T-9: Maps! (and my route) - China Blues - CycleBlaze

August 6, 2020

T-9: Maps! (and my route)

As you can see, the vast majority of my touring has occurred in Asia
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Starting from the 2018 Tour, I've begun to incorporate the GPS into my on-the-road navigation. Prior to this, although I might have occasionally (and not so occasionally) thought to look at online maps, it never occurred to me to go burning through my data or my phone battery and get instructions on when to turn. The combination of starting to use my phone to listen to music and getting an external speaker which could nicely shout directions at me were the final tipping points.

hate using the GPS to tell me where to go.
I also love how incredibly convenient the GPS is.

The main negative which I take away from having the GPS is that I no longer have anywhere near so clear a recollection of where everything happened throughout the day. I still remember it (more or less) in a chronological fashion but whether it happened before this turn or after that one, now that turns no longer involve paying attention to road names or asking people for directions, that's gone.

Route maps in my hallway
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The main positive is that there are a lot of really minor roads that it might never occur to me are through roads but which the GPS is aware of and can take me on without my having to think things through. Furthermore, should I get myself completely lost, the GPS can usually get me back out again without necessarily needing to do a 100% backtrack along the way I initially came in.

I will still use my paper maps though. Because paper maps are awesome.

In China, my preference is for StarMaps. StarMaps are a brand of dual civilian military use maps produced by a military publishing house. I first encountered them in Guangxi Province when the daughter of the owner of the hotel I was staying at was sent to buy me a map and came back with a "gosh we're so sorry it's so big" water resistant wall map that was the most detailed thing I'd ever seen in China.

They are really BIG maps
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I'm saddened to say that while this year's purchases are all the water resistant wall maps (and not atlases that I attacked with a scissors and cellotape), they don't have the level of fine granularity that I remember and are missing some of the really cool info (like distances between crossroads on minor roads) that I'm certain were there in the past.

This is further complicated by the fact that, after decades of a stable system where national roads were major things that crossed the whole country and provincial roads were things that crossed the whole province, everything has been thrown topsy turvy with country roads that are relabeled as "Scenic Routes" but which haven't changed anything more than the markerstones and all sorts of other such mess (such as marking a road "National" long before any upgrades are done).

The discarded pile of bits I won't need
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My incredible map with far too much detail is here. If you are reading this in 2020, it should show you a blue line with my proposed route. Other layers include 'prospective points of interest', 'POI that I've visited (and when)', and places that I've spent the night while on tour (and when).

My plan is to depart on roughly August 15th with slight modifications available on the basis of the truly massive load of work the municipal foreign affairs office has given me, whether or not I'm on my period, and how close it is to the Trivia Night being held on August 18th at my favorite sushi restaurant (something which in no way, shape, or form, has to do with them being one of the only paying advertisers my WeChat Official Account has).

And the vast majority of that has been in China
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Just this year's route. I'm not real good at "straight lines".
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I will take the ferry to the mainland from Xiuying Port, probably the night before I want to start riding because I did this in 2014 and I already know a couple of portside hotels on the Mainland. Heading to the west side of the Leizhou peninsula, I will hopefully take a small ferry that I found on the first of the 2018 tours but, if it isn't running, I will have a nice coastal ride anyways. 

The goal for Day 1 is to get to a hotel which I spent the night at in 2018 as the nonexistent "no foreigners allowed" unpolicies are particularly painful in a post-Covid China.

The second day will see me heading east by northeast as I cross the peninsula to the town of Tiaofeng (my first stop on my first day of my first tour) and the police station who answered my "oh dear, I've gone and fucked up and there's no hotel, where can I camp" query with "the hotel three doors down from our police station". That was 12 years ago so I doubt that any of the same officers will be around or that they'll remember me. I'll be nicely informing them that I plan on camping nearby and would like to inform them of this so that no one comes by with flashlights at midnight to ask what I'm doing.

The ferry I'm hoping I'll be able to take (like everything else in the countryside) has enthusiastically adopted the concept of not needing paper money.
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From Tiaofeng to Leizhou where I plan on staying in the hotel that the Argentinians and I slept at on the second to last day of my 2019 Tour. Although I asked for directions at the police station in 2008, I will not be visiting any police stations in Leizhou on the off chance that Officer Huang (who continued to call me for three years after he got my phone number off of my business card) is there.

Leizhou to Zhangjiang where I might be visiting an old intern from the Tour of Hainan and I might be staying in a five star hotel whose parent company owes me money.

Zhangjiang to Suixi, Anpu, Lianjiang, and Guangxi Province. Anpu is a hard call that I'm not entirely sold on going to and not entirely sold on not going to either. On the one hand, it's got a brilliant historical downtown with some stuff I wouldn't mind doing a bit of exploring of when not accompanied by other people, and it fits in very well with my theme of revisiting various police. On the other hand, the time I spent the night in Anpu, the situation escalated past me being "just a foreigner" to me none too subtly threatening the police with a "do you know who I am".

