D21: 延安 → 子长 - Me China Red - CycleBlaze

April 8, 2021

D21: 延安 → 子长

After missing out on stuff I also missed in 2012, the primary goal for today is a grotto that I never find. However, despite someone in the TikTok comments section saying it's been demolished, I'm pretty sure it's still there. I just wasn't asking with the right vocabulary.

Once again, the Bureau of Antiquities was surprisingly unhelpful with a person who was interested in an obscure site and wanted to visit it. This time, I (well, Tyra on my behalf) wasn't told to not go, but—despite the protection and promotion of antiquities literally being their job—there was absolutely zero interest in helping me. In fact, so far, the only time anyone has actively been interested in helping me find one of this trip's weird sites, it's been the police when I was looking for the Yangfeng Village Grottoes. Everyone else has, at best, told me to spitball it and then start asking the locals (who then don't know what I'm talking about).

Having already confirmed that this was a "not on the internet" site before heading up to the village with the same name as the grottoes I wanted, I wasn't as prepared to wander about searching as I might otherwise have been as it was a nippy gray day with my first lodging options only starting after my preferred daily max of 85km. The only person I found outside had no idea what I was talking about, so instead of going looking for more people, I turned around, went the 3km back to the closest intersection, bought a Coke, and continued on my way.

There was a nice square hole in the hills to the other side of the stream nearby to where I was drinking my fizzy caffeine and I asked some locals if that was—as it looked to be—a Grotto. "It wasn't", they said (though, surely, at some point in its history, it must have been). "However," they continued, "if you head uphill to village-name-you-just-came-from, they've got a very nice one."

And that was how I found out that my highfalutin over-educated vocabulary had done me dirty; instead of asking for 'grottoes', I'd ought to have been asking for the 'Buddha cave'. These here fellas who had mostly all of them completed high school knew what a 'grotto' was, but the fifteen years older than them village auntie? Not a chance. 

My first 'sole name credit' book as a translator (which still isn't in print) was on the history of education in China. I actually know about things like the Two Foundations program to eliminate illiteracy and functional illiteracy among young and physically abled adults by the year 2000. I know that these programs were especially focused on rural areas of central and western China. While in a rural area of north central China, I literally have no excuse for just assuming that a woman in her late 50s (or older) would know vocabulary outside of things that affect her daily life.

The men try to convince me I should head back, make my detour again, that it's a site worth visiting if I'm the kind of person into visiting sites like that. But, the clock is ticking, and while there is a hotel here in this town where I could spend the night if I wanted today to be a short day, I've seen the weather forecast and I want much of tomorrow's even colder even grayer day to be spent at the magnificent Zhongshan Grottoes which I visited in 2018, so I go.

I continue my way along farm roads that really ought to be pretty if not for this completely being the wrong time of the year to ride in north Shaanxi. There's hints of green on its way and ephemeral glimpses of striped danxia redrock that need sunlight to shine, but all I've got is gray and brown and the occasional cardinal red flash of some oilfield worker's jacket cause even when someone isn't actively working the oilfields, even when someone is grinding corn with a human powered stone mill, those uniform jackets are good warm jackets.

Arriving in Zichang with my new headlight already burnt out again, I pass my first potential hotel for some food, realize over firstdinner that I've got access to the GPS tracks from 2018, and decide that I'll go to my previous stay's hotel and get checked in before having a proper meal.

And wasn't that a terrible decision....

Today's ride: 94 km (58 miles)
Total: 806 km (501 miles)

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