We encountered a small bump in the road on the way to the Great Wall
this past Sunday. There was a construction project that was underway,
still-to-be-sorted out, and a mound of dirt and rock was left,
uncollected, in our path.
Nothing alerted us to the situation awaiting, but we’re used to
Beltway bind-ups. The weekend holiday traffic out of Beijing rolled
along smoothly until we hit the exurbs of the development around the
Great Wall, about 40 minutes outside of Beijing’s second Ring Road
(“Chinese Beltway”). We were heading along at a nice clip when suddenly
the two-way, four-lane highway clogged up and everything stopped. Our
tour guide Doan assured us that it was temporary and that we would make
our destination about 11:30.
Creative drivers quickly made use of the nearly-empty opposite lanes
until the traffic infarction filled the road from shoulder to shoulder.
We would be moving shortly, but we weren’t in any real hurry.
What we didn’t know was that road development was underway on
HuaiHuang Highway. Dirt, stones and broken asphalt were parked at a
forked-junction on the road to Qiaozi. There was no way past it or
around it and we weren’t turning back, so it was up and over,
Cars, trucks and other motorized vehicles crowded behind our
Madden-sized motor coach and; we reached the impasse and the driver
tentatively goosed the throttle. Nothing doing. With 60+ folks aboard,
the bus bottomed out and came to a firm halt.
WATCH the VIDEO
“Abandon Ship!” came the call. We piled out, all in good cheer. Not
to take anything away from the rest of the day, but it did turn out to
be a pivot point of sorts. We had been enjoying a fantastic visit thus
far, without any visible hiccups (unbeknownst to us in the general
delegation, anyways). Here was bonding without the gan bei with smiles
William, son of Governor enjoyed getting out of the bus for a while
and here stands with Yifan Zhai, past President of the Chinese
Biopharmaceutical Association (CBA) and Sujuan Ba, COO of the National
Foundation for Cancer Research, also on the CBA’s Board.
Thus unladed, and with a swirl of dirt, the bus moved off the mound
and onto clear road, like an un-beached whale finding purchase in the
We re-boarded with much cheering and exultations and continued on our
way and thus arrived at our lunch destination, The Roadhouse. This
enterprise is tourism with a twist and was the brainchild of a few
Canadians, apparently, that wanted to start a sustainable
The venue is a converted factory and all the food is locally-grown
and procured. It seems like the 60s all over again, but with a business
plan. And The Roadhouse (and sister enterprise The Schoolhouse) strives
to work with the communal force that binds villages together.
We made it to The Wall and all were heroes, although we had only 40
minutes or so to make the trek in either direction. The weather was
fair, so it was shorts-time in the easy heat.
I’m posting for the relaxed and hospitality-based town of St.
(natch) in Talbot County. TC hosts some of the finest environmental
research activities on the Eastern Shore at the National Center for
Coastal Science, Coastal Environmental Health and Bimolecular Research.
and Sujuan Ba
wait for the all-clear order.
The center focuses on the study of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem,
looking for ways to improve the health of the most vibrant systems in
North America. Our friend Peter Gourlay of the Maryland-Asia
Environmental Partnership has worked through the NOAA folks in Talbot
County, knitting together resources that can improve the health of the
watershed and the state.
Off-the-wall: The friendly (and they are friendly, “Ni Hao! Hello!!”)
gauntlet of vendors and craft-sellers put the lean on us as we climb
down. According to our guide at The Schoolhouse (and there’s another
tome), about 70% of the livelihoods of the locals is from selling
T-shirts, clothes, carvings and little Great Wall Replicas. Water, pijiu
and other necessaries, too required on a visit to the Wall.
There are various methods for negotiating a purchase. Some try the
“walk-away” method; some jump into the fray and argue for every yuan.
However, del member George Doub, Attorney with DeHay and Elliston used
the time-honored “I’ll thumb wrestle with you for those silk PJs.”
Needless to say, our vendor friend didn’t have a chance, but was game to
try. I’m not sure how much of a discount you can get with a victory in a
thumb-wrestle match on the Great Wall, but it was fun to watch, as they
Next up, a skip through Seoul and Shenzhen, then a hop to Hanoi.