D62: 蔡家→李市 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

November 7, 2020

D62: 蔡家→李市

At least, being as I'm in one of Chongqing's valleys, the night riding is merely chill enough for the long sleeved jersey to come back out again and not actually cold. Also, as China increasingly increases the number of expressways, the already limited amount of traffic after dark has dropped even farther. Coupled with improvements in road surface ,this means that riding at night is merely something that makes me very uncomfortable rather than being something actively dangerous the way it might have been a few years ago.

I need to get a better dynamo light than the one I have though. One with a cache battery. Cause biking up hills at the end of a day that's spilled over into biking at night is slow, and slow means that the light dims, and a dim light means that the safe thing is getting off and walking, which is even slower.

I'm not the hungriest I've ever been at the end of a long ride coming into town. That was Vietnam in 2018 when I came up with the brilliant plan to ride on Tet and, faced with nothing being open, had nothing but a packet of crisps between an insubstantial breakfast and an hour or two past sunset. I am, however, really damn hungry.

The first sidewalk barbecued stuff on sticks place answers my "do you have fried noodles" with a yes and I go no farther. They apparently thought I was going to be ordering more than that (does the can of Sprite count?) and would have said anything to get butts in seats. My fried noodles (which were delicious) showed up in a carryout container about 10 minutes later. No idea where they came from.

Owner of the hotel where I end up spending the night is gossipping neighborly with the stuff-on-sticks place where I'm eating noodles and suggests her hotel for my lodging. At 60y a night and with a hotel owner who is actively soliciting my business, there's no question of me looking any farther.

At the hotel, I want to register on the computer, she wants me to register on a phone app. Helpfully shows me a notebook in which she has handwritten instructions on how to use the phone app and I can't even read handwriting in my native language. I eventually fumble my way through scanning the WeChat QR code and finding the appropriate menu items only to have the applet reject my passport number. Must enter a correctly formatted ID card number. On the foreigner hotel guest registration part of a local government services app. Sigh.

Before Husband and I take his motorcycle to the police station to sort this all out, I talk my way behind the front desk and register myself on the standard computer app. This is fortuitous as the police's solution to their government services WeChat applet not allowing me to register is to attempt to explain without the benefit of any screenshots or illustrations that we can use look for the "foreigner registration tab" on the standard computer app and follow our way through the prompts.

Especially coming on the heels of the clusterfuck that was Zhongshan Town, the police are absolutely lovely to deal with and my spirits are greatly improved by their attitude. Although I get my mask out of my bag before entering the station, I'm the only person wearing a mask. And I'm okay with that. With Covid in China basically being reduced to cases caught at the border, cases related to cold chain imports, and cases related to occasional poor practices in quarantine facilities, putting a mask on when entering a place is formal polite behavior like taking your hat off was half a century ago.

The hotel room is about as comfortable as can be expected for what I'm paying. Actually more comfortable. Bit of a sewer gas problem from the bathroom but that's everywhere in China and the combination of comfortable beds and bathrooms down the hall is almost never found. Getting to sleep well after midnight, I wake up late, finish some work, eat brunch and hit the road before noon.

With the exception of an old street where, per my TikTok comments, I somehow missed a Reeducation Through Labor Institute, there's nothing particularly exciting to see during today's ride. However, the skies are an improbable blue for Chongqing in the autumn, and my general inability to find anything from my last trip down this road is made up for by little interesting things - like a slogan about resolutely implementing the spirit of the 14th People's National Congress (1992) or the crumbledy farmhouses which have become outbuildings in favor of modern, safe, comfortable accommodations.

A number of commenters on TikTok have asked why I always take pictures of the old stuff, the ugly stuff. Why I can't take pictures of the shiny and new. And, other than thinking the shiny and the new are generally boring, there's something really cool about a dilapidated former home with a small sign from the Poverty Alleviation Committee noting that this house is not being used as a house and this household has safe housing.

I remember there being more old streets in Lishi but I'm not at all disappointed with the little bit there is (which is all 18th and 19th century structures). An older guy who really struggles with speaking Mandarin and who wants to make friends with me pays for my dinner and tries to get my phone number from me. In a non creepy way. He really seems to just want to be friendly with the foreigner and to show her his town. But I can barely understand what he's saying face to face and with the help of other people in the restaurant and apparently its still possible for there to be people in China who don't have WeChat cause he's one of them.

The combination forklift rental and guesthouse where I spent the night 8 years ago is still there. They don't let me behind the desk to register myself on their computer but they take all the right photos of the right parts of the right documents and presumably contact the police to let them know I'm in town (the next night's town claims to be unable to find me in the computer and raises a fuss over this). 

As with the times in Shanxi and Guizhou where I stayed in the same hotel (though this time, not the same room) the staff recognizes the photos as "their hotel a bunch of years back" but has no recollection of a foreigner on a bicycle ever staying at their hotel. Because apparently, foreigners on bicycles aren't rare enough to remember?

Today's ride: 28 km (17 miles)
Total: 2,961 km (1,839 miles)

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