My Hi Life Fan Club
On Saturday I determined I still needed to put some more altitude into my legs and set my sights for the Huisun Leisure Forest in Nantou's Ren Ai Township.
After two consecutive weekends of unstable weather, Taichung's cyclists were out in force and champing at the bit for some saddle time. Riders of all shapes and sizes were on the roadways and making it count.
I tagged along behind Team Neko for a while and it was nice to see so many of their riders assembled in one place.
Along with the different riders on the streets, there were also several different types of bikes.
Although I don't think cycling is all about the gear, it is great to see people's individual expression in their choice of bikes.
I made casual work of the Route 129 to Hsin She and stopped for a brief coffee at the 7-11, which was already brimming with riders by the time I arrived. The social aspect of Taiwan's cycling scene is something to behold. What I don't get is all the smoking during a water break. I really hadn't been feeling well all morning and feared I may have eaten a "bad peach", which on a long ride, really could have meant being up shit creek without a spare cycling cap.
I didn't rest for more than a few minutes to refill before charging out to the Highway 21, where I again saw Glenn from Primavera Cycles out training. I have blogged on this portion ad nauseam, so I won't go into too much detail, but I would like to call out that jerkoff gangster with the Honda Civic in front of me who threw a half-can of Heineken out the window onto the road in front of me. I have a few problems with this guy: a) Don't be drinking and driving at 8:00am on a mountain road b) Don't throw crap onto the road... especially potentially harmful things like containers of liquid... and c) Don't waste good beer.
At Guoxing I hooked along on the Highway 21 through a valley that is just a treat for the eyes. Right where the Highway 21 cuts a tight switchback to Puli, the Chunghua Rd. or Nantou Route 80. shoots off on a one-way trip up into the mountains.
The road is marked an official "Bicycle Route" and makes for a nice ride through some pretty towns and various agricultural projects.
Many of the locals are Seediq speakers, but there are several monasteries nearby, so I passed a few monks in grey robes strolling the streets. I realized I had ridden past Qing Chuan Village, which is the location the original inhabitants of Wu She Village were moved to following their violent rebellion against the Japanese administration in 1930.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent sign above is interesting as Taiwan is not allowed to participate in the organization... yet they have so dutifully adhered to the signage.
I paid NT100 to enter the Huisun Leisure Forest and it makes a wonderful first impression. The landscape has been etched by wild rivers and painted by tectonic brushstrokes.
I was soon fighting up the mountain and hugging the cliff walls to avoid debris that might tumble from above. The grades in some parts were over 15% and it made for a good struggle.
The scenery was that type of wild, high mountain stuff that fills the heart with adventure.
I mashed my way around one particularly rough bend beneath the shade of tall cedars, when the forest transformed before my eyes into a tame picnic spot for tourists. I was left completely dumbfounded.
Here, deep in the forest, there were couples strolling along wide boulevards. There were retirees lounging in one of the dozens of hammocks strung between tree trunks. There were insect sculptures made of logs. There were cabins and teenagers in loud hats mugging for photos. One babbling creek was packed with day trippers cooling their tootsies beneath the rippling waters. It was a "Stepford forest"... almost too idyllic to be real.
There was still a steep set of switchbacks to go, and I made really good time up to the top... and then the road ended at a scenic viewing platform seeded with flowers to attract insects for the bug watchers.
I had been expecting more climbing and felt a sense of helplessness when it ended. I thought to myself, "Where do I go from here?" So I turned it into a date with my bike. She and I would enjoy the sights like everyone else.
That lasted all of 10 minutes, when I had had enough and launched back toward home.
I stopped for a refill at the Hi Life before heading back home over Route 136 to cap off my day of climbing.
Distance: 150km (93mi.)
Elevation Gain: 2226m (7306ft.)