change of plans and route

i’ve shifted my route north, added a couple hundred kilometers, cut a couple hundred kilometers, but it’s still a month or so of skating plus a week or so of foolin around up there.

originally i planned to skate from chengdu, altitude 400m, straight up into the mountains. this would have been a 250km slog, uphill, from day one, and i would have been ascending pretty fast. actually i am ok at 2000m, dont anticipate and haven’t experienced any problems at this relatively low ‘high altitude.’ but, huffing it on my first days out, that i thought, was pushing my luck.

now i have the chance to meet one musician in the north of sichuan, a place called zoige. when i have a direct contact, arranged through friends, i can get a lot more information and experience than when i go stumbling about on my own, so it makes sense to compensate, to make that contact happen.

this place zoige, is somewhat remote. and i find it interesting, when i looked at the maps and found it, i realized if i were going to bus it to this place, it would be a long, uncomfortable journey in multiple minivans and 4×4 trucks, it would take at least 24 hours to get there from the nearest train. no fun.

skating, however, the place becomes infinitely more accessable! its out on the one road through the grasslands, and arriving form the north, though it will take days longer than the bus rides, it looks like a lovely journey to zoige. i never thought skating would seem easier than bus and truck, but in some ways it is. after a day on the bus, my back and body hurts, after a day skating, i am exhausted, sure, but my body and mind feel great! so, skating it is, to zoige.

my new route is on roads i have much researched, looking at the xining route i first discussed with rob thompson. in fact, our co-conspirator adam colton might well be out on that xining route by the time i get to my start, in linxia. i am hoping we will meet, though its a long shot.


a photo from an excellent, informative website thelandofsnows.com

linxia has one main advantage besides being more directly connected to zoige, and that’s its altitude. linxia is up around 2000m, i will hang around there for two days. i can go visit the nearby buddha statues (i kinda got a thing for stones carved in caves, and especially stones carved in caves carved in mountains in desert places. i always wondered, what possessed the artists to settle manifest their lives’ works, sculpting buddhas in these places?) in the towns near these buddhas i will find hotels and foods and the buddhas themselves will entertain me for a day, i can grab a bus from there to linxia, and plan to have been up at 2000m for two days before i get on my skate.

chilling for the first few days out, say 40 or 50km skating, i’ll get out of the desert and into the prairies, and can give myself a good five days acclimitization before i start pushing it. i’ll be on it at least a week before i hit 3000m, and i will skate around 3-3500 for a week or more before dropping down to 2000 for a bit. afterwards i push up to 3500m, then 4500m. at the high point i have maybe 5 days skating the grasslands before coming down the last 400Km to 1800m, around lugu lake. somewhere in there is an awesome 100Km downhill! yeah!

this new route has a number of high passes on the way, pushing up through the mornings, and riding down again to sleep at relatively lower altitude, which helps acclimatize for going higher and staying there. the new route also lazes a lot further through rolling grasslands at 3000m, maybe 400km further, which is very attractive.


another photo from thelandofsnows.com

as well, i should pass through an area where both mongolian and tibetan nomads herd their sheep and yaks, and i am very curious to check out their various dwellings. tents and yurts are a much more fluid architecture in the landscape, but architecture nonetheless, and if i could even catch some mongolian horse-head fiddling, that would be the cat’s meow, or, the horse’s fiddle, whatever.

the route has changed somewhat, starting from farther north and higher up, but it should be a healthier plan for me. it gives me time to work it to the really high altitude roads, south of litang, were there’ll be less oxygen, more cold, and likely a good wind (it always seems to blow in my face, and never at my back.) by the time i get there, i should be fit and in my stride.

one would think, after some days doing this ‘skate all day, every day’ thang, one would start to get exhausted and slow down. suprise, suprise! i have found i am only really skating at my peak once i have been out on the road for nearly 2 weeks, then i can push 80km+ per day, the ups and downs have become routine. after really getting adjusted to the altitude, my on-the-road diet, the rythm of mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights out in the middle of nowhere with my skateboard and my camp gear, i am good to go.

out in the middle of nowhere, that’s really where this route will take me. awesome!

september trek: on a coffee high

out on the road, the most difficult thing so far has been for me, having to drink instant coffee. passing through a tourist town, i can tank up on espressos and cappuchinos, but in between, soluble not-coffee not-milk powder packets it is. but instant coffee, while providing the basic brown water experience, doesn’t fulfill the emotional criteria for a good coffee. its preparation lacks ritual, lacks audio-visual accents, its taste and caffeine effect are unfulfilling, and i find myself going through the motions of preparing and drinking coffee, without that all important [sip] and ‘ahhhhhh…’ feeling.

you see, i am a coffee head, not just hooked on caffeine jolts several times a day, but embroiled for much of my life in the experience of coffee, it’s different forms and styles, the shamanic act of its preparation, the solitude or community of its consumption, and of course the ‘coffee high’ effect on mind and body, and on life experience itself.


coffee and tea, my warring states

i enjoy drinking tea, to be fair, black and red and green and white; i live in china after all, where tea is king, or emperor. coffee is a foreign devil here. i have even taken the occasional habit of drinking a nice tasty cup of hot water. in my private world, however, coffee reigns, specifically italian moka and bar espresso, and i’ve been adventuring my way recently, high up in the mountains on my longboard, without it.

that’s going to change, and my next trip is a concept piece, ‘coffee high’. i am skating again, on a 2000km trek up to the grasslands near the top of the world, in amdo and kham tibet, gansu and sichuan china.


View Linxia to Lijiang, Amdo Kham Tibet 2000Km in a larger map

this time, i am taking with me my favorite (available) italian beans, cafe molinari gold, and a bialetti moka express pot. skating, camping, experiencing (i hope) the local music and song, and checking out the nomads and yaks, those are my personal goals, but the star of the documentary film i am making, will be my coffee, the where, when, how, and why of a coffee high in the eastern himalaya.


my new starlet, she’ll do ANYthing to be in my film

so coffee it will be, and a fine one at that. i invite you all to join me on this little journey: 40 days and 40 nights on the road, up above the world as we urban dwellers know it, far out on the edge of extreme sport and alhletic endurance, skating, camping, experiencing, drinking coffee. i’ve got a travel brewing.


in a supporting role, this fancy hand grinder


a concrete poem, revisited from five years ago

this trip is sponsored by subsonic skateboard company (i will be skating on a new GT foamcore) and supported by buzzed precision trucks (i’ll be riding buzzed, v2 downhill/freeride trucks), and by xwing.cn, as well as by my wife and parents. thanks everyone for helping make it happen!