D41: 安流→苏区 - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

November 20, 2019

D41: 安流→苏区

Today was threatening to be a short day; I was going to make my minimum 50 kilometers but not much more than that. As a result, during the early part of the day I made a point of seeking out the maximum number of potential detours, both of the on-the-map variety and the oooh-shiny kind.

Prior to the start of the mountain, when it still looked like I was going to get to Yangtou [洋头] (my best possible destination) around 3pm, I did the most un-self sufficient thing ever; I asked my assistant to see if she could research the lodging situation in my preferred destination. 

Prior to this, I had strongly been considering the possibility of rocking on up to the police station in Yangtou and asking them if they knew whether or not Suqu had hotels or if they could lend a hand and maybe call the police station in Suqu but then I was like, wait a minute, I've got a full time employee, who I pay money to every month, for a job that is literally described as "to do the boring stuff I don't want to".

The sole hotel in Suqu to show up on the map has no reviews, no way to book online, and no pictures and turns out to also be open but I didn't like the way they looked from the outside. As for how she found this place, I don't know. Important thing is that while I was biking, someone else was handling figuring out where I was going to sleep. That's the important thing. She found it, she called them, she confirmed they had rooms, she got their name and address, and she sent it to me along with the prices. I swear, it's being able to afford someone to do things like this for me that keeps me living in Asia. 

Sometime before sunrise started to light up the hallway outside my window enough for light to seep into the room, I got up to go pee. I've mostly been staying at hotels with 'western' style sit down toilets this trip which is a good thing as I'm not the most coordinated person when stumbling into the bathroom in the dark. For the rest of my sleep wake sleep wake sleep sleep cycle of not yet ready to really wake up, a very strong very acrid piss smell kept bothering me as if flushing the toilet had unleashed some sort of foulness from below. When getting up for real, I discovered that it was actually because I'd managed, to a fairly significant degree, to miss hitting the toilet at all.

Since I'd felt that dinner was overpriced and not particularly exciting, and as they weren't exactly bustling with breakfast customers, I went looking for somewhere else to eat breakfast. The place I went, which admittedly was bustling with customers, served me some pretty mediocre wontons tossed in an unidentified sauce, accompanied by a fried egg for a shocking 17 yuan. In Haikou, the same meal might cost me 12 and more likely (if I was eating at a similarly hole-in-the-wall type place) would be 10.

The group of three colorful tracksuited twenty somethings turned out not to be athletes (despite the Chinese flag and the sponsorship logos on their tracksuits) but kindergarten teachers at a nearby school with a very strange taste in teacher uniforms.

From Anliu, I headed south to the X032 and then wiggled my way along the most extraordinary bit of country road to the banks of the Qinjiang [琴江] and alongside it. The whole time to Meilin [梅林], the road had lots of little ups and downs, with more up than down, but it was basically flat. Since I was expecting this to be a displeasingly short day, and since there were some unlocked shrines with actual statues in them instead of words, I stopped at two particularly nice examples, though, in one case, I had to stop my taking pictures because a group of parishioners showed up to make offerings.

Bought a Coke Zero in Meilin and decided that the oranges in my handlebar bag were lunch enough for me while exploring the Ancestral Home of Gu Dacun. Ignored the GPS telling me to take the obvious long way round over some brand new bridge when there was a perfectly good old bridge for me to take only to get stymied less than 300 meters from my destination by the discovery of a small creek in a deep ravine with a recently demolished bridge. Luckily, it turned out that I didn't need to go completely back to Meilin as there was a temporary bridge for motorcycles and pedestrians.

The Ancestral Home was locked up solid; the nearby Meeting Site of Some Locally Important Communist Event from the 1920s which, seen from a distance, I was sure had to be the Ancestral Home was also locked up tight; the historic building that AMap was certain was only 280 meters away from the Meeting Site was not at the location that the maps thought it was; and, the Gu Family Ancestor Temple (which was at least unlocked) was one of those really boring ones that's basically a family tree (in this case to 21 generations) of dead ancestors.

Ten kilometers later, my next stop, the site of another Locally Important Communist Event, was also locked up. It was 28 kilometers from that site to Yangtou and in the space between the two of them, I'd been unable to find anything in advance that seemed likely to be interesting. This is because, as it would turn out when riding that road, there was nothing on it that was interesting.

It wasn't uninteresting per se. In point of fact, it was really quite pretty. It just didn't have anything interesting. The few old buildings had either been cleaned up all pretty and shiny or had never been important enough in the first place to get graffiti slogans. At least until the unexpected mountains (the fine detail offline topo maps don't want to download for some reason) started, I was just eating up kilometers often in the 15 to 20 kph range which is pretty unusual for me on a tour bike.

Even when the mountains started, it was so early in the day that there seemed like I was still going to get in to Suqu early enough that I'd actually be able to visit Suqu's possibly interesting site before finding dinner and lodging. That is, until the GPS routing decided that I wanted to cut a whole kilometer off of my day's ride by taking a farm road over another mountain.

For the first climb, I would have managed without getting off and walking if it weren't for the truck coming downhill. Once I had to stop and get out of his way (it really was that narrow a road), there was no way to get started again. Later on, with some of the other steep bits, I no longer had the legs or the heart to try riding up them. All told, if you include the parts that I walked down, I think I only walked between 2 and 3 kilometers.

The pavement was excellent. It's just that the amount of steepness combined with blind curves, the possibility (however slight) of the occasional oncoming vehicle, and the like made me uncomfortable riding down. Back when I'd still been out on the main road (that I probably should have stayed on no matter what the GPS said), crossing into this county had been a particular joy as the quality of pavement, the freshness and care of pothole patches, and the banking on curves all improved considerably.

However, this was a farm road. It was built for tractors and motorcycles. Not bicycles. Not cars. Even if it had been upgraded at some point to a 10 ton limit, the original sign forbidding trucks 2.5 tons (i.e. a lightly loaded pickup truck) or passenger vehicles with 9 seats or more was still there to let you know what kind of road it had started out as when it first got paved.

I'm in Guangdong; I'm maybe 100 miles from the Pearl River Delta, I managed to spend nearly 5 kilometers with no mobile phone signal. That's the sort of place this was. Really, the only thing that mattered was getting back to a main road before it got dark because even with my headlight, I didn't trust this road to night time travel.

It was technically past sunset but still light enough see when I got to the main road. I had one more climb and one more descent before Suqu during which time it got dark enough that the headlight was much appreciated and cold enough that I stopped and put my thermal vest on (though not quite cold enough to zip it up).

At this hour, everything in Suqu that promised to potentially be interesting was already locked up. In the morning, I'll see whether or not this is still the case.

Today's ride: 74 km (46 miles)
Total: 2,476 km (1,538 miles)

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