T-5: Beginning with some Background - Me China Red - CycleBlaze

March 11, 2021

T-5: Beginning with some Background

Today I turned 40.

According to my original plans, I was supposed to have a blowout amazing birthday party in Amsterdam where I and friends that I have collected from all over the planet would partake of a great quantity of a great many substances that many of us cannot currently legally partake of in the countries where we reside.

Called "Amsterdamage" (I know, so original) it would also be the start of the greatest bike trip ever - biking from Amsterdam back to Haikou, crossing Russia and Mongolia and, other than a chunk in the middle where I would have to fly back to China to renew my residence permit (during which time I would take the opportunity to attend DragonBurn near Shanghai), was going to be almost entirely biking.

Since those plans were made, things have changed.

Other than finding out that the guy who was the whole reason for the detour through Mongolia died in a car accident a few years back (which explains why his Facebook is nothing but spam for fake sunglasses) or the whole Covid mess that means I might not be traveling internationally for another year or more, I was pressured by a friend into starting a Chinese TikTok account for my last tour "My China Blues".

Our conversation over beers went something like this:

Him: "You should start a TikTok"
Me: "No, TikTok is stupid."
Him: "I bet lots of people would be interested in the places you go and the sort of content you post on your Moments."
Me: "No it wouldn't. TikTok is stupid. And I hate taking videos."
Him: "You'd be internet famous."
Me: "No."
Him: I'm now going to explain to you in detail all the tangible benefits you would get and why everyone will love you.
Me: "I don't want to."
Him: More well thought out logical reasoning.
Me: "Did anyone ever tell you you're a shit friend?"

My first million view video happened on my 16th day on the platform; five days later, a person who saw one of my videos while it was still new enough for me to be nearby came specifically looking for me to bring me a bottle of boiled spring water from his fridge; I hit 10,000 subscribers (TikTok calls them fans) around day 35; and, my account wasn't even four months old yet when a news show's fair use quoted video of mine (which they also had permission to be using) hit Top Twenty Trending Videos in China ... for fourteen hours.

With 'only' 31,000 followers, I'm squarely in the camp of not actually being very famous. In influencer terms (and I just want to state that, whether or not I am an 'influencer', I think its a dreadful term and I don't like referring to myself as one)--and especially in Chinese influencer terms--31,000 followers is fuck all. Compared to the two or three hundred most normal people manage to eke out though, it's a lot.

Also, what with going up in numbers as fast as I've gone up, I'm already being courted by Real Media Companies as an "up and coming influencer" who they can be the middleman for in terms of finding companies that will pay me to do things.

Which is why, in five days, I'm flying to Xi'An for my next tour. Because a rural travel and adventure tourism company who will be putting a 1 to 1.5 second bumper on the end of all my videos is giving me a small per diem to go off and do whatever the hell I want on my bike so long as I post at least one video per day.

And I've decided what I want to do is bike to Beijing.

Except that I'm rather allergic to the concept of "traveling in a straight line" and there's some stuff from 2012 that I didn't revisit on 2018's tour to specifically revisit stuff from 2012; and, I never did make it to Tianshui last year the way I planned. As a result, I've taken what should be 1,073km by car or 1,087km by bike and come up with something which is ... oh, gosh ... 5,300km.

I still have to stop the trip on April 28th, leave the bike and gear somewhere safe, and fly back to Hainan for a month to handle renewing my residence permit, but ... fuck Covid, I'm going to go on a trip at least as epic as Amsterdamage was supposed to be.

The rough theme of the trip is Buddhist Grottoes. This is because, in my early planning stages (of all of about two or three weeks ago), I noticed that my potential route could manage to hit up the Longmen Grottoes and that place I tried to visit in Ningxia in 2018 but couldn't because there had been a landslide. There's also a temple which I failed to visit in both 2012 and 2018 (because sunset was coming) which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

However, since last year was "My China Blues", I'm going with "Red" for the title of the journal, not because of "Red China" or anything like that but because the Chinese word for something or someone who is hot on the internet is 网红 (Online Red) and, much as I am having to come to terms with the weirdness of it, I am a 网红. 

My map (seen below) is a bit jankier than usual as Google Maps has decided at some time within the past few months that I can no longer drag route lines on maps within China other than with specific intermediate points. I hope this isn't a trend as it remains the best overall mapping tool for early planning and my map has the past 13 years of touring info on it.

Standard disclaimer that the multi-layered map with vast quantities of information is available on GoogleMaps (link in text above)
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