D30: 文市→全州 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 23, 2020

D30: 文市→全州

After 2018's funfun (not at all fun) mid-Tour trip back to Beijing for Yom Kippur where I assumed that because the city I'd picked for my Interlude had train tracks and a station, it would have a train to Beijing, I made sure this time to check out which places along my route had passenger rail.

My choices were Xing'an [兴安] or Quanzhou with both of them apparently requiring almost the entire ride to be on the National Road and Xing'an being about 20 kilometers farther than Quanzhou. A first glance at Quanzhou had most of the ride on the National Road but a second one gave me back roads the whole day and was actually just under 50km (which, given my proclivity for detours, I was sure actually meant "just over 50km" but, even with pothole dodging, actually ended up meaning "just under").

Although this would then end up meaning that my whole first day (once I get back) will be the National Road (and the truck route), it also meant that my whole first day back would be relatively flat instead of immediately going to climbing over a mountain. It just seemed like the better choice of the two.

Taking the absolutely-not-at-all-the-main-road route, I immediately found myself on a narrow street lined with not especially nice shopfronts that, potentially, could date as far back as the mid 19th century. (While that particular style of wooden building goes back even farther than that, it's unlikely that an unimpressive mercantile building in an unimportant town would survive that long without being replaced more than once.)

As they had remnants of big character slogans painted on them, this necessitated a stop to take a video of me reading the only legible one out loud and quickly explaining that if you know how to look you can find old things in most towns as many of the people following me on TikTok have been surprised by how I'm finding all this stuff that they, as Chinese people, are unaware still exists. Fan service done for, I then rode up and down the road checking out the various buildings to see if there were any with anything actually unique or interesting about them (there weren't) and continued on my way, only to have the GPS tell me that even though I'd made no turns yet, nor been instructed to make any turns, I was off route.

Bunches of fidgeting with the fool thing later, I got into a more residential area of old buildings, now built out of stone and protected by a gate house that might have once had a wall. I gather I missed the Ancestral Home of Someone Important but, unless these are immediately by the side of the path I'm already on, and obviously open, I've mostly given up on detouring to see them as they are inevitably locked up and completely devoid of anything if they aren't locked up with the rare Ancestral Home that's been turned into a not very nice museum.

(The Ancestral Home of Zhao Puchu in Anqing, Anhui is one of the rare exceptions to this rule.)

The presence of a recently rebuilt Traveler's Pavilion (same idea as a roadhouse but different) led me to discover that the road I was on, while currently of absolutely no importance whatsoever, had been of somewhat greater importance 200 years ago. I think the only original parts were the stone plaques and some of the plinths which columns rested on.

Nice flat riding for a while including a stretch along the river which, if the sun would just come out for a few minutes, would have been absolutely stunning. A probably Cultural Revolution slogan painted on the cliff face "Following Chairman Mao Thought is the Only Solution to Successful Revolution" in rather sloppy calligraphy caught my eye not because of the age (ok, that too), or the unlikelihood of such a thing still existing (and that), but because - even across half a century - you could still see the furious passion in the writer's broad messy strokes.

After a relatively boring bit of village where the GPS wasn't quite sure where it was sending me, the climbing started with a short but steep bit that I walked up. It would continue throughout most of the rest of daylight as either perfectly rideable (but heavily potholed and requiring a lot of technical skill) or so extremely steep that the occasional motor vehicle passing me was also making straining noises.

The road continued to provide me with little hints of its former importance. A cobblestone village road lined with rotting empty 18th century houses with falling in ceilings and occasional fire damage; stone markers commemorating someone's good results at the Imperial examinations; a temple whose exterior wall had been painted in praise of Chairman Hua Guofeng; a stone roadhouse with a collapsed roof.

The GPS wanted me to turn at the roadhouse and take an even tinier road up and over the mountain. However, although the presence of the roadhouse indicated that there must be a village down that ways and that the village must have been around for a good long time, I decided to stick with the road I was already on and continue to Baibao Township [百宝乡] where I'd probably be able to find some snacky snacks to tide me over until I made it down the mountain and into Quanzhou.

Along with the sleeping late because of the drizzle, I'd spent so much time looking at old stuff that it got dark while I was still on the mountain. Luckily, everything was downhill from here and the paving had improved substantially when I'd moved up a grade of road. I passed a number of old stone buildings and at least one roadhouse in the dark but had to give them a pass on the grounds that I couldn't actually see them.

Came into Quanzhou on the very oddly named Dongmen Bridge across the Xiang River. East gate. Should mean that there were city walls around here somewhere. Should mean that I should be able to find some old streets or temples or something. But, nope. Even the pagoda on the east side of the water is only 20 years old.

After deciding that I liked the look of the place the GPS had sent me from the outside, I booked it online while eating dinner. They then upsold me to a different room by telling me that the room I had booked had a broken hot water heater. Now, I'm pretty sure this is supposed to mean that you just give me the nicer room but, as I wanted them to store my bike while I was in Guangzhou, I wasn't arguing a few dollars.

Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 1,501 km (932 miles)

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