First of all, congratulations Lincoln and Nebraska on coming in first in the National Bike Challenge! It’s been exciting to watch it unfold from far away, and I wish I could come back for the party. But now back to my ride.
Last Thursday dawned cool and clear after three days of rain so I decided to take advantage of a little free time and check out what’s beyond the T at the end of Wen Chang road, about 10 miles to the east. I passed another cyclist leaving town, the first daytime sighting of another cyclist who didn’t seem to be commuting, but he was riding at a slower pace so I waved and went on ahead. At the “T” I was checking the map when he rolled up.
It turns out Ding speaks a little rusty English and he said he was going south as well and he would follow me as I was faster. The road wound through some villages and lively street markets, one after another and as usual I didn’t stop to take pictures and regretted it later. You have to be on alert at all times because of unpredictable traffic and road surface and pulling over just disrupts the flow. Eventually I realized that I should have come to the turnoff I had been planning to take to circle back to Zhoukou and when I saw that the road was curving the opposite direction I stopped to turn around. After checking my map Ding rolled up and told me that I should continue on because there was a better way back. He invited me to lunch with a friend who lives out there but I explained I had to get back to teach class. He skipped lunch with his friend to guide me back to Zhoukou and I felt bad about that, especially when it looked like he might be bonking later. We rode on to the turn off and I realized I could have missed that one too, as it didn’t look like what I was expecting. That road quickly turned into the biggest mudhole I’ve ever had to deal with, which is saying something.
There was a steady stream of traffic and one pothole was so big that a truck had fallen in and was lying on its side. Add into that mix a barking dog, a gaggle of geese and steep grades falling away on either side with no shoulder except where I took this photo and it was a most interesting mile or so to the bridge that we needed to take across the river. We had to dismount a couple of times and walk on the road rim when there was no other choice. When we got to the next village I thought we were home free but that town’s street looked similar to what I thought we had left behind so we tried to keep off the street and ride next to the businesses but they had blocked the way with logs and dirt piles we had to lift the bikes over, probably trying to keep scooters from cutting through. By that time I thought maybe a cyclocross course had been conjured up.
Eventually we got through that and found the connection to the highway back to Zhoukou, complete with never ending construction and I recognized which road would take me back through there in reverse. Today I rode the route again with Steve and it wasn’t much drier. Ding says he knows many beautiful areas out there, but I’m going to let it dry out a little more before trying it again. All in all it was an excellent adventure.