While I was in Shangri-la, I met two people who knew each other from Shanghai and we traveled together for the last few days. One is Rachid, an ethnically Moroccan Muslim who lives in Amsterdam. The other is Lizzie, a really pretty girl who goes to Yale and is in Shanghai this summer interning at a gay rights organization. (Coincidentally, one of Lizzie's roommates this upcoming year is the daughter of the guy who made the video I learned to juggle from. Weird.)
We had a whole day in Lijiang together before they went back to Shanghai and I moved on to another city around here. We decided that we would bike to a nearby town, Baisha. Lonely Planet, the best travel guide ever, is usually accurate, but we knew that it was not an "easy 15-20 minute" bike ride there. Lizzie and Rachid had already been and told me that it was more like twice that.
The first challenge was getting out of town. Lijiang's streets in the old city all look the same, and they have practically no street signs once you get to the new part of town. There were about five street signs in the entire city (which I think we covered by bike several times before we found the right way), and I took a picture of each of them, because they had the standard Chinese characters and pinyin pronunciation, but the signs also had Naxi at the top, the only living pictographic language.
Once we were definitely biking toward Baisha, Rachid fell behind and called us a few minutes later to say that he was going to stay there because the guy he met said there was about to be a bull fight. Lizzie and I couldn't make sense of that and kept going, but Rachid showed us pictures later of the bull fight and I'm a little disappointed I missed it.
Lizzie and I had enough excitement on our own, though. Halfway there, her bike broke. I knew when we were renting our bikes that they weren't in the best condition, but I didn't expect the crankshaft to fall off. Obviously we didn't have the tools to screw it back in, so after we tried to force it on a few times and have her ride it like that, we gave up and hailed passing vehicles.
A minivan stopped and we explained the situation, mostly by holding up the pedal and crankshaft. The guy told us in Chinese, "You can't fit the bike in here, but I can take the girl and then you can just bike while guiding the other one." So Lizzie hopped in the van, I navigated my bike with one hand and hers with my other, and away we went (Lizzie in the van at a much faster pace than me).
Twenty minutes later, I approached the intersection to Baisha where Lizzie was chilling by the side of the road taking pictures of my sweaty effort.
We walked our bikes the rest of the way, ate lunch in the village while her bike was being repaired, and then slowly started back. We lost the way several more times before we arrived back at the hostel. I was unsurprisingly sunburned and grouchy, but we had done it. We had biked to Baisha. Lizzie's bike was returned without charge.