D54: 新舟→绥阳 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

October 27, 2020

D54: 新舟→绥阳

After a breakfast in which I, again, fail to find soft tofu noodles, I head towards Suiyang and my long misplaced sunglasses. The first part of the day is dull as dishwater. The main road that had apparently disappeared at the airport has reappeared and I'm on it. It's straight with nothing much to see to either side.

It's such a boring road that some guy who is apparently on a training ride on the other side of the road decides that he's close enough to his end point that he's going to turn around and ride with the touring cyclist. Thing is, I can't understand anything he's saying. A word here or there makes it through but mostly it's fast paced gibberish. It's like talking to Boomhauer from King of the Hill. Yet he seems perfectly able to understand what I'm saying. Or, at least I think he can understand me. In any case, he joins me, but then ends up letting me set the pace as he rides behind me.

First town of the day was the place I was kind of thinking about pushing on to and staying last night except that the dumpling shop where I ate dinner said that it's a much smaller town than the one I stayed in. I'd actually put it at being about the same size but much less new. What little I saw in Xinzhou that holds the possibility of being more than 20 years old had been shined up more recently.

In economics, there's something called the "Broken Windows Theory". Basically, the idea is that small things (like broken windows) can be an indicator for major underlying issues. A corollary to Broken Windows is that you can sometimes help cure major underlying issues by addressing the symptoms. I'm not sure that what China is doing is exactly BW but, over the last 5 or 6 years, the nation has started aggressively working on beautification projects. 

In Xinzhou, this took the form of every building on main street being given a matching façade so that instead of looking all higgledy piggledy built at different times, it looked like a unified development. Personally, I prefer a mismatched look, but at the same time, I have to admit that even when the level of beautification doesn't reach my standards for what is actually beautiful, what has been done in the name of beautification generally looks a whole lot better than what was there before.

In Zhengchang [郑场], things are still mismatched. And there's some old buildings too. Century old buildings, in fact.

I lose my erstwhile companion while I'm still checking out the portion of remaining building on Long March Road that has the slogan about unifying the proletariat painted on it. Letting me know that no one has really used it in the last decade since the family member who was living in it died, the actual owner of the building even unlocks it and lets me step into the front room, though he doesn't want me going any farther as the building is on the verge of collapse.

There are no owners around (or padlocks) to keep me from going into the next Dangerous Building. There is however a sense of self preservation keeping me from going up to the second floor.

By the time I've photographed the local tobacco market, and the outsides of a bunch more century old buildings, the temple that was originally my goal in this town is up too many stairs and showing far too many signs of having been cleaned up new and shiny and devoid of local culture for me to want to bother with.

I could have stuck with the main road the whole way to Suiyang but there's an old road to take instead and a practiced eye indicates that this particular old road might actually have been the original road between Zhengchang and Suiyang so I go for that. The one pair of government buildings that I see at a distance where its too inconvenient to figure out (with winding roads and hillocks and the like) how to get to certainly seems to support my theory as, even at a distance, the older of the two has a very Sino-Soviet look to the architecture.

Up a big mountain that I mostly pedal except for immediately after when I stop to do things like photograph goats or pee. For most cyclists, walking up a hill is the ultimate in admitting "I can't do this hill". Now, it's often the case that I actually can't do this hill. However, for me, with the issues I have with my bad leg, walking is actually the better exercise which I ought to be doing more of. When I walk instead of pedal, my good leg can't pick up the slack and my bad leg gets a lot more strengthening. So, even when I can do this hill, if I've stopped for any reason at all, I must do some walking before I'm allowed to start again.

People's Hospital in Suiyang is about as set up for a random foreigner to show up asking for a Covid test as can be expected. With each new person that encounters me, they become less nervous when I'm revealed to be American and not Uighur as there is currently an outbreak in Xinjiang and, unlike most nearly everyone else I've been encountering who is afraid of Americans, the staff of an urban hospital have some idea of the border controls and the sheer unlikelihood of my somehow circumventing them.

There are no border controls between provinces, however. And just because I'm saying that the reason I want a Covid test is additional convenience in travel, that could be the self-denial excuse I'm telling myself; I might actually be a patient. 

Except that despite my central European appearance, I'm American not Uighur; I didn't come from Xinjiang; and, I've not been anywhere near any hotspots...

Dinner is soft tofu noodles just down the hill from the hospital and, might I say that, as I've gotten particularly used to never wearing a mask, once the mask can come off after thirty minutes or so of wearing a mask, I'm really glad to take it off.

I pick a hotel off the map quite at random and, although I'm prepared for a hassle (as, historically, cities are more likely to be a pain in the ass than towns), there's no issue at all with checking me in. I suspect that I don't end up computer registered but he still takes all of the pictures I tell him to take of all of the info he potentially could have the slightest possibility of needing to share with the police and I'm reasonably sure that, whether or not I'm correctly registered, my presence does at least get reported.

Today's ride: 27 km (17 miles)
Total: 2,650 km (1,646 miles)

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