D5:老庙→白水→老庙→白水 - Me China Red - CycleBlaze

March 23, 2021


I abso-fucking-lutely adore the Chinese countryside. The people are pretty sure they've got no idea why I'm visiting here instead of all the other far more interesting places that I could be visiting that aren't here, but here is home, and that I find their home interesting enough to want to visit tends to engender quite the sense of pride. Although it may take a bit of work to convince people that I'm interested in the sorts of things I'm interested in, you better believe that if there's anything of the teensiest tiniest bit of interest, they'll tell me about it. Usually with unusable road directions mumbled in a dialect I can't understand with diversions that don't help any with my actually finding the place, but I strike gold often enough to make it worth my while.

(Probably the only thing I really miss about traveling with Myf was his ability to get people talking about themselves and their homes without wading through thirty minutes of talking about me.)

In the countryside, I'm special.
In the county seats, however, I'm different.

Bigger than towns, smaller than cities, county seats have been economically developed long enough that even if the "no foreigners allowed" rule (the one that officially doesn't exist) hasn't come via direct verbal instruction by the police, there are hotels and hoteliers around who actually remember the days when there was a Foreigner License and they know they don't have it. Irregardless of the fact that no one in China has a Foreigner License nor has had one for nearly 20 years, they aren't in a position to have either been informed of this or, if they were, to remember it.

First, the morning dawdle (I rudely used the room kettle to boil strawberries for my oatmeal) led to my then being delayed by a wedding party. I tried to sneak out of the parking lot but the marching band all wanted to take pictures with me during the lull they had while the groom's party was "breaking in" to the hotel to "kidnap" the bride from the bridesmaids.

This is one of the only pictures I was sent that wasn't half thumb.
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Then, there was a delightful selection of interesting abandoned buildings, my first door quilts of the trip, a newly opened noodle shop that thought I was the coolest thing ever, 1960s slogans, Marcus's arrival (on a 250km round trip speed run) with the replacement spare camera batteries I'd ordered, the attempted (and failed) deciphering of 18th century monuments, and the pointless hill climb (I had a bridge I could have taken across the gorge).

So, even though I wanted so much to go farther than Baishui today, it was pretty obvious well before I'd confirmed a dearth of lodging options after Baishui that I was spending the night in a county seat.

If it were just a few weeks warmer than it currently is, my hammock would be a viable option and I could have gone father; I could have risked the possibility that the three places (total) shown in the next two towns all existed (despite not having phone numbers or photos), were open, and met my absurdly low standards. 

It so happens that this hotel (named "hotel") probably isn't in business anymore, but in case you were wondering, it is possible for someplace to be "too bad" even for me. Difficult but possible.
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As it turns out though, as I was just finishing up the Totally Unnecessary Climb up from the gorge I had no good reason to have descended into, I got a message from the previous night's hotel "we found the item you forgot".

My work laptop.

They'd gone out of their way to specifically give me a first floor mahjongg parlor room what ought to have been 200 yuan a night in their wildest dreams of an undiscounted price (as the boss proudly kept telling multiple members of the wedding party) so that I could wheel my bike into the room. 

This meant the panniers never came off. And it meant I didn't notice that I hadn't returned the laptop to its accustomed spot in the padded oversized Ziploc in one of my rear bags.

After some heart racing panic that should have been assuaged by the slightest bit of logic on my part (after all, they proactively contacted me before I noticed the laptop missing), it was determined that I would get myself checked in at a hotel, leave my bike, and get a taxi back to them to pick it up.

But, you see Baishui is a county seat, and, at least in pre-Covid times, if there was ever going to be a problem with my lodging, it was sure to happen at a county seat.

Picked a glammy looking place near the bus station (for ease in finding a taxi willing to leave town), walked past the unmanned Epidemic Prevention Desk where I was a very bad girl who didn't scan in despite the green code still being posted.  The last time I'd tried scanning in, they had to first retrieve the code from on top of a cabinet behind the front desk and, as I'd changed from the Xi'an app to a local one which didn't like my phone, I never actually succeeded and had to pull up the national code instead.

Rooms were 150 a night but they could go as low as 130 and what's this booklet shaped item that isn't an ID card that you are handing me when I've asked for ID... ....

Although it probably wasn't all that different looking from outside my head, this was the most out of control I've been in years. My throwing a screeching banshee fit with key words and phrases like "you have to follow the law" is pretty much a normal occurrence when I get a hostile refusal to accept foreigners but I'm always in control. Even that one time in Guangdong where I may have technically committed assault on a police officer while forcibly removing him from the hotel room which we were in disagreement about whether or not I was allowed to stay in (and which I subsequently stayed in), my acting like a bitch is usually just acting. 

Tonight though, I wasn't acting. I wasn't dancing the knife's edge of acceptable/unacceptable behavior. I was super stressed out, wasn't thinking at all about backups or the hotel having called me before I could even find out I didn't have my laptop. I just wanted a fucking room so I could quickly change into a pair of tights that hadn't decided five minutes ago was the perfect time to start ripping at the crotch and then go get a taxi back to Laomiao.
Was that so goddamned much to ask?

The police showed up reasonably quick and in larger numbers than I'm accustomed to. I didn't see a paddy wagon though, so while I may have been the afternoon entertainment in a town with very little crime, I hadn't quite hit behavior worth being arrested over. 

No visible handcuffs but body language tells me that they're all pissed off at me.
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When, "look, how about you come out from behind the desk, let them deal with other customers, and sit down and chat nicely with us while we talk to our supervisors" was put on the table as a solution, I knew which path things were going to head down (20 minutes at its fastest) and I suggested that instead I leave all my shit in the lobby, get a taxi to Laomiao, and come back to them already having discovered I was right.

Which they accepted. Mostly because it got me out from behind the counter. And because, of course, they knew I wasn't right, and they knew that when I came back, they'd be able to get me to go somewhere else the way I was "supposed to".

Having dealt with police as a foreigner who wants to stay in a hotel far far more times than they've ever seen a foreigner in either their official or unofficial capacities, I—of course—returned to them having discovered I was right, and a trio of local CDC officials waiting for me so they could personally fumble their way through a nice complicated bunch of paperwork for my registration rather than let me do it myself on the preexisting standardized system which exists for a reason.

And that was when the hotel—which is not a Quarantine Hotel, and is in a county that last had an active case of Covid 11 months ago—let me know that their a/c and heat is centralized and, therefore, for epidemic prevention related reasons, wasn't turned on.

Today's ride: 35 km (22 miles)
Total: 253 km (157 miles)

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