Rambling Different Trails: Masks, Flat Tires,Teapots and Snow.

I wasn’t expecting to have snow and cold weather before you all in Lincoln, but we got it anyway. We woke up to flurries Tuesday morning and it kept up all day. It didn’t dampen the spirits of the students, though. They were excited to see it and still packed the performing arts center to see who would be judged the best singer on campus that evening. Most of the 25,000 students live on a campus a little larger than Weslyan University, and campus activities are a big deal. Even more so when the dorms are heated by the student body only, though the library is heated which makes that quite a popular place, too.



I brought some cold weather gear; gloves, mask, arm warmers and thermal tights. The gloves aren’t warm enough for temps in the mid 20’s though, so I’ve ordered others. Plastic bags over my socks helped my feet, but it kept my mileage down until it warmed up late in the week. I wasn’t the only one with cabin fever and the parks have been full ever since.


Sunday Steve rode with me to Huaiyang, to check out the souvenir shops in front of Fuxi’s tomb. He likes to collect communist kitsch and he found a Chou en lai teapot. The problem was how to get it home since we didn’t bring backpacks and he doesn’t have a rack on the new bike. I have one though, so the teapot was packed in a beer box and bungeed to my rack.


After lunch with the street vendors and a trip around the lake and a lesser known temple we headed across the water and onto another island. Huaiyang is misleading this way. Often I think I’m off the island only to find I’m on another one.




At this point Steve was ready to head back but I wasn’t so he rode home and I finally found the way out of Huaiyong to the south without getting lost. I continued down to the mud and dust loop, taking care with the extremely rough section for the sake of the teapot. Traffic was lighter this time than last, so I was able to pick my way around the truck-swallowing potholes. I was also glad to be wearing one of my new masks, which did a great job keeping my lungs clean on this ride.


I was just riding past the last of the road construction coming back into Zhoukou when my tire picked up a piece of wire or metal filing. At least it was still light and not cold so I figured it was as good a place to fix a flat as any. I quickly had an audience but they got bored and moved on when it proved to be uneventful. The patch kits are strange. Standard issue is a box cutter, a stick with wire wrapped around it for roughing up the tube, a very large tire lever , some patches and glue. Steve says he thinks the box cutter may be to cut up larger sheets of patching material.


Lincoln now has some bike repair kiosks and is soon to have a bike share program. Our best news source here in English is Al Jazeera with their BBC trained journalists and they had a segment tonight about bike shares. They may be under-utilized here in Zhoukou, but in Hangzhou there are nearly 80,000 on the streets at 2,801 stations, each with a camera on it to tell them when to replenish bikes, they said. It has been in operation for 8 years and 30% of commuters use them to get from the subway or bus station to their final destination. Free for the first hour. We were unable to use it two years ago when we were there because we didn’t have the right cards and had to use a private renter which wasn’t as good. They gave credit to the Dutch for coming up with the idea 50 years ago. It’s good to see bicycles coming back into the urban mix after a steady erosion in numbers since the early 90’s. Now I hope they can continue that trend and get more cars off the road instead of on but that is going to take something more than bike shares when it’s a status symbol for the new middle class.


Oh, and the teapot? It made it home unscathed.