Sunday morning I decided to do another long ride, so I figured I would head up Highway 3 to Toufen at the northernmost edge of Miaoli County. I felt fit enough from last weekend's 201km and I wanted to do another ride over 200km to test my fitness.
I figured on another weekend of intense heat and humidity and had made all the proper preparations. I decided to leave early in the morning to get a few more kilometers out of the way before it got real hot. Still, I forgot my stash of granola bars and ended up having to eat when I stopped to get water. On a long ride this is not necessarily a good thing as you should be putting food in your mouth about once an hour, or before you get hungry.
I started making time up the Highway 3 and my legs were beginning to warm up. I still feel it takes too long, though. There were few cars out all morning and the majority of traffic seemed to be those BIG motorcycles. I think I ran into three or four big-bike jamborees on my route. After a dozen of the screaming pests buzzed me at a distance that was too close for comfort, I am sure they all met up and bitched about how dangerous people in cars drive.
As I cut through the rolling hills of Miaoli I was getting a good push from a pretty strong wind from the S.E. It was enough to cause me to correct my balance on occasion and I knew nothing comes for free. I took full advantage of the tailwind and the scenery was gorgeous. I arrived in Toufen in three hours and some change. The thing about a tailwind is that you still push yourself to go faster, and thus, still use energy.
As soon as I broke off the Highway 3 to the Miaoli County Rd. #124, my speed dropped by nearly half. I was using the same amount of energy to go half as far. It was time to pay the piper.
I pushed against the wind until the junction between the Highways 13, and 1. Improvisation is not always a good thing on a long ride as the unknowns can lead to disaster. Here, I took a chance and took the hillier Highway 13, which goes through Sanyi. I thought I would see if the hills would provide some form of barrier and mitigate some of the force of the wind. I figured the coastal route, although flat, would be more of a fight against the wind.
I took the Highway 13 on a gorgeous route near the Mingde Reservoir. It was hilly and that was no problem, but I soon discovered the route was as windy as any other and if I stayed on it I would have both wind... and hills.
After climbing on the Highway 13 out of Miaoli city there was no reprieve on the descent. The wind was just too strong and I had to do my best to keep my momentum going down hill. I passed several students from Taipei who were going loaded up for a tour to Changhua. It is always nice to see young people out biking and enjoying what Taiwan has to offer. Unfortunately, they were struggling against the wind as much as I was.
I decided my gamble was just not worth the price and I detoured along the Miaoli Local Rd. #119. This is one of my personal favorite roads. It cuts through a river valley and links up to the Highway 1. The scenery could be described as "Pastoral Formosa."
Upon hitting the Highway 1 I found the wind to be just as strong as anywhere. My speed was cut nearly in half from my normal average. If I hadn't been passing every other group of cyclists I would have thought I had bonked. At times the wind was like taking blows to the face. The constant mashing to make headway was demoralizing and it was taking a toll.
I met up with a young couple biking to Taichung at a 7-11 and later caught them on the road. I made small talk and offered to make a pace line to give everyone a rest... mainly thinking of myself, but offering to lead for a while. The guy seemed to feel threatened by my presence around his girlfriend and declined the offer, and thus we all continued into the wind at maximum effort.
It seemed to be taking forever to get home, but little by little home was getting closer. The wind had beaten the hell out of me for 100km and I was ready to go home and lie down.
I finally crawled up the stairs and called it a messy victory. 137mi/220km!