I doubt anyone in Qinghu is still using vehicles like this
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In Guangxi, I will stop at the police station in Qinghu. They were lovely fellows. I will not seek out the hotel I stayed at in 2008 and 2012. My standards are higher than that now. Since I'm planning on saying hi to the popo anyways, I will again be making myself camp. If I'm going to cross Europe and Russia after Covid is no longer a concern, I'm going to have to get myself accustomed to sleeping outdoors.

I'll work my way north through Guangxi, sometimes passing through places I've been before, sometimes trying out roads nearby. After a ridiculously silly zig zag so that I can hit Malian and Changdong and Tongmu (some Yao minority places that I've been before) and the town of Luorong where the police bought me sweet tea and spent over an hour puzzling over how to register a passport, the next big stop in Guangxi will be Yangshuo. I doubt I'll spend the night in the tourist town, but I'll probably treat myself to a hamburger or pizza or something like that.

Heading east from Yangshuo, I can't imagine that the 12 yuan a night hotel in Shapo still exists and, even if it does, I'm pretty sure I won't be staying there. Into Hunan and Jiangyong County where, this time, I'm actually going to try to look at some of that cool old stuff I blew past 12 years ago.

In fairness, the place in Shapo not only was cool enough to have a Black & White TV, they told me their landline number so that I could text my family and get a phone call from the US
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From Jiangyong north to Dao and then turning west back into Guangxi. I will proceed along a mostly westerly line until I'm ready to enter Guizhou. The first night in Guizhou will be Congjiang County. If my memory is correct, the ride from Congjiang County to Rongjiang County should be quite easy on the body which will leave me in plenty good condition for my visit to the police there. 

Depending on whether or not the hotel I stayed at in 2012 appears to still be there, my opening gambit in Rongjiang will probably be the same as with those nice fellows in Tiaofeng and Qinghu as I inform them that I am camping. Whatever happens, I expect to be very entertained.

Depending on whether or not it is the weekend, I might pass through the city of Kaili as I seem to recall them having a very active bike club 8 years ago and they may have valuable route information or temporary companions for me. Then north, north, north (and a bit west) until I reach Chongqing.

In Chongqing, I will absolutely have to make an attempt to find the hotel in Jiangjing where I ended up in 2012. At the time, the owner wasn't real keen on my taking down the hotel's address or stuff like that to share with other foreigners because the police had expressly told her "no foreigners allowed". The police were also the people who had brought me to that hotel after some unpleasantness with the first place I picked.

One of the (many) reasons I plan not to go into Chongqing proper is all the Absolutely Cars Only tunnels that I'd have to go through
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I'll avoid Chongqing's central urban districts and continue along the west side of the province (sorry, "municipality directly under the administration of the central government") crossing into Sichuan on the G212 National Road. I'm looking for some modern cliff carvings seen in 2012.

Once in Sichuan, I will head east and a bit north past Guang'an City to Qianfeng as that was another one of those places with brilliantly nice and awesomely helpful police who were actively trying to be awesome and helpful even though their help was completely unnecessary. (In fairness, they knew about me because an officer from the next town to the east had seen the clearly lost me being clearly lost in the mountains a few hours earlier and, at the time he drove past on a slope where stopping might have meant rolling backwards, I was very close to actually being the damsel in distress they thought I was.)

Then, it's zigging back to the west, to Nanchong, the bike shop in Nanchong, and the extreme unlikelihood of my running into anyone from 2012 but the hope that I might cause the only place I've stayed that was cooler than dormitories belonging to the National Tax Bureau in Nanchong was the time that a cyclist I met on the road randomly arranged for me to be given the hotel room (inside the procuratorate!) for visiting judges.

The niches have obvious power tool marks so it seems like these are modern carvings.
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It's a fairly straight shot north from Nanchong to Gansu and I might even be traveling in something resembling a straight line. Depending on the weather, I also might be taking a bus as my absolute goals are a handful of places in Gansu from the 2018 Tour. Daqiao where the officers had local walnuts and used the door to crack them, Longlin where a late night patrol escorted my dumb headlightless ass to a hotel, and Yanguan where they were friendly and reasonable over the phone as they figured out what to download and how to fill it in. 

Also (because I'm a horrible person) I will attempt to camp in Zaojiao. The last time I was there the police really really didn't want a single female traveler sleeping in their local hotels and gave me the options of "being driven back to Tianshui" or "sleeping at the police station" with the caveat that they didn't actually have any beds in the police station. So, my goal—for what will basically be the last day of the Tour before I stop biking and start considering flights back—is to sleep at the police station.

More precisely, to camp at the police station. 

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