D38: 松口→梅州 - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

November 16, 2019

D38: 松口→梅州

During the morning Breakfast Quest I stumble across the cleaned up, prettified, tourist friendly section of the old town. It's not much more than a single street two blocks long with a Plaza at one end and the slums from last night down at the other end, but there was a reason Songkou's historic downtown got listed on the maps as a visitable place and the slums with their falling down posted dangerous buildings most certainly were not that reason.

I get some local dough wrapped fried meatball things from a vendor who, perhaps, displays some extra showmanship in cooking so that the rubes will buy his wares, but whose wares are quite delicious nonetheless. I thought I would still get a regular breakfast and relegate these to handlebar bag snack status but I couldn't find anything serving breakfast like meals up or down the street and decided instead to sit at a picnic table looking over at the plaza and eat these while drinking my Cokes (one Coke zero, one cherry Coke).

Peristalsis achieved, my gut began rumbling to let me know that while a pomelo is mostly water, it also has quite a lot of fiber, and that my morning constitutional before leaving the hotel room had not entirely emptied me out. I spent quite some time sitting in the plaza, slowly munching, slowly sipping, and clenching until I was sure that everything was enough under control to go looking for a bathroom.

Of course, all the buildings on the Plaza (including a very swanky looking restaurant) were locked up tight. The tourist parking lot behind the (locked) museum like building that fronted the plaza also did not have bathrooms. I decided to head back to the hotel I spent last night at but overshot and ended up in front of the steamship wharf and a historic hotel that was now a museum.

On the one hand, I was iffy as to whether or not the historic hotel was actually going to have anything to make the 25 yuan entry ticket worthwhile. On the other hand, I was pretty sure it would have a toilet.

It did in fact have both a toilet and enough stuff worth seeing to have made the entry worthwhile, even if some of that stuff wasn't exactly what they were hoping you'd find interesting. I seem to have been the only paying customer during the hour or so that I was there so unless they regularly get large groups coming in, the funding just to pay staff salaries (let alone to maintain the building or collection) has to be coming from something other than ticket sales.

Coming from Baltimore (and by extension living near the Smithsonian Institutions) I can't quite wrap my brain around the idea of museums ever being anything but government subsidized and free or low cost to enter so it's sometimes a little hard for me to convince myself that it's worthwhile to pay to enter a museum.

This lovely mostly concrete 19th century hotel just across the road from another set of China Hydrology flood markers (which, although they are about 20m off from my topo maps, I think might actually refer to the elevation at the point of installation and not the height above the river bed) was laid out much the same as the 19th century Australian railway hotel I once stayed at in Sydney with very small individual rooms opening up onto a large central hallway and bathrooms at the back. 

Perhaps what was most notable about the rooms was that the main difference between what would have been a low class room and a high class room was the amount of furniture in the room, but not the size of the room or really anything that would have had much of an effect (to modern eyes, at least) on comfort levels.

I was highly amused by the bed in the first class room as it had clearly been acquired from some family who somehow had held on to such a luxurious piece of furniture throughout the turmoil of the 20th century. At no point between being sold off as an antique and being purchased by a museum had anyone thought to remove the stickers which some nameless child had decorated many of the carved surfaces with.

I was also very amused by the art hanging on the walls both in the guestrooms and in the exhibition rooms. They'd started out with framing period advertisements and posters (though they'd left the frame shop's padded cardboard corners on everything) and, apparently, they'd run out of collection to hang long before they ran out of wall space on which to hang it. So they started framing other things, ranging from thoroughly modern and not very good pastoral paintings to a collection of atrociously bad kittens.
I mean, I like bad art. And these kittens were bad even by my exceptionally low standards.

Crossed yesterday evening's old bridge and confirmed, in the daylight, that there were no inscription stones with the date on them. It seems that putting dates on bridges gets done in fits and starts and regions which makes it even harder to decide whether or not to award myself a point for guessing right.

