D17: 石家庄 → 高邑 - A China Coddiwomple - CycleBlaze

June 19, 2022

D17: 石家庄 → 高邑

I went to get my laundry off the line and found it already packed in Ziplocs
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Considering that I don't get on the road until after lunch or that one of the first things I do after having gotten on the road is to go to the bike shop, I can't really blame anyone but myself for the bit of riding in the dark. At least I can now say, with great confidence, that the headlight part of the combination headlight/Bluetooth speaker/powerbank is a good bright light. In fact, it's brighter than I was ever able to get my dynamo light to be when carrying luggage.

I'm skipping most of the day and going straight to the part about lodging not because of how difficult it was in ways that make an entertaining story but because of how difficult it wasn't in ways that make an entertaining story.

For those of you who have somehow missed the recurring theme of this Tour, or who were unaware of my decade long series of Adventures in Annoying the Chinese Police, there are political and historical reasons why the government wants everyone to register where they are. 

After the other day where the commercial space in the mosque was rented to China Post, I find myself wondering if the imams prioritize places with green signs
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Their taste in pizza has improved since the last time I was in Shijiazhuang
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The trees are bigger. There's a skyscraper in the background. The buildings along the front are all two storey. Oh, and the sky is blue. This is not the #1 Middle I knew.
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Some people date these reasons back to the household registration system (called a hukou) and the limitations it puts on migrant workers permanently relocating to more desirable locations like Shanghai or Guangzhou; other people point to the former Soviet bloc countries and confidently state it's a communist thing; for me, I personally like to remind people that this is the country which invented the concept of bureaucracy.

Sure, the imperial exams were theoretically a field-leveling way of ensuring that only qualified people took certain posts. But you know what else they were? Paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork.

I bought my first¹ bicycle roughly 50m away from where that miniature Eiffel Tower is
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I think there used to be a western restaurant at the top of this tower. Possibly, it rotated.
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Hey! Are you that Marian girl? The one on Douyin??
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Anyone who looks at the history of this country and the way in which it has encouraged the creation of paperwork and file folders and archival systems over this many millennia really ought to expect a needlessly over-detailed, pointlessly complex, and theoretically mandatory registration system.

Since previous passages through Hebei (2008, 2012, 2016, and 2018) have shown large chunks of the province to be a massive pain in the ass with regards to this registration system and since this trip has yet to have a single place in Hebei that didn't involve at least some minor amount of drama, I make a point of setting today's destination as the hotel on the far outskirts of Gaoyi—all the way over by the high speed railway station—where I not only stayed in 2018 but also paid them to store my bike for a week while I went in to Shijiazhuang and Beijing.

I was confused by this sign which indicates that this window and door fabricator can provide "KFC Doors" but that's apparently the standard Chinese term for glass doorfronts with big picture windows.
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I am in love with this gas station's branding. Called 哈鹿 (Ha Deer, pronounced "hallo") the negative space under the deer forms the word "hi".
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Passageway under the railroad
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I was sure that there would be no way they could have forgotten me and equally sure that I ought to have left them with a good impression of me. Imagine, therefore, my surprise when I rocked on up at the very edge of full dark to be told by a woman relaxing outside in a folding lounger "we have no rooms."

"C'mon", I whined, "I've stayed here before. You know me. Please don't give me excuses."

"Of course I remember you². The American. Last year or two years ago."

"Then why are you telling me no rooms? I've got a health code and travel code and NAT test. It's okay."

Yet another bed wetting prevention advertisement
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Free water when you fill up your tank (they gave me two bottles from the refrigerator and topped my bidons up with hot water)
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Having seen someone on a bike come out from the central passageway, I knew to take that rather than the short car passage
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"Because we have no rooms left" she says, gesturing at her parking lot, "look how many trucks are already parked here tonight. We're full."

And then I have to ride seven—thankfully flat—kilometers into the town proper to get to the closest bookable hotel. Well, the third closest bookable hotel as the first two, all the national chains, and everything in a decent quality price range shows "this hotel only accepts Mainland Chinese guests" or, in one case, is listed as wanting a 48 hour validity NAT as opposed to the already 3 day old one I have.

Dehydrated, tired, and not yet having eaten dinner, I pull up to the hotel ready for everything to go pear shaped. The boss comes outside as I approach and asks "where are you from?"

Establish new marriage concepts, build new childrearing practices
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Cherish daughters as they grow and protect the future of our people
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A pair of twins with a younger sister, they stopped while I was photographing the wall and wanted a picture with me
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I choose to misinterpret the intent of his question and answer "I biked from Tangshan".

"No, I mean where do you come from?"

Again, I choose to give a perfectly valid answer to the wording of his question and say "I live in Hainan".

Finally, he asks me a direct question that can't be dodged. "Are you from Xinjiang?"




"Then, where are you from?"

"I'm American."


Being as I arrived after this Martyr's Cemetery's officially posted closing hours, I don't know if it was open or not
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Strictly forbid the behavior of selling loose coal in villages
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He's not telling me to fuck off but he's still blocking the entrance though, so I say "I have a booking."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I booked online."

"I didn't hear anything come in."

"But I did."

And if he doesn't exactly lend a hand for me to enter, he doesn't stop me either.

In the lobby, bike leaning against a drinks fridge, cooling myself in front of a fan, he's still not real sure what to do with or about me so I proactively pull out the Form and volunteer to register myself on the computer since I'm more familiar with the way foreigners get registered than he would be. However, with a sinking feeling in my stomach that says I better start snacking my blood sugar up for a prolonged confrontation, he decides instead to call the local police.

The local police arrive at the hotel to check my Registration
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Who have no problem with me.

None at all.

They don't believe me when the boss hands me his phone and I say I already know how to register myself. They sufficiently don't believe me that they even send an officer (who didn't even bother to put his uniform on this was so unimportant) over to check to make sure I did everything right. But that's it. They don't tell me I need to leave, that I should go somewhere else, that there are rules or regulations or specificied places. They just check to make sure I did my registration right and show the boss how, when I leave, that just as foreigner registration is a separate menu, foreigner checkout is too.

Then, about an hour later, after I've showered and grazed out of my panniers, I come back downstairs in search of a fan to borrow to supplement the anemic air conditioner and get asked to register for the county Centers for Disease Control applet, and even though it doesn't have "foreigner" or "passport" as an option it accepts my name and ID number.

There were 6 power outlets in this little room
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¹ The two bikes I owned before China were a department store single speed with coaster brakes and a Walmart mountain bike. 

² Events of later in the week lead me to believe that they might remember me because of trouble related to having not registered me

Today's ride: 63 km (39 miles)
Total: 1,023 km (635 miles)

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