August 8th-9th; 172km/331km; Xinzhou to Pingyao to Yuncheng, Shanxi
After Xinzhou our next goal was Pingyao county, our first major tourist destination in a while. Pingyao used to be an old commerce hub here in central China. Apart from the old city in the center which is the primary tourist destination in the area, there are lots of other century old sites dotted around the surrounding countryside.
We left at a reasonable time in the morning but it wasn’t long before hitting yet another construction re-route. This one also informed us that the expressway (which motorcycles aren’t allowed on) was the only way around.
We didn’t want to spend a lot of time looking for a re-route so we decided to sneak onto the expressway again. Other than one guy running out to try and stop us (and apparently nearly grabbing hold of Amy) we got on and off without a hitch.
Sightseeing Around an Ancient City
We planned our route so that we could hit some of the outlying spots on the way into the city including an old abandoned temple and a rich merchant’s former family estate, the Qiao Family Home, about 40km out of town. After that we made our way the rest of the way into the city to find a hotel before continuing with the sights. We managed to take a cab to a nice secluded temple, the Shuanglin temple, which had nearly no people in it, a nice break from the huge crowds of the estate. Finally, we took a walk around the old city wall and through the gate to have dinner within the old city, 古城. This part of the city functioned much like any other Chinese city: crowded, lots of honking cars that couldn’t fit through, and completely lined with shops and restaurants. It was still nice being surrounded by a city wall though and the architecture was all in the traditional style with low buildings and courtyards.
Even though the day into Pingyao didn’t involve a lot of actual bike time, we were really exhausted and needed to take an early night. Our next major stop is Xi’an which, at nearly 600km from Pingyao, would take 2 days to get to. Thus, the goal for us on the 9th was just to get as close as possible to make the day into Xi’an as easy as possible.
Yep… More Construction
The major event for the day though was our worst stretch of construction in a long time that yielded our biggest traffic jam of the trip yet. About 100km into the day we hit a bit of construction that forced the 4 lane road into 2 on the left side. Then at one point, the trucks going in our direction had all stopped and looked like they were lining up for something.
I thought they may have been lining up to make deliveries at a nearby factory or something, but as we kept weaving through, they just didn’t seem to end, even after passing a couple factories. Soon it became clear that it was one massive traffic jam that ended up stretching for about 20km.
The Joys of 2 Wheels
We were able to make our way past by squeezing through trucks in some parts and in others the construction on the other side seemed to be more or less complete. Barriers prevented trucks from hopping on, but bikes, and in some places cars, could manage to squeeze through.
There were times though when we would be forced to turn around as giant pits made passing impossible. One time we ran right into a section that they were in the process of paving. I was driving forward trying to find a way out when it seemed like out of nowhere we were surrounded by steamrollers. I looked back to turn around saw another coming straight at us. I had to do a quick 3/4 turn and got out of there before the steamrollers caught up.
All in all, not a fun time. The area we were in was very polluted and the roads extremely dusty. The whole time the sun was pounding down on us too as we slowly made our way through the traffic in all our gear. On days when the temperature is 33+ degrees Celsius, being able to get up to speeds of 80-100km/h can really help.