Another wonderful day walking our way north through Gansu. We are closing in on Jiayuguan, and our second border run. Our day started with a standard breakfast of Beef Noodle (牛肉面加肉) and a somewhat early start at 10 am—our recent starting times have been closer to noon than daybreak. The first half of our day the roads were lined with poplar and cottonwoods planted as windbreaks. They were left behind as we continued into a barren expanse foreshadowing the end of the corridor and the deserts beyond. The day was bright and blue with little wind and a very welcome warmth from the abundant sunshine. We also walked past a seemingly excessive amount of power lines and multiple converging railroads.
Our walking pace has increased as of late, and our legs and feet are feeling good (mostly, Timb is still enduring an old injury in the top of his right foot). But today I learned a lesson that seems to be quite fundamental and one that I have learned several other times before; it just hasn’t seemed to stick. The importance of sleep. As I walked, I zoned out on the surroundings and comfortable environment that was so welcoming after the last few nights of restless sleep. I’m not sure why I haven’t been sleeping well. Maybe it’s Paul’s and Timb’s dreamy game of catch as they seamlessly pass a raucous snore back and forth or maybe it’s the hard and lumpy beds I unluckily end up with, or maybe it’s because I spend far too much time staring at screens before bed. But it’s definitely not the fact that I’ve been drinking too much coffee late in the day to keep sharp rather than slipping into the fog and grog of fatigue. Either way, these are things I am more than capable of dealing with, and I’ve been choosing not to, so I have no one to blame but myself. Anyway, here is a short account of the ridiculousness that sleepy minds rationalize and get us into silly and sometimes dangerous situations—don’t worry, Mom, this is a silly one not a dangerous one.
During dinner today I fell asleep at the table. Shortly after we were walking down the road (after dark, which has become a norm since we can add several kilometers to our day—with the use of red flashing bicycle lights, of course) when we came upon a truck stop that I investigated. I did not see the huge, red Chinese characters of food dishes available within nor did I notice they had rooms off to one side—the building was not big; a little more than a single room establishment in the middle of nowhere. I reported to Paul and Timb there was nothing there and it appeared to be an office with a large parking lot that must have been the main attraction for road-weary drivers. We kept walking, but not far. Just far enough to be out of earshot of the tirelessly barking dogs. Here, I requested we post up for the night and began setting up my tent. Paul and Timb who expressed were not tired but understood my need for a good night’s sleep agreed to stay the night and went back to the truck stop to ask for a place to hang out indoors and watch a movie since it was only seven o’clock. Meanwhile I set up my tent and nestled myself in for a long winter’s rest. Almost immediately after I had finished I received a message from Paul saying the truck stop was a restaurant hotel combo. ~sigh~ I irrationally said I was already set up and preferred to stay put and we would just meet up in the morning, which in my sleep-deprived state of mind seemed like a great idea. I awoke to a poorly setup tent that was almost suffocating me as it sagged over my face, broke down “camp”, and went to meet Timb and Paul to write this journal in the warmth of the restaurant owned and operated by a very welcoming dude who insisted breakfast was on-the-house and proceeded to tell the drivers that came and went about us and our journey.
Distance: 24 km
End: Pat—Camp, Paul & Timb—warm beds at a truck stop restaurant somewhere between Xinhua Zhen (新华镇) and Qingshui Zhen (清水镇)
Written by Pat