Shanghai Dreaming?

IMG_2429It’s 4:30—Wake Up…

I press the electronic dimmer for the window from my seat on Air Canada’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I’m on flight 25 and the pilot just announced we’d be landing in Shanghai thirty minutes ahead of schedule. As the window magically brightens we descend through the low lying clouds, water beads dot my window.

I’m  not dreaming. I’m minutes from China and one of the largest cities in the world.

“Has your adventure started?” a friend texts me. “Yes,” I respond. It started in early April when I packed up Doc, my motorcycle, and sent it to China.

Doc arrived here in Shanghai on April 25th. It’s been hanging in purgatory since.


Exploring Vancouver British Columbia

I arrived in Vancouver on May 15th. And until about 13 hours ago, the future of “Doc”, riding any motorcycle in China and this television project has been in question.

I’ve wanted to get to know Vancouver for many years, though didn’t think I’d be forced to wander the city for three weeks in a state of wonder. Not that I wasted time there. I worked with the production crew almost daily discussing strategy, tactics and route options. Late nights spent with our executive producer communicating with China—during its business hours.

And I’ve reconnected with a number of friends, many I haven’t seen in years. Stephen Buckley lived next to me in the “pad of altercation”, as we called it during my days living on Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula. He’s a film animator, having spent more than five years living in New Zealand while working on Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, in Malibu while working for Sony Pictures, and now in Vancouver working for Digital Domain on a number of Hollywood blockbusters.



Connecting with Wolfgang back in Canada years later.


Laughing and sharing as if we’d seen each other yesterday, legendary Stephen Buckley

IMG_9372The last time I was in Vancouver, I was riding “Doc” and on my way to Alaska—on the journey that inspired my book “FORKS”, and on my way through the vast and large province of British Columbia, vibrations from the rough roads caused one of my keys to spin off its keychain. The uniquely German Touratech GPS mount used a very unique key—one that I couldn’t find in the bustling BC city of Prince George.

My only key was lost. No duplicate, no backup. And no exact blank. This was a challenge Anne, a local locksmith, accepted and handled with ease—creating a new key from scratch. While she crafted her magic, I chatted with her partner, Wolfgang. Though I spent just a few hours with Anne and Wolfgang, the connection sustained—through my trip and beyond. I hear from Wolfgang who now lives in Vancouver. We reconnected over great sushi, beer and conversation. Sadly, Anne was sick and couldn’t join us.

Vancouver surprised me again when just the night before my flight, I connected with Johanna, founder of the Travel Eater blog—we connected during my Kickstarter campaign after she wrote a very nice overview of “FORKS.”


It’s wet in Shanghai. News here is there is no way I’m going to see or ride “Doc” in China. Perhaps with a fat bank account and closer connections to government and customs officials I could trim the more than five weeks process it would take to legally temporarily import “Doc”. So we are buying another motorcycle. It will be cheaper and faster, and we can begin filming this show.

“WongDoc” is a 2006 BMW F650GS Dakar, the same as the right, or original, “Doc.” I am on the way to inspect and, if all is in order, pick it up today. While we are waiting for the new license plate, the local BMW dealer in Shanghai will help me service the bike and outfit it the best we can for my Chinese adventure.


Walk With Me Around A Chinese City:

I will replace the stock BMW side panniers with Mosko Moto 35L Backcountry Panniers, soft bags. Sadly, I will not be able to use the best hard luggage in the world, my aluminum Jesse Luggage Odyssey Bags. Thanks to the good folks at Mosko Moto and Happy Trails, I received racks and luggage just yesterday.

The soft-bags will serve me well in China, especially with Mosko’s superb waterproof design with its removable dry bag and compression and expansion features. Mosko panniers can attach to many different soft and hard luggage racks, but the Happy Trails SL racks are custom designed for the F650GS, are light and easy to install. This experience proves to me that every adventure rider should have two sets of panniers in their arsenal: a solid hard bag system like the Jesse, and a soft-bag system such as Mosko’s Discovery.

IMG_9522.JPGI’ve practiced incredible patience over the past three weeks, and I refuse to dip into angry bitterness over the situation. I’m not sure where “Doc” will go next. I’d like to get the bike to Vietnam or Cambodia to use for the next episodes of the show. We are trying to sort through the logistics of moving the bike from the Chinese port. Perhaps later today, I’ll have good news.
In the meantime, I’m happy and ready to roll. I’m inching closer to Shanghai and see the massive modern skyline through the grey mist and haze. I’ll start my adventure there, on foot; Shanghai, like many Chinese cities, forbids motorcycles.

It’s true. I thought by now, I’d be beginning my last week of adventure in China. Feeling a bit shaggy, my first stop might be a Chinese barber and then perhaps a crash course in Mandarin. Shanghai calls, but I’m yearning for the countryside.

7 replies
  1. Wolfgang
    Wolfgang says:

    It was great seeing you again after 10 years and sharing stories !

    Good Luck getting the Chinese Driver’s License….and have a safe trip.

    Remember – according to my observations- any vehicle,that is bigger than your bike has the right of way….no matter what the traffic signs may say…if there are any that is..

  2. Fred Walti
    Fred Walti says:

    Allan – I’m wishing you the best of luck. You’ve evolved the “what’s next?” question into something really interesting and unique. I’m jealous:), but I know how much work you’ve put into this next step and you deserve your shot. I’ll follow your progress with great anticipation. Best regards, Fred

  3. Dave Durst
    Dave Durst says:

    Congratulations A.K. on your latest adventure! Can’t wait to read about it. I wish you all the best and safe, happy travels. Tell us what Chinese food really is!

  4. Bill
    Bill says:

    Hi Alan met you in Nicaragua many years ago I was the Aussie with the beer holder around my neck (works well keeps your hands free) Hope your trip in China is good (just be careful what you eat) or have a good supply of Imodium

    • allan
      allan says:

      Bill!! So great to hear from you! I remember our time on Ometepe very well. Some guitar playing, good food and plenty of beer! Hope you’re well and yes, I’m taking care of the stomach. See you in Aus someday!

  5. Johanna @TravelEater Read
    Johanna @TravelEater Read says:

    So wonderful to connect with you Allan, and I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing all about the China adventures. Don’t forget to email me if you’re heading to Hunan province – I got to go last year and have some advice (including eating as much duck cooked in duck blood and chili peppers as you can!)
    See you back in Vancouver soon and I’ll convince you to add Luang Pravang, Laos to your itinerary 🙂


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