D31: 厦门→角美 [Photo Dump] - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

November 9, 2019

D31: 厦门→角美 [Photo Dump]

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Today was an awesome day.

I got to speak English with other native English speakers who were physically in the same space as me (no offense to either of my excellent couchsurfing hosts and their level of English but they weren't native speakers); I got to wander around a really cool fort; I got to see parts of Xiamen that were not under construction; and of the multiple people who came up to me and asked me if I was in Xiamen to compete at tomorrow's Ironman, one of them was one of the participants.

I've still got a generous level of padding. I suspect, even after I finish Amsterdam to Haikou in 2021, I'll still have padding. I'm a well padded individual. But I'm five weeks on the road already. I've lost some padding and redistributed other padding and my body shape looks athletic to one of those nutjobs that participates in an Ironman.

3.9km swim
181km bike
42km run

First of all, I've not attempted to do more than splash around in a pool for fun since the Accident where I broke my leg. 

Second of all, although I once did 181 kilometers of riding in a single day, it was mostly with other people, involved a stop for a lackluster massage in the middle, and was generally hell. 

Third, even when I was capable of running, I was of the opinion that running is something you do in an emergency; it is not something you do for fun

Fourth, I've worked at a couple of Ironman events, and there are entirely far too many utterly miserable people attending them. Like the couple of whiteys from Shanghai who I said hello to at a traffic light. Absolutely no joy whatsoever in what they were planning to do the next day or in encountering someone with a hobby tangential to their own.

My first Ironman, the Race Director gave me a breakdown of the kind of people who attempt to finish an Ironman on the basis of the time that they cross they finish line. Using intervals of between 15 and 90 minutes it went something like "top male pro", "male pro", "top female pro", "top male semi-pro", "female pro", "incredibly talented male amateur", "top female semi-pro", "miserable assholes", "genetically blessed male amateur", "incredibly talented female amateur", "uptight dickwads", "genetically blessed female amateur", "type A personalities", "future male pro", "horrible people you wish would die", "future female pro", "also-rans that never went pro", "pro athletes from other sports", and so on and so forth through to "excited to actually finish" and "heart of gold".

On Race Day, at the Finish Line, it was disturbing how accurate his two hour window of "sourpuss ratfaces" was-with something like 4 out of every 5 finishers being someone I recognized for offenses like yelling at my volunteers, making stupid demands, or causing a scene in the main lobby.

The parts of Xiamen that are not currently truck infested or dealing with subway installation are beautiful. First, because they are genuinely beautiful places. Second, because the people clearly care. I don't think I've ever seen a harbor anywhere in the world that was that clean. Beaches too. Sidewalks. It was like what I've read about in Japan; there simply wasn't any litter anywhere.

Once I realized I was heading in to Xiamen City, I strongly considered visiting Gulangyu Island but, according to the people at the bike shop last night, they don't allow bikes on the island anymore. (This would later be confirmed at the ferry terminal.) I'm not a huge fan of walking. Partly because I'm not very good at it, partly because it's sooooo slow, and partly because neither the sneakers I'm riding with nor the flip flops I brought for emergency episodes of walking are in particularly good shape for walking.

Since it was possible to take a ferry instead of a bridge back over to the mainland, I decided to do that in honor of the memory of an old family friend whose thing about ferries was sufficiently a thing that they were not only a recurring theme in the books he wrote, but he and his wife also got married on a ferry.

The route to the ferry could have gone through the city and, even after I insisted that I wasn't doing that, the GPS and the road signs tried to take me on the big car road instead of the outer beach road. As a result, especially since I hadn't yet had breakfast, those early bits were rather uninspiring.

Beach road found, I thought perhaps I would ride in the bike lanes on the beach side of the road rather than the city side. They were wide enough for two way traffic and even had five way traffic in them. Unfortunately, the pedestrian crossings were actively sabotaged to make it impossible for wheeled traffic to get through (with the definition of wheeled traffic including baby strollers) and, beneath the thorns of the bougainvillea, there were also hidden metal fences.

By the way, did you know that bougainvillea have thorns?
Scratchy pokey ones.

Prior to trying to get my bike over into the bike lane, I didn't.

