Today began with many sleepy people at breakfast. Turns out most of us were up around 2am with some not able to get back to sleep. Once breakfast was done some of the riders took off for a ride. Mike K and I took the rest to a gym down the street for a workout. Thankfully we found some help at the hotel in the form of Peter. He walked down the street and assisted us with finding the gym and setting up an account.
Supposedly the gym was only one block away, which it was, but we never would have found it on our own. We had to walk around a building, take an elevator to the 16th floor, walk down four sets of hallways and then up a secret set of stairs. Once we located the gym Mike, Peter and I tried to work out an arrangement for the riders. This is a private gym with annual memberships and they don’t get walk in requests. Thus we had to deal with six people involved in the gym before working out a price for the riders. The whole time Mike is trying to explain that they are the US National Team and that one of them was the current World Champion. He’s also trying to make sure he can receive a receipt which they just didn’t understand.
Peter got them to commit to 130 RMB each (about $18) for the two hour work out. We mentioned that the riders might want to come back a couple more times and squeezed them for 100 RMB per person per time. Then there was the paperwork and trying to explain that we did not want to pay for all three visits for every rider on that day, that we wanted to pay each time they came. Some of the riders mentioned that this would probably be the only time they came but we weren’t going to tell them that as it would affect the price. After about an hour of negotiating and making the initial payments Mike, Peter and I were able to split and leave the riders to their workout. We were told later that the folks at the gym asked them to pose for a picture before leaving.
Mike spent the next little while working on plans for the next couple days while I did some bike work and caught up on some computer time. Then it was off to lunch, more bikes and then our first tourist trip.
We met around 2pm and everyone jumped on the bus ‘cept for Jason who heard that his bike had arrived at the airport. Our bus driver drug us through town, in an air conditioned bus (yeah!) and dropped us off near some side street cafes. Just before we stopped it began to dump rain and some ladies nailed the bus once we stopped. They had umbrellas ready for 10RMB each and we bought a bunch. Not two minutes later the rain stopped. The humidity stayed though and got worse as the day progressed.
The rest of the trip was on foot. One long block later we hit a major intersection just before the “gates to the city”. We crossed the road (underground) while trying to avoid the postcard people, oddball vendors and the folks trying to shove booklets into our hands. After we dropped under another street we ended up next to the gates.
After some photos we walked around a large building and ended up in Tieneman (spelling?) Square. For those of you old enough to remember, this is where the students waged an unsuccessful protest against the Communist Party. Maybe you saw the student standing in front of the army tanks?
From here we hoofed it to the Forbidden City. This required us avoiding kite sellers, more postcard people and kids pooping into bags. Yes, you read that correctly. Most of the young children in this area were wearing shorts with open seams in the back and their parents would hold them over plastic grocery bags when they had to go. This happened right in front of everyone. Okay, so we follow our dogs and pick up their poop with plastic bags. It’s sorta the same thing. I guess diapers aren’t an affordable item here.
A couple more underground passages and we ended up at the front gates.
As soon as we walked through the first gate we were nailed by numerous people who wanted to be our tour guides. One person followed us for half an hour before he finally gave up. We walked past some fancy structures before learning that we hadn’t reached the Forbidden City yet. We found the entrance, learned there was a 60RMB entry fee and made our way toward the door. This was when a lady flashed her credentials to prove she was an official tour guide and that all we had to do was get her a ticket. This was performed and we were on our way.
Inside was beautiful and our guide knew her stuff. She told us about the bricks on the ground, all eleven layers of them. Turns out the emperior was afraid of his enemies tunneling in. She told us about the palace buildings under construction and how they have to be done before the Olympics. She talked about the real gold and jade artwork on the walls, all the large vats (bowls) for holding water in case of fire, the age of each building and which emperor had which building constructed. We saw the thrown, the waiting room, the bedroom, the inner palace guard hall and then found a four star bathroom. I am not kidding, it was rated 4 Star. Compared to most this was awesome: clean with air conditioning, at least on the guys side. The ladies said theirs wasn’t so ‘four star’.
By this point the riders were blown as they had been on their feet for over two hours and most had lost about two pounds in water weight while adding five pounds of water to their clothing. Plus it was time to close and none of us wanted to test what would happen if we stayed longer. Thus we hoofed it at a pretty good clip out of the palace/city. Once we left the gates we seriously got attacked by street vendors. Some had water (I paid 10RMB for mine), some had popsycles, some had postcards and others had watches. These were more aggressive and continually stuffed stuff toward your hands. The watch guy was a good negotiator but was only able to get one rider to bite. He picked up a Rolex (ha ha ha) for 100RMB.
This is when Crystal dropped the bomb. She wanted 30RMB from each person for the tour. Ugh! She did provide a lot of information, heck, she was better than most US tour guides. I just wasn’t expecting to unload so much cash in one day.
Eventually we made it back to the tour bus, after three hours on our feet, and many took naps on the ride. We only had a few near calls which prompted Merlin and I to pay more attention to the road. Most of the cards are under two years old and none of them had any body damage. This surprised us the most as the drivers are crazy here. Plus, there are a lot of French cars: Peugeot, Citroen, Renault.
As we arrived at the hotel we saw Jason getting out of a taxi with his bike bag. He wasn’t happy. Then it was off to a very long dinner (tired people for sure) and then off to the rooms.
Today’s bike work: one chain tension adjustment, two bikes assembled, one bottom bracket overhaul and three tires pumped. Looking for a chain for a rider who needs to replace his funky 1/2 link chain. Oh yes, freak’n Ringle is using 18mm nuts on their rear hubs. 18mm, what the heck…talk about non-standard.
By the way its, the anniversary of Elvis’ death and not a single Elvis sighting or any sign of Elvis mania here.