D22: 闽清→上街 - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

October 28, 2019

D22: 闽清→上街

I have repeatedly determined that my current camera when set on auto and 'taking photos without stopping' are not a good mix. This does not stop me from 'taking photos without stopping' because although a gas station with a giant blue pyramid on the roof is interesting enough for a photo, it really isn't interesting enough to justify stopping ...
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I sleep long and hard and late. The exhaustion of not getting a good night's rest at the Bates Motel plus however much I was able to extra tire myself with painkiller taking the edge off had me falling asleep before I even got all my devices plugged in and on charge. I didn't even unpack my luggage enough to feel guilty about forgetting to brush my teeth.

At one of the many points throughout the evening that I woke up and rolled over into a more comfortable position, one of the panniers that was in bed with me got co-opted into being a pillow. That had me waking up enough to notice that I was sharing a bed with my panniers but still didn't have me getting up and finishing all those regular 'before sleep' tasks that I had really intended to do.

I'm not sure why or how, whether it's because I've always had an unorthodox schedule or if there's some other reason, but one of my super powers (since childhood) has been the ability - when sick or tired - to just go to sleep and then sleep until I'm better. With the exception of the time I basically slept through the entire month of February about a year and a half after my Accident, this usually doesn't translate into more than three or four extra hours but—particularly as it does not seem to affect my regular sleep schedule or cause 'jet lag'—it's a nice trick to have available.

A very impressive gate where this bridge pierces the flood walls on the Meixi (a tributary of the Min)
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At first glance, there seems to be quite a lot of construction down low to the water. At second, you realize that it's all pylons and piers holding up the buildings up above.
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Having actually seen the Yangtze and some of its tributaries during flood season, it's kind of mind boggling just how much water flows through these half dry gullies.
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I leave the hotel around 11:30, head in what seems like it ought to be the right direction for 'out' on a generalized basis of the geography and understanding how cities grow, and get breakfast on the opposite bank of the Meixi. Looking over the online maps while I eat, I discover that while I have technically headed in a direction that could be described as the way I want to go, it's not really the right way, and I just turn the GPS on and let it do my navigating for me.

Now that I've got the battery power to let me do it, I'm not sure how I feel about the amount of time I spending with the GPS running. Bearing in mind that I still frequently ignore where it says I should be heading in favor of going where I feel like going, it's damn convenient (even on long stretches without turns) to not have to be regularly stopping and asking people "how far" or to be constantly pulling my phone out to see where I am in relationship to where I want to be. But it feels like a cop out.

I think I liked interacting with people and asking them "how far to" or "is this the right way to" but at the same time, I remember how much I used to bitch about no one having any idea how tall a mountain was, what their nearby terrain was like, or how far anything was from anything else.
So this is probably better.

Road widening and a new retaining wall
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So far as I can tell from other similar patchwork buildings, this is/was a rammed earth building that's had part of it's structure repaired/replaced with cement.
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This is what happens to normal height "please don't pass" indicators on a stretch where people are determined to pass.
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The majority of today is going to be spent on the National Road. I'll get off it for one short, blissful stretch where the banks of the Min are especially curvy but I'm heading in towards the capital of the province and by the time there's more than one through road in or out of the city, I will already be (for all intents and purposes) in the city.

The expressway siphons off a decent amount of the traffic but, like most Chinese expressways that aren't in Hainan, it's a toll road. As a result, it doesn't take all the traffic that it could be taking; just most of it. The road that I'm on is loud and dirty and, as these things go, not very nice. Compared to some truly "not nice" roads I've been on (like, for example, leaving Guangzhou), it's still alright; it's just not very nice. That today's weather is cloudy and gray; that the sky keeps looking at me like it wants to start raining; and, the knowledge that the Lenovo Customer Care in Fuzhou may be just as much of a pain in the ass as Hangzhou probably isn't any help either.

Most of the buildings along this road are relatively modern. By their architecture, I'd generally put them within the past 10 to 20 years. It's a little hard to tell with some of the concrete boxes since an unfancy but finished concrete box of the "giant garage door" variety from last year looks more or less the same as one from 15 years ago. It's the semi-finished ones or the ones that were gauded up by people with vastly different ideas than I regarded "fashion" or "style" that are dateable.

