Views Along The Highway 3
Today I really needed to test my legs with a long ride, so I decided to make a trip up to the Ming de Reservoir in northern Miaoli County to see where my legs are after so much down time. It was a sunny morning with patchy clouds later in the day and a northwesterly wind blowing in to take couple kph off my speed.
Dutchman's Pipe Cactus/Epiphillum Oxypetalum Cactaceae
I have done this route before, and it is one of my all-time favorites. The ride combines flats, climbing, descents and urban riding. There are beautiful mountains, rollers, lakes, streams, pastures and oceanscapes. More importantly, the roads are absolutely beautiful. It is really the "perfect century ride" if there ever is one.
I first did this ride as part of my project to do five centuries in four weeks, and I was blown away by the entire scope of the ride. Upon leaving Taichung and Fengyuan, I just stayed on the rolling hills of the Highway 3, all the way up to Shih Tan. This stretch is a lot of fun and you can really push the speeds up above 50kph for spurts from the Liyu Reservoir to Dahu and beyond.
I was making good time, but I have ridden the same stretch of road much stronger in the past.
At Shih Tan, there is a great little spot outside the 7-11 to chill out, eat, and prepare for the next leg of the trip. While I was there a group from Taoyuan arrived coming off the Miaoli Local 124.
I had actually met one of the riders on a previous trip. We said our surprised greetings and I was off again toward the Ming de Reservoir on the Miaoli Local 126.
I have to state here and now that the 126 is one of my favorite roads ever. Although the climb started at about the 80km mark in my trip, the grade is completely doable. It is a gentle rise up over a deep river valley. The views are amazing (the pictures just don't do justice), and moreover, the road looks as if they had cycling in mind when they built it. It is one of the widest and smoothest mountain roads I have ever ridden. There are rapid descents with banked curves, and clean, well manicured shoulders with decorative flowers. Most of all... there is almost no automobile traffic. I love it. Ride it!!!
The 126 lets a rider cruise along the inlets and islets of the reservoir. The entire area has been transformed into a wetland full of egrets, cranes and other wildlife.
I was happy to see the reservoir was so full. It was absolutely brimming with the tears this cyclist has shed over the September rains that have ruined most of his monthly riding schedule.
The entire route through the reservoir is a designated cycling path and there are several alternatives for riders to explore the entire area.
By the time I left the reservoir I was feeling worse than usual. I couldn't understand where my energy had gone or if the wind was having any bearing on my performance. My butt was getting sore and I just couldn't keep a strong pace.
I stopped at a fruit stall for a banana, and then sat at the 7-11 for a while over a gel and some juice. That gave me just enough energy to climb the hill out of Miaoli and find enough energy to make it to the Miaoli Local 119, which appears just before Tongluo. The 119 is another one of my favorite roads. It rolls down out of the hills under a tunnel of shady trees and out to the Highway 1.
I took a few minutes to check out a strange, seemingly out of place little neighborhood of government dormitories for the nearby agricultural center. These lonely modernist houses just sort of sit there in the middle of nowhere. Just odd.
I finally took the Highway one back toward home. The Highway 1 is one of Taiwan's ugliest roads... except around this place. From Xihu to Tongxiao, the Highway 1 hugs the coast offering a wealth of seaside views. There are plenty of sections where a cyclist can make up some time on a poor showing earlier in the day.
After the big hill climb that awaits just after the 119 ends, I started to gain precious speed. I was keeping a solid pace around 40kph. This pace carried me to Dajia, where I stopped one last time for an ice cream bar, and then powered my way to Shalu, where I decided to make the hill climb over Dadu Shan to Taichung.
I made a respectable effort up the hill to Dadu Shan and then, in a burst of raw energy, I mounted a standing attack on the final third of the hill. I felt as though I had just started out. It was amazing.
I crested the hill and made my way down the other side. Just before the Tunghai market soem asshat decided he would try to recover a missed turn and cut across traffic right in my way. I did a little fishtail as I tried to avoid an accident. The simmering tension of a full day of riding and working my ass off in the saddle only to have that happen already had me on edge. Then I saw the guy smiling and laughing with his buddy about it... and I guess it made me go a little ape over things. Enough said. I'm sure he thought he was going to die as much as I had earlier.
I cut through the Industrial District and made it home bounding with energy. I felt much better. I hope to get a few more of these long rides in as I build back into form. I would like the whole ride to feel like the last third of this one.
Lastly, I would like to encourage all of you Taiwan cyclists to try these roads out. They are really that good.
Don't forget to check out Joe Friel's fourth installment in his series about cycling and aging. here