D71: 南充→蓬安 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

November 18, 2020

D71: 南充→蓬安

It was the kind of perfect blue sky day that shouldn't be happening in Sichuan in November. Global climate change has to have some silver linings I suppose. 

For today I intend to visit a number of minor sites of interest that will keep me on the secondary and tertiary roads as I wend my way to the next county over but, as I'll discover as I get closer to these various sites, they are either artifacts of mapping software (like the doors and windows shop in Guizhou) or, no matter how flat the surrounding terrain is, are always at the end of a dead end road on top of a short steep ridge that I'm not terribly inclined to follow.

I start the day by repeatedly ignoring the GPS's insistent bleating that I'm on the wrong track and need to turn as I ride along the riverside cyclepath/greenway. I find it particularly annoying that, even set to cycling, the mapping software is too dumb to realize that I might want to use the cycle path. I really wish a China friendly GPS software existed where I could set routes on the go and not constantly be fighting against the program trying to put me back on the main roads.

I've had Tyra check about changing my train ticket to the city I actually intended to leave from but it costs something like 600 yuan extra and for that much more I could just as well fly so I'm heading east along the Jialing River.

Especially after I get off the big city road and onto what's obviously an old main road, things are pretty fucking great. I especially like it when I pass through a big town like Longmen where the town center is still all 1980s and early 90s type buildings with the white bathroom tile exteriors and the blue glass windows.

It's not long after this that I encounter road works. Luckily for me, the roads getting the serious construction are not the road that I'm on but, unluckily, it seems as if the trucks involved in the construction are hauling stuff back and forth along this road. At the very least, there's a lot of truck traffic for a road this size, coming in clusters of very similar looking vehicles.

After a very nice ride along what should have been an awesome road (but which couldn't be awesome because of the scary truck traffic) through clusters of houses ranging from the 40s and 50s (almost entirely unused) through to this decade. There were even a few older farmhouses that could have been 19th century, though, being as they are wooden are rather difficult to date. Being as I've got more time left to me between here and Guang'an than I've got road left to me, I'm lollygagging even more usual and really enjoying the variations in old architecture.

Eventually, however, the road I'm on meets up with the road works and even though the guys that are laying asphalt swear that it's short enough that I can totally get around the hot bits, I reset the GPS, determine that there's a farm road I can take over the mountain, and go that way instead.

It's not quite as steep as the steep bits in Guizhou but it's still "walking down the hill" levels of steep and it means that, even though the next piece of road I'm on is a straight-as-an-arrow piece of repurposed rail line, I end up doing my last 10km or so in the dark. Still with trucks and therefore still with quite a bit of walking (both up and down) but now because I can get closer to the edge of the road that way.

I've still got quite a distance to go before I reach the downtown and the closest of the marked on Maps as existing hotels but the Peng'an Train Station is the first thing I come to once I get to an intersection and the Streetlight Zone and there's a lot of rather obvious hotels about.

I'm looking at a restaurant that happens to be next to the hotel that I'm planning to ask room prices at (looking at in terms of do I want to do in-room oatmeal or do I want someone to cook my meal for me) when the hotel owner waves at me and asks if I have somewhere to stay. His room prices are reasonable so I pull out my collection of stuff (passport, Covid test), tell him which pages of my passport he'll need to photograph, tell him to contact the police so that they know I'm here, pay him, leave my bike in the lobby, and go next door for dinner.

I'm not the slightest bit surprised when I get back from dinner to be told that the police say I couldn't stay but, of course, that means nothing to me. "Call them back and tell them I'm staying anyways." I say, starting to pull various bags off of my bike with the obvious body language that I'm clearly not going anywhere else. Nope. He doesn't want to do that. However, like the gas station attendant selling cigarettes to a high school classmate just this one time because he's probably not going to get caught, after he determines that I'm only going to stay one night, he's willing to take me up to a room anyways.

There are years when I would have insisted on things being done right. This year is not one of them.

Today's ride: 56 km (35 miles)
Total: 3,359 km (2,086 miles)

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