D29: 道→文市 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 22, 2020

D29: 道→文市

I don't know if any of my readers are from Baltimore but we have this yearly event called HonFest which is an amazing street fair celebration of the late 50s and early 60s the way they ought to have been with more glitter, brighter colors, bigger hair, ridiculous costumes, a bunch of local merchants set up in booths, and lots and lots and lots of fair food.

Because of the nice motorcycle riding local I met yesterday, I started my day at something vaguely similar. Only the theme was the Red Army and the Long March. However, it was about as historically accurate a portrayal of the Red Army and the Long March as HonFest is of Baltimore Hons in the 1960s. That is to say - not very. Very not very.

There's something truly, incredibly, amazingly wrong about rosy cheeked girls in reproduction Red Army uniforms selling soft serve ice cream. It's also weird in a completely different way than the way in which their neighbor (a man wearing an oversized Chinese infant's onesie as a shirt, grilling meat on a stick, to techno music) was weird. But he was merely weird. They were wrong.

"Flavors of the Long March" the signs on the food stalls proclaim but, other than the stall that had fried grasshoppers (which I didn't go for) and maybe the "Beijing Style" boiled pear water (that I paid a ridiculous 10 yuan for a cup of), I'm pretty sure absolutely none of it even resembled what a ragtag army on the run managed to feed themselves in the 1930s. Especially not the soft serve ice cream. Or the waffles.

In between the various vaguely Long March themed stalls, there was a strong undercurrent of "Harvest Festival" with panoramic displays set up for people to take photos. Cornucopias, baskets full of produce, things (such as cows) made out of bundles of straw; stuff like that. Looking at these displays with both a critical eye and friends who are artists, I found myself asking "are they deliberately trolling?" Surely, at some point between design and production, someone must have noticed that apples and peaches are not in season at the same time; that bananas don't grow on vines; or that tulips don't belong in a rice paddy. Right? Right?

I walked my bike through the fair and out the other side without actually visiting (or attempting to visit) the Ancestral Home of Someone Famous that was this particular village's claim to fame and which seemed to somehow be tangentially involved in the festival. There seemed to be too many people around for it to be worth my while. Besides which, there were other places to check out.

Coming out the far side of the village, I saw what should have been the perfect place to stop and eat some fruit except that I'd depleted the supply in my panniers and not yet found the chance to refill. An empty temple with a subtle sign indicating that it had been recognized as a National Historical Cultural Relic Protection Site, the frescoed walls that were surely the reason it got this appellation appeared to be quite intact beneath their protective plastic sheets. One of the sheets was torn so I was able to take a look at a small portion.

(A few days later, in my TikTok comments, one of the officers in the police car that passed me while I was sitting on the temple steps drinking some water let me know he'd both seen me and waved at me!)

From here I went north a bit, got on a tiny east/west road that kind of paralleled the National Road but to the north of whatever surely-not-nameless (but I can't find the name) stream so that I could be on something other than a main road the whole way to the first of the abandoned Third Line factories I'd been told about. One of the large caves that was probably used as a warehouse appears to now be a distillery and another one looks like its a themed restaurant. There were also two targets set up in one of the abandoned buildings near the restaurant that seemed oddly placed for archery.

I could have continued with the rural roads for a while after this but, having gotten a fair number of cool old buildings to look at (including a unique design of roadhouse pavilion) and slogans from multiple eras, I was ready for something a bit more consistently paved. As long as the traffic's not too bad, a bit of plain and boring every so often helps to make the interesting stay more interesting.

The most notable thing about the plain and boring road was probably that the petrol station where I stopped to go to the bathroom had toilet paper in the bathroom. While it turns out that I did have a roll hidden in my panniers (and not in the handlebar bag where it belongs) the station convenience store lady was like "no, we don't have tp for sale, there should already be some" and there was. There still wasn't soap to wash hands but, even so, every little step forward is still progress.

Other things seen on the plain and boring road included a Great Leap Forward slogan about resisting counterrevolutionaries (and with this still being in Dao County, probably specifically denouncing the family who lived in that house), an otherwise uninteresting slogan about land usage that was notable in that it used an odd form of the character 留 which might be part of the defunct second round of simplification because I've seen (and photographed) this version before in 2008 in Tonghe, and a closed-and-replaced-within-the-last-five-years local clinic which I dated to the early 70s but which a TikTok commentator with obvious architectural knowledge put at late 50s.

I got to the town closest to the second of the Third Line factories with maybe 20 or 30 minutes left before night fall. I was able to find one of the two hotels marked on the map and decided that instead of going looking for an abandoned factory, I'd do better spending my time heading to the next town over the border back into Guangxi. This ended up meaning quite a bit of riding in the dark and it meant that first dinner was a two liter bottle of sprite and bits of spicy tofu eaten out of my handlebar bag, but when I can't be distracted by scenic points of interest and the paving is good, I can eat up a lot of miles quite quickly.

I was rather exhausted when I got to Wenshi. A free meal of fried noodles and a sunny side up egg at the first open food stall I saw which was conveniently next door to the first hotel and then checking in at the aforementioned first hotel. Where, as it turns out, for reasons that totally weren't related to them being the first hotel you come to, it turns out a group of 5 other touring cyclists were already staying. I never actually saw this group beyond their bicycles in the basement but they existed and were of the variety that intentionally rides main roads and leaves early in the morning.

Today's ride: 65 km (40 miles)
Total: 1,453 km (902 miles)

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