D58: 九坝→官店 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

November 2, 2020

D58: 九坝→官店

In the morning I guess they felt a bit sorry for having been dicks to me last night cause I got invited to join the family at the breakfast table for noodles. The heated breakfast table. Perhaps its because I came from a not especially cold climate prior to moving to China and I was used to things like central heat, but one of the things I absolutely love about the cold parts of China is the heated furniture. It's so incredibly practical in terms of using less fuel and, really, do you actually need to be getting up and moving around in the winter?

My most favoritest piece of heated furniture is the kang. I've seen these in Shandong and Hebei, Shanxi and Shaanxi but not Gansu or Ningxia. In any case even if I've pretty well decided that I'll be stopping at the north end of Sichuan, I never planned to get far enough north this trip to somewhere that has these. 

That being said, as I'm already in places that have heated tables and electric mattress pads, I suspect that kang may have potentially been a part of their traditional furniture as well. It's basically a large brick platform which a stovepipe runs through. Usually takes up about 2/3rds of the room its in. The bedding on top makes it into a bed but it's not necessarily a bed, it's just a platform upon which bedding can be spread out at night to become a bed. There are little tables which people put on top of the kang for sitting cross legged at when eating so that they basically never have to leave the heated platform for any activity that involves being indoors when its cold outdoors.

While I'm at breakfast, I'm gifted a analog thermometer courtesy of the hospital. I don't actually want it and I try to refuse it but the hotel owner insists and I know that this means they insisted he give it to me. In return, and because I can actually be quite diplomatic (even though I'm an asshole), I give the grandbaby one of my drilled pennies.

The mist outside isn't quite damp enough to be mizzle but I stop at an open supermarket to see if they have shoe glue (they do!) or a rain coat (they also do!) and buy both only to take the rain coat off in the first two or three kilometers because I'm now too warm.

Mostly pedal instead of walk up the mountain at least until the fog gets thick enough that, despite a relatively low volume of traffic, I don't feel safe riding. I make a last minute decision to turn when I'm nearly at the top of the mountain and at the beginning of what my read of the topo map has a 20 kilometer descent followed by the choice to cross another short but steep mountain on my way to Xianyuan [仙源] or continue downhill to Guandian where I will then have to make a decision tomorrow between a u-turn (as if) and back roads (much better).

Despite my near lack of traffic, I have gotten a few cars and a truck or two while I've been on this road in this fog and mizzle. I'm also on something that only recently changed from county road to national road so chances are pretty good that the road will continue to be the sort of upgraded thing I've been on more or less since leaving Tongzi. Even knowing that the banking will be alright, I'm just not sure that I feel comfortable doing a 20 kilometer descent in the fog on a road that might have a truck coming up at me (or wanting to pass me). Besides which, although this a turnoff into the mountainous middle of nowhere, it's got signs for a farmhouse restaurant, for an escape the summer heat resort, and this was apparently a road that was used in the Long March so it has the potential to have some interesting historic sites.

By the time I get to Guandian, I have failed to come across a single historic site interesting or otherwise. Just after the really steep part on the final descent there was something that might have been a temple but it was dark already by that point and I already had my sights set another hundred meters away to a flat spot where I could sit and eat some handfuls of puffed corn.

In fact, other than the one sign up at the top about this being a Long March road, I don't even see any signs for sites of interest.

Despite this failing, and despite being so steep and so prone to hairpin curves that I'm regularly making the decision that the safest way down is to walk, it's a gorgeous road. Probably one of the prettiest roads I've been on all trip. So pretty that, rather than hide the mountains, the wisps and wreathes of mist only serve to accentuate how incredible the visible scenery is.

I'm pretty sure I'd've ended up on the mountain after dark no matter what. However, while the amount of time I take to just stop and go "wow" certainly contributes to how late it is when I get to the final descent, the darkness isn't my reason for walking. The reason for walking is that the topo puts me at having 500 meters left to descend at the same time that the GPS says I've got 4 kilometers left to go. On a concrete road that's maybe 2.5 meters wide, that only mostly has safety barriers at the cliff edges.

Despite being terrified of the possibility of falling off the side of the mountain and therefore deciding that I'm just going to walk and walk and walk, I'm actually quite impressed by the road quality. It's not the sort of motorway that costs a million dollars a mile but these roads could not have been cheap and even if tourists are being encouraged to come here, the economic return of paving these roads and installing these crash barriers is something that's going to take quite a while to achieve.

Even before the end to my evening, I've basically decided that this is a place I want to come back and visit again. With a motor vehicle.

Today's ride: 32 km (20 miles)
Total: 2,828 km (1,756 miles)

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