This wooden awning has me very confused. I wouldn't have said the brick building its attached to is all that old (just poorly made) but the vandalized carvings mean that it existed prior to the Cultural Revolution.
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The only thing I can guess is that the current brickwork is repair of an existing structure that may or may not have originally been brick. Certainly, that mortar and those lines don't look especially load bearing.
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It's a real shame about the carvings.
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Everything about the Cultural Revolution really...
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Given how far I currently am from Vietnam, I'm kind of surprised how similar the extant old buildings are to rural Vietnamese construction. Sure the plaster is thicker and the walls go all the way up to the ceilings but I would have thought there would be a lot more difference.

Here and there, there's the occasional truly interesting building that's not falling down. Most of those I don't go to explore because experience tells me that the ones which aren't falling down are the ones that are being cared for and possibly are still being lived in.

Ever since the time in Guangxi where I wandered into a 19th century building where the first floor was being used as a combination goat pen and yard for free range chickens and scared the beejesus out of the 80 year old resident who was not expecting someone in their house, I've been a little bit leery of exploring obviously abandoned buildings on the grounds that they are obviously abandoned. 

As with anything that is new and exciting and different and cool, I start off with getting lots of pictures of the amazing old buildings. However, the longer I go on this road (which, like most of the older National Roads has been a main road for a very very long time), the more amazing old buildings, and half buildings, and ruins, I come across and the less they inspire me to stop and go wow.

This one seemed worth poking my nose in to take a look
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It's such a shame seeing places that were once so nice being allowed to deteriorate to this kind of condition
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Speaking of disturbing the residents...
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There were at least 5 kittens in that straw pile and Mom (the ears looking at me from the doorway) is not happy about the large possible danger checking out her kitten nest
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Because I didn't get up until so late and didn't get moving until so late and didn't eat breakfast until it was definitely lunch, I never stop for second breakfast or elevenses or an actual lunch. Even though I'm honestly not doing terribly long distances, I really should be getting more fruit more regularly and making myself stop more - even if just to eat an orange. It would help with the not being totally wiped out when I end up having an actual meal.

Coming from the National Road, the 2 or 3 kilometers extra that I add by going on the farm roads alongside the Min around the time I cross from Minqing County to Minhou [闽侯] County (I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count as to what those counties are named after) is well well well worth it. Sure I get a few extra steep climbs. But, I also get a lot more scenery.
And wonderful traffic free quiet.
The quiet alone is worth it.

Old buildings, new buildings, temples, shrines, randomly stolen share bikes, interesting signs, oddly repurposed buildings, you name it, this road's got it. It also has just enough distance that I can comfortably make it into "not Fuzhou" tonight and still say that I did a full day of riding. And by being in "not Fuzhou" tonight, I can justifiably put off dealing with Lenovo until tomorrow, instead of getting to their shop all worn out and cranky.

Old house on the National Road
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Former gas station for land and water based transportation just between the National Road and the Min
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A bee farm that used to be a primary school
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Then I'm back on the National Road again. Getting back on the main road is the worst thing about detours. It's not always the case but it's certainly the case often enough that when you come back to the main through road after a pleasant jaunt through rural whateverness that the main road has gotten worst while you were away.

Maybe, it's actually the same as it was. Maybe it's all in your head and really the reason it seems worse is because it's worse than what you've been on. But, maybe, it's really is worse. Maybe, you are 10 kilometers closer to the big city and the traffic volume has doubled (or tripled). Maybe you've crossed county borders and the people responsible for road maintenance are on a different schedule when it comes to resurfacing.

Who knows?

I certainly don't. But I know that this is one of those times when, as soon I've gotten back to the main road, I find myself really really wanting to leave it again. Fortunately, after slightly more than a kilometer, and a bathroom break at one of the rest stops, I'm able to do just that.

An ancestral home that's grown some...
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More lovely vandalized carvings in the rafters
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Another falling down old building
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Remarkably modern looking stone plinths supporting these columns
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I stop for dinner shortly after that, spend quite a while longer dawdling over my food than I might otherwise have because, having failed to recharge my power bank last night, and using my phone to constantly power both a GPS and streaming music, I need to recharge my phone. Also, I have a headlight now. I don't have to be limited by darkness falling.

