D70: 吉安→南充 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

November 17, 2020

D70: 吉安→南充

Nanchong has the distinction - from 2012 - of being home to one of the more interesting places I've slept in China. One of the cyclists who came by the shop while I was getting some pretty substantial work done on my bike (new chain, near rear cluster, new jockey wheels for the derailleur, and a new chainring) worked for the National Tax Bureau and, after getting permission from the right people, offered to let me stay at the official guesthouse belonging to the Tax Bureau for people that had come to Nanchong for training courses or audits or whatever sort of reason there was that the Tax Bureau needed to have its own private hotel.

Being as 2012 was the year where my bank refused to let me see how much money was in my bank account without my personally walking in to the branch where I opened the account, showing my passport, and getting a printout, I was doing everything in my power to spend as little as possible that trip. As a result, it was one of the nicest places I slept all trip¹.

There wasn't a great deal of interest or interesting things on the road during today's ride. Even in terms of the fact that the things I find interesting are not at all the things that other people find interesting, there wasn't much interesting stuff: a small vegetable garden with 39 scarecrows, a bio-diesel(?) plant for recycling the kitchen waste from Nanchong's restaurants², a slogan with an odd mix of traditional and simplified characters, a window that I photographed eight years ago, a jewelry store advertisement at a petrol station.

It really was dire.

But the weather was amazingly perfect, and if only I didn't have that Noise grating at my consciousness, my attitude would have been as well.

After a rather traffic filled ride through a city that surely hadn't been this large the last time I was here, the GPS directed me to a bike shop that wasn't at all in the same location as I remembered the Nanchong Bike Shop being but which definitely turned out to be the right place and the right people.

Despite no experience with any internal gear systems greater than 3 speed, they diagnosed the source of my Noise as something ridiculously simple that I'd not thought could be too loose or too tight and therefore not thought to try loosening or tightening. They also replaced the dodgy spoke from Tongzi, retrued my rear wheel, oiled all the things that needed oiling, and sold me a pair of arm warmers³. While they were at that, I pulled the front wheel and patched the slow leak I'd been having the past four or five days.

They were mustering for a 30km evening ride so I left them to that with plans to meet up for dinner after they got back (and after I handled my hotel). None of the police stations that showed on the map were particularly in the vicinity of the bike shop so I decided I'd try and see if maybe, just maybe, not starting the night at the police station to nicely say "by the way, I exist" was going to be a pain in the ass.

Which, of course, it was.

The hotel ladies were quite nice. Really sure that they weren't allowed to legally take me but not unpleasant about it. It's the police who were unpleasant about it. Five officers and they really didn't like me taking their photos. To the extent that they (unsuccessfully) made me delete the 2 second video I took of them. After which they went through my phone's photos and were very unhappy about the number of other photos I had of or with the police.

After quite a bit of insisting that I really ought to be going to the Suggested Hotel for Foreigners (which cost quite a bit more), and generally failing to give me any good reason for this other than "I ought to be", a plainclothes (possibly off duty at the time) officer from Exit & Entry showed up to sit down at the hotel's computer and register me. Now obviously, I could have done this myself (had, in fact, offered to do this myself), but they were being so intractable and so stubborn about how I definitely wasn't allowed to stay here that I didn't even know that I had earned myself 3 more points in the ongoing score of Marian vs. the Police until the Dude arrived.

¹ The nicest was a hotel in downtown Chongqing paid for by some guy that had been following me on Weibo⁴. 

² Kitchen waste used to go for pig feed. As recently as a public health poster about preventing African Swine Flu which I read this trip, I thought it still did.

³ After they'd done that much work for me for free, I had to find something to buy from them.

⁴My Weibo following never got up to more than a few thousand people. However in terms of the vanishingly small number of random followers that I met up with all of once - never to see again - the value of stuff that was just straight up given to me just because they wanted to give something to a person they followed on social media is still substantially higher than what I've gotten from TikTok⁵.

⁵ TikTok is catching up fast though.

Today's ride: 43 km (27 miles)
Total: 3,303 km (2,051 miles)

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