D17: 富→下寺湾 - Me China Red - CycleBlaze

April 4, 2021

D17: 富→下寺湾

The weather is still pretty damn yuck when I wake up this morning but I can't stand the idea of spending yet another day in this hotel room, so, since it isn't actively raining, I pack up, triple check every corner of the room for lost items, double check my panniers to make sure that my laptop is where it belongs, and head downstairs.

That the air conditioner which the hotel owner didn't especially want me to keep running (on the grounds of the heater will use up all the oxygen in the room and I'll get sick rather than it running up the electric bill) seems to have been turned off at the fuse box  is not actually a deciding factor in my determination to leave. If it's a passive aggressive gesture on the part of the hotel owner and not a blown fuse, given that I know that she thinks (or will be willing to claim that she thinks) running the heat in a closed room will cause Korean Fan Death¹, I'm not in a good place to argue in Chinese that electric heaters can't cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

With a video of me saying goodbye, I was on my way out the door. I meant to stop at the friendly noodle shop where I'd had a meal my first day trapped at the hotel and where the cook had so nicely asked if she could take a picture with me, but they weren't yet open.

Much of the ride north from Fu is the same as the ride south from Yan'an was nine years ago. In the intervening years, there is little that wasn't interesting enough to photograph then that has since become interesting. A historic marker here or there informs me of stuff I didn't necessarily know (or in some cases hadn't thought worth recording) about the role this area played in the Chinese Civil War, but that's about it.

Because I get off on a farm road for my first detour of the day (to someplace where Mao made an important speech), I come across a plaque for Him Once Staying Here at a place that has no "here". So far this trip, although almost every one of my videos is taking a permanent position for its listed location, they haven't been going the kind of viral I'd expected. As is to be expected though, snark and sarcasm about a Site That Does Not Exist ends up getting—if not a lot of views—a lot more than average for Shaanxi. It also gets me a PM from the county museum with pictures of the actual site and apologies for the misplaced marker.

At Ganquan County I turn to the west and head for the Shimen Grottoes. These are rare among the sites I'm seeking out in that they actually show up on the digital maps as well as the paper ones. They're also roughly 150 feet above the road surface with no apparent paths leading up the cliff to them (there was a marker for them about a kilometer early that might have hinted at a path but I had too little sunlight on too cold a day to go looking for the non obvious).

Despite an expensive yaodong style hotel showing on Maps, there's nowhere to stay in Shimen so, even though Shimen is where I'm supposed to turn north to cross the mountains, I keep going west by northwest.

This gets me a bunch of old bridges, some lovely lintel carvings that were clearly smashed up in the Cultural Revolution (the only undamaged figure is a farmer with a hoe), and brings me to a dusty dried up town that looks dead but which is actually chock full of hotels and hostels and guesthouses on account of the nearby danxia redrock park.

It being past dark by the time I roll on up to the place where I eat dinner for real (the first place I stopped turned out to be snack food rather than meal food), enough locals have started up their coal stoves that I'm asthmatically wheezing and trying not to cough so I can't really blame the restaurant for wanting to see my green code and my NAT results.

¹ Which is actually a nice way of pretending that someone didn't commit suicide and not actually the oxygen in the room being used up by a fan.

Today's ride: 77 km (48 miles)
Total: 634 km (394 miles)

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