June 19-20: If part of this adventure was to feel the presence of George Schuster and his crew, today did it. We drove from Dunhaung, a photographer’s delight with the ever-changing light on the Gobi desert sand to Hami, a distance of 267 miles. Piece of cake-NOT. There are a lot of things I don’t understand about China and here is one more. There is only one road to Hami, that I get, there are no towns between these two cities and no needs for multiple roads, but tearing up a distance of 138 miles before resurfacing any of it, that I don’t get.
So, all the traffic still continues-or not-on rock-strew, rutted, gutted, pot-holed, sometimes muddy, flooded road. This photo was the best section. Once the road got really bad, I couldn’t take photos. It is really hard to describe this drive. People have made their own detours, sometimes going up onto what will be the new road, then back down onto our not-road. The trunks mostly stood still. Engines off, drivers sleeping or hunkering in groups, smoking and talking until our cars came by then they all waved and smiled and helped us snake our way, creating lanes, among the trucks to continue our VERY slow journey.
I do believe these trunk drivers have more patience and courtesy than those in the US. We saw no indication of irritation or impatience- just resignation. They moved to the right and left, leaving space for cars to make a third or even fourth lane to make what progress we could. It took 7 hours to cover this 138 miles. Like Schuster, we even had to build a ramp of rocks and straw to get up and over a not yet finished bridge on one of our many man-made detours. It was a challenge in driving that we have never experienced. There were no police to move things along, just drivers helping drivers. What a life this is.
It gets better. Jerry had determined from our visit with the motorcycle gang, that his car was too low to make it. This was definitely good advice. Like the German Protos in 1908, he loaded onto a truck with the goal to have his car trucked through this section. A good decision, as we were slowing progressing, we thought about Jerry’s low road clearance. No way would the Corvette have made this.
Now, remember what I said, the trucks were NOT moving. That include the truck with Jerry’s car. So, when we finally reached the highway again, the Corvette was not there. A phone call determined that it was not coming anytime soon-maybe not even that day. The decision was made for one support van to stay behind and the rest of us go on to the hotel in Hami, still 4 hours away. To make a long, long story short, when we were ready to depart on the 2oth, Jerry and car were still not in and the car had still not reached him. By 2:30 in the afternoon (remember we are on the next day now) he had the car and was driving. He did catch up with us in Urumqi at 1:30 am. I don’t know the details of the night in the van , only that Roy said this morning at breakfast, “It wasn’t as bad as you think, It was worse!”
Now the minor inconvenience for us, was the van that stayed behind had our luggage. You can only turn your underwear inside out once, so last night, I washed in the sink with soap and dried it (mostly) with the hairdryer. Now Jerry, Roy and others are with us, the Corvette is ready to roll and we have clean clothes, shampoo, deodorant, razor, toothbrush and all the conveniences of home! Well, sort of.
OK, George, you can leave us alone now, we have experienced our day of REALLY bad roads, built our own bridge ramp and muddied ourselves and cars and driven below sea level in a sand storm. How much more do you want?
Tomorrow, Ed will check the oil-bath air cleaner because of all the sand.