Rambling Different Trails: The Best Laid Plans.

Grades were submitted early last week, so I had visions of long, happy rides through the countryside to celebrate. Mother Nature had other ideas however, in the form of the biggest snowfall in about 10 years for Zhoukou. Sure, we get more snow and lower temperatures in Lincoln, but they’re not set up for it here. There is no snow removal equipment other than people with regular shovels, and a few excavators borrowed from some construction sites. I haven’t see anyone using salt, and I only saw one person with what might have been sand.

Things pretty much shut down and kids had a snow day, except for the residential high schools as they live there anyway. It was dead week here on campus. Foreign teachers get to finish with classes early to have a Christmas break.

We all know what happens when there is a lot of traffic on sidewalks and streets after a snowfall if it isn’t removed immediately. Packed snow quickly turns into lumpy, rutted ice and we have plenty of it.

We walked downtown the day after the biggest snowfall, as the bikes aren’t set up for these conditions. I’ve been looking for zip ties for the tires but haven’t found any. Yesterday was the first day out on two wheels, we both took mountain bikes to Dream and Coffee.

It’s funny how things you don’t expect to be different sometimes are. Snowmen here aren’t three snow balls stacked. They’re usually a snow mound with a head added. Hats made of small wastebaskets give a fez-like appearance. Another difference is the aversion most people seem to have for gloves. Half of the population here won’t wear them, even in the snow.

Most scooter and three-wheeler operators do use pogies (mitts) on the handlebars, usually with an insulated “apron” blanket attached. It’s not unusual to see a small child peeking out from their seat under the apron-blanket.

Also different; Many people wear what we would call plush pajamas, loungewear to us, in the street. I’m sure they’re warm and comfy. Wearing what we think of as pajamas and slippers in the street has a long history here, unlike in the west where it’s a recent fad. It’s still a little disconcerting for me to see people riding scooters wearing plush pajamas in a riot of colors and prints.

Another difference; most interiors are not heated, or if they are it’s very low, maybe to 50 degrees for an office. Many people also have an aversion to closed doors. Instead, they may hang thick, padded flaps or plastic strips like in a produce department. If it’s not heated, leaving doors open is not such a big deal. It’s easier to walk through with your arms full. This means that almost all classroom buildings and all student dorms are heated only by the student body. Hallways are open to the elements. Only the library (above) is heated, making it by far the most popular building on campus. Thousands of students crowd in to study there every evening, using even the stairways as seating. Indoor heating generally begins to be standard when you cross the Yellow River, which forms the northern border of Henan province. We do heat our apartment.

I did manage a good ride finally this afternoon. It was about 2/3 open road and 1/3 packed ice, often ice rutted. Good for skill-building, I told myself. There have been shovel brigades in action, so the frontage road on the north side of the street, where the sun hits, was mainly clear on the way out of town. Things in the countryside looked like they were getting back to normal, just with colder, sloppier conditions than usual.The forecast is for the upper 20’s and lower 30’s and sunny this week, so I hope it doesn’t stick around. Snow on palmettos is a strange sight. I’m usually better prepared for riding in winter conditions, but didn’t expect to need snow tires here!