electric vehicle 80-Days around the world race
By Don Christian
I just got Upgraded to the Muslim floor of the hotel in Urumqi.
It's the top tier.
This floor is Cleaner than the hotel's ordinary Chinese Han floors. It's "Uyghur-riffic". Decked out with geometric figure patterns and LED -lit. Pictures of ancient camel caravans.
The bathroom faucet is a replica of Aladdin's Lamp. I'm not joking. Signs everywhere written in Arabic.
Amazingly stereotypical. Gaudy. Overdone.
So I'm "moving on up". To the Mecca side.
I can't make this stuff up, and it's too implausible to be true.
So here's a photo to prove it.
The whole city stinks. And the water is not safe to drink. I must rinse my toothbrush with bottled water. I think this hotel caters to the oil industry. Or it used to. That industry is in ruins right now. The hotel is less than half occupied. I arrived before the EV rally entourage got here. Will Meet up with them when they arrive tomorrow. I hope.
Splicing Wiring into an old Soviet concrete building system. Our EV caravan is moving northward out of western China through Kazakhstan. Almost to the Russian border. We are opportunistically tapping the electric power in villages and at points along the vast empty highways.
This electrical panel door was located in the pits under the service bay. The door was rusted shut, it hadn't been opened in ~40 years. This is a safety feature. To keep out the Amerikansky Riff Raff.
Originally Built to the worlds best 1952 Stalin building codes. Between the cosmonaut landing region the nuke test region.
"Eez Withstanding many shocks from nearby hydrogen bomb Kazakh nuclear testing. 1950 - 1980. Is Built to last thousand year".
Can you read any Russian Cyrillic at all? It has always been utterly opaque to me. Completely unknown and unintelligible. It's all Greek to me :)
Now after a few days of driving from In Russia (Siberia to Moscow), a few small bits are starting to become recognizable. This is Mostly indirect and inferential. Through a hazy memory of Math letters, Acquired from algebra, trig and calculus classes.
For many words it's a simple letter by letter substitution from Latin to Greek. One by one letter by letter, direct letter substitutes.
Therefore this photo obviously says "Burger King"
But One common sign is very mysterious: "cton". It's everywhere, in all the streets. Can anyone tell me what cton means ?
People have been really kind and wonderful to us all along. Mostly.
We have gone WAY off the beaten path. Absolutely no tourists here. And we must scrounge for EV electricity. Sort of like gypsy begging. Asking for a handout.
So we meet many local people that have zero experience with English. They are shy or naturally afraid. After we get permission to charge, we have some time. So I break out my guitar and play and smile. Pretty soon they're asking questions in fumbling English. I point to the map on the hood of one of our cars. Point and grunt. Sometimes I draw cartoons. And we have a fine and honest conversation. No propaganda.
Always starting with automobiles. And travel. Many want to know what it's like to drive across China and the border with Kazakhistan. Sometimes they ask questions about politics. Sometimes international relations.
This certainly dispels a lot of the fear that comes from reading news stories.
Ive used Mark Twain's classic line several times on this trip:
"if you don't read the paper then you are Uninformed. If you do read the paper you are misinformed."
We met a journalist in Moscow. 2 years ago, She had some important TV job - editorial and maybe like a news anchor. She quit the job and now works for the electric utility in public relations. Why did she quit? She told us that she was being politically pressures to publish lies about the situation with Ukraine. You know, the war there.
I'm amazed that she would tell us this story. She seems completely honest. This speaks well about Russia's current modernization progress.
She seems to be doing well now. Nobody's coming after her.
I was friendly with her 6-year old son. I showed him how to hook up an EV for charging as the Chinese TV cameras filmed it. He spoke no English. We hammed it up- but only a little. Ha.
PS. The landscape has changed. Now it resembles the rolling hills of Kentucky. The Ural border between Asia and Europe was just like western Pennsylvania.
Now it's Still largely 2 lane highway, but the pavement is much better. It's like US 41 through central Tennessee in the 1960s. Or today.
Crazy aggressive and poor drivers are out in force today.
But it's good to finally be in a country that has road signs written with the Latin alphabet. Not Cyrillic. Not Kazakh or Russian or Ukranian.
Not bilingual Arabic and Chinese, like the signs back in PRC Communist Uyghurstan (American peasants in Obamastan call it "China").
Also Google Maps works here (in those places that have cell phone coverage). The Google Maps even label city names using Latin letters.
It is impossible to transcribe a Ukranian street address or city name. I can't say the names, or write them, or remember them.
