Rambling Different Trails: Harvest Road Hazards, Zhoukou Style.

Around Lincoln when you think of riding gravel during harvest time you may think of combines and corn pickers on the roads in the fall. They probably take up most of the road and if you’re lucky you squeeze around them. Around Zhoukou the wheat harvest is happening now, with pint-sized combines and by hand. I crossed paths with probably eight convoys of around six combines each just last Wednesday. American sized combines would be unmanageable here.

A convey parked, ready to move on down the road.

You may think of rice when you think of China, but rice only begins to be cultivated a few hours to the south. I’ve learned we sit on a kind of Mason-Dixon line between the rice eaters and the noodle eaters. In Zhoukou they’re also very fond of their steamed white buns, and down large quantities of them, not to mention all the wrappers used for the various dumplings and other foods. Suffice it to say wheat is big here.

Multiple combines make quick work.

Last fall I got used to dodging peanuts, corn, sesame, and other unidentified seeds. Now it’s time to be extra careful again with the night rides in low light, which I’ve been doing more of because of the heat (97 today, 101 forecast for Thursday.) Many farmers are drying wheat, canola, and garlic on the roadways. Cars, scooters, three-wheelers and bikes thresh the wheat by driving over it, then the farmers winnow it by tossing it into the air by the shovel-full. After sifting it’s left to dry out, getting stirred throughout the day.

Not only do I see this on my frequent rides through the countryside, but also just a few blocks away. One of the things I enjoy here is that they squeeze crops in almost anywhere they can. Medians and street side right of way included. The small strips have to be harvested by hand with a scythe, as it has been for millenia. I try to stay out of their way, but now the tables are turned and I’m the one taking the pictures.

Harvesting by hand a few blocks away.

Other hazards include walkers who wear no reflective gear, like in Lincoln, and sometimes construction materials stacked up, again like I’ve seen in Lincoln. All good reasons not to go hurtling through the darkness with a limited cone of light. While good considering the options, my light here is not as good as my light in the U.S. and I’ve been surprised what I’ve had to dodge at the last moment, like piles of agricultural debris and the random objects used to mark the edges of drying crops to keep traffic off. I’m always on my guard for the man-holes missing covers, often helpfully marked with tree branches or what ever is handy by passers-by.