Joyce and Michael Pose
Today was a national holiday, where the boundary between religion and the state is blurred in the name of ideology. But that is a discussion for a different post. The Mid-Autumn festival, or "Moon Festival" gave us all a chance to break up the week with a little saddle time. My wife, Joyce, and I were joined by Michael T. for 89 wonderful kilometers around Taichung and Changhua counties.
The horrendous weather we have been having finally gave us a break for the better and we enjoyed a glorious morning of sunshine with a cooling breeze. My wife has been hurting to try out her new bike on some longer rides, but time and weather just hasn't allowed that to happen. She has only made it out a handful of times and each ride no more than 40km.
She really wanted to get out and take a tour of old Lukang, the former central Taiwanese port that sent deer pelts out and immigrants in during the 17th and 18th centuries when there were still herds of deer numbering in the thousands. Lukang was formerly an indigenous village and had once been promoted as a potential capital of Taiwan prefecture, but a pushy elite and a silty port quickly derailed those plans. Lukang currently enjoys the status of hosting a large number of buddhist and Taoist temples, giving the whole area an air of religious authenticity.
Lukang was awfully quiet for a holiday, but that simply meant there were more locals to observe. What was so wonderful about today was that many of the locals still use the bicycle as a form of transportation to ferry goods or pick up groceries. The stigma of utility cycling (and class) that many affluent Taiwanese hope to avoid, was on full display in central Lukang.
We then zagged around the busy streets to the Lukang Folk Art Museum, which was formerly the center of political and family life for the Ku family, an established family of local elite who cooperated very well with every colonial power to establish itself on Taiwan since the Qing. The Ku family worked very closely with the Japanese and KMT governments to ensure their status as gentry remained unchanged. Needless to say the Ku family remains one of Taiwan's wealthiest family enterprises.
Upon leaving Lukang we took the old familiar roads that wend along the flats by the ocean. There was plenty of time for posing and messing around on the bikes. My wife was spinning a mean pace for a beginner and Michael and I wondered if she would have the steam to keep going for the rest of the ride.
We passed several groups of Taiwanese oyster farmers diving for their quarry in several of the oyster farms that line the coast. Michael showed his recent title, King of the Century, was well deserved as his energy level remained high throughout the morning heat. 1200km in a month will do that to a man.
The noontime heat started to bear down on us pretty hard and it was about time for lunch. We just took it easy and had a bit of lunch in Long Jing.
Somewhere (and I am not telling where) along the Highway 17 on the coast, we stopped at a bike store to take a look. Parked outside were two identical Primavera Cessena bicycles, designed and produced by a small company out of Taichung, run by the fabulous Ms. Sabinna Den.
My wife got a first-hand look at the comraderie of cycling; a bond of recognition that can only be described as something akin to the Freemasons.
We chatted with the bike owners for a while and then the owners of the shop invited us in for water and a chat over their cycling photos. We were all surprised when the owners expressed their dismay that we were all on road bikes because, "they are so uncomfortable". Neither of them had actually ever ridden a road bike and Michael offered his up for a tester. It is really amazing that shop owners like that could have such misinformed ideas about bikes. They seemed to believe flatbars are inherently more comfortable. Anyway... they were really nice people... just misinformed and inexperienced in road cycling. We still enjoyed them and their hospitality very much.
We made the turn back toward Dadu Shan toward home. Joyce was very good at concealing the hard work of a day in the saddle and bravely pushed onward. Nobody could have ever guessed she is still a novice.
Fields in Changhua
We finally made our return in the afternoon after logging over a half-century.
Michael is always a lot of fun to ride with and I am grateful for his time today. He really made things easier for Joyce as she takes her first steps into greater adventures of riding.
I can not fully express my happiness in seeing my wife enjoy herself on a bike. I haven't really told her how much joy I feel when I take a peek over my shoulder and see her seriously working away on the crank. Her drive and determination is nothing but heroic and I am truly awed by her early effort in cycling. We now have one more language in which we can communicate. Shhhhh! Right now she is exhausted and asleep on the couch... and I totally understand what she is going through. She's got a lot of heart to do what she did today and I am glad I have a piece of it. She is my cycling hero.