Making A Statement At The Slurpee Machine
I was feeling brave all week and decided to talk myself into doing a Century Ride--my first in 5 months. A Century Ride (160km/100mi) in and of itself is no easy feat, but I decided to celebrate my return to distance riding by adding a bit of climbing to the challenge just for sport.
I decided to make an attempt at Sanlinxi (杉林溪), the tea and tourism area up in the mountains over Nantou County.
I started the ride along the Highway 3 into Mingjian and then took the Highway 16 toward Shuili. The morning was bright and crystal clear. It looked to be a promising day for weather and blog-worthy pictures. I tried to get out early and get a jump on the broiling heat that was sure to come once the sun had a chance to put its magnifying glass on our little neck of the world.
A light haze hung around the skirts of the mountains, but there were no signs of the rain clouds that had been predicted all week.
I crossed the river at the Jilu Bridge, a shortcut to Lugu I had never tried and as I crossed I could just make out some of the lower reaches of Lugu up on the ridge just below Fenghuang Mountain.
I was making really good time and kept telling myself to pull back as the fun stuff was still up ahead on the mountain. Everything to the Route 131 was just a prelude to the ride I had planned--the commute to a hill climb.
The Route 131 is really the best route up the hill for a cyclist. It is much easier than the introductory ramps of Route 151, which can take the piss out of you before you even start the ascent.
Just as I started up the initial climbs on Route 131, I had to stop to pull a staple out of my rear tire. The process took way too long as I fiddled with the terrible Lyzene CO2 kit that never really works and had to fall back on my mini-pump. I guess I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy, but I am always glad I am.
After changing the tube and filling my rear tire to an acceptable, but not ideal pressure, I started working back up to where the Route 131 meets Route 151. I intended to stop at one of the numerous convenience stores along the way and use their pump... as the area is marked by the local government as a recommended cycling route. I was out of luck. None of the stores had a pump, so I pressed on wondering exactly how much pressure I was riding on.
No sooner had I started up the Route 151, when I ran smack into 15km of temporary parking lot.
The line of tourists idling in their cars started at Lugu and snaked all the way up the mountain to carnival the village of Hsitou, where thick clouds of tourists drive high up the mountain to cling to anything edible and escape life in the crowded cities.
The nice thing about the line of cars was having carloads of college girls cheer me as I passed.
After refilling my water bottles at the Family Mart I hunted down the Giant bike rental station at the Hsitou shopping oasis.
The Giant sign was prominently displayed and I was sure I could fill my rear tire to spec and maybe pick up a spare tube if I was lucky.
I was directed over to the bike area, where two helpful employees produced a hand pump and proceeded to let the remaining air out of my tire. The sound of gushing air only seemed to excite them as "the pumper" frantically tried to jack his hand harder until he turned purple from exertion and nearly fainted.
I produced my Schrader Valve adaptor, but they were having trouble getting it to work. I explained I was hoping to get the air pressure up to about 115psi, but was told it was "impossible" to pump a tire that full and "bike tires can only be inflated to 40psi". I threw caution to the wind and probably cost someone face, but I waved them off, thanked them and pumped with my little mini-pump again.
At that moment one of the bike guys asked if I wanted him to fill up the front tire while already moving in that direction. I emphatically declined with a loud string of "Buyao, buyao, buyao!!!!"
Now, to be fair, I think these guys just worked for the hotel at the Giant sponsored rental station... but once you put your name on it... you own it.
Soon I was back on my way with an unknown volume of air in my rear tire.
The turn off the Sanlinxi, or "Sunlink Sea" as the local tourism board calls it, was actually below where I took my pit stop and once I hit that road the beauty of the mountains was mine for the taking.
The road up to Sanlinxi consists of 12 turns, each marked by a different zodiac animal.
The climb is really quite spectacular as the jungle and bamboo gives way to cedar forests.
As I looped up toward the 5300ft. top the temperatures dipped into the high teens or the sixties in Fahrenheit. This is a dramatic drop from the sizzling plains. I figured this might happen, but I figured the exercise would keep me warm and the descent would be quick. Still, something for anyone considering a mountain ride in Taiwan at any time of the year.
As I neared my goal I could see the valley filling with mist and a bank of fog was moving in fast. I feared it might rain and pushed forward trying to beat the weather. The scenic landscapes were gone. The sharp-ridged mountains had disappeared. The only thing I could see were the ghostly shadows of tall trees amid swirls of mist.
Six kilometers from the top a light sprinkle started to fall and I stopped momentarily to assess my predicament. Was this the beginning of a rain storm or the light droplets from a fog bank?
I was so close to my destination I decided to concentrate on getting to my goal before turning back. Visibility was down to just a few yards and I turned off the music to listen for cars. It is in those moments as a cyclist when you are slowly climbing on the side of a quiet mountain that you really feel tiny and alone.
I trudged up the last of the way and beat a quick retreat. To my surprise, the mist cleared and the clouds went away as I cruised off the mountain. I was soon sweltering in the heat once more. I took the Route 151 all the way down to Zhushan and hooked onto the Highway 3 once more.
I put the crop to my ass and hammered to Nantou, where I found a pump revealing that I had been riding on a rear tire filled to a mere 40psi. No wonder my ass was hurting.
What a lovely ride.
Altitude Gain: 6247ft.
5652 calories burned.