Its the first morning in Xi’an, pronounced shy-ann or she-on, not quite sure which is correct. I am in a hotel room and my roommate, Blair, is snoring. The light behind the curtain is just starting to creep in and I am wide awake. The world has been turned upside down: its six in the morning but should be six at night, we flew so far north it became south, and forks and spoons have taken the form of chopsticks. This last bit I should have expected but it somehow slipped my mind like the noodles that slipped my grasp at last nights meal.
I thought that the 13 hour flight from Washington to Beijing was going to be the toughest part of the day but it passed without a lot of action. Besides becoming friends with Andrew the flight attendant, walking into an overflowing airplane bathroom, hearing about the girl who sat next to Casey and poked his arm every time he tried falling asleep, and having the two Chinese people on either side of me sharing tips on how to play Angry Birds with each other.
We were breezing through the airport, making great time. Someone from the race directed us to terminal 1 which was a short ten minute bus ride away from terminal 3. Did I mention the 15 bike boxes and 12 other bags we were lugging around on 8 carts?
Terminal 1 was where the troubles began. Firstly, we had to get tickets to Xi’an but the man behind the counter could not find Craven on the flight. Then each bag had to be weighed and checked in and charged 60 yen for each kilo over 20. All the bike boxes were then wheeled/carried to a security check that took at least half an hour because every so often a bag would be flagged for liquids – my pepto bismol and Ty’s honey were spared, but the chain lube was confiscated. Ten minutes later, Craven’s flight was found. He wasn’t on our flight, but one 3 hours later. Everything finally sorted, albeit not to Thomas’ liking, we sat down to a quick dinner of noodles and random meat, went to the gate, said good bye to Craven, and took off. I fell asleep immediately.
We landed in Xi’an and taxied for at least 15 minutes. The same thing happened in Beijing. Why not land on a runway close to your gate? In the case of the airport at Xi’an, there was no gate. We stopped after a while on the runway and got into two buses that took everyone to the terminal where we once again got all our bags and loaded them onto a bus from the race. We then sat and waited for a Swiss team called Atlas to do the same. It was roughly 10:15 pm when we left for the hotel, a full 24 hours and 15 minutes since the flight in Charlotte left for Washington and everyone was cracked. Except Thomas who was just leaving Beijing. I don’t know how he felt.
It had been promised that the hotel was only 20 kilometers away but it was probably closer to 40. Once again, bikes and suitcases had to be unpacked and stowed, the bikes going into the hotel’s underground garage and the suitcases into the lobby. We sat in the lobby for 20 minutes waiting some more as the slow translation process between Brian, the front desk, and a translator from the race found that our reservations didn’t start until the next night…
At some point it just becomes comical. But at midnight, adventures need to go to bed. Room keys in hand, Blair and I proceeded to the 16th floor and to the room. It took a good two minutes to figure out that the room key has to be inserted into a slot by the door to turn on the power in the room. It took another five minutes to figure out the TV, which is still a guessing game. And it took just 30 seconds to find that the wall between the shower and the rest of the room is a window and that a blind separates privacy from baring all. The fun just never stops!
Its finally 7. Breakfast is open. Blair is already talking about his dream where he was eating some pancakes drizzled with blueberry syrup. Sounds like a lovely dream that quickly turns into a nightmare when you find that the utensils have turned into chopsticks!