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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Erlin (二林) in 100 miles: Changhua County Riding

HSR Bridge

I took off today for a long ride and I hoped to make it count. I am trying to build my muscular endurance up from where it was earlier in the year. The past six months has been about building up and then falling back, mostly due to issues beyond my control. Now, again, I am building back up to where I want to be as a cyclist and I haven't even touched the cardio part yet.

Today was about putting a standard century together to see if the base was still there. It was. Mostly.

I also wanted to get out and conduct a little ethnology that I hope to use on a future post, so stay tuned.

Soldiering On

Despite the sunshine there was quite a bit of wind today, so the windbreaker came in handy. I made my way along the Highway 1 to Changhua and spun my legs up nice and warm.

Even amid Changhua's industrial wasteland... there is still room to bike

I decided to turn onto the Route 139甲 to the Ding Fanpo community in Ho Mei township. I crossed a river near a small dam and then followed some wonderfully smooth roads along the irrigation canals until I eventually ran into the Route 142 that took me into Lukang.

Fast Roads

I wanted to avoid Lukang, so I turned onto the Route 135 until eventually hopping over to the Highway 17 before hooking over to the Route 143 that made a fast and pretty straight shot directly to Er Lin.

Strange Fruit: There is a traditional belief in some parts of Taiwan that dead cats should be hung from trees and dead dogs thrown in the river.
Piled High on the Route 143

Er Lin is known as the Sicily of Taiwanese gangsterism. According to Ko-lin Chin in his book, Heijin: Organized Crime, Business and Politics in Taiwan:

Many Changhua brothers (gangsters) come from a town called Erlin (population 130,000)in an area that produces grapes, bamboo shoots and peanuts. There is also a fishing industry and a seafood industry. According to a police officer who works there:
In Erlin there are six big brothers and four of them are elected representatives. There are two kinds of big brothers here, the well connected and the national assemblyman. Both are involved in operating gambling places, some of them are involved in gravel plants, KTV, and betel nut stalls. About four years ago when the economy was extremely good, these big brothers made plenty of money from operating gambling activities, but not anymore.

It is very hard to survive here. people live in poor conditions and their lives aren't worth much. Young people thing that, under these harsh conditions, it's better to just make the best of it, if they get killed so what. People here are very tough, and if a brother commits a serious crime, he is admired for it. (p.94)

Changhua Prison

It is in the light of this town as a center for organized crime and possibly the most corrupt town in all of Taiwan, that I was struck by the irony of riding past the Changhua Correctional Facility in Erlin Township.
Friendly Bike Trail

From Erlin I found the Route 169 to Xiang Tian, which was my intended destination. I was pleased to find a long, paved bike and pedestrian path. Although I normally don't thing bikes and people mix very well on paths, the low population density made this one pretty harmless.

Hooray for Erlin

Rare tombs at home... and I know why.

I arrived in the area I was investigating and made some notes before pedaling around the area. Eventually, I was on the Route 152 and at the big temple on the Highway 19, I headed back to Xiang Tian and Erlin on the Route 170 (which is also the 169).

Of course! The Fragrant Field

After a bite to eat in Erlin I took the Route 150 out of Erlin to the Highway 19 again and just made tracks for home.

This time it took me just under six and a half hours to do about one hundred and four miles. Not too bad for my first Century in a long while.

Utility Bike