D15: 大安→平南 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 6, 2020

D15: 大安→平南

My goal for a bike tour is that, by the time the tour ends, the average distance per day cycled (including rest days, work days, and oooh-shiny-what's-this days) is 50km. Since I'm very likely going to be taking a side trip to Guangzhou at the end of this month, and since there's also a strong possibility that some of my friends may spend their October Holiday coming to wherever I am (in what damn well ought to be Guizhou by then), I'm going to have a very hard time hitting this goal unless I start consistently cycling more than 50km a day on days when I'm cycling.

But, today was both an "oooh-shiny" day with an old town to explore and a day where I had a very specific destination that was nowhere near 50km away. I tried. I really did. I made every possible detour I could possibly make. And I still fell 6km short.

People are in the habit of saying things to me like "no one steals bikes anymore" and "it's real safe in this town" as reasons why I should be totally fine with just leaving my bike (and luggage!) just anywhere but I had my saddle nutz taken the second night of this trip and I'm just not that trusting that things will be fine so I tried to park my bike at the convenience store/noodle shop closest to the temples. She wasn't even willing to take money to let me park it somewhere conveniently visible because "who knows how long you'll be in the temples" and the lunch crowd might be arriving by then.

I don't see how the lunch crowd arriving by then would have an affect on my bike being leaned up against the wall but, okay. I ended up paying a drinks vendor 10 yuan (he seemed shocked that I agreed) and left the bike with him.

The temples were alright. Not great. The idols were some truly fine examples of quality folk art (the people in the temple might have even been right about them being over 100 years old though they certainly were wrong about them being Ming Dynasty) and I actually recognized almost every single one of them. I still don't know who the BirdMan is or why the dude next to him has flaming wheels on his feet but I recognize them as HotFoot and BirdMan.

From the comments on TikTok, I gather that there should be some more old stuff around that survived the 20th century but it has fallen prey to local historical artifacts' worst enemy: the 'helpful' restorer. The Spanish "Monkey Jesus" mural is probably one of the most famous examples of this sort of wanton destruction in the name of "repair". 

When I get back to Hainan, I'm going to revisit a certain historical site of interest that I was at this spring to see if they've done anything yet regarding having removed perfectly good millennia old stone steles from the front courtyard, replacing them with simulacra, and piled the originals in the back. At the time, the docent (who had just lied to me about the simulacra being necessary because of Cultural Revolution damage to the originals despite the originals not having this damage on a visit three years ago) claimed that there were plans in the works to properly take care of the 'damaged' stone work. If they haven't, I'm going to take my newfound status as an internet celebrity, shame the fuck out of them, and also make a report to the National Antiquities Office.

Being as I only carry one lens with me on Tour and I had no access to a ladder (the rafters were fucking gorgeous), I was finished with the temples in less than an hour. Then, I went looking for lunch at a noodle shop that came recommended to me by someone on TikTok as a best local place. A bit hard to find and covered with a patina of cooking smoke that made it very easy to believe the boss lady when she said she'd been operating out of this location for 40 years, it wasn't just good, it was damn good.

Then, a final wander through the back alleys of Da'an looking at the remaining old buildings that weren't main street and hadn't been fancy western fusion style.

From Da'an to Shenglin was a short 8 or 10 kilometers and it's a good thing that I didn't do it the night before as Shenglin (despite being a "镇" town and not a "乡" township) seemed to have no lodging. It did have a number of strategically placed trees in quiet spots that probably would have been good for setting up my hammock but the problem with this whole "I should camp more" ideal is that I don't actually want to camp; I like showering.

Shenglin to Pingnan, I was on and off the main road going all higgledy piggledy and managing - among other things - to find the only hill in the whole area. I also detoured to a Ming era tomb because there was a sign that told me it existed. On an ordinary day, when I'm not trying real hard to manufacture extra kilometers, this would have been a real bust of a find. On today, especially since there was a general store nearby that sold me a chilled Gatorade and let me fill up all my water bottles and sit in front of the fan for 20 minutes, it was brilliant.

After determining that I wasn't going to cross the new bridge because, even with lane markings for non-motorized vehicles, I didn't like how close I'd be to trucks, I took the old bridge and annoyed everyone behind me by moving at bicycle speeds. Not my fault that, at some point in history, the local drivers were bad enough about veering into the bike lane that the government decided to put a jersey barrier between bikes and cars and now the bike lane was too narrow for passing.

If the lady boss at the Giant Bikes hadn't recognized me, there's no way I would have recognized her. From the dramatically different hair to the much thinner body shape, she doesn't even look like she could be her own sister. I sat at the shop and sucked down tea while waiting for my dinner companions to show up. Of the three, one still looks kind of like he did in our photos from 2008. The other two may as well have been complete strangers except that, again, they recognized me.

The restaurant convinced me to leave my bike in their parking lot as "we have cameras" and the place that they picked was kind of within line of sight of where people would usually be. I wasn't exactly what you call thrilled about this but I decided that Rong County was small enough that if my bike actually went missing, it could be found; I still took off the pedals, took my handlebar bag, and the pannier which I thought the laptop was in.

After dinner, the locals didn't want to have me need to cause a fuss at a hotel and checked with hotels about my staying there. The more-than-I'd-like-to-pay place next door to the restaurant was fine about me just checking in; but, the place which I had already prepaid for on Trip.com by this point, they said I needed to have a registration form from the police to check in, so it was off to the police station.

At the local police station, it took far too much time, and they clearly didn't have a Plan in place for making this registration for me. I will find amusement and enjoyment in anything. The nice local who was with me was getting very frustrated, however. Frustrated to the point of name dropping who he knew, and who I know, and how they really ought to be doing this quicker (tactics which, if I were the police, would have gotten me to be moving slower, but I'm an ornery cuss).

My room looked perfectly, completely, ordinary in the pictures on Trip.com. It was not, however, ordinary in the slightest. Other than the crimes against wallpaper that most definitely were not in any of the pictures (two different loudly clashing patterns in bright reds, and a wall sized picture with anime insects), there was a mystery cabinetry box about 4 inches tall that ran from the door of the room all the way to the edge of the bathroom. I'd think such a thing existed to hide wiring or plumbing except for the glass lid and the fake grass inside the box.

And then, there was the Chair. Upholstered in a brilliant pink pleather (to make it easier to clean) and featuring lots of useful hard points and adjustable angles, I felt sleazy just being in the same room with it.

Today's ride: 44 km (27 miles)
Total: 761 km (473 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0