Having failed at getting my bike into the bike lane, I considered crossing back over to 'my' side of the street but traffic was intermittently nasty and I did the boorish thing and instead rode the wrong way while hugging the curb until I found somewhere that I could lift my bike over into the bike lane.

200 meters after that feat, I got to a break in the barrier.

300 meters after that, I got to another one.

Then one that had a traffic light and a crosswalk and obvious restaurants up a little hill.

Hmph.

I ate an expensive bowl of Satay Noodles for breakfast though, considering the location and its proximity to the beach, it wasn't that unreasonable a price. Then, I decided I'd just stay in the separate bike lane on my side of the road and screw having amazing ocean views.

I set the GPS for the closer of the two historical forts and noted that it was smart enough to recognize where there were pedestrian crossings so that I could make a u-turn and head back to it. Unfortunately, heading back involved going back up a hill and the crossing had more people-on-foot only barriers such that I was a good 2 or 3 kilometers down the road and at the second fort by the time I was actually able to cross.

The second fort, Fort Hulishan—which I'm utterly astonished to find does not have an English Wikipedia entry—is huge, in really good condition, and full of interesting things. The information signs have footnotes! The information signs were also frequently done in materials like cast metal which made them extremely difficult to a) read or b) take photographs of for reading later.

I figure I probably spent about an hour wandering around the various areas of the fort, including the spots less favorable among tourists (i.e. those without views of the ocean) and discovering things like the old radio broadcast station where, starting from 1958, they used to blast out propaganda before eventually announcing something roughly along the lines of “毛泽东暂不解放金门” (Mao Zedong has temporarily decided not to liberate Kinmen) but I could be wrong because, silly me, I thought this was sufficiently major historical type info that I would be able to find it online to look up later on.

From Hulishan, I stayed on the beach side of the road more or less the rest of the way to the ferry port. After a few beaches, the bike path alongside the road gave me the option to turn off onto a greenway that was elevated over the ocean in graceful curving sweeps that took me under and around the bits of fast car road and deposited me back on the correct side of the road in time to take a quick run through the 19th century parts of Xiamen and get to the port.

Where I met two other Americans.

And got to speak English with them!!

Okay, so I also got to speak English with the Ironmen I met at the one traffic light but they were sourpusses of the kind who take exactly 12 hours and 17 minutes to finish, who must have Green Apple flavor (and only Green Apple flavor) PowerGel on race day, and who care enough about cutting seconds from their finishing time that they pee themselves while running; so, unlike the two Californians I went out to lunch with, they don't count.

Getting on the ferry was a peculiarly Chinese experience of the frustrating sort that has mostly gone away and is therefore more noticeable when you encounter it. Ferry tickets could only start being sold 15 minutes before the boat arrived. Although I was supposed to go through the waiting room, my bike couldn't and had to be left unattended at a different ramp down. What do you mean, I need a 1元 luggage ticket for the bike? What do you mean, I need to specifically pay cash for the luggage ticket? Why wasn't I told these things before?? I must have been down to the waiting area and back up again at least four times to get everything sorted out such that once the boat was moving, I was too mentally worn out to bother with going up to the view deck (which also had a nominal and insignificant upcharge).

Besides which, there were two American guys from California down here with me and they spoke English.

We went to lunch together before they caught the ferry to Gulangyu. Since I saw one of the places with the modified pacman logo, we went to that because even though those are less a chain than they are a bunch of places that probably haven't made too many modifications to the standard recipes, they are consistently foreigner friendly and easy to recognize.

Unless breaking another piece of metal on my saddle and deciding to replace it at the next bike shop, nothing super interesting happened after we parted ways. Lots of big roads, bigger than the number of trucks on them, lots of times that the GPS told me to turn where no turns existed, stuff like that.

Also, I got my first NXA of the trip tonight! That's NXinjiangren Allowed. Because, apparently with my Chinese and the Chinese writing on my jersey the darkness of my skin, and the headscarf that does not in any way shape or form look like a muslim headscarf, I look more like a Chinese ethnic minority than I do a foreigner and ethnic minorities are scary.

Today's ride: 50 km (31 miles)
Total: 1,914 km (1,189 miles)

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