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Monday, March 29, 2010

Ba Gua Shan--139 (大彰路)

Often, when a person first starts cycling, they go through a complex and passive aggressive relationship with hills. You start out realizing that hills were so easy to climb when you were an eight-year-old and now, as an adult, the mild rollers are laboriously difficult. We all harbor our secret shames on hills we failed at that now seem to melt away beneath us. I know my shames and elevation failures. I have to pass them all the time. It is not uncommon to start out avoiding hill climbs to avoid the pain and the shame of walking a bike up a climb as cars pass. No 加油s and garlands from passing cars. You so badly want to climb, and dream about going to the far-off hilly places, but you know you would just fail and hobble home. As you get a little stronger you start attacking hills with more success and rather than avoiding the hill climbs, you look for every opportunity to make a climb. Every ride must have a hill or there is an empty feeling for the lack of accomplishment. Then, once this phase passes and you gain confidence that you can take ANY climb, you become more at ease with any type of ride with more mixed terrain. One such even route around Changhua is the 139 over Ba Gua Shan 八卦山.

Changhua Bank

With this ride I always start at the base in Changhua city near the banking district of Japanese Era Changhua. There is an old Kendo dojo near the start of the climb which has recently been restored. During the latter part of the Japanese colonial period, Japanese and Taiwanese boys were often trained in Kendo to learn how to better incorporate themselves into the militarist vision of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Kendo Dojo

The climb starts out steep, but it doesn't last too long. You can ride past the gaudy temple at the top with the gigantic buddha. This was formerly a major Shinto shrine that, like most Shinto shrines, was transformed under the Chinese Nationalists into something far less threatening. Also along the route for a true Sunday In Hell, is the Taoist Hell amusement park; a funhouse-like walk through the horrors of Taoist Hell.

Sprawling Family Farm

The road crests and there is a nice descent past scrapped military surplus and scenic lookout stations. At the bottom take the left turn and it leads to a long, straight, sustained climb that goes past a home for geriatric soldiers who followed the Kuomintang to Taiwan. Be careful because ambulances rush in and out of that place on a regular basis.

A Strange Taiwanese Insect

At the top of the hill there is an intersection that either heads Right, to Changhua, or Left to the crest of Ba Gua Shan. The left turn has a nice descent along a shady road and up another hill where you can take a left or right down the 74甲 , which is a great descent if you like speed. It is straight and steep. Left goes right back to Taichung and left empties out into the Changhua plain. I like to go straight.

A Pineapple

The Changhua-139 undulates along the ridge top past scenic tea and pineapple farms. This is road has been designated as a recreational cycling road and there are bike supply stores that pop up infrequently along the route.

Bike Route

There are a couple places to abandon the ride early, but the road continues until it empties out into Nantou from Song Bo Ling (松柏嶺). The right turn down Feng bai Rd. (豐柏路). A gorgeous treelined descent into some little tea village where they like to come out and gawk at foreigners. Don't stop. Keep going down the hill. This is a speedy gem of switchback heaven.

Tea Farms of Songboling

At the bottom of the hill you can turn right and trace the base of the hill all the way back to Changhua. Another option is to go straight to Yuan lin and take the Highway 1 back.

Either way it is easy to make this a substantial ride. Easily over 120km if you go all the way. It can also make a quick route if you have other things to do later. You can abandon the ride at several points along the way and come back on the Highway 3 through Wufeng or Caotun.
The Spanish Inquisition!!!

The whole ride on top of the hill offers scenery galore and enough variation to mix things up. The return is flat and speedy for a little bit of everything.

Historical Revisionism

Ahhhh! According to many Chinese nationalist-minded historians you will learn that China "discovered" America, visited the moon 2000 years ago, evolved from a separate species of hominid, discovered human powered flight, invented golf, football and baseball... and now... they are staking claim to the bicycle.

Follow the Link:

Tomb Sweeping Weekend

Just a little reminder:

It looks like a nice three day biking weekend coming up with Tomb Sweeping Day, a day many Taiwanese observe to clean the tombs of their ancestors and work a little geomancy to ensure luck and prosperity.

If you plan on riding this weekend remember to avoid areas near graveyards. There will be hundreds of people jostling their cars for parking and criss-crossing the roads with spirit money and incense. Passing graveyards at this time can be tedious, slow, dangerous, and not much fun.

I hope to get in one century ride and maybe a shorter recovery ride.

Any plans?