Rambling Different Trails: New Roads Are Still To Be Found.

It would seem that I must have explored about every county road around Zhoukou, but this week I managed to find a few more. When I’m riding down a road I know well, sometimes the urge to veer off and see where another road goes takes over. If I’m lucky, I’m rewarded with a quiet, shady road in good condition with beautiful views and farmers working in their fields.

A canal on the outskirts of Zhoukou. A high speed rail bridge is in the background.

If I’m not, I get open waste pits and mud. This week I got all these things, plus a bonus of several more new village solar farms in the works.

A new solar farm.

These were all being constructed in pits that will be filled with water for fishing, ducks, or maybe lotus root. I wonder if they’re all being encouraged to go off the grid by generating their own renewable energy. Aside from the occasional storm, there’s little wind here for turbines; also the cleaner the air gets, and it is getting better, the more solar power will be generated.

A village work crew.

Life in the villages is improving. On my ride to Nuwa city I go past a “poverty alleviation” billboard, touting government programs in the countryside. Besides the solar farms, I see a lot of new construction, water drainage projects, paving, and tree planting. Everyone I’ve talked to here in the city equates the countryside with poverty, ignorance, and backwardness, and they wouldn’t want to live there, even though they may be from small towns. The desire is to live in the largest city possible.

A Mothers Day picnic on the site of their old house in a now-demolished village. The house will be replaced with a condo in a high rise like those in the background.

The high speed rail to Zhoukou will be finished in the next year or two, making the trip to the metropolis of Zhengzhou (11million) just an hour long. I asked some students if they thought Zhoukou could be a bedroom community, with workers living in Zhoukou and traveling to Zhengzhou. The idea was preposterous to them, even though the air quality and traffic is much better here (such as it is). With a population of only a couple of million, they felt most people who could would live in Zhengzhou with it’s better amenities, and commute to Zhoukou. The schools are generally considered better in larger cities, and many who can afford to already send their high school students to study in Zhengzhou,

A bit of single track.

As a cyclist, I much prefer living in a small city. I can still get out of the city in 10 or 15 minutes for a quiet ride under shady trees, much like I can in Lincoln. The city is rapidly expanding and the suburban villages are being demolished at dizzying pace. I do hope the villages and small towns can modernize and attract an educated populace, though those open waste pits will have to go.