D32: 兴安→中峰 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 28, 2020

D32: 兴安→中峰

I absolutely loathe tunnels. It's gotten a little better with the discovery in 2018 that most Chinese tunnels now have lighting (which they most certainly did not when I was getting lots of tunnels in 2012). Having an always on headlight also helps. I'm no longer in pitch blackness fumbling my way one stolid step in front of the other along the escape walkway while my lizard brain gibbers in terror and adds things like Tunnel Goblinsto the general fears of being crushed by a runaway truck.
However, I still hate tunnels.

So, imagine my surprise when the GPS did not take me on my planned tunnel-free road along a windy river valley up to a steep pass but instead took me on something else entirely (that apparently took over as the provincial route some 3 or 4 years ago) that wasn't on my paper maps, that isn't on Google or Open Street Maps, that was consistently a mix of steep climbs and hill cuts, and that—after the tunnel—still resulted in a significant stretch spent along a windy river valley going up to a steep pass. 

I feel like part of why you can tell that what I was on is a new road is the relatively steep grades (versus what I should have gotten by having a river valley most of the day) but that could also be because it goes straight up a mountain (and then through it) rather than lots of blind curves through places where people have lived longer than there was a need for roads wider than a single lane.

From my read of the topo map, this was a good 150m of pure vertical gain that I simply would not have needed to do if I'd realized earlier that I was on the wrong road. Coming on the heels of a much shorter (but equally steep) climb where I gained and lost 60 completely unnecessary meters, this made the day's real climb (the mountain pass I was expecting) into something that, even with 4km of walking, was pure hell.

But hey, despite getting nowhere near as much interaction as my sage commentary about mud puddles, my TikTok video about hating tunnels is already up to half a million views so, um, yay?

I suspect that if I hadn't taken the wrong fucking road and had instead taken the river valley road the way I was supposed to, I'd either have been just as exhausted at the end of the day in Zhongfeng or I might have been forced to do as I originally planned and use my hammock on occasion. I'd also have potentially had the opportunity for detours (even little tiny 50 meter detours) to look at interesting things as the river valley road is one of those roads that any logical understanding of geography tells you has probably been around for the past thousand years.

As it was, my morning's first attempt to get off the main road (before I got to the turn off for the wrong road) had a nice bit of stone defensive works across a valley entrance that led to a cliff full of carved inscriptions and a narrow main-road-that-was through a town-that-no-longer-is with a good collection of hundred plus year old wooden houses to either side. So, yeah, I should have been getting stuff more interesting than occasional views of the expressway.

I should have been getting villages and slogans and warnings and livestock and weird advertisements. I'd've liked that a lot more. Liked that a lot more once I got to the part of the river valley that's still the provincial route.

Over the mountain down the other side, it's pretty flat here and the local communities clearly have money. There's barely anything "old" and, in this case, when I say "old" I mean obviously more than 10 or 15 years. That the few market towns I pass through have been decoratively redone with elements of style borrowed off of traditional ethnic design and architecture so its possible (likely even) that these are older buildings with new facades but, by and large, there is nothing old to be seen.

I'm listening to the truly random selection of Monty Python available on Chinese streaming audio as I come in to Zhongfeng. It's a skit I somehow haven't heard before and is taking far too much of my attention that I have to make multiple passes of the same street to determine that neither of the hotels shown on the map for Zhongfeng are open. In point of fact, one of them appears not to exist at all.

However, when getting something to eat in preparation for the misery of continuing in the dark, I found a newly opened place just off the main road. They were quite pleasant and apologetic about the having to be nosy about my details (because Covid) and invited me (possibly genuinely) to join them in eating hotpot which, despite having just eaten, I meant to consider after a hot shower but I went to sleep instead.

Today's ride: 64 km (40 miles)
Total: 1,641 km (1,019 miles)

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