There was no reverse spicy soup ride for me this week. Instead I managed to get quite lost above Huaiyang when I thought I was below it, so I got about the same mileage wandering around as I would have. It was cloudy so I lost my orientation and I couldn’t get my map to work, then I got bad directions. I just wish I’d known where I was at the time. Sunday I finally ventured out on the Mud Loop to see if it had dried any. It had, and now has gone directly to dust.
I was fortunate to remember to put a mask on before venturing out. Fortunate on Wednesday’s accidental 109 km because I’ve been fighting a cold and warming and filtering the air before breathing it helps. On Sunday because that loop is a ride of extremes. If it’s not the muddiest ride ever then it’s the dustiest. This time there was a line of trucks hauling heavy equipment for road construction on that extra rough section of road that was miles long. Lucky for me most of the convoy ground to a halt while I was traversing it, so the amount of dust was cut down. If I hadn’t had to make it a quick ride I would have gotten off to check out the attractions along the river. The way it was I had student film makers to meet back at the apartment. They’re shooting film of us in our “natural habitat” and will go on a short ride with us next week.
Making compressed coal cakes for winter.
I’ve been using the kind of mask most people here wear, the surgical style. I heard they filter 50%. While not great, that’s 50% less crud in my lungs. I have ordered some better masks, so we’ll see how they do. Right now my weather app says air quality is at 373, “Better than 1% of the entire country.” Hmm. The air was intense Sunday when we went downtown to have another look for a better bike for Steve (what he wants cannot be ordered in his size), and we forgot to wear masks. Today it’s worse.
I remember when visiting two years ago I was on the fence about coming and teaching. It seemed interesting, but my thought was “would I be able to ride a bike in the manner to which I’ve become accustomed?” The thought of not being able to do so really put a damper on it. One evening we were watching a Chinese documentary on the English language channel of CCTV that featured a fixed gear bike shop in Beijing http://www.natooke.com/ run by Ines Brunn, a German woman who is a long time cyclist and trick-bike performer. http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/12/how-fixed-gear-bikes-made-cycling-cool-in-china/282382/
I realized it could be possible to do both things at once. I don’t ride a fixed gear, but I saw that a bike culture beyond the heavy urban mountain bikes and ponderously slow commuters existed. It showed her riding around Beijing in a bike specific mask, passing cars. I haven’t been by her shop yet, but have been investigating what kind of mask they sell (I’m hoping for a more affordable version as I’ll go through a lot of filters).
Little Zhoukou can’t be compared with Beijing, but bit by bit I learn more about cycling here. I hope I can help make cycling visible here again. Many people seem to equate cycling with backwardness and the days of their grandparents (it was only the 1970’s for crying out loud!) when wealth was defined as “a flying pigeon in every household” (the iconic brand of Chinese commuter bike). Now middle class families lust after a car, even with the horrific traffic jams and pollution common in the cities, and most ride electric scooters. I’d like to see bicycling retake some of that lost ground.