The Great Ride

In the spring of 2010 Szu-ting Yi and an acquaintance decide to ride motorcycles across China. While her friend was an accomplished rider Szu-ting had never really ridden a motorcycle. To prepare she took a two day motorcycle class and rode around some parking lots in Seattle. She then flew to China to begin retracing two ancient trade routes traveling south to north across the country.

Szu-ting and her riding partner had only met once before and even before getting on their bikes the difference in their personalities caused them to go on their separate ways. I got an email from Szu-ting while guiding a climbing group in Wyoming, “do you want to join me’?

A week later the two of us were bouncing along dirt routes in Yunnan Province, me on the back of our 250cc dirt bike, Szu-ting doing her best to keep it upright. Sometimes being unconsciously incompetent (not knowing what you don’t know) isn’t such a bad thing. We were clueless about everything when it came to motorcycles from how to ride to even simple things like adjusting the choke to start the bike. In Western China almost everyone knows how to ride a bike as they are more common than cars. And here we were with a top of the line Chinese dirt bike and no idea what we were doing.

As a climber the only thing I can relate it to is wanting to climb El Capitan in Yosemite NP, buying all new gear and showing up in the Valley without a clue of how to climb and having to go to ask YOSAR how to put on a harness and tie a figure eight knot.

It was Szu-ting’s journey and she drove all 1,800 miles. I documented the trip with stills and video. We endured 12 hour days on the bike, police checkpoints,  snow storms, multiple motorcycle breakdowns and even a physical confrontation with some unruly locals. But those challenging moments where overshadowed by the amazing people that went out of there way to help us, the diverse and delicious food we sampled, the breathtaking views along the way and the strengthening of Szu-ting and my relationship as a result of having to work hard together to overcome the obstacle in front of us.


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