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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Taiwan Day 20 - Big Ride Blue Sky

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

On the way to 7-11 this morning, I actually saw a star. Crazy! I never thought I would see one here. Fitting, since the day before I saw snow in Taiwan while sitting at sea level, which is something else I never thought I'd see. I took a picture of the sky in the hopes that it would come out, but it didn't of course. It was all black. If I had Photoshop on this laptop I'd make a reenactment of the star. When I got to the 7-11 I didn't want to disrupt the routine and ask for only 1 cup of coffee, so I let the guy make the normal 2. I've been itching for a second cup after my first most days, so I just went back and drank them both. The downside to asking for only 1 coffee could have lasting repercussions for the next 3 weeks. No thanks.

I did some token email work and nothing really needed any attention, so I got myself ready to go, which included trying out some of the new toys that Nat's cousin's kid Crash had brought me. Today was the hydration pack and small bag that attaches to the top tube of the bike. I put the 2 bottles on the bike and 2 in the pack, and I stowed my iPhone and camera in the bag for ease of use when on the road. Many of the people reading here know that a hydration pack on the road is a major bike fashion faux pas, but for those who don't know, let me tell you that it is. Having said that, there's just nowhere to get water on some of these rides, when there's a 1 lane road and some monkeys out there, you're not going to find a 7-11 ready and waiting for you to stroll in. So on the bigger rides, I'm happy to have the backpack full of water. The aim today was 5 hours.

The goal was the same as yesterday, follow the blue sky:



Once again, beyond my wildest expectations, the weather was nothing short of awesome. I couldn't believe my luck in getting a blue sky ride for the 2nd day in a row. I took the road out more or less north, then headed up towards the botanical garden climb that I had done 2 weeks ago. I really didn't have much of a plan, but the sky was blue here and down south. North-ish looked gray, so I decided not to explore any of that stuff today. I was going to put together a lot of what I've done already.

The climb up was uneventful, other than seeing the sky and sun and my shadow again. These are such cool days right now, I have to enjoy them to the fullest, which is what today was. As I got almost to the top I could see (I think) Ilan down in the valley:



After this the road opened up to the fields like I described on the first trip. I don't think I posted this picture last time but I got a better shot of it today. This was at the top of the climb, close to the end of route 9 and start of the 1 lane road that winds through the fields and on to the botanical gardens:



It's an abandoned house, which is odd in the sense that nothing really gets left to die here (see next pic). But what's more, and this struck me later, is that this house seems to be of a western design, which is exceedingly rare here. This leads me to guess that this was built by some influence from the west, maybe a whitey who lived up here or something, who knows. And looking at it, it does not appear to be the cement structure that everything here is made of. I didn't go inside, but my guess is that it is infiltrated with insects and mold, which is why it's been abandoned. I'd love to know the story of this house. History like this really intrigues me.

As support, witness this as a testament to how nothing is left to rot here:



This is nothing more than a rock shack, which has probably been up here for eons. Off to the left was a small garden, and you can see the old woman in front of the door of the house. I continued on for a little bit, to where the river and road come together. There I took a small break then rode back down the mountain to route 7, where I passed an older guy going up the hill on his bike and yelled "jia you" to him. He smiled. Then I was off to the south where the sun and sky were going. When I got to the bottom I could see that the mountains in the distance still had a little snow on them. I took a pic (link here) but it's kinda vague to really see much. That may be TaiPing Shan, I don't know. Still cool to see.

The ride up route 7 was long and more or less uneventful, save for the army of cement and rock trucks that were going by in both directions. On this more northern section there was much more truck traffic, and I realized that the entrance to the "river quarry" was here, so trucks were going in & out quite a bit. After I passed that things got more quiet, but this side of the river is still a bit tight on some of the turns. I don't think I'll do that long haul again. The ride on that road alone must have been well over 20 miles, which is a lot of trucks.

I also realized why huge sections of road are often wet. I saw a huge water tanker on the road, spraying it down as I passed the entrance of one of the quarries. I'm guessing that they have to do this for the sake of keeping their mess off the road, which makes sense. The roads are pretty messy as is, but they would be really bad if the trucks weren't sprayed down (I saw this as well) and the road wasn't cleaned. I think they should be forced to run street cleaners for several miles in both directions.

