Traffic Cops!

The gate.

We all dislike traffic cops.  They hide in the bushes and when you least expect them they appear from nowhere and rarely listen to our pleas of servitude as they start to write a ticket.  The director, Jim, our cinematographer Ekkehart and I were jet lagged and our driver was forced to listen to us snore as we rolled down the road in his Land Cruiser.  The highways here are in surprising great shape – amazing what happens when a nation spends money in infrastructure – so the smooth ride and light naps were only interrupted by toll booths – gotta pay for it too! – that mark the transitions from high speed motorways to small rural roads.  On this first scout outside Wulumuqi we had to drive through the outskirts of a military base.  As we approached I rose from my stupor in the backseat and noticed that the highway had become straight as could be disappearing in the snow covered haze somewhere in the miles ahead.  We passed through an unguarded gate with a huge eagle standing on the pillar of one side.  The skies were a deep gray and it felt as though we were being sucked into the Chinese countryside, no civilization behind us and an unclear path ahead.  Out of the soft shadows on either side of the road the government had a erected several life sized statues in honor of various events throughout the history of the region.  Bronze and cement versions of statues rested on the freezing earth looking more a like a bizarre version of a French garden than a flat desolate stretch of highway in China.  Many of the sculptures depicted settlers making friends with the wildlife or animals surviving triumphantly,  a deer perched on a large rock looked to pulled directly from the Stags pose in Bambi, or a woman dancing while a man played a sitar looked like the center piece of European fountain, a myriad of other events painted in bizarre colors and even odder poses were revealed out of the mist. The stark landscape and weather only enhanced our amusement and wonder.

Statue on the way to location #1
A rider approaches.

Out of the gray gloom ahead the road split into a Y.  At the apex a lone figure stood at attention on top of a short pedestal painted with red stripes.  We couldn’t believe it.  The wind was blowing light snow across the pavement and the temperature had to be below 32 degrees.  This guy was tough.  As we got closer we couldn’t believe how stiff he was able to stand in the wind, not wavering an inch.  We continued to push deeper into the foggy snow and as his figure grew in the windshield we realized this guy was a traffic cop only he was statue!

Traffic Cop 1

Our driver did not speak a word of English but as we continued up the mountain to our location the road was “watched” by a small legion of statue cops.  At sharp turns they stood on the road warning the driver to slow down, at long straight stretches they stood to warn about speed and on showy hills the driver was warned about dangerous conditions or T intersections.  Cheap help and effective.  We traveled hundreds of miles on this trip and every time we saw a “cop” the drivers would slow.  The nice thing was these stiff guys don’t write tickets.

Sharp turn
In the snow.
A "T" intersection
A construction warning.
Tom, Jim, Trafic Cop and Ekkehart

tom lowe photo, llc

tacoma, wa 98406


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