Like that time when I finally got an air conditioner at home after 3 or 4 (or 5) years of being insufferably smug about my totally not needing an air conditioner at home, I'm finding this whole "having a headlight" thing really really nice. The jury is still out on the dynamo hub. On the one hand, it's probably about 300 grams heavier than a regular front hub. On the other hand, if I get the USB charging off of the hub to reliably work, it very likely replaces about 300 grams in batteries and will somewhat untie me from the wall.

For Asia where I ride from hotel to hotel, it's no big deal to be charging everything up every day. In 2021, when I depart from Amsterdam heading east though... I'm going to be camping. Possibly multiple nights in a row. Possibly, until I find myself in Asia again, I'll be camping more nights than the nights that not camping is even an option. I need to start figuring some of this stuff out now.

Doors to a shrine
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Same guys, different doors, different shrine
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And again
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It's basically full dark by the time I finish dinner. Particularly since I'm ignoring the GPS's plaintive attempts to get me to return to the National Road (and street lights) and am instead on the back road equivalent where there are more things to dodge (both moving and non moving), the light would be a godsend if it would just stay in place when I hit a bump.

Eventually, I get so frustrated that I stop, get off my bike, dig out my multitool and tighten the bolts on the headlight. The angle is kind of sort of not quite exactly perfect but it's a whole lot better than reaching down every third minute to re-aim the light where it's supposed to go.

Note to Self: get a headlight that has an on/off switch and change for one that has enough of a battery that it produces light (even if only for a few minutes) when the wheel isn't moving.

After a hundred times of being told I'm going the wrong way and what seems like at least two hundred recalculatings (because sometimes it continues to insist for quite a while that I really really really need to be making a u-turn and going back the way I came to the turn it wanted me to make), there's an intersection with the perfect storm of randomly dug ditch with a plywood 'bridge' over it and a bunch of traffic so I do what the GPS wants me to and go out to the National Road.

Murals in one of the only temples I stopped at today
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I like the combination of the paintings of Guanyin in various aspects along with the folk art statue of Guanyin
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I'm not sure since there was only one guy, but it looks like this person has set up a little neighborhood cinema complete with bamboo recliners
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While I was gone, the National Road went from some narrow nasty trucky thing to one of those expressishways and it's actually really nice to ride. Zoom zoom zoom. Of course, the fact that's otherwise pitch black and I can't really see anything to enjoy it probably contributes to my liking the fast road over the back roads.

I have perhaps 8 or 10 kilometers on that before things start becoming urban with subway stations and nicely separated bike lanes made unusable for biking by way of pedestrians and parked cars.

While I was killing time at dinner, I booked a really cheap room via Trip.com in Shangjie so, instead of the usual "heading in the general direction of a cluster of hotels", I'm heading in the specific direction of a particular hotel.

Being as that particular hotel—a hotel whose owners specifically went out of their way to put their hotel on a foreigner facing Chinese platform—will end up giving me the old No Foreigners Allowed and will get treated to Marian Behaving Badly because I am not putting up with this shit from a hotel I've already paid for, I'm wondering if my previous experience with Trip was a fluke.

Old Dragonboat
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Doesn't look like it's still being used
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The one inside the shed though, that's definitely still being used
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I'm not sure if I actually made the front desk girl nearly cry (she was doing that choking back tears thing) or if it was as much a dramatic act as my Bitchy McBitchface yelling in her face while refusing to allow her to serve anyone else, but, yeah, I was pushy and demanding and not at all nice. Because fuck it, why should I be nice?

It's not like there's was a poster from the local police listing the acceptable ID a foreigner could use to register...
Oh wait, there was.

And it's not like the hotel management had specifically made the choice to list their hotel on an English language foreigner facing platform...
Oh wait, they had.

Although not as bad as the Bates Hotel, my room ends up being both subjectively and objectively terrible. After a truly painful night's sleep on the ridiculously hard mattress, I'll discover in the morning that there's actually no mattress between the wooden bed and the mattress cover. The lone window is bricked up (badly). The elevator can be called to the second floor (where my room is) but the ability to go to the second floor from the first floor (like, for example, if you want to put your bike in your room) is locked.

If you don't want me to take your photo, perhaps you should consider doing your job?
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Today's ride: 52 km (32 miles)
Total: 1,402 km (871 miles)

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