D34: 资源 → 车田 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 30, 2020

D34: 资源 → 车田

Even if I don't count the days where I went to another city or where I was legitimately working rather than just recovering from exhaustion, there is absolutely no way I'm going to make it to an average of 50km per day over the course of this tour. 

Part of it is that I'm traveling too heavy. I've got too much stuff that I really don't need with me for the stage I'm at. The autumn weight clothing which, on an ordinary tour in China, I would have shipped to me when the weather starts getting nippy is a perfect example of this. And, to be brutally honest, the camping hammock and the sleeping bag are too. For all my lofty plans to aim for one night in five sleeping outdoors and expect one night in ten, it's gone past day forty and I've used them once.

I knew when I started this trip that—for Covid related reasons—there was basically no chance in hell that I'd be starting my Europe to Asia trip in March of 2021. While many countries have begun to gradually open up their borders (as of September 28, China is letting foreigners with Residence Permits back in provided that they have a recent negative test and do a minimum of 14 days quarantine), that's just not a situation that's feasible for what's easily going to be a 6 month trip and will involve Russia.

As I continue to avoid camping for reasons as spurious as "the sky was lightly spitting" (given the lack of a rain fly on my hammock this isn't that ridiculous), I realize that come April of 2022 (if I've got to delay my 40th birthday celebration, I can delay it to a time when the weather will be nicer), the need to camp is going to be a rough rough baptism by fire.

Separate from the "too heavy" which is my luggage, I'm too heavy. The last time I weighed myself, I was 117 kg. On top of that, I'm tackling the kind of mountains that really aren't meant for fat people on heavily loaded bikes.

I'd already realized that there was a tunnel on the road I planned out of town and that there was an old road available for me to go around it. What I didn't realize until yesterday was that there was another old road departing from the city that meant I would spend barely any of my day on a main road.

The width of this road (which started out as a generous lane and a half and that got narrower and narrower and narrower until it was basically a paved farm track) makes me think there didn't used to be a common way for motor vehicles to go directly over the mountain from Ziyuan to Chetian without first going north to Guali [瓜里] until maybe the 80s. 

Once I got on to what was very definitely the old main road, it felt like the sort of road that might have been constructed in the 80s. Steep but, other than at the top of the pass, grades that are actually much friendlier on the body than modern roads built for modern vehicles with modern amounts of horsepower. That having been said, my GPS thinks the average grade across all of today's climbs was actually steeper (at 10% versus 8%) than on Tunnel Day. 

Whatever the case may be, once I leave the stream valley of the road that was never a main road, today's road mostly clings to the side of the mountain, winding sinuously up and up and up while the newer road cuts straight through the sides of hill. From the turn-off at just over 600m elevation to 900m, the new road goes 3.26km to the old road's 4.7 and that's before I decide on the basis of there being no traffic that I can walk zig zag back and forth and create as much of a new switchback as I want to.

For a while I alternate bouts of walking with bouts of riding but around the time I lose my internet signal (which means I lose my music) the mist turns to full on fog and the oppressive silence of the atmosphere makes me that much more aware of the mystery noise that's been coming and going for at least a week now. This annoys me but it is balanced by the equally soothing nature of the serene white blankness of the clouds I'm surrounded by. Eventually, however, I have to get off my bike and just walk the rest of the way because it's hit a point where I can't see enough of the pavement in front of me to know if there will be rough spots or other things I'd rather not ride across. 

This is a good time to officially be getting off and not getting back on as this is also when I get my first traffic since I took the turn-off and even if they are moving as slowly and as cautiously as you would hope trucks would move through a pea soup fog where it's hard to see more than a meter or two in front of your face, the precious maneuverability afforded to me by being on my feet and able to "dodge the fuck out of the way" if need be is well worth the blow to my pride that I'm too slow and fat and out of shape to bike all the way up a mountain the day immediately after a rest day.

Down down down down with occasional bits of up that leave my thighs burning with effort, the road is in dreadful condition, and I'm riding the brakes so much that I'm periodically coming to a full stop because my hands (particularly the left ring finger) are cramping and need a rest. It's a beautiful road with lots of wooden houses scattered across the mountainside in ways that must have been really difficult in an era before motorized transportation was a thing.

And then, an intersection with the new main road. I can continue on the old one a little bit farther but I choose (even though this rarely applies to me) to believe the sign about road works and the road being closed to through traffic.

The town is one of those places where there really is only enough space between the end of the mountain and the start of the flood plain for one street and it really only manages the get buildings to both sides of this street by virtue of everything on the water side being built on stilts (even if the modern buildings are all concrete stilts, they are still stilts).

Officially the GPS is taking me to the only listed hotel in Chetian but I see numerous other places with "rooms for rent" signs long before I get to it. The fourth of these is substantially nicer looking than the three that came before (or the fifth place, which is across the street from it) and near to a restaurant so I stop and ask how much for a room.

Sold. Can she recommend someplace for dinner? Her neighbors across the street? Great. I'll be back in half an hour.

I've had lesser places which I've paid 100 for. And, in line with previous observations about Chinese and hard beds, it's a proper sprung mattress; because even as middle class city people continue to insist that hard mattresses are the One True Way, people who work with their bodies for a living have discovered that soft mattresses are comfortable and as soon as they have the slightest bit of money available to them, that's what they want.

Today's ride: 31 km (19 miles)
Total: 1,692 km (1,051 miles)

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