Rambling Different Trails: The Thin Gray Lines.

First an update from last week. In Shanghai a task force has been rounding up bike shares off the sidewalks. Apparently there are so many that people were complaining that they were taking up the space needed to park their own bicycles and scooters. Are they a victim of their own success? They will still be available, but there will be fewer.


Now on to this week. I am not a roadie. If given the choice between riding highway or gravel, I’m going to pick gravel. Here in China however, I’ve been limited to highways, and flat ones at that. Or at least that’s what I always thought. Recently I discovered the levee road and that opened up all kinds of possibilities.

Goat herders on the levee trail.

I’d always seen the narrow roads cutting across the fields but I never knew what their status was. To me they looked like private farm roads. Would I be on private property? How would I explain myself? They are only wide enough for a single car. If two meet, someone has to take to the side and the drop off can easily be a foot in height. The little traffic there is on them is mostly of the three-wheeled variety, and scooters. From the levee road I saw that they were just small roads connecting villages to farmland and other villages. Some are paved and others may be rough double track; like the levee road to be avoided when muddy.

Tomb mounds dot the fields. The area around Zhoukou has been populated for over 8,000 years. Farmers work around the traces of their ancestors.

This week I decided to check them out. Any kind of road sign here is scarce away from the cities, and on these roads, non-existent. Also, there is no grid system of roads like I grew up with here. The only way to know where I am is with the map on my phone.

If you look closely you can see the “capillaries”.

The problem is that the lines are such a thin light gray that they are invisible when outdoors. They are the capillaries of China. And they are great to ride. Yes, I’ve already gotten lost on some, but those who know me know that getting a little lost once in a while doesn’t bother me too much. I know I’ll find my way out. I do get odd looks in the villages but I do anyway. I did get chased by dogs for the first time here. These roads have opened up some great new possibilities for rides and I can’t wait to go do more exploring.

The other dogs were bigger but this one I felt brush my ankle.

7 thoughts on “Rambling Different Trails: The Thin Gray Lines.

  1. Steven Larrick

    This is 21st century exploration at its finest. Janine is fearless.

  2. Sydney

    Janine is one of my sheros! I’d like to say I’d be so adventurous, but I can’t be sure.

    • Janine Copple Post author

      Aw, thanks Sydney. Truth be told I’m just easily bored by the same old routes and am constantly on the prowl for new territory. I had an exciting ride last week where I really wasn’t sure where I was, it was totally new territory but it worked out great in the end, except for that last mile of mud in the dark. Also, the goalposts of what’s acceptable territory keep moving.

  3. Brad Larrick

    I walk nearly every day here, about 100 miles north of Tokyo. Three circuits through farm, housing, and riverside. There is a brand new apartment complex right across the river from our house. They named it “Riverside Taka”. Maybe I will get some GoPro gear and display my walk to the world. Naaah! Like that’s gonna happen. You are awesome Janine. Careful of the dogs. Strays get put to sleep here.

    • Janine Copple Post author

      Hi Brad! I would love to ride your route. I hope we can meet up while we’re still over here. Have you ever biked there? There is a show here on NHK that has bicycle travel guides around Japan. Ride and stay at an exclusive hot springs and a swank hotel with only 10 rooms for beau-coup bucks, but ohhh.

      • Janine Copple Post author

        And about the strays, I’ve never been chased in larger towns and cities, natural consequences I suppose. On one route I do see cages about 8’x8′ often full of dogs, I think it’s the Chinese equivalent of the pound. Being put to sleep would be probably more humane than what awaits them.

  4. Brad Larrick

    In Japan, you often pay the most money for really crummy accommodation, in the most out of the way location. Apparently, the owners ask themselves, “How much trouble is it for me, to prepare this run-down shack for human habitation?” A modern hotel chain simply calculates the cost of building and maintaining a modern hotel, with lots of clients.

    As far as cycling goes, I decided a long time ago to give it a miss here in Japan. Too many irregular installations along the side of the road. China must be really tricky. I’m just a bit of a spaz.(It’s politically O.K. to say that when you are talking about yourself, right?)

Comments are closed.