Hi all. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for their thoughts, their prayers, and their efforts to find me. I'm now completely safe and out of the affected area completely, in a city called Tianshui in eastern Gansu province.
Right now I'm struggling a bit with the reality of the whole thing. With no electricity and no outside information coming in, I obviously had no information at all the first couple days to give any impression that this was anything more than a local temblor. I had heard that seven people died in some gold mines somewhere, and I knew that some landslides had blocked the roads and so for the first two days that was all I knew. Some kind Muslim people took me in and let me stay in their restaurant, and generally life went on pretty much as normal, just quieter. The third day, I heard the roads had opened up north, so I decided to make a move for it, figuring I'd be out of the affected zone within a couple hours. A few hours into that ride, I met some English speakers and learned that it was a magnitude 7.8 that decimated some towns to the south. Since then, it's been mostly biking as far as I could each day, and slowly picking up more and more information. Last night I finally got to a town with electricity and was able to see some of the images on Chinese news, but it isn't until right now that I've been able to really read and see what has been going on.
I think it was the day before yesterday that I heard that the epicenter was a place called Wenchuan, and it was totally destroyed, wiped from the planet. Looking at my map, I realized I had stayed the night in that town on 5/5. For a quick second, that stupid feeling of self-whatever that just comes as a matter of being so closely associated with something so huge. Then a second later, a long, base, barfy feeling that still hasn't gone away. The laoban at the noodle shop that absolutely refused to let me order the "regular" beer -- only premium for his special guest. The elementary schoolers that were trying and trying to speak to me in English but I simply couldn't understand no matter how much I tried. The old ladies line dancing in the town square. The girl at hotel reception that spoke so clearly that I almost understood what she said, but always 10% faster than I could keep up with and always in paragraphs instead of sentences so that I would only catch the first few words and then fall hopelessly behind, and when I asked her to repeat herself, would say the exact same paragraph at the exact same speed such that it may as well have been a recording. The other girl that came to our rescue and blithely translated everything for us and then disappeared just as quickly as she had come. Well, who knows. Maybe, hopefully, they all somehow were among the survivors. I really can't think about it much anymore.
Perhaps fittingly, in all of this, I've had by far the best three days of biking that I've had the entire trip. The weather, the scenery, the roads, have all been beautiful.
Anyway, from here, I'm just gonna take a couple days to rest and regroup. Definitely need the rest after going over 10 hours / day the last three days. And as far as regrouping, eh, I've learned just to hope for the best for the faces I remember, and that has helped a lot. And then, just press on, likely to Ningxia in a couple days and then start heading east toward Beijing.
Thanks again for everyone's support.