Somewhere along route 7 the ball of my right foot started to hurt like hell, and I had to shift down a lot on the climbs to help the pain a bit. I brought my old road shoes and pedals and the fit probably isn't quite right overall. On these big climbs that probably adds up as I'm putting a lot of pressure on my feet when I do climb. I was able to deal, but it was a nuisance for the last 2 hours of the ride. I eventually got to the crossover point of the river, at the base of TaiPing Shan. Looking upriver you can see where they've completed the mining and groomed the riverbed for some unknown reason:



The last 1.5 hours was quite and uneventful aside from some rain that dropped on me in the last 30 minutes. For 4 hours it was sunny and beautiful out. Then the sky grew overcast as I returned home, and finally it let out and dumped on me. All in all, I'll take it. Incidentally, the small bag that I put the camera in doesn't seem to be very water-resistant, as I took the camera out and it was wet. When I put it on the table it started to turn itself on and off randomly, then cycling through the pictures on its own. Eventually I got the pictures off the camera but that may be it.

When I got back to the house Nat had texted me and asked if I wanted to go to Taipei. But since I was still most of the day in the hole, I needed to get some work done. Plus, I needed to shower, get lunch, do laundry, and clean up the kitchen still. The in-laws fly out tonight, so I didn't want to be the one to make the FIL late. He said something about leaving by 2:00 from Suao (the town south of here where his brother lives) and I knew he would be very skittish about missing the plane. But really, I'd never get any work done up there so I decided to stay at the apartment for the day.

So lunch was the rest of the liver from yesterday's lunch, the tofu from 2 days ago, and various snacks around the house like dried scallion pancake, pineapple cake, the rest of the chocolate cake in the fridge, and so on. Since I had ridden just over 5 hours, I ate whatever I wanted. I was able to put my medium jersey on today (I had been wearing the spring jacket until today) and it wasn't overly tight or anything. So the ride & eat balance is working out just fine.

Mid afternoon I went out for a coffee and scallion pancake. This is the extent of the food I can go out and order here. I can go to the bread store and pick stuff off the shlves. But in terms of walking up to someone and asking for something, this is pretty much it. I think I can get the rice ball for breakfast too, but dinner is a pretty weak spot. So my getting coffee and a scallion pancake for mid-afternoon snack sort of means I've used up the 1 food that I can order, and I've run out of leftovers. I still have a lot of duck in the fridge but I don't want to eat that since Nat hasn't had any yet.

While waiting for the pancake to cook, I took this pic of someone burning "ghost" money across the street:



This is done several times a month and is done for good luck. The more time I spend here the more I realize this is a much more religious society than where we live in the west. I never really thought about it before because Buddhism is so passive, while Christianity is so aggressive, but it's really everywhere in the culture. There are temples everywhere in town, as well as randomly strewn across the hillside when you're out on the road. This ranges from the huge ones I've taken pictures of to tiny ones which are barely more than a 5 foot square footprint and an incense bowl on a table. Some farmers have small temples on the side of the fields. They're everywhere, and add a lot of nice color to the landscape. Call it cultural flair if you like.

Back to the apartment I eat, drink coffee, work, make tea, and so on. With the family up north that means my day is bike, work, and eat. Aside from the bike tour, the day is pretty boring. Nat sent me this pic, which Grandma will enjoy:

(picture removed, because I think there are some sick fucks out there)

Eventually I have to face the music and find myself dinner. First I go to the bakery and get some breakfast. This morning was a lousy 7-11 bun that draws to mind the quote from Big Lebowski, which is: this aggression will not stand. Well, at least the "will not stand" part. Last time we went there some woman was buying a bun with 4-6 pounds of dried/shredded pork on top. There were 2 left when I got there, and I snared 1 of them. I also got a small backup bun to eat when I get hungry later tonight. I need to stop persisting on snack foods.

Next I went to the fried rice place and asked for lamb fried rice. Nat had given my the words to use, which I knew but wasn't totally sure of. I think I may have asked for lamb fried dogshit by mistake. But I went and asked for the right thing, and of course the woman asked me a question, to which I replied, in Chinese, "I don't understand." She then repeated it, and I told her, "My Chinese is bad, I don't understand what you're saying." I have to say, all this goddamn time spent studying Chinese and I still can't understand jack shit.

Eventually we got it together that I wanted lamb fried rice, and the veggie that was sitting there, to go. I did understand the to go part, I think it's "wai dai" which I believe translates to "out carry." Then I went to the grocery store and bought 2 big beers because it's going to be that kind of party.



And I watched TV and worked some more. This project is coming along well, if I do say so myself. Of course, I'm with drink so take that with a grain of salt.

I also look back on today and think I missed the perfect opportunity to do TaiPing Shan. The ride is probably a 5-6 hour ride, and the whole area was under blue skies today. You really never know with this weather. Maybe tomorrow, or the next day. Hopefully I'll get there before the end of the trip.

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1 Comments:

  • At 6:34 PM, Blogger terren said…

    Why is wearing a hydration pack a faux pas?

    For the camera, put it in a sealed bag with a bunch of rice then put that on top of the fridge or somewhere warm (take the batteries out first)... the only problem is, where the heck are you going to find rice?

    Glad you got some good weather in.

     

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