A trip to the countryside riding in a convoy of Chang Jiang 750 motorbikes with sidecars? Been there, done that.
Recently, we were enticed by a weekend of motorbiking and sightseeing in a “class AAAAA popular North China tourist attraction” in Hebei. It was all expenses paid, and we were accompanied by the owner of the motorcycle rental agency, an English-speaking tour guide, and the owner’s trusty driver and repair guy.
Our Chang Jiang motorcycle was primed for the 160km drive; all registration papers were in order, we had a full tank of gas, and a GPS installed was installed on the bike. We had three helmets: one for my husband (the driver), one for our 9-year-old son who would sit in the jump seat, and one for me – a certified hater of the outdoors and anything remotely uncomfortable.
During the four-hour trip, I would attempt to alleviate the soreness in my behind and my legs by shifting into all sorts of seating positions. We were whipped by the wind, singed by the sun, defaced by dust, pelted by pebbles, and pummelled with potholes. Over and over again, sometimes all at once. We zipped through the aforementioned tourist attraction in 20 hours. More often than not, it felt like we (our family and a German guy) were the tourist attractions.
We found a more scenic route for the ride back, but got lost twice in the process and covered only half the distance in the same amount of time it took us to reach our destination.
As if that weren’t enough, we were pulled over by local police near the Hebei-Beijing border. We were told that there was a problem with our registration papers because the bike had been repainted by the previous owner. With a poker face, our motorbike lady gave the police a modest “tip” for each of our offenses: one for our repainted bike, and one for the German guy driving his motorbike without a valid Chinese license. Yep, you know the drill.
We were utterly surprised to be pulled over a second time a little farther. This time, we didn’t get off so easily and had to go to the police station. We were made to hand over our motorbike keys while all the papers were being verified. However, we were overcome with relief when the policemen decided to ignore the three Filipinos and German in favor of cracking down on the two locals for illegal business practices.
We waited outside the police station for two hours while our guides sorted out their predicament. Eventually, we learned that the guides would have to pay over RMB 2,000 in fines per motorbike to have the vehicles released.
Our family continued the ride home unaccompanied; the guides and the German guy stayed behind to complete the paperwork, and my husband had a plane to catch. I tried not to lose my mind as we spent more and more time in traffic. By the time we got home, I realized to my horror that we had taken nine hours in total.
After calming down, scrubbing myself clean, and putting some food in my belly, I realized that the reason the locals weren’t let go was because they were using fake license plates for a touring business they’d been running for seven years.
My husband admitted to keeping the real reason for their legal troubles a secret until we got home; I was livid, but thankful that he’d waited to tell me. He then asked, ever so sheepishly, whether I’d be up for another motorbike ride again soon? No, dear. You can bet your saddle-addled backside that I’m not having any more of that.
Photo by Dana Cosio-Mercado
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.