D36: 湖坑→三河 [Currently No Pictures] - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

November 14, 2019

D36: 湖坑→三河 [Currently No Pictures]

In Peter's journal, he mentions how the concrete roads in China are rather uneven with a tendency to be buzzy; he initially assumes that this is because they are perhaps using farm tools to spread the concrete but, later on, he comes across them laying concrete with quite proper machinery and, as a result, he has no answer for why the concrete roads are as they are.

I have never, not once, in all my years of cycling in China, noticed that the concrete roads were uneven or buzzy. Never. Never ever. At least, not until today.

I suspect part of the reason for this is because most of the time I simply don't ride on the sorts of concrete roads where your eye might fool you into thinking you can safely go faster than 15kph. I ride narrow roads, back roads, side roads; I ride roads that have sudden cracks or which go from perfectly fine to a broken mess with no warning; I ride roads that don't have particularly banked curves, and roads where it would be all to easy to fall off of a cliff. What I do not ride if I can find any way to avoid them is main roads.

There are a lot of long descents today. Long descents with generously banked curves on big wide open roads that are mysteriously lacking in traffic. And jesus fuck but the concrete buzzes. Combined with the thwap thwap thwap thwapping noise of the loose ends of the straps on my front racks, it's a maddening sound. At times, I end up challenging myself to try and ride exactly on the thick painted white line separating the shoulder from the car lanes just to make the godawful noise stop for just a little while.

I start my day off by going too far without breakfast. I didn't have an especially good reason for not eating breakfast in the town where I spent the night but I didn't have an especially good reason for eating breakfast there either and there's another town just 6 or 7 kilometers down the road, a town that I strongly considered going to last night depending on how the price/quality/exhaustion calculations worked out for hotels here.

I think I thought that not only would I be closer to lunch and therefore be able to pick a place based on the number of people eating there, that since that town was another 6 or 7 kilometers away from touristland, the food would be cheaper and better. It was a great idea in theory, not so much in practice.

Daxi [大溪], the next town down the road, where I might have spent the night if it hadn't meant riding in the dark and not getting to see all the amazing scenery around here, is actually a township rather than a town. In practice a township has the same governmental powers as a town but it's spread out over a bunch of villages that have mostly grown together but which have no obvious central downtown area or, if they do, it's a single dusty street with a bus station, a bank, and a place that sells seeds (and sometimes assorted pig sperm).

On top of that, this township has been quite thoroughly oxbowed off by the Road so I mostly see it in the distance as a particularly large cluster of buildings without much of any way to get over there until I'm almost completely past it. I turn in at the next intersection but quickly realize that while there might be something if I go looking long enough, there also might not be, and I'll have better luck if I go back to the Road and try the Tourist Restaurant at the intersection.

They want 25 yuan for a plate of fried noodles and I'm just not that hungry yet.

By the time I've gone up and over the climb, I'm starting to think that maybe 25 yuan for a plate of noodles wasn't really such a bad price after all. However, there's an actual town at the bottom of the mountain and the first restaurant I stop in charges me 10 yuan for fried noodles (with both meat and egg) and the shop next door to them has Coke Zero so it ultimately looks to have been the correct decision.

I'm pretty sure that I count as a tourist but I'm equally certain that most of the places that serve tourists are not the sorts of places I want to go to. I'm not searching for that ineffable undefinable "authentic" experience that some people claim to want when they travel. I just want things that taste good. And while it's not necessarily true everywhere in the world, it's a fact of life in China that places which actively seek to provide service to tourists have enough potential visitors who will come once and only once that they generally aren't aiming for repeat customers.
In short: they suck.

From Xiayang [下洋] where I eat lunch to Chayang [茶阳] in Guangdong, I've got another big mountain to climb over. Again, although there's some up to my over, it's mostly a great big descent. My road, which should be a provincial one according to all the maps, is another one of those which has been turned into a National Road. I kind of thought I knew what was going on with the new scenic cross country routes like I bumped into in 2017 or the ones up in Ningxia that were very definitely in the process of being upgraded but all these formerly not National Roads that now are National Roads that I keep bumping in to this trip, they just don't make sense.

