T-1: 海口→西安 - Me China Red - CycleBlaze

March 16, 2021

T-1: 海口→西安

Waiting for my bike box to be scanned
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I do not recommend waking up at 4:30. No matter what time you went to sleep, it's still a dreadful hour. I mean I suppose there must be morning larks that like the predawn quiet as much as night owls such as myself do, but I've never actually met one.

I am up at 4:30. Only took the one pannier into the room with me as it had my laptop so packing was a breeze and I was downstairs with plenty of time to kill.

Or, at least that would have been the case if the driver of the shared shuttle bus service being used by multiple hotels on this trip had either not been shared or had been more willing to be helpful as I dragged my bike box to his bus. Now I'm not saying that I expect helpful cause I don't. I'm just saying that if you're not going to help, you don't also get to complain about my being so slow.

On the airport shuttle
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None of the people on the bus (driver included) had masked up by the time I got on but about twenty people got on all at once at the next stop and a year of crowded places like buses and subways requiring masks was enough force of social habit to break through the fog of sleep interrupted.

Looking at the anti-maskers in the States and other parts of the world, it's fascinating to note their similarities to the Chinese variety. As Covid is pretty well under control here and has been for 10+ months, it's quite normal to see people going about in public without masks (though the degree of normal depends on the size and density of the city and what kind of facility you are visiting) and a lack of mask does not necessarily equal anti-social twat. However, you can pretty well be sure that anyone being a total prat (particularly towards service staff) will be maskless.

Checkpoint #1 to get into the airport - body temperature scanning. The blue vending machine near the entrance dispenses free masks, one per phone number per day.
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I mention this because the one and only person I saw without a mask at the airport had apparently taken his off between the entry checkpoint and the check-in counters only to pull it out of a pocket to put on shortly before he tried to cut the line.

Eventually I made it to the front of the line which then started me bouncing back and forth from check-in to the counter where I paid for my overweight luggage to the oversized luggage check and then back to check-in to actually get my boarding pass.

Checkpoint #2 to get into the airport, not Covid related
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Crowds were crazy enough that the broken luggage conveyor at the oversized luggage counter probably wasn't the reason that, by the time I managed to get anyone's attention at Handicapped Services, I was told that even if a 'chair were available for me, it wasn't happening fast enough to get me through Security and to my gate before boarding closed.

"Go to Line 13 at Security" they said, "it's for special passengers" they said.

In my adult life, I think the 367 days it's been since my last flight are a record of some kind.
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Special passengers in this case meant not only the elderly, the infirm, and families traveling with small children; it also meant everyone who was running late; and, it was nearly as long as all the other lines.

I flagged down an airport employee. Pointed at my scars. "I tried to get a wheelchair. There wasn't time. What do I do?"

"Line 13 is for special passengers. You can stand there." Gesturing. Polite. Might not have even glanced down at my already quite swollen leg.

I'm not entirely sure what I intended to say. What came out was English. "I can't fucking stand." And tears. Lots of tears.

A frame that fits me properly (rather than merely fitting a whole lot better than the titanium one) would have been almost impossible to get into the taxi.
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I didn't even see see where the stool came from. Just a scrabble of motion from which a place to sit appeared.

Picking the stool up and moving it with the line, I'd made it about half of the way to Security when I saw a wheelchair heading back to Handicapped Services from having dropped someone off and I waved at her "excuse me Miss, they were really very nice to get me this stool but I still have to make it from Security to my Gate and my leg is done for". By now it was quite cooperatively starting to turn colors as well as swell so, after calling back to the Service Desk for confirmation, she came over and I got in her 'chair.

I can't say for sure if the plane was waiting for me or if I just happened to be the last to board. In any case, my bag hadn't yet found an overhead bin which the stewardesses could rearrange enough to fit it when the cabin door was closed.

With the exception of meal service, everyone was masked the whole flight. Airline staff also had gloves but although there had been plenty of visors and goggles going on at the airport no one had anything obvious. 

(I feel like the current style in glasses is favoring larger frames and lenses than a year ago.)

Arrived uneventfully in Xi'an. Taxi to my host's place. Hours of chatter about things like how he tours (super endurance randonneur rides) vs how I tour as well as more stuff about the tourism project sponsoring me and how he hoped that my TikTok videos not only would be able to bring attention to his platform but also would be able to provide them with more off the beaten track sites for visitors.

I'm less hopeful than he is that this will work as, despite it being a good sustainable method of real growth, it's not easy to convince traditional Chinese business partners that tour busses going from one Major Attraction to another simply isn't where the market is anymore.

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