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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy To Be Home: 91 miles Around Miaoli County

Despite my month of traveling to exciting and far away places, I was happy to be home and on my own bike. I was even happier to be again be riding through Taiwan's beautiful countryside.

I had planned to ease into my weekly riding again with a route that wouldn't be too demanding and I also wanted something new. I checked my map and thought the Miaoli 60 to the 119 looked good and I had never ridden that road. So with thoughts of boundless adventure, Michael T. and I sent out for a day in the saddle.

By the time we found the Miaoli 60 just before Dahu the sun was ablaze overhead and we were drenched in sweat. The hills looked a bit more intimidating than I had envisioned, but it is always worth a try.

Everything seemed ok until the road practically disappeared. It abruptly went from road to track. Luckily (or not) we ran into some strawberry farmers who shared their prickly pears with us and told us the road was passable and moreover, they would applaud us if we rode up it. I took the bait and hammered up the grade with all my weight over my handlebars just to keep the wheel on the ground.

The brutally steep roads continued up to a peak where I prematurely congratulated myself for making quick and easy work of such a bastard of a climb.

My spirits were dashed as we descended into a quiet valley that merely promised more climbing to get out. We were both burning up by this point and begged a farmer to let us douse our heads under a hose.

The climb out of the valley was darkly shaded... if only to conceal the steepness of the climb. It seemed there was a double digit grade behind every corner with no space for recovery. The only thing I could think of to make light of the situation was the descent on the other side.

Finally, we reached the peak, where a family nominally ran a local tea stop. Rest, water, sport drink and a lengthy examination by the kids later, we were ready for a forearm busting descent down similar grades as those we had just ridden up.

The nerve wracking decline eventually mellowed into one of those verdant river valleys that hide along the hills of Taiwan's plain. We just glided down hill, along newly paved roads and through villages that have not yet been infected with the tourist bug. The 119 took us out to the 128, where we could make it to Tong-luo for lunch.

After a filling of dumplings and noodles, it was again time to make hay for home, but not before hitting the coast and the shade of the 61 Freeway.

We hugged the coast and passed countless groups of locals who had moved their old furniture out under the viaduct to make a defacto clubhouse beneath the span. The area is quiet and sometimes desolate and the cool breeze coming off the ocean was exactly what we needed.

At last we hooked up to the 140, a long, flat, straight and direct road that doesn't have much to admire other than its directness. It took us behind the Red Burned Mountain to the 13 under the Sanyi Interchange, where we could head toward Houli and Fengyuan to home. Right as we started pulling into Fengyuan, the clouds opened up and I was quickly sopping wet. I just continued home at a rapid speed and took a nap.

I would seriously recommend the Miaoli 60 to anyone who is a good climber, who wants to be a good climber, and completely trusts their equipment. Those are some hill climbs!

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