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Monday, May 14, 2012

The Bad and The Beautiful: An Awful Ride Through Wonderful Places

 Taichung Cycling Path

Yes, I am still blogging.

These few weeks have been a bit rough for this blogger, with weather problems followed by a chest cold as the weather shifted from rainy to humid. Now, my father is in town visiting, so my riding will again be curtailed. 

I was finally able to get out for a ride on Saturday, and I decided to complete the route I had initially attempted the previous week. I thought I could roll from Taichung to Zhushan (竹山) and then up the 149甲, turning on the Yunlin Route 158 back toward Gukeng (古坑) and Douliu (斗六). I had even contemplated climbing home over Bagua Shan if I was feeling energetic. 

The whole route is about 160km through some really great tea growing areas. Too few cyclists ever explore these incredible roads, so it is always a pleasure to soak it all in from the saddle. 

As I sped through Wufeng, I stopped to take a look at one of those imposing monuments to the era of Cold War ideological posturing that feels anachronistic and out of place to anyone who has spent any time  with their ear to the ground in Taiwan. The KMT emphasis on "China" seems to betray the party's own insecurity and acknowledgement of Taiwan's own lack.

The roadside monument was arranged in 1989 between two local Lion's Clubs. These private organizations have often acted as a means to conduct unofficial international diplomacy between Taiwan and other countries. 

In 1989 Taiwan (The ROC) and South Korea (The ROK) maintained a united front against Communism in East Asia. By 1992 South Korea officially switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing as the representative of China in an act of realpolitik. In response, the ROC organized a "spontaneous demonstration of anger" outside the South Korean embassy, which involved stone throwing and other acts of orchestrated violence directed toward the Koreans. Taiwan enacted punitive sanctions and severed direct air links that would remain a point of negotiation between the two countries for over a decade. 

This demonization of Korea is also the genesis of much of the animosity many Taiwanese direct toward Koreans. I don't know how many times I have heard a Taiwanese tell me how much they don't like Koreans because of X,Y or Z. Still, these old hurt feelings haven't done much to deter younger Taiwanese from becoming the top international consumers of Korean pop idols and soap operas. 

Everything was pretty easy on the morning. I happily slipped along the roads into the hills. 

I always love passing the tea gardens along the Guo River. It seems they are always filled with people picking tea, as if they are doing it for my benefit. 

These are lower elevation oolongs, but they are hand picked, so the quality should be pretty good. 

Just where the tea gardens spread out at the top of a little climb, I took a right turn over the hill to Douliu. 

I kept a good pace up into the hills, but I could hear a worsening noise from my bottom bracket. I also may have pushed myself to go too fast over the hills. I was trying to be both ginger with the pedal mashing, but also dig into the climb. 

When I finally crested the hill, I felt completely spent. 

I haven't felt this bad in a long time. Maybe I still had too much fluid in my lungs. Maybe too much time off the bike. Maybe poor fueling. Maybe the bottom bracket was causing me to work much harder. Maybe the headwinds and crosswinds took the piss out of me. I really don't know what it was. 

We all have these days. We know what we should be capable of accomplishing. We have done much harder rides. This should have been cake. I shouldn't have been watching the hours slip by. Sometimes it happens and we have a bad ride. We are not immune to riding like crap. The mighty Thor Hushovd from Team BMC unceremoniously bowed out of the Giro d'Italia last week after a poor start punctuating a poorer season.  Some days you just suck. 

I continued plodding along at 20kph. I had nothing in my tank. I couldn't summon any more energy to move forward against the wind. The snapping the popping in the bottom bracket got louder and more annoying. 

I was in a state of shock. I hadn't been through such a humiliating experience in years. It was as if my legs had gone on strike. 

Finally, at Caotun, after 140km, I surrendered. I called for a ride home. My bottom bracket was a mess and so was I. There was no sense in prolonging my suffering. The will to push forward was gone. 

Better luck next time. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for answering that unspokien question I had straight off. I'd like to reprise that route. 149 jia looks stunning. Weather permitting on the 26th....