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Monday, August 21, 2017

Back Roads: The CPC Industry Rd.

The Gas Road Strikes Again:


I said I would never ride the "Gas Road" again. It had been an adventure and that was enough for me. I had successfully navigated the length of Taiwan's western ridge line from Xinchu to Taichung. Done. Curiosity had been sated.

Then I decided I had to show it off to a few people so they too could tick this little oddity off their maps of curiosity.

This time I was leading a small group of cyclists into one of those Bermuda Triangle spots on the mapping software where space aliens muck with the earth's electromagnetic filed and the GPS goes haywire. Fun!


The first sight of a an effigy of a man hanging by his pretty white neck outside of Wenshui Village where the Highway 6 breaks from the Highway 3 to Gongguan looked to be a bad omen before we disappeared into the lost highway of Miaoli.


The CPC Industry Road starts behind the CPC petroleum works near the site of Taiwan's earliest oil wells dating back to the late 19th century. The Japanese colonial government exploited Taiwan's limited oil reserves and built extensive extraction and processing facilities nearby. The site is still in use today with 28,000 barrels of crude pumped from a longitudinal vein along Taiwan's western coast.


The climb is steady and steep in parts. There are few dwellings, though someone had build a large gated estate tucked behind the canopy of tall trees. It is eerily quiet as you ride past oil pumps high over Tongluo. The farming roads that cross the area are many and the hills are dotted with fruit farms.


It is more than easy to take a wrong turn, and many of the surfaces are covered in dirt and debris.


We emerged from the forest and into the misted farms above Dahu. The views are fantastic... when the clouds allow it.


We eventually cruised down to meet the top of the Miaoli Route 60 that crosses the hill to join the Route 119 for home.


Back Roads: Taichung Route 97


It isn't always about how you start, but rather, how you finish. And that was the message of the day when we started out on the regular loop from Taichung to Guoxing and back.

The planned route was set for the Highway 21 and back on the not so difficult return along the Highway 3 through Wufeng Township. That was the plan.

Instead, somewhere in conversation I got on the topic of the little used Route 97, which is little used for good reason. It is the old road from Dongshih to Guoxing before the Highway 21 was completed and has fallen into a state of disrepair on the Nantou side.

Naturally, we decided to roll the dice and see if conditions had improved.


The initial ramps of the Route 97 start on the lower reaches of the Highway 21. There is a small sign to warn motor vehicles that it is not a through route, but other than that it just looks like a stretch of pavement that gets swallowed by the mountain.


I hadn't been up the Route 97 in some time, and each time was in less than clear weather. The roads in parts were simply areas of chunky concrete with generous helpings of mud.

Today the views were stunning.


The climb is quite a bit steeper than the Highway 21, with nary a human sound to interrupt the sound of your own labored breathing. The overgrown jungle along the road offers a bath of shade as consolation for the sustained gradients, and the roadway is still quite smooth.


In the breaks between vegetation, the landscape washes over pockets of white buildings in the distance and reveals a green oasis over the dust of Taichung and its far flung townships.

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The summit sits about 320m above the Highway 21, which can be spotted between the trees below. The foothills of Taichung push up against the Central Mountain Range in the distance and make for fantastic views.

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The descent was better this time around, but it is not easy. There are several technical sections and it can be very easy to take the wrong road. The single lane rips through sparse farms in betel nut country for an exciting downhill filled with excitement before cleaning up for a reintroduction to civilization in Guixing.

This is by no means the regular route to Guoxing... but if you trust your equipment and your cycling skills, it makes for a little variation on an otherwise routine route.