|Motorcycles were everywhere, and one of the things that
made their presence interesting is that motorcycles are not toys or
discretionary purchases in China (as they usually are in the United
States). People use them, every day, rain or shine.
This is the only country I have ever visited in which I did not see a
single Harley-Davidson. The motorcyclists I talked to knew all about
Harley-Davidson, but none were around.
And how about those ultra-cool retro BMW clones? Actually, they
were not retro designs, like the Harley Softails are over here.
These are motorcycle designs that have been in production, essentially
unchanged, for more than 60 years! I couldn't believe what I was
seeing when I looked at those things. They are magnificent. I
asked what they cost. You motorcycling enthusiasts better sit down
before you read this. Brand new, and depending on the model, they
range from $1,500 to $4,000! Wow! Wouldn't it be great to fly
over there, buy a new one with a sidecar, ride around China for two
months, and just give it away?
Driving in China is, well, different. Friendly chaos is the best
way to describe it. As nearly as I could determine, a double yellow
line means nothing. Our guides routinely passed cars and motorcycles
over double yellow lines, even when there was oncoming traffic. The
general sense of things seems to be that if there is enough room for an
oncoming car to move over without nailing a pedestrian, a bicycle, someone
on a motorcycle, or another car, they just go. The amazing thing is
that other vehicles simply move over to make room, and no one seems to get
mad at anyone else. Blind corners on mountain roads? Hey,
that's what horns are for! Following distances could be measured in
centimeters, not car lengths. Driving that way in southern
California would probably result in lots of obscene gestures and more
than a few bullets flying around. In China, it's just the way things
After my first few moments in Chinese traffic, I expected that every
other building would be an emergency ward or an auto body shop, but I saw
neither, and we saw only two minor fender benders during the entire 12
days we were there. I see that many accidents in southern California
just going to work in the morning!