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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Giro d'Italia Wraps Up Tonight

The Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) wraps up tonight (Taiwan time) and I have to say I have been able to follow every stage on live internet feeds or through some kind of live-blogging. What a great race this year. I have hardly cared to track the Tour of Californi-yawn.

Throughout the Giro the Maglia Rosa (Pink Jersey) has been up for grabs the entire way with the lead switching from rider to rider almost daily. I had been rooting for Cadel Evans, mainly because Vinokourov looks like Drago from Rocky IV and I don't like the way Basso's name looks. Yes, call me superficial. Actually both Vino and Basso were wrapped up in some pretty nasty doping scandals. Basso admitted the bags of blood found in the fridge belonged to him, but never said he actually doped. As it stands there are still several riders in contention. The Italians are poised to sweep the podium on home turf if Cadel Evans can't scratch out a victory on tonight's short TT stage.

As it stands now:

  • 1 Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
  • 2 David Arroyo (Caisse d’Epargne) + 0:51
  • 3 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) + 2:30
  • 4 Michele Scarponi (Androni) + 2:46
  • 5 Cadel Evans (BMC) + 4:00

Houli Loop!/后里, 臺中縣

"...but plans can fall through as so often they do
and time is against me now..."--The Smiths


At this time of year even the best laid plans often go awry. The weather is simply too unpredictable. The Central Weather had been calling for thunderstorms all week and they never materialized, so we took a chance and planned a century ride up into Miaoli to the Ming de Reservoir. At 5:00am, I could hear cars sloshing through the rain and by 6:00am we had called off the ride, so I went back to bed. The next thing I knew, my phone was ringing and Michael was on the line with the news that the rain had stopped and we could get a ride in. We wouldn't have time to pick off the century, but we put together some hastily made plans to salvage a ride and in just over an hour he was downstairs. His finger itching to try out his new toy; a Fuji supercalifragalisticexpialadocious camera. I took him over Dadu shan along the road I use for my night loop. We then rolled into Ching Shui in time for a little lunch.

That Little Vietnamese Place

There is a great little Vietnamese place on one of the side roads off the Highway 1. The food is fresh and always prepared while you wait. We foreigners gotta stick together, you know!

Coffee of the World Unite and Takeover!

The best surprise happened after we finished eating. Just as we hit the road, the rain picked up and we didn't feel like getting rained on and hoped to wait a few more minutes over coffee somewhere to see if the drizzle would abate. No luck. Not even the 7-11 had their brand of ashtray-tasting brew. We continued on and then we found it. There, just outside of Ching Shui, on that decaying old ribbon of concrete known as the Highway 1, right by the auto repair shop, betel nut stand and rebar lot... in a nondescript concrete box, we saw a sign for coffee. We couldn't really tell if they actually sold coffee or not from the looks of it. but we gave it a shot. As we walked up to the door, a look of "whatthehellaretheydoinghere" crossed the faces of the family inside. We noticed they had all the trappings to make coffee and went to order.

A Coffee Maestro

Once it was established that they could in fact sell coffee and that we could speak Chinese, we sat at the only table in the living room/cafe and ordered. The proprietor set to work like some type of coffee artisan in choosing the proper beans (Yemen) and working through a process of brewing, steeping and pouring to make the perfect cup of coffee. It took a long time to make, but I have to say that outside of Cafe Vivace in Seattle, this was one of the finest cups of coffee I have ever had. It was not too acidic, not like Starbucks, and just hit all the right spots. Perfectly carmelized! Apparently, the couple who owned the place lost their jobs a few years back and had nothing to do to maintain their house in Ching Shui, so they used their savings to buy a small coffee roaster and set to work learning how to roast and make coffee. They sell their beans and other products to other cafes and restaurants in central Taiwan. The place is called Lailin Coffee/來林咖啡, if you ever have the chance to stop in.

Michael Rides A Dike

After we reluctantly left Lailin Coffee, we headed up toward Dajia. Just over the bridge across the Dajia River we took Zhong Shan Rd. up the river valley toward Houli.

A Real Dike

This is a very pretty ride, away from most vehicular traffic, and through quiet farms and fields. Navigating the labyrinthine roads takes practice and intuition, but it a also very rewarding. At one point the road was closed to traffic, but this being Taiwan and not over regulated, we just rolled our bikes up onto the dike and kept right on going.

Little Shack On The Alluvial Plain

After climbing out of the river valley up a short, but really steep hill, we were up on the plateau in the area that had formerly been known as Varizan, or 麻里蘭社, a Pazih village which was once one of several satellites of the greater Anli village. When some of the land was parsed off to some Han farming families in the 18th century, many of the Pazih settled in the area to take advantage of the water networks and even negotiated with Han farmers for better resource allocation. The close proximity to the hills and to the river made the location an ideal spot.

Father Son Time (Another kid on a proper road bike)

We got back on the Highway 13 in Houli and checked out a very interesting Reynolds 853 steel frame that is a fantastic example of the acrobatics between OEM, subcontractor, marketing team and distribution network. The question arose how a Giant franchise could be selling a rebadged non-Giant bike that used the advertising literature of the original brand while blatantly being an obvious rebadge. Still... a light steel frame with full SRAM Force for a decent price. Not bad.

I left Michael in Tanzi and hammered my way the rest of the 13km home. I was feeling great, so I tried to keep my speed up between 40 and 50kph the rest of the way home. That felt great.

So no great century ride today, but any day on the bike is a good day.