Friday morning I had a plan to ride from Ching-jing to Wuling to watch the KOM riders start arriving from the Hualien side. By Friday afternoon I was informed that my plans would be changing and I would be going to Taipei instead. All of a sudden I didn't have a clue what I was going to do for a weekend ride.
I decided to kit up and head into Miaoli with only the vaguest idea for what I might do.
This was like a mid-life crisis of rides. I had no clue what I really wanted to do with my ride or if it was even a good idea. I was listless, directionless and apathetic. Not the best recipe for a great ride. I would have been better off buying a sports car.
I woke up late and was in no hurry to get out of Taichung. I put no real thought into my breakfast or preparation.
This is the peak of Taiwan Bike season. Taichung Bike Week is in full swing. The Taiwan International Bike Festival with the Maxxis KOM Challenge. Lots of organized bike activities in play, and I was out in the middle of the city deciding road by road which direction I would go.
A steady wind blowing from the north was enough to convince me to tuck my shoulder down and bear into the wind.
Adding to my malaise was a layer of cloud cover that made the entire day feel like I should have still been in bed. It was that muted, saturated grey that took all the life out of the landscape and all but killed my desire to take pictures.
After a long, long coffee break, I decided I would head up to the ethno-entertainment tourist town of Tai-an.
I first discovered Tai-an on one of my earliest motorcycle trips about fifteen years ago. I think, at the time, I was under the notion that I was headed toward the Central Mountain Range near Gu-guan. Only much later did I realize Tai-an was in Miaoli. At the time it was all such a big adventure of discovery.
The area near Dahu had once been a stronghold of Atayal speakers, but now produces strawberries and sunflowers. There is also a healthy ethnic tourism business centering around Taiwanese hot spring culture.
I launched up the ramp to Tai-an and was soon disappointed that the gradient was so shallow.
Until Tai-an, the roads had been nearly vacant. It seemed everyone had stayed home for the weekend. I was passing through near ghost towns on my way along the Highway 3 through Miaoli.
Tai-an's Tofu Street tourist trap had a handful of Chinese tourists, and had been glosses up since the last time I passed through. It was all the same snacks and "ethnic" trinkets that litter the parking lots and manufactured spots of "interest" all over Taiwan.
It was all just really dumb.
My ride was being wasted on a dump truck load of dumb dumped in the mountains of Miaoli.
There was almost nothing to write about.
I couldn't see any reliable roads to take that might give me a sense of discovery or even a little "wow" to sate my need to mix things up.
I cruised back to the 7-11 at the bottom of the hill, bought another coffee and contemplated my next move.
I contemplated returning on the Highway 3. The Highway 6 just up ahead and that would have sent me back home. I did see a little road that disappeared into the mountains between Dahu and Tongluo.
Or... I could keep on the Highway 3 and make the ride into a century.
I rolled onto the road still unsure if I would turn on the Highway 6 or keep going....
.... I rolled past the Highway 6 and didn't swerve across the lanes to head home. I had, in an instant, chosen to make my boring, meandering ride into a real ride.
This is where things became interesting.
My body reacted positively to an environment lacking indecision and my pedal stroke became purposeful. I was beginning to feel glimmers of my old self. Moreover, the road was almost all mine. I was out of the saddle pulling my lazy ass along behind.
Rare: A Firefly custom titanium 007. A New England cousin to my Seven. Firefly is an offshoot of Independent Fabrications after Independent skipped town to a new location.
I decided to stop at the Family Mart in ShihTan below the Route 124 for another pack of instant noodles.
Normally I take the northern route through the Shitan Reservoir. The waters of the reservoir are so inviting I have never taken the Route 26-2 on the southern route.
This was my day to try it. Finally, at long last...... adventure.
One reason I have avoided this route is for the fact that it looks like it would be tantamount to jumping into a wall. The hills rise up like pillars on all sides.
For a century ride the fewer hills the better. I had somehow chosen to deliberately burn up valuable calories on an unnecessary hill climb.
The route up zig-zagged between the hills while forcing me into a diesel powered cadence to lift me higher above the valley floor.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a tunnel through the mountain.
The road on the other side was incredible. It followed wide, banked turns along deep ravines through a labyrinth of vertical cliffs. All politics aside, Miaoli did a marvelous job on turning these roads into a usable bikeway.
I was absolutely elates by the descent.
The road ended on the Highway 6 in Miaoli City and I followed it to Gongguan.
As I followed the road I kept seeing signs for towns to the north of Miaoli. I was totally confused. I knew where the hills were that I had come out of. I looked around at the landscape and felt the wind. I was even more confused when I looked off to my right and saw a ramp indicating East. On my left was another indicating West. I wondered if I had somehow gotten turned around in the Twilight Zone of Taiwanese roadways.
I slowly rolled into Gongguan and the signs reversed themselves. I was confident I was on the right track.
I tacked right to the Miaoli Route 128, which, once it clears the townships, becomes a pretty series of hills and dips. The descent into Tongxiao is purely intoxicating.
The tailwind allowed me to cruise at 40kph for long stretches and make up some seriously lost time. I was blasting through township after township.
I climbed up the Highway 12 on Taichung Harbor Rd. for one final test of my endurance.
Everything clicked into place for 3/4 of the climb... and then I was done. My speed slowed and my cadence dropped. I had just enough energy to roll down the hill and back home.
I had turned the ride into A RIDE.... Boom!
That felt really good. For the first time in a long time I was challenging myself.
Taiwan Rock tiger. A type of wild cat around these parts. I just love actual wildlife in Taiwan.
- Michael Turton tours some amazing country in Kaohsiung County.
- Peter, Taiwan's Rando-man, rides Tainan to Alishan and back in a day . I always keep a warm spot in my heart for these incredible day rides.
- Congratulations to CCN's John Ebsen for claiming the coveted Wuling KOM championship prize . Ebsen rode from sea level to 3275m in 3h. 37min. defeating some serious talent from the Pro tour. This is one of the world's toughest climbs. Too bad it is best ridden in the cycling off-season. It would really be an excellent new monument in cycling.