One thing that I find somewhat refreshing about China is that even though, in a major city like Beijing you can find most produce at any time of the year, for the most part what you can buy still generally operates on the harvest seasons. So, for example, around April, the streets of Beijing will be filled with people from surrounding countryside selling strawberries for extremely low prices. Then, as soon as they appeared, after about 3 weeks they’re gone again.
Now must be the harvest season for corn, because for about 300km of our trip, everywhere we looked, shucked corn was being laid our to dry. Bike lanes, the shoulder of the road, driveways, even schools that were closed for the holiday had corn laid out anywhere there was room including basketball courts. It looked like grapes also happened to be in season as we drove by some vineyards and took the opportunity to stop by the side of the road and buy some fresh grapes from some vendors.
We also got to experience the kindness of locals when we got lost at one point outside of some random city (no thanks to the inconsistency of the road signs). When all of a sudden the signs stopped indicating where we were or where we were going, I pulled to the side to ask for some directions. After some construction workers could neither tell me where the road I was looking for or knew where the next town was that I was heading to. I noticed a car stopped nearby so walked over to ask for some help. There was a mom, dad, and daughter in the car who not only offered to help but actually drove us there for over 20 minutes as we followed behind. It was a good thing too given that there were two unsigned turns needed to get us on track.
The ride today overall was fantastic though tiring. Over 450km through some fantastic terrain. We drove through what looked like some brand new cities as well as through some picturesque tree groves, corn fields, and reservoirs. There were times when I forgot I was even in China anymore. Then of course I’d be abruptly brought back to reality by some three wheeled truck hauling a load twice its height and weight along cutting me off on the road.
It was also a very long day, coming out to a total of 13 hours on the road before we finally made it into Yantai, including over an hour driving at night. This experience was particularly stressful given the number of cars that either didn’t have any lights on at all or that refused to turn off their brights, something that did not make for a good combination for visibility. Also it seems like as soon as you arrive in Yantai, adhering to street lights is totally optional as everyone from passenger cars to busses to trucks went straight through blatantly red lights.
When all was said and done though we made it in to Yantai and met up with our group of friends that had come down the expressway that day. So after a very tiring and long day, with my back very sore from steadying the bike from the wind all day, we had arrived at our first major destination. Tomorrow we get to enjoy the seaside town of Yantai and take a bit of a break!