After Larry & I retired to the bedroom portion of our lovely suite last night, we discovered that it had a terrible smell of sewer gas. We called the front desk but no one came to remedy the situation. Even after closing or putting newspaper over all the drains, the stench persisted. After telling the story over breakfast, Peter H gave us an idea for next time: sleep with our boots next to the pillows and we wouldn’t notice the sewer gas. After six months of our boots being soaked with sweat, mud, and liquid manure, that’s a great idea!
Our Suzuki V-Strom 650s have been giving excellent fuel economy. With the combination of lower speeds and higher altitudes, Larry has been getting 59-60 mpg and I have been getting 49-52. No, I am not heavier on the throttle. My bike is a 2006 and has one spark plug per cylinder. Larry has a 2007, which changed to two plugs/cylinder. Nice fuel savings.
This morning’s road was a single lane, very dusty and bumpy National “Highway” that parallels the Expressway. Rain sprinkled intermittently. We saw one truck in the ditch, no doubt from a swerve to avoid oncoming traffic. Even our dual sport bikes would not have done well swerving onto the road side in many places. The road and weather conditions, coupled with Larry’s gut a bit tender this morning meant that we only rode forty miles in the first 1 ½ hours.
Motorcycles are not officially allowed on Chinese Expressways. Occasionally we have wound up on them due to lack of signage. Hearing Larry’s pain sounds when we hit bumps and knowing that we were headed toward significant rain prompted me to push for sneaking onto the highway. At first, we tried riding down a dirt road, behind a series of ramshackle buildings that included a gas station. No where could we find an opening to access the big road. By this time I was in tears since we likely had been passed by the support van while we were roaming the desert, searching for our opportunity. We crossed to the other side of the expy where gas for two-lane traffic was available. There we slipped through a walk through in the fence and accessed the expressway. The only problem was that this put us on the east-bound side. We decided to take it, figuring there would be a median turn around. There was, but it was blocked by sections of gate on wheels, bolted together. A few miles later, same story. This one, however, was missing a pole on one end that had blocked the end on the other sections. It looked as though our bikes could squeeze through the opening. We waited for a gap in the traffic and went for it. Success! We were now headed west on smooth, four-lane highway, and began making good time.
Wind farms lined the desert valley. Ample wind was blowing, although not the velocity we experienced in Patagonia. We met caravan of eight motor homes and wondered if they were exploring the sites along the Old Silk Road as are we. Without the stress of riding the single lane, frequently poor condition road, we were able to enjoy all the scenery, even the fluffy clouds above.
It became obvious that the Dunhuang area is a destination for Chinese and foreign visitors. A large, modern, airport and several new hotels are ready or under construction to accommodate the tourists. As we noticed five years ago, droves of Chinese are seeing their own country. After decades of restricted travel, now the government is encouraging them to explore China – and they are.
Lined with ornate lights and sculptures, the road seemed as though it was leading us to an oasis, which it was. Our two-night home in the oasis is the Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel, camels and sand dunes included.
25 Jun Jiayugan to Dunhuang 236 miles
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