Michael's Birthday Century
Well... I thought I would take a week and some days off with family business all weekend, and after several long rides on the books already, I thought I needed the rest. I guess I stay off the bike about as well as a teenager stays away from masturbation and I found myself on another century ride on this overcast Sunday.
The occasion was to celebrate my good friend, Michael Turton's 47th birthday. Michael has just started his second year of cycling and it has been a pleasure cycling with Michael and watching him grow in his ability and passion for the sport. Most people would never dream of dedicating themselves to a new sport in their mid-forties and would have given up before they could even get started. It is a total credit to Michael for his perseverance. He rides several times per week and never fails to challenge himself. He has already done back to back centuries. I really love watching people learn to enjoy cycling the same way I do and therefore I was more than happy to be there for his birthday century ride.
We were joined by Joe C. on his beast of burden, the Surly Long Haul Trucker, and a couple excellent triathletes, Josh and Nico joined for part of the trip. For Joe it would be his first century ride.
Our first stop was the old Qing era town of Lukang. Lukang was formerly a major port for sending Formosan deer pelts to Japan and venison to Fujian. At one point in the mid-18th century the local gentry lobbied to make Lukang the capital of Danshui county. More recently the town has gained notoriety for its abundance of old temples and brick streets. The road on the way to downtown Lukang is lined with stores selling "god-tables" and religious implements, which seem to receive their authenticity from their proximity to such a religious center of Taiwanese life.
On the way down I spent a little time trying out Joe's touring bike. As a pure tourer the Long Haul Trucker is one of the most suitable bikes you can buy. It is stable, smooth, comfortable, and rides like a Lincoln Towncar. The bike is great if you are considering long, loaded, multi-day tours with lots of camping. The Patagonian Highway or the Gobi Desert would be perfect. I highly recommend it as an all-out tourer. It is a simple and easy to use machine. The upright position was reminiscent of my old 78' Schwinn Stingray. It was really a joy to ride. If you are looking for speed, agility and power transfer, then it is not quite the bike for you.
We headed down the Highway 17. I did this part of the route two weeks ago and this time the wind was much easier on us. I also didn't have a flat like last time, though I did recover the staples as a trophy.
We crossed the Cho Shui River, which meant two things... the first was that we were in Yun Lin County and the second was that none of us could possibly be Ma Ying-jiu.
We turned onto the 154 for a nice ride in the countryside on our way to Hsi Luo. The ride was really nice and we passed a local procession for their god. Today was also the big day for the Dajia Mazu to pass through and the pilgrims were descending on the area.
On really great part of our trip was the man on the motorcycle who pulled up next to me and engaged me in a conversation about biking We must have chatted for a couple kilometers, just talking about bikes and travel. The really great thing was that at no time in our conversation did he ever act like I was a foreigner nor assume that I did not speak Chinese. For a couple kilometers I was just regarded as another guy in Taiwan. I really love when that happens and my existence as a participant in this society is normalized.
A Bridge Home
We stopped in Hsi-luo for a little food and then made our way past troops of pilgrims crossing the Great Hsi-luo Bridge. We headed back into Changhua County and slowly finished our centuries off. Joe and I took a winding route through Taichung to cap our centuries and Michael could go home content that at 47 years old, he cold accomplish something he couldn't have done as a much younger man. Joe finished his first century, which is a major accomplishment for anyone. I had the pleasure of a wonderful day on the bike, talking with a couple of first class friends. We didn't set any speed records, but sometimes that is not was a good day on the bike is about.
Happy Birthday Michael!!!