Chayang is where the day goes from merely a nice ride in the mountains to something spectacular.

In 2013, the Brood II 17 year cicadas came out in Maryland. I wasn't home that summer to see them but I remember what the Brood X 17 year cicadas were like in 1987 and it's like the world has erupted in large crunchy bugs. My boyfriend tells a story about looking out his backyard window at the local birds as they went absolutely crazy trying to figure out which one to eat first. Looking left then right then left again. Now up, now down. I want that one and that one and that one and that one and that one. Oh oh oh oh.

Only instead of rather unattractive giant crunchy bugs, it was awesome historic buildings.

Which way do I turn now? Do I go down this street or that street? Should I follow the road that the GPS wants me to take? SO MANY DECISIONS. Ahhhhhhh.

It all started with a sign telling me that the local paifang (a type of ceremonial stone arch) for a father and son pair of scholars had been named a national historic cultural preservation site and my deciding, instead of following the sign and going straight ahead 2km and perhaps following another sign, to put it into the GPS and go through town. Then, on my way through town, I caught a glimpse of some old buildings and had to go off exploring.

As old towns go, both the architecture and the fact that any of it was still standing were truly magnificent. Chayang doesn't seem like it's in a particularly narrow valley but the valley which it's in is the drain for a lot of mountains. Street level at the flood marker is 50m (presumably measuring from the riverbed). The marker went up to 58 meters and there were floods marked as high as 57.5 meters.

I was kind of incredulous in 2017 that the ferry I wanted to take across the Yangtze was closed because the channel was over 16 meters deep and here, they don't even bother to consider it a flood worth warning until the water hits 50 meters.

However, it was starting to get late, and I thought I had a reasonably good chance of pushing on to Sanhe if not before dark then not too far after dark and I'd basically explored everything that could be explored without actively spending a day or three in Chayang so I went.

There were two options from Chayang to Sanhe, a former X road now an S road on the west bank and a Y road on the east bank.

For Chinese roads that have numbers instead of names:
G roads are National Roads.
S roads are Provincial Roads.
X roads are County Roads.
Y roads are Farm Roads.

Since Chayang had all sorts of awesome old things, Sanhe promised to have all sorts of awesome old things, and the bridge across the Hanjiang [韩江] was all new and shiny, I assumed that the Y road in this case was going to be the original road from Chayang to Sanhe. In actuality, had I taken a moment to stop and think about things, I'd've realized that the original road from Chayang to Sanhe was the Hanjiang.

There were a few awesome old things, villages and the like, mostly in the distance because the road was running along the top of the levee but generally the awesomeness was just in the very pretty countryside with clusters of bamboo forest dark enough that my headlight was handy well before sunset happened, groves of pomelo trees, and other unidentified foresty bits mixed in with glimpses of the Hanjiang down below.

I'd guess that it probably got dark enough that the headlight went from nice to necessary perhaps 10km before I got to Sanhe. Riding in the dark, I learned three things: 1) it's kind of awesome riding in a dark tunnel of greenery and potholed obstacles while blasting techno pop dance music. 2) I need a headlight that has a cache battery. It doesn't matter how small the cache battery is, but it needs to be possible for the light to stay on at least for a few minutes when not pedaling. 3) My headlight is pointed slightly to the left.

You see, I periodically had giant cliffs with no safety barrier off to my right. Once it was dark, I couldn't tell if I had giant cliffs with no safety barrier or flat land. And, since my headlight pointed slightly to the left, I would find myself oh so slowly creeping from the righthand side of the road to the lefthand side of the road until I ran out of left to creep over onto and had to force myself to trust that I wasn't going to fall off a giant cliff with no safety barrier if I carefully eased back across to the correct side of the road.

To further add to my heightened awareness of everything, I really needed to pee; but, I couldn't stop because as soon as I stopped my light was going to go out. And if my light went out, I wasn't going to be able to see the not exactly even or debris free road in front of me to start again.

I was so very very happy to get to town.

Today's ride: 66 km (41 miles)
Total: 2,175 km (1,351 miles)

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