Most weeks I can manage two good rides of at least 50 miles each on my two days off, with some other shorter rides in between. This past week was the third week of my class’s finals, so with finishing up my 491 students’ individual oral exams, grading work, and compiling grades, that was not possible. Finally, yesterday I managed a fifty mile New Year’s Eve ride, and talked Steve into coming along. I promised it would be leisurely and fun (when is it not?).
There was the allure of a new village solar farm to see, views of progress on the high speed rail, Nuwa’s temple and Dico’s coffee in Xihua. Plus lunch at a greasy spoon along the highway for some local flavor.
He hasn’t been riding much lately and won’t ride with me unless I keep the mileage low and the pace slow. At the end of the ride we stopped by the brew pub only to find it wasn’t open on New Year’s Eve! Things closed down early, people staying home to watch the galas on TV, I guess. I didn’t even hear fireworks, which people set off for seemingly any excuse, but there was a display near our neighborhood tonight. They’re apparently saving most of their their celebrating for The Big One February 16, Spring Festival, aka Lunar New Year. Today at temples many people burned incense and paper facsimiles of gold treasure for good fortune, and prayed.
Steve’s a destination rider and not much interested in riding for riding’s sake. He prefers commuting, errands, and occasional sightseeing. It’s fun to be able to show him the little finds I’ve made along the way on my rides, so I put it in a low gear and spin along. During break however, he’s promised to come along on some longer rides to other cities, and we’re making plans for some bike touring the holiday break in February.
The weather here has been good, with lows in the upper 20’s and highs about 50. The air has not been so good, however. Winter brings out the coal smog and this last week the AQI (air quality index) spiked to about 400 ppm a couple of times. With those numbers a long ride is not a good idea even with a good mask. The numbers can change quickly, too. The breeze can shift and in an hour the AQI can shoot up 100 points, then another 100, as it did. It can also drop the same way. Zhoukou is competing with other cities in Henan to improve air quality, leading to odd-even day license plate restrictions for drivers and free bus fare this past month. I don’t know how that’s going.
This coming week I’m anticipating spending lots of time on the county roads and levees around Zhoukou. I hope the weather, and the air, stay good.