It was like being blind, deaf, and illiterate. Totally helpless. Reduced to point-and-grunt.
Trying to navigate a car through medaeval streets with unfamiliar maps between cities with jibberish names.
We are also now inside the EU. That brings civilization. And better roads.
Wow, What a relief.
Uh-oh. We just got stopped by a Romanian police cruiser.
A blue-and-white compact "Dacia" 4-cylinder cruiser intercepted our Tesla.
They stopped us In a tiny village, only 5 houses and no stores. It's not really a village, it's much smaller than Mayberry.
The police car was oncoming in the opposite lane on the 2 lane highway. The moment he saw us, he turned on his flashers and sirens.
Then he made a 5 point turn-around on the narrow 2 lane blacktop to pursue our Tesla.
We thought he was responding some other emergency, unrelated to traffic. But we stopped anyway as he made his clumsy turnaround. Out of courtesy.
As the flashing cop car blocked the entire road, cars going both ways began to queue up waiting. A little traffic jam on the highway, in both directions.
We watched to see what would he would do next. What's happening?
They pulled up behind our car and stopped. Two policeman stepped out of the dinky blinky cop car. Wearing blue official police hats and fluorescent yellow vests. No machine guns were visible. Concealed carry perhaps? They and swaggered up to our Tesla from behind.
We reckoned that maybe this would be like our police stop in downtown Moscow. A quick Papers-check only.
One cop jabbered a bit in Romanian. No comprende Senor.
Then in English he simply said "speeding". They all carry mobile speed radar here.
Alan had been driving carefully at 80 kph, the normal posted limit. He was carefully following the traffic pattern.
No funny business. No Tesla autopilot. No speeding.
The policeman said the speed limit in villages is reduced to 60 kph. Any village. But it's not clear what constitutes a village. I guess you have to be a local to know.
The cops gave us No ticket. No fine. Just a friendly warning.
He was very courteous. No chit chat, all business.
Fortunately, no traffic school where we must spend hours guessing on a cryptic Romanian website.
That was back before Romania joined the EU.
In the villages we see old women dressed up in gypsy costumes.
They look like characters from an old Wolfman horror movie. Are they serious? Have I watched too many old Hollywood movies?
Wikipedia says 3.3 percent of the population here is ethnic Gypsies.
The recognized ethnic class is "Roma", which is very different from "Romanian"
Jeez, these ladies in the villages look like carnival fortune tellers.
They appear to be pretty rough too. They have a look that reminds me of ferrel animals.
Most walk or sit on the grass at the side of the road. Some are begging. The begging children are most visible.
One lady was pushing a big baby-buggy with a skinny crippled teenager inside. Legs akimbo. At a red light, walking back and forth in the lanes between stopped traffic in town. Walking between the cars, begging. Both the mom and her kid were moaning unintelligible - maybe "give money, please"
If we go too far, then our Tesla becomes a concrete sled. On the high-voltage battery.
All Tesla drivers Pay Attention please! Road edge is not marked!
This turns driving into a continuous test of skill. With a Zero Tolerance policy for offenders who wish to test the Law of Gravity.
There is continuous "ditch suction" here, too.
Very Narrow lanes. Almost wide enough for a car.
When a big truck passes, cars going in in both directions must allow room for it to squeeze by.
Note the cracked concrete pilings on the right. Each little driveway has these concrete walls.
Bridging the 1-meter ditch.
Each worn concrete wall tells a story about multiple automotive miscalculations in the past.
Crazy drivers pass closely on the left. Zoom, zoom.
We are driving back out in the countryside now. The temperature is pleasant.
We just passed the "Motel Dracula". No joke. It passed too quickly to snap a photo.
It was out in the middle of nowhere. Farmland and spotty trees.
In Romanian I think it said "Complimentary bouquet of garlic cloves and Gideon Bible in every room?".
With proprietors Normieu Batescu and Madre.
I'd like to reserve the Psycho suite, please. With a wooden lid on every bed.
"Last week Moscow accused Ukraine of attempting a terrorist attack in Crimea, alleging that a firefight took place on Aug 7 and 8 between a supposed team of infiltrators and border guards of the FSB, Russia’s internal security service. The details of the incident remain murky. It was clear that something had happened when Russia closed a key crossing point on the peninsula early last week, internet providers blocked web access in northern Crimea, and rumors swirled of military movements as a state of emergency was imposed by security services."
I just forwarded this news report to Team Switzerland 2, currently in Vladimir Oblast.
I asked them to stay alert and be careful when they cross into Ukraine.
The border was peaceful when we crossed.