D35: 车田 → 红军岩 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

October 1, 2020

D35: 车田 → 红军岩

 Today has two little blips of mountains, neither of which I actually remember walking up but, being as I'm somehow 4 days behind in writing (again), that doesn't mean I actually pedaled the whole way up them; that just means I don't remember if I walked. (A look at the photos tells me that, indeed, I walked.)

Although I won't be using the old road to avoid tunnels, I'll still take the old road as much as I possibly can today. As a general rule, the new road is anywhere from 100 to 200 meters away from the old road and anywhere from 10 to 50 meters difference in elevation; it has wide gentle curves, consistent grades, recent pavement, and hill cuts, hill cuts, hill cuts. The old road is a mess of potholes, landslides, and blind curves; it runs through towns where people, dogs, and the occasional livestock take precedence over the idea that a motor vehicle might want to whizzz by; it's narrow, and undeniably much more dangerous for someone trying to go fast.

But I'm not trying to go fast.

Even when I'm going downhill (with a death grip on my brakes), I'm not trying to go fast.

I tried fast a few times back around 2006 or so, when I used to go on training rides with amateur racer boys. In a group, on a good road, fast can be alright. During a race, drafting someone else's slipstream so that there is nothing in the world but the sound of my breathing, the sensation of my pounding heartbeat, and a field of vision which is dominated by the person in front of me's butt, that can be alright. 

The rest of the time, fast just isn't for me. 

There are numerous indicator signs at the places where the old road intersects with the new that tell me about all of the different Sites of Interest that are located down this stretch but, with a single exception for something that I decide isn't worth the detour, none of them have follow-up signs at any point along the old road. 

It is because of these signs that I know that this road was a road that the Communist Army traveled along during the Long March. I know that there are Ancestral Homes of Important People, and Historic Sites, and even some graffiti left by the Red Army but I never actually see any of it. I'm kind of miffed by this.

Beginning from the town of Hekou [河口], the road enters a river valley and I stop having any options to detour. The Xun River (which is named on my topo maps but not my Chinese ones so I don't know the characters) is a broad stretch of very green water. Judging from the rare bits immediately downstream from a dam but not yet in the catchment of the next dam, it should be a tumbled rocky watercourse with numerous patches of white water rapids. Instead, it's a lot of hydroelectric dams.

Despite (or perhaps because) it is gray and gloomy with the threat of maybe rain, the water is especially green. This seems to be a reflection of the green mountains towering above and not an algae bloom from fertilizer runoff but I can't be sure. Certainly, on the rare occasion that I get relatively close to the water, it appears to be clean and healthy without the sort of scum you'd except from an algae bloom, but I just don't know.

I've picked a rural guesthouse near a cluster of tourism sites as my likely destination for the evening. With plenty of time to spare, and still not at my preferred minimum distance for a day, I skip the developed hot springs cluster without even checking to see how much the hotels cost or if they have bathing suits in my size and continue with the day's down down down up down down down up. Then, I get to the turnoff for the guesthouse and fuck me but the 500 meters off the main road are nearly all vertical and it looks like I'll be riding in the dark as the next place the map knows about is another 15km to go.

(Obviously, I could have turned around and gone back to the cluster near the hot springs but that would mean turning around.)

Fortune is on my side, however, and barely a kilometer later, I see a sign that says "lodging" outside a wooden house where a party of three is clearly enjoying dinner and a lot of rice wine. I confirm that lodging does in fact exist and ask if I can throw some money in the pot and join their dinner.

Fresh caught from the Xun that morning, and chemically cooked in something that's not vinegar (they call it 'sour water' and it might be lye as with ceviche or it might be something else altogether), I think the fish might be one of the best things I've eaten in China ... in 18 years of living in China. The copious amounts of rice wine aren't bad either.

Around the time I started presenting as being drunk (my spoken Chinese is alcohol soluble) and possibly because the guy who was shitfaced when I first sat down kept making vaguely inappropriate comments such as "you shouldn't stay here tonight, you should come stay at my house", the other men at the table take it upon themselves to repeatedly let me know that I'm perfectly, completely, totally, 100% safe and have absolutely nothing to worry about as a single, drunk woman staying on her own in one of the bedrooms which-they also feel the need to tell me-has a dodgy lock that's really more of a latch.


The boss, Mr. Wen, whose home this is, whose restaurant and guesthouse this has been for the past 25 years, his son is in the military.
His son, who isn't here.

I'm confused.
Very confused.

But, eventually, in their repeat insistence that I'm completely safe and have nothing to worry about (and that I can keep drinking if I want to and that I should keep drinking cause they want to), it eventually comes out that, to them, the military is such an incredibly honorable job, that only the son of a fine and righteous and upstanding household could become a soldier, and therefore it should be obvious that nothing will happen to me.

But they want to make sure I know that Mr. Wen raised a son who became a soldier. So, even though Mr. Wen's wife is not at home, and even though I'm alone, and even though the latch on that bedroom door is kind of wonky, I have nothing to worry about.

I think my being 4 inches taller and 20 kg heavier, or my being nowhere near as drunk as I sound (I'm drunk, just not as drunk as you'd think listening to me try to form sentences), or my relative skill at reading a situation are far more likely reasons to believe that nothing untoward will happen than the fact that the boss's son is a soldier.

Today's ride: 51 km (32 miles)
Total: 1,743 km (1,082 miles)

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