D50: 猴场→够皮滩 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

October 22, 2020

D50: 猴场→够皮滩

When my choices were either Goupitan or Jiangjiehe, Goupitan was an option for three reasons.

1. It had lodging
2. The road to Goupitan mostly ran along the ridge line instead of over it
3. There was a 'has no information about it' tourism site in Goupitan by the name of Yongsheng Gate 永生门 that was hopefully going to be one of those historic ceremonial gates that were often erected when someone passed the imperial exams or something like that.

This would have been all fine and well if I had not decided to go to Houchang. Now that I had gone to Houchang, however, there was no way to get to Goupitan without going over not one but two ridges. However, if I didn't go to Goupitan, I'd have to stay on the national road and, as is a point that I'm constantly yammering on about, I don't like national roads.

Within moments of getting breakfast, I had already started to go uphill. In fact, because there was traffic coming down the hill, a handful of potholes, and some really interesting racks full of noodles hung out to dry, I was walking my bike before I'd even done my first kilometer of the day. I still had the option of taking the main road though as the road I was on would intersect with the bypass road for truckers at about the 5km mark.

It so happens that there were no truckers or trucks to be seen when I got to the bypass road but it was awfully straight and wide and didn't seem at all to be the kind of thing where I'd get to see farmers winnowing grain or any of the interesting stuff that's part of the whole reason for biking in the countryside. Also, the grades were pretty reasonable and I had a couple of apples in my panniers so even if there weren't any obvious towns-of-size between here and Goupitan, I had food enough for lunch without even needing to cook.

Other than one little bit of road works and the occasional segment of concrete that just wasn't there at all, it was absolutely stunningly gorgeous scenery on a mostly perfect concrete road. The sun was out. The sky was blue. The buildings were all sorts of different kind of interesting. The tall mountains marched off into the distance. The app which I stream music through was even being relatively cooperative with providing me with things I wanted to listen to (instead of the same pop songs on repeat again).

And then the tall mountains no longer marched off into the distance because I had reached the first ridge and this was one of those geographic formations where there are no foothills, there is flat and there is up.

After an hour of pushing my bike up and up and up, I got to the top and whoooooooshed down the other side. Actually, I didn't whoosh. It was too steep and had too many hairpin curves for whooshing. But 10 and 12 kilometers per hour feels an awful lot like whooshing when you compare it to walking at 3 so sure, it was whooshing.

Then back to walking up. Up through natural piney forests with autumn flowers and changing leaves and still I had internet enough for music, which, for reasons unknown had decided on their own to be Bluegrass.

Almost all the houses around these parts are wood and its hard to tell if they are 50 years old or 100 or more. I mostly don't see any people but when I do they are laying corn out to dry or smoking a wad of local tobacco in a thin wooden pipe.

I miss a turn because I'm heading downhill and can't turn that fast but the GPS recalculates and says I can keep going straight. Then, at the top of another hill, I reset the GPS when it tells me I should take a path that looks to be less than half the size of the not very wide path I'm already on. As this is then the path that I take down the ridge to central valley between ridges, and as this path is so steep and so narrow that I end up walking my bike down, I hate to think what I might have gotten had I gone with the GPS's original suggestion.

It isn't flat in the valley but being able to ride instead of walk makes it feel flat. I get on to a road that actually has four wheeled traffic, my water bottles are refilled at a small government office, there's a bunch of gradual up, followed by a down where I don't have to squeeze my brakes until my hands hurt, and then the roadworks start. I actually manage to ride a surprisingly large amount of the roadworks but eventually the combination of trucks full of dirt and stone coming down, traffic coming up, and an uneven surface means that I'm back to walking again.

Short as the day is, it's therefore approaching dark as I approach Goupitan. I follow the GPS as it should be telling me to go to a hotel and have just come across the gnarliest bit of potholed mess when a car which had just u-turned instead of crossing the same potholed mess pulled another u-turn and came up behind me. Unmarked civilian car but both passengers and the driver were uniformed police officers.

Did I actually need help from them?
No, not really. I have a GPS and there were lots of places available to stay in town.

But they were friendly and helpful and even though the asking of all the Covid Related Questions is something I'm kind of tired of, I didn't actually mind. Especially since everything about them was "we are trying to be helpful". And if the hotel they took me to (the first one on the first street, the one I most likely would have ended up at anyways) was a little nervous at first about suddenly have three police officers show up "don't worry, we're bringing you a customer!" it certainly made the whole getting behind the front desk to register myself rigmarole go that much faster.

What I didn't like about the Goupitan police came about 2 hours later, after I'd showered and had dinner and was doing something on my laptop. Of the, I want to say 5, police officers who showed up at my room, none of them were the first 3 who had been helpful. They had no actual reason for being there. No real questions to ask me. Not even much in the way of documenting "police officers interacting with the community" type video. They just came, couched in the pretense of doing their job, to see the foreigner with their own eyes. 

Today's ride: 34 km (21 miles)
Total: 2,487 km (1,544 miles)

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