Back on the other side of the water, I try to tell myself that I've managed something like 5km in 3 hours and that I'm not allowed to take any detours unless they are demonstrably awesome. I then, almost immediately, take a detour (but just a wee short one) to go look at some wall slogans and to get some nice public service announcements for my collection followed by an ancestral temple that I mostly only hang around the outside of because even though it's clearly an officially Open building (with a directional sign and everything) it's also just as clearly a private space (with laundry hanging up to dry). Just as I get up the nerve to come inside, a profoundly handicapped man emerges from one of the interior rooms and starts frantically moaning in alarm that a 'strange person is here'.

I bug out of there before I make the guy any more uncomfortable and promise myself that I am not going to take any more turn offs between now and the Ancestral Home of Ye Jianying but then there's a sign pointing to a greenway and an ancient wharf and old houses and ... did you know it's possible to get the plastic chain guard (which is intended to make sure, should you ever somehow drop your chain on a Alfine-11 equipped bike, that you don't scratch the frame) jammed in your chain?

I wheel the bike out to the road, failing to enjoy or pictate the pomelo groves I'm not riding through, the mix of old and new buildings in the process of being given a facelift and information signs, the Big Character Slogans peeking out from behind newer construction, and manage to cut the chain guard off with a pair of scissors but I'm in a pretty bad mood after this and actually follow through with my promised intention of not taking any more detours until I get to Ye Jianying's Ancestral Home.

Unlike most of the Ancestral Homes I go to, Ye Jianying was a pretty important dude. Of course different people have different definitions of "pretty important". I think that people like Lin Yutang from last week or Zhao Puchu who Myf and I visited in Anqing on the 2015 Tour are equally as important if not more important than mere political leaders but this is not the attitude which most people hold.

That having been said, if I'd taken the time to do a bit of research on Ye Jianying before getting to his Ancestral Home, the surrounding park, or the museums, I might have found myself being better able to tolerate the groups of orange capped tourists following guides with megaphones and flags. I might even have gone and asked if there was someplace I could leave my bike so that I could go into one of the museums. Instead, I took a quick whirl about through and out and again with barely a stop to peek inside the family temple (which is now mostly a gift shop) and to think that anybody who was that involved in the rise of the communism in China would be utterly horrified to see the commercialized travesty that is now his memorial park.

Knowing that they won't actually be able to do anything to my hub (such as doing the initial oil change that's now 1000 kilometers overdue) because they'll have never seen or heard of an 11 speed planetary gear set-up, but still being overly hopeful, I set my GPS for the cluster of bike shops in Meizhou and get going. 

I'm now on much bigger roads than I was on this morning with traffic that actually counts as traffic (rather than the Marian defined "heavy traffic" of being able to see more than one vehicle at a time). Until I get to a series of long downhills and literally cannot stop to look, there's little to stop and look at even if my mood had improved back to a stopping and looking one.

And then I'm in cityland. Cruising along mostly in the car lanes since the traffic there is more predictable than in the 'non-motorized vehicles lane' (with non-motorized being defined as "all things that aren't cars"), trying not to get myself killed.

As expected, the bike shop can't do anything for me other than top off my water bottles.

I spend a bit of time staring at the maps and pick an upscale backpacker hostel relatively nearby even though I've begun to notice that all backpacker hostels everywhere seem to be the same general eclectic hippy mystique style that increasingly seems to have come from a catalog rather than being whatever sorts of things the owner has picked up on their own. All of the dorms and all but one of the private rooms have similarly hard beds and the one private room with a properly squishy mattress was apparently already taken as the person on the other end of the phone sounded annoyed at him for showing it to me.

I make my apologies and, after more detailed research on the map, pick a cheap place that's it the right direction for onward travel and head there only to be told "sorry, No Foreigners Allowed", which, me being me, has a predictable outcome involving the police and my staying there anyways.

Today's ride: 57 km (35 miles)
Total: 2,280 km (1,416 miles)

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