I hit a huge rocky dirt rivet in the trail and bounce right off Pandemic my magic bicycle’s seat and land on the solid steel cross bar. I think I just gave myself an episiodomy. I immediately stick my hand down my throbbing pants to check for blood. I am grateful I haven’t seen anybody for a few days and can only imagine what they would think of this strange white woman alone in the desert on a bicycle with her hand down her pants. There isn’t any blood but I am fairly certain I have rendered myself infertile. I am cycling out of the Gobi desert, Mongolia into China. My 2 month visa time is ticking away like rosary beads at a prayer ritual.
By that afternoon I am sitting on the sandy floor of the Gobi desert, my bicycle wheel laid out in pieces. I am concerned about the tube part that appears to have been hit again by an array of machine gun shrapnel. I am at least 80 kilometers lost or I think I am lost. The hardened clay labyrinth trails are like cycling through a bowl of spaghetti. I have been picking a path in the spaghetti maze and taking it with confidence, that all of these sandy hardened clay “roads” will eventually lead south to China.
I am thirsty and repairing yet another puncture, each puncture gasps for air as it leaks through multiple stab wounds. I am scrapping the bottom of the barrel of my trusty patch kit and the spare tube is holier than a preacher at the pulpit on Sunday morning. Each full patch, I cut with my nail clippers into two or three tiny patches. I begin to examine the 7 fresh holes in the tube and patch each one with a freshly cut, tiny jagged edged patch and a whole lot of glue. I inspect the tire for the cause of this multiple stab wound puncturing madness out here on the semi-arid desert floor. The villainous culprit is a tiny coral looking fraggle rock with hair of sharp rocky thorns. The wind is at a constant howl and the tiny thorny fraggle rocks appear to blow with ease and loiter in crowds on the hardened clay “roads”.
As I reassemble the wheel and pack up the trusty patch kit I sit back and get stabbed with a sharp rocketing pain. The final puncture of the day has been to my gluteus maximus. I quickly stand up and pluck the fraggle rock out from my right butt cheek
After 6 more days of cycling, I cross the Mongolian/Chinese border and I find myself sleeping in my sleeping bag on my belly, bottoms up. Each evening and morning in the tent I touch the growing bump which I have named Helen. Helen has taken over ½ of my buttocks. Half Ass Helen is named after Mount Saint Helen the volcano in the pacific northwest region of America. Half Ass Helen has a cone shaped top and is increasing in painful pressure and is threatening to erupt. I don’t have a mirror so I can’t see her and can only touch her with a dirty finger. Half Ass Helen’s location is a bit of a mystery. I have antibacterial hand wash so I have been rubbing that on Half Ass Helen since her debut to the center stage of my butt crack sometime last week.
I stand up and peddle for 30 kilometers(22miles) and then push Pandemic the magic bicycle in the dark another 15 kilometers(10miles) towards the street lights of the town of Sonid Youqi in Inner Mongolia, China to contemplate the impending eruption going on inside my pants. After another night of bottoms up, I wake and push Pandemic the concerned magic bicycle to the town center in search of a bus. Hohott, the region’s capital and a computer are about a 2 hour drive away. Hohott would have medical supplies, a mirror and a computer so I could contact an ex-boyfriend who is a doctor in America. An old friend that likes to laugh at the predicaments I get myself into then helps me sort them out. Half Ass Helen the volcanic butt wound will not disappoint the doctor.
The bus terminal is bustling with activity but I am denied a bus ticket to Hohott. Perhaps there isn’t a bus or perhaps they won’t accept magic bicycles. I don’t speak Chinese so I am not sure which. Therefore, I do something I am normally very opposed to doing and start acting like a rich tourist.
White tourists in Asia have the reputation for being very affluent. I have never related to this image much. I subside on a meager diet, always travel on a budget of limited means and share or trade what I do have with those around me. But the seismic activity brewing in my pants makes this a special occasion. I take out my Chinese map and 200 yen (about $37) and bring Pandemic over to a taxi. I point to the map, the bicycle and the money. The taxi driver just shakes his hand at me, which is Chinese for no, no, no.
A man standing in the center of the bus terminal courtyard notices what I was doing and comes over. I show him the map, the bicycle and the money. He smiles and takes Pandemic over to the trunk (boot) of his car. Pandemic even without her wheels won’t fit into the trunk. His friend comes over and picks up Pandemic and her wheels and tries to fit them into his trunk. And then his friend and his friend and his friend repeat the same effort. But Pandemic the stubborn magic bicycle will not give an inch. Asking a whole bunch of men lingering at a bus terminal in China, to fit a bicycle into a trunk of car could be a sitcom all of its own. China is a country where the ratio of bicycles to people is 10:1 and each of those people has a PhD in bicycle.
A caucus of dissertations and head scratching debates fills the courtyard as Pandemic the magic bicycle floats from one trunk to the next to the next splattering her sandy Gobi remnants across the courtyard. Eventually, as a result of a lengthy seven way debate, someone points to Pandemic’s back rack and motions for me to remove it. I have the allen key tool in my pocket but I am enjoying the how many clowns can you fit into VW bug circus act far too much to do anything about the rack at the moment.
A woman shimmies through the testosterone filled circus and grabs hold of my arm; she is waving her cell phone. She presses the cell phone up to my ear. She had called her English speaking friend and wants to invite me in to her café for free Chinese dumplings and she wants me to have a nice visit to China. She motions for me to leave the courtyard circus and the bicycle which is in view of the café window. I sit like a geriatric patient on my left butt cheek and have a nice visit via cell phone translations over dumplings and tea.
I return to the court yard of circus bicycle engineers and remove the carrying rack from Pandemic’s bicycle frame. The driver has won the prize at the circus and fit a square through a round hole and gotten Pandemic to fit into the trunk, a puzzling success. I stand on my feet for 2 1/2 hours while squatting in the back seat of the VW jetta. We rush towards Hohott, the regional capital. Half Ass Helen is about to erupt, hot pusy lava is gathering pressure and heat in explosive anticipation.
Half Ass Helen erupts for three long days burping out red puss and blood on a rhythmic hourly schedule while I lay around on top of a towel in a sterile hotel room. Helen doesn’t ground any planes or anything; however, the volcanic shaped cone blows her top and exposes a deep canyon lake, an abyss large enough for antiseptics. The lake has since dried up, the abyss has healed and all that remains of Half Ass Helen the volcanic abscessed butt wound is a scar the size of coin and a story to tell.