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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.