Yesterday we loaded into two hired cars to take us to visit my Wife’s Younger Sister’s Husband’s home in nearby Qingyang, maybe 15-20 km away–they live with his parents, still a common thing in China–and the treks there and back were indescribable…but I’ll try.

I’ve lived through death-defying road trips in China before, but for some reason these were among the most heinous I’ve ever experienced. That’s no doubt in part because now I have two youngsters along for the ride, but also, I decided, because this road, which used to be about 1 1/2 lanes wide for both directions of traffic, forcing everyone to go slow, now has three modern wide lanes in each direction.

The effect of that: there’s more room, and vehicles capable of going faster do, while bicycles, pedestrians and small motor scooters go their own pace. Using the same lanes. No one uses turn signals, just horns, even if they’re making a left turn across fives lanes of traffic. More than once our driver had to brake and swerve to avoid hitting one of these “Bonzaiiiiiiiii!” left-turning vehicles.

There’s only one stop light between Anhai and Qingyang, but lots of painted crosswalks. Mind you, these crosswalks are across what could easily pass for major interstate roads in the U.S., but there are no crosswalk lights, and no vehicles actually yield to pedestrians. But across the people try to go anyway, sometimes getting trapped in the middle of three lanes of traffic. The way vehicles weave at will across the lanes, though, it’s surprising no one is killed.

No, scratch that.

It’s surprising more people aren’t killed.

At one point on the way there–not far from where a new Ford auto dealership and KFC are in the same shopping “plaza,” I saw what I can best describe as a 15-foot long, 10-foot wide-at-the-top fan-shaped blood splatter. Something–or more likely someone–had been hit by a vehicle there earlier today. Hard. I tried to convince myself that it was a large dog or small cow, even though there were no large dogs or small cows anywhere to be seen otherwise.

The other startling sight–I’ve seen it before througout China, but never at such high speeds–was the great number of motorcycles bearing 3 or 4 people at once–sometimes entire families–with no helmets. Dad in front, little kid in the middle, Mom in back, sidesaddle because she’s wearing a skirt, cruising along at 50-60 km an hour, with trucks, cars, bicycles and pedestrians weaving and darting and dodging all around. We even passed one motorcycle with a little kid in front, a woman driving behind him, and another woman sidesaddle behind them with a little girl, maybe 3 years old, drooping, asleep, half on her lap, her legs dangling down close to the back wheel.

And I felt like a bad parent for not strapping our kids into their secured car seats for this trip either. Zoiks.

The photos below don’t really capture the full effect.
All the really telling ones either came out blurry, or were never taken because I was too busy screaming.