VERY
disconcerting when straight ahead is a 5,000' cliff with no stoppage
devices and the brakes are squealing as if a herd of pigs were all
getting oinked at the same time), come in thru the very inside of the
curve, letting off the brakes and jumping on the gas (like I am
jumping on this space bar right now) just before the apex of the
curve. Passing and weaving like pros (in a small car or motorcyle
would/should). I am incredulous at the scarcity (apparent) of
accidents. There were way too many instances where R and I were
certain we were dead. Unreal. I can't wait to start taking trains
again (tomorrow. an 18-hour ride followed a day later with a 20+ hour
ride to shanghai [i can say i've been there and be cool, though it
sounds kinda boring]).

More on the ride out last Thursday. Full of bad things. Before getting
out of town there was a back up. Some older guy on a 3-wheeled pedal
mode of getting money (bike-type taxi) must have done something wrong
because the cops showed up and forced (with hitting) him off the bike
he wouldn't let go of tipping it over while they continued to hit him
on the ground. A minute later they helped him up and were righting his
bike as we passed. Very strange. Later in the ride, a motorcycle hit
by a bus (somehow the rider was not dead. Had his head on someone's
shoulder [standing up] who had a rag pressed to his head.). R saw a
van off the road on its side. Today a car/SUV type was on it's side
while the driver stood in front calling in his favorite karaoke song
to the local radkio station.

But don't worry about us. I figure that if we showed up here with nine
lives we have at least one left.

More on our adventures (non-bus related) tomorrow

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Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

WWW http:/www.jimspeak.blogspot.com