After two days of pedaling on Chinese mountains so steep they reminded him of teeth on a saw blade, diehard cyclist Troy Cobb simply wanted a good night's rest.
But when he asked to rent a room, a stern-faced hotel staffer called the police, who promptly took him into custody – and pressed him to smoke three cigarettes.
It was very scary at first, but I eventually gathered they wanted to protect me, said Cobb, 26.
The police escorted the Wyalusing native to a safer hotel that night, so things were looking up, and the police chief's wife even invited him to talk to her students the next day.
As for the tobacco, Cobb hadn't wanted to partake, especially after his hard-working lungs already had pulled in a lot of smog outdoors.
But, he said, I had to become a smoker for that little bit of time. It was a way to make friends, a good ice breaker.
Surrounded by nine officers and puffing away may sound surreal, but it was just part of Cobb's 280-day Asian adventure that ended in July.
He spent nine months traveling through China, Thailand and Malaysia, pedaling 1,895 miles on his stainless-steel bike, which he named Maggie the Magnificent Iron Pig Horse in the style of sailors who christen their ships.
Ask him about the best part of the trip, and the worst, and he'll give the same answer: China.
With an enormous part of my psyche and who I am, I love China. I can look back at the really beautiful parts of my tour and get a warm glow, he said. At the same time, paradoxically, I hate with so much passion so many things. It is horribly dirty.
Coming upon a little-seen part of the Great Wall was one of those moments where I wondered what I have done to be so lucky in this life.
Riding on a particularly broken road in coal country, where the coal dust got into his throat and coated his teeth gave him ideas about what an apocalypse might look like.
And people he met along the way helped him adjust his American expectations.
When you get to a Chinese hotel, I learned how to say ‘Do you have hot water?' ‘Do you have heat?' ‘Do you have cable?'
Often, the answer would be yes.
Then I had to learn another phrase: ‘Does it work?'
Cobb, a graduate of Wyalusing High School who studied conservation biology at East Stroudsburg University, taught English in Korea and is in the running for a new job working with at-risk youths in the United States.
He'd like to travel through several other continents, with Maggie of course.
I think the bicycle is the best vehicle for experiencing people and the world and nature, he said. You're not in a capsule. You can smell the air, feel the breeze. You've got the elements right at your fingertips, right in your face.
Cobb had been scheduled to speak Jan. 15 at the Genetti Hotel in Wilkes-Barre during a gathering sponsored by Luzerne County Bikes & Walks, a newly formed bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, but that date will no longer work. If his talk is able to be rescheduled, Luzerne County Bikes & Walks will announce it.
I think the bicycle is the best vehicle for experiencing people and the world and nature.
Editor's note: This is the debut of Adventures, a Times Leader feature that allows readers to share their travel tales and perhaps give each other ideas for interesting vacations. If you have an adventure story to tell – it needn't be as rigorous as Troy Cobb's – please contact [email protected] or 570-829-7283.