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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tranquility in the Foothills of Miaoli: Exploring the Miaoli Route 54

Last weekend was a dreary one, with chills and fog blanketing much of central Taiwan. Therefore, I was happy to have another chance to cover some pavement in Miaoli County under slightly different circumstances.

One of the greatest things about cycling in central Taiwan, is the proximity to the foothills and the dozens of fantastic roads that snake through the fruit farms and along jungle streams in an innumerable combination of routes that offer exactly what the doctor ordered.

I had passed by an area that obviously had several small roads feeding into the North/South Highway 3. For some reason or another I had never tried to venture onto this blank spot on my cycling map.

This was an excellent opportunity for a look.

I joined up with Michael Turton, who supplies a nice commentary of the ride (here), and we rolled the familiar strips of asphalt to Jhuolan Township, where this ride was to officially begin. 

Sometimes it is not the distances or the places visited in a ride that make it special, but rather the style points of how you choose to traverse the terrain that really elevates a ride to one that is among the best. 

This is one of those routes.

We pushed off along the familiar and majestic Pinglin Rd. out of Jhuolan and loped along through tranquil citrus farms. The Pinglin Rd. is an excellent choice and I was a little reticent to tamper with a proven formula, but that is where the draw of the adventure comes from. 

Google was not very helpful as it had the road mislabeled and we initially took the wrong turn into an area that provided nothing but pleasant views and a pack of semi-domesticated dogs that wished for nothing more than to rip the flesh from my bones. Unfortunately,  over the past few months of inactivity,I have become a far more tempting morsel. 

After escaping Cerberus and his minions, we consumed every significant climb on the Pinglin Rd. At the top of the final climb, there is the junction with the Miaoli Rte. 54. This is not marked clearly on Google, so be aware. 

With just a few punchy climbs, the Route 54 delivers the rider into a well paved slithering track along the dips and ridges of the Miaoli foothills. Without any real traffic to speak of, the area was the picture of tranquility in central Taiwan. 

The scenery gave the false sense of topographic vastness that made the route such a great little gem. 

The Miaoli Rte 54 drops off the hill and back onto the Highway 3. From there we headed south to the 140km post and embarked on the Miaoli Route 52-3. 

The Route 52-3 is in excellent shape for most of the way as it hugs the northern contours of the Liyu Reservoir. The views have been better, but there was virtually no traffic to contend with making it a great continuation of the Route 54. 

As the smooth pavement runs out, the road makes an abrupt leap into the heavens at about a 30% grade. I can't believe there was a time I would eat this road in one sitting. It isn't simply the incline, but also the length of each ramp. 

Looking down at the road and the reservoir can be mesmerizing.

After cresting the hill, it is a zippy descent through bamboo tunnels along hidden marshes and tributaries far below. The roads can be dirty and slick after a rain, so ride with care. 

We popped out below the reservoir and made it back via the Highway 13 through Houli. 

I highly recommend this route for anyone looking for something new, beautiful and challenging that is less that 100km round trip.