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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Suffering on Sundays: Feng-kong Rd.

Now that I am back on the bike, I can now fully devote my spare moments to suffering on the saddle of a bicycle all in the name of health, sanity and fun. 

This past Sunday I started out early to get a jump on the heat in the hopes of returning in the early afternoon with enough kilometers to feel like I did something to improve my lowly, lowly state. I set my sights on the foothills between Jhuolan and Dahu in Miaoli County. 

Specifically, I wanted to carve into some of the side roads that mesh their way around the areas off the fantastic Pinglin Rd. 

Just a few kilometers into my ride I could feel it was going to be a rough day. It was simply one of those off-days when your legs never seem to arrive, no matter how much caffeine you throw down along the ride. 

I approached my target, which was the Feng-kong Rd. a.k.a. Local Route 18. If you are coming up Pinglin Rd. counter clockwise from Jhuolan, the road starts in the village after the first hill. If you get to the sign for Pinglin Elementary School, you've gone too far. 

As soon as I turned up the road I felt the dampness of the jungle. The Feng-kong Rd. zags along tree covered ravines toward the top of a ridge where plots of fruit farms are scattered about in the flatter areas. 

I paused for a while to take in the openness along the ridge to try to get my bearings. I had left my phone at home and therefore I was exploring new roads with nothing but experience and intuition. 

As I gazed out into the haze, I caught the glimpse of a Formosan Crested Serpent Eagle as it unfolded its wings just above my head. It rode the thermals above the hill just over my head for several minutes, making low and measured glides just beyond my reach. It was a magnificent experience to have a front row seat to a sight we city dwellers are too often denied. 

I continued down the road, passing the road I really wish I had taken (and had intended to take). 

One panorama after another and then I was again bombing through narrow gullies with no real idea where I might end up. 

Despite the views, I felt a pang of disappointment that my only remaining options led back down to Jhuolan on the 54-1. 

My energy was simply absent. A chill had blown in with a low pressure front and I was struggling against a nasty headwind. I decided to take Dongchi Rd. through the hills to Dongshih to avoid moving at a snail's pace out in full public view. The indignity of having strangers see me like that was more than I could bear.  

As I grimaced my way up an incline I used to eat in the big ring, I ran into Michael Turton and Scott E. They were also returning from a shorter ride in the area and I needed to company. We ate lunch in Dongshih before going our separate ways home. I tried climbing Hsin She to embarrass myself on another "easy" hill. I finally made it home feeling cooked and well-done. It was the longest ride I have done in a very long while at 120km, but I paid dearly.

Hopefully next time my legs will show up for the party. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Meinong Madness

This weekend we took the show on the road and drove down to Meinong, a small farming community in Kaohsiung County. With the Southern Cross-Island Highway open after years of closure due to Typhoon damage, the Meinong area was ripe for riding. I hadn't been in the area for several years, so I was due.

Michael and I parked on the outskirts of Meinong and headed up the Kaohsiung Route 181to connect to the Highway 20. The area is a beautiful basin that once grew tobacco and rice. In the late 1990's Meinong served as the location for one of the civic protests that would become a model for others to emulate as local residents successfully blocked a massive dam project to preserve the character of the town and its environment. Now Meinong is regularly cited for its work on sustainable infrastructure.

The Route 181 heads directly into a mountain and down into the river valley on the other side where it meets up with the Highway 21.

The route is relatively flat and was a bit busier than I expected. The haze from China made the scenery a bit less thrilling than I think it might be otherwise.

The road dips and ducks through bamboo covered hills all the way to Jiaxian township. This is a village  that was devastated in 2010 by Typhoon Morakot. It was nice to see how the village of former Siraya people has recovered.

From Jiaxian we took the Highway 20 over the hills to Liugui. This is a marvelous little road that is never too painful to climb, yet offers the illusion of ascending much higher peaks.

We connected to the Highway 27 to Liugui where we had lunch.

The Highway 27 splits and the southern route is a cycling dream. There is little traffic, long stretches of scenery. and the view of the river, which looks like it leapt out of an Orientalist's wet dream.

A spine of towering peaks sit like stonehenge blocks above the river.

This was the reason I really wanted to bike this route. It is a fabulous display of Taiwan's diverse topography. Then, all too soon, the ride was over and we were back in Meinong to enjoy a post-ride ice cream bar before a freeway trip home where Michael was subjected to two hours of aural insult to the sound of my musical tastes.

A nice day of just under 90k. This is a good route for riders who are still building up to the harder rides or recovering from an injury.