D47: 珠海→斗门 - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

November 29, 2019

D47: 珠海→斗门

After not even three whole days in Hong Kong and Macau, I'm desperately glad to be back on the Mainland. From the cars being on the correct side of the road to the construction standards, things are familiar. Even while still being new and different and unfamiliar, they are familiar.

Roads of a certain age and traffic level will be a certain width and composition. They will curve just so. They will be banked just so. The trees and other landscaping will be planted just so. That's just the way things are. The older ones to this standard, the newer ones to that standard. But always standard. After all, this country used to be the empire than invented bureaucracy. Standards are just the standard way of doing things.

While in Zhuhai, I was going to visit one of the other consular volunteers who I already know but he's out of town for Thanksgiving so I end up heading in the direction of the other Zhuhai volunteer, who I haven't met yet but who I've talked with online. He's way far out in what the downtown people consider the sticks in a district that hardly even counts as being the city except for being the same geopolitical entity.

I don't see much of the urban areas of Zhuhai on my way towards Doumen. The place where I spent the night is just off one of the big main roads and while it claims to have cycle paths in the form of marked spots on the sidewalks, and while those "cycle paths" are probably a shade nicer than riding with the traffic, I've got too much dodging pedestrians and e-bikes and random bollards to really be noticing any of my surroundings though, to be fair, as I'm soon enough into the outskirts of a second tier city, they aren't really all that different from the outskirts of any other second tier city.

In search of a marked historic temple, I manage to get lost where a highway bridge or a subway is going in and add at least two or three kilometers to my day but it was going to be a very short day so I don't really mind the extra distance. The temple in question is alright, nothing fabulous but not uninteresting either. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the Guanyin and her attendants are 19th (or even 18th) century pieces that were carefully hidden during the orgiastic destructiveness of the mid 20th century.

As is often the case, there's more to see in the village surrounding the temple than there was in the temple, rusted signs exhorting people not to smuggle, sell, transport, or produce drugs and tacky early 90s construction but this is what I want to see and why, much as my reputation as "The Human Map" hates using the GPS, I'm loving the GPS for it's ability to quickly route me through and out these little not-quite-dead ends I keep turning in to and exploring.

From here, I'm on a giant motorway of unpleasantness. It's tempered slightly by the massive shoulder (at least a lane and a half in width) that I've got but it's just un-beautiful and un-fun. After perhaps 8 or 10 kilometers of this, I'm looking for a small temple that had signs pointing "go this way" at the intersection and then never again, when I notice that there's a purpose built Greenway on the other side of the road. 

From then on, at least until it dumps me back on the motorway some fifteen minutes later, even though I must occasionally deal with pavement that's been buckled by tree roots, it's much more pleasant riding.

My next temple requires that I first go up a hill shaded by giant tropical trees of some sort that almost but not quite parallel the road, as if the road had been straightened at some point in the past decade but the engineers had managed to figure it out without cutting down the trees. Then, I cross the motorway and immediately go back down the hill I just came up only, once I'm done with the temple, to find myself in a cul de sac that requires me to go back up this same hill again so that I may go down it in the approved direction.

It's an awful good thing that today is being a short day, because the mountain on Lantau Island has left my climbing muscles especially fatigued and even though is, ultimately, a very small hill, it's still a hill.

At the bottom of the hill, I whizz around a roundabout and past a pair of traffic cops stationed there to let additional traffic cops up ahead know if overheight or overwidth vehicles are ignoring the DANGEROUS BRIDGE "get the fuck off this road" sign that clearly indicates another path that the big trucks ought to be taking. It's too important a main road at this point for them to be using the usual traffic calming measures (giant bollards blocking half the lanes) and, for all I know, they may just be flagging down all the trucks that come this way.

Their encampment does seem to be quite thoroughly entrenched and is matched by still more traffic police at the other end of the bridge. I rather wonder how recent a development this is and how related it is to the viaduct collapse (from a severely overloaded truck) that happened in Wuxi in October.

I briefly stop on the top of the bridge to take pictures but the trembling shake and bounce of the bridge as cars go over it has me uninclined to stop for very long.

Zooming down the other side, the grade and paving and scenery and traffic level are all absolutely perfect for me to stand up on my pedals and lean forward over my handlebars. As I pass the police at the bottom, I hear one of them say "Wow!" in a tone of voice that totally makes my whole day just a little bit brighter.

From there I take a detour through some absolutely brilliant little farm roads of the sort that's so thoroughly a pointless way to add distance to my day without any particular goal in mind that I wouldn't be doing it at all if not for my insistence that every day ought to hit at least 50 km and this day isn't going to. Given the dusty rumbly roadworks that I have to deal with once I get back to the proper 'fast' roads, it's entirely possible that my brilliant little farm roads would have been the better choice no matter what.

I get to Peter's wife's cafe just shy of 4pm and, other than a brief trip to check in at a nearby hotel, don't leave for the next 12 hours. There's pizza, and jazz, homemade vegan cheese, red wine, grilled cheese sandwiches, drunken late night conversation. It's almost like being back in Haikou and I realize, perhaps because I'm starting to get so close to home, I'm a little bit homesick.

Today's ride: 47 km (29 miles)
Total: 2,944 km (1,828 miles)

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