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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Taiwan Day 12 - Ordinary Life

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.

In an absolutely shocking surprise, it was sunny and 80 degrees when I went out for coffee this morning. Oh wait, no it wasn't. It was raining. And dark. Ok I'm soft, so sue me.

I decided to go south, towards Suao which is where the FIL's oldest brother lives. I found a road on the map that goes up, and up in a hurry. I'm starting to wear out all my options that go SW using that route 7 corridor, since there's really only 1 way to get to the good stuff and it takes at least an hour to get there. I wanted to try a different direction to get my climb on. The cool thing about this excursion is that I was taking route 9 south, then taking a single turn off the main road. Google maps street view covers this, so I was able to look at the street view and get the mile marker (ok, actually it was a kilometer marker, 101 to be exact) of where to turn. I saw there were 2 big cement towers, and 2 guys sitting at the side of the road.

I easily found the road and started heading towards the hill. No surprise, especially since I saw the cement towers which indicate a cement factory, this was another one of these mining roads. I think all the roads that go up to the top of the hill are mining roads. There was also a rock conveyor but this one was actually running today, which was pretty exciting because it's just so crazy. I passed the factory and soon found myself on this road, which is where I'm pretty sure I'll meet my end if it's going to come on one of these rides:

Google considers this a road, which it is for bikes and scooters. Soon that ended and it met up with another real road, which was promising for a little bit but not very long:

Every day I go out here I understand more and more why most people ride mountain bikes. With the roadie, this road is virtually impossible. On a mountain bike I could have kept going, though you can see there really isn't a lot of road to work with on this one. I suspected (probably mre like surmised) that since the rock conveyor was working here, the trucks didn't need to go up & down the hill, so maybe it would have been safe. But if a truck had come, I'm not sure where I would have been able to get out of the way. Maybe it was for the best that this one wasn't a great success.

I tooled around a bit more, found a temple, went across the river and found another temple, then a military institution of some sort, and finally another temple. After about an hour I gave up and headed back, with the idea of maybe shooting out to the standard Toughest Climb (MeiHua Hu, where Hu means lake) area and doing one of those climbs. But before I left the park on the other side of the river, I found yet another new toilet development, the definition of public toilet, which was an open air deal:

I rode back towards the house then saw a road which kinda went the way I wanted so I just took it to see what would happen. I had 2 of the old routes on the GPS so I could see that, while I wasn't going exactly the right way, I wasn't going totally opposite either. Soon enough I found some brown signs, which are used for the tourist areas, and which have English subtitles. I followed them for a bit and found my way to the back side of the MeiHua climb, which I had done the other day. So I went up and over to where we had lunch, then down past the temple, and on home.

In all, I'd say this one was a bit of a failure on the exploration scale. But I was able to see the rock conveyor from the original ride, and I noted that it was also running today. So maybe on the days when it's raining in the morning they run the conveyor to spare the truck drivers? I find that level of safety standard unheard of here, so I'm not sure that's the reason. Maybe a truck falling off the side of the hill ends up being far too expensive to deal with, so they use the conveyor then?

I will admit the thought crossed my mind, and I considered going partially up the original quarry road as I was heading back. I decided against it, though I'm thinking more and more that I want to try that climb one more time before I leave, bike cleanliness be damned.

Back at the apartment and we had some salty breakfast stuff as a late breakfast after I showered. I generally don't make mention of breakfast since it's often just a bun of sorts that we get at the bakery the night before. This morning, we didn't have any so I had a tea egg from yesterday plus a piece of bread with some "Chinese cheese" which is actually fermented tofu. Mid-morning we often have a rice ball, or leek dumpling, and so on. Breakfast tends to be something that you can keep in a small bag and eat on the fly, or the scooter as is often the case.

Worked from 10-1 or so and helped the on-call guy get through some issues, plus did some other stuff on the side. Went out to seek lunch and we ended up with lamb fried rice and veggies plus beef noodle soup. The rice was better but this looks nicer:

The afternoon was the usual coffee run, Nat grabbed some dessert which I mostly skipped because I was full, then I worked a bit more. Nat's parents were in Taipei for most of the day so I took the opportunity to grind out some actual work and sort of have one of these "real life days" which means that very little happened. This was sort of the point of coming here, just to live somewhere else for a while. So far, we've been pretty busy so it's not entirely like we're just living here. Looking ahead, that's probably not actually going to change, as I have the bulk of my vacation to use up still. After this week I have 2 weeks of vacation to take, plus MLK day off, and a floating holiday. That adds up to only 8 more days to work after this week. As odd as it sounds, I was hoping to get some more coding in while here. Oh well, I'll just have to find more time to eat and bike more.

Also took some time to clean the bike. As much as I just want to let it go, it's looking really dirty these days, and by dirty I mean filthy. This is the grit that built just today. You can see why this place is murder on your parts. It's like liquid sandpaper:

This was the (formerly clean) rag I used to wipe down just the brake pads and rims:

When I was almost done these 2 guys came up to me and asked me if I spoke English. They weren't Chinese, maybe Philippino or something. They were looking for a Western Union, and it sure looked like I was a local since I was outside banging mats together like an old kitchen wench. I guess in this sense, we are living here as residents. I was out on the side of the road cleaning my bike and banging out mats, so I probably look like I belong. Of course, I had no idea where the Western Union was, and when they asked me where the address was they had written in Chinese, I told them I had no clue.

I have to be honest, they looked kinda shady and were sort of looking around a lot, as if they were waiting for nobody to be watching so they could mug me. I may have been a little skittish, but they came off as kinda shady and my instincts told me to be careful. I told them they should go to the bank around the corner and ask, but they ended up walking the other way down the street. I also told them they should ask 1 of the 25 million people here who could read Chinese where the address was, not the 1 guy they found all day that can't read the language.

Afternoon snack run was to the night market area where I got this pastry shell filled with sweet taro. It was ok. Then we headed over to the bakery but first found this store that Nat's aunt recommended to us, which had a boat load of stuff that Julia wanted. It also had this cheapy 3D map of Taiwan which I wanted. But for $6 I wondered how long it was going to stay 3D. We bought her a few things then went to the bakery, and then KFC to get dinner for Julia.

Back at the apartment, Nat's parents came back, and we just got an order of noodles and 2 veggies to split for dinner. Nat says I take good food pics so I'll keep them coming. Nothing crazy, just pork and such on top:

In all a pretty boring day, but that's what you get when you have to find something interesting to do for 44 straight days. No exciting bike finds, no squat toilets, no crazy foods. Really, a general "life" day just like we'd have at home. Eat, work, ride, clean bike, buy stuff, and meet errant fishermen from other countries looking for a Western Union. Ok maybe there was 1 abnormal thing that happened today. Oh and I guess I did see the public toilet arsenal. So there's that.



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