We make holes in teeth!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Taiwan Day 21 - Soiled Wig

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

Much rain this morning. As I go to the 7-11 it looks like a pretty wet morning. When the sun rises, that doesn't change. Since nobody is around I end up doing work instead, since I frankly don't want to go ride in the rain. I may have had too much bad beer last night, so I decide that riding later is a better idea. If the rain keeps pissing down, I might skip the day. No big deal really. I had 2 good rides the last 2 days and I have some work I needed to get done so I play the boring card and pick up where I left off last night, minus the beer, which is eating, drinking, working, and watching TV in between. Unfortunately the National Geographic channel has been stuck on lame animal shows since yesterday afternoon.

Breakfast is strange, with some form of goo inside:

By mid morning the rain had let up and the sky was a lighter shade of gray, so I headed out with the idea to get 2-ish hours of flat riding done today. I planned to go up to Ilan on route 9 to the base of the climb up and over to Taipei. But at the base I'd hook a hard right and come back down on route 2 along the coast. If I had the time I'd head all the way down to Suao, then back up 9 to home.

It took me no time to get up to Ilan, where there was apparently a Retarded Drivers convention taking place. Now I understand that every one of these towns is always a game of Russian Roulette in terms of riding your bike there. But jeez, this was just stupid. I've talked about how oblivious people can be on the side of the road, but this was absurd. People turning their cars sideways in heavy traffic, totally ignoring traffic lights, not looking before they pull on the road, and on and on. Really nothing abnormal, just a whole lot of it. I couldn't get out of there fast enough, and was thrilled when I started to clear the traffic and pop out the other side of town.

On the way north from there, I was going back and forth with these 2 girls on a scooter. They passed me, and the one on the back waved. Eventually I passed them at a stop light, and they passed me again, and waved, and we went back and forth like this a few more times. I'm pretty sure that a bike is faster when you get a certain density of traffic lights here, mainly because having any number of cars on the road starts to cause idiotic behavior and I roll through the traffic lights once it's clear. Eventually they buzzed past for the last time, and shortly after I hit the coast and started heading south.

Route 2 was crap. It ran along the coast in name only. The ocean was blocked from view by a mound of dirt, my guess could be due to it being fortified by various concrete reinforcements and dirt to prevent the island from washing away. I saw a small view of the ocean as I started going, but that was it until the very end when I turned off route 2 to head back home. I decided that I was too tired from yesterday and was cutting the ride short. Aside from the glimpse of the ocean and a bunch of trucks, I did see a pond with maybe 50 white herons in it. But it was pissing rain the whole ride so I didn't bother taking a pic of it.

On that note, Terren suggested I put the camera in a bag of rice, but last night I had put it on the dehumidifier and that seemed to have done the trick. But by the end of the ride, it was acting goofy again, surely because of the rain. I fear that it may be on it's death bed either way, and the ride pics may come to an abrupt end sooner than later, and you'll be left with crappy iPhone pics until that dies too.

Terren also asked about the hydration pack, It's just like wearing white after Labor Day. You just don't do it and expect people to hang out with you.

So why is this blog post named "Soiled Wig"? Here it is:

With about 4 miles to go, I started to hear a thump-thump-thump and wondered that the hell was going on. It sure didn't sound like a good thing, so at the next traffic light I got off the bike and looked down to see that, but with 100 PSI in the tire and the tube bulging out like a frog in full croak. I've been down this road before, and the tube never lasts. But you can get a little bit out of it by lowering the pressure and riding slowly. I dropped it down to a fair balance between not sticking out of the tire too much and not bottoming out on the wheel. Against all odds, I was able to ride it out back to home.

After I got cleaned up and so on, I went out looking for lunch. I walked around with no luck, then walked to the "go to" corner for the usual. Unfortunately, the scallion pancake shop was closed and I didn't feel like getting a coffee, so I turned around and went home and ate cold rice (no microwave here) and random crap. I'm starting to feel isolated and grumpy. I can't say shit, can't read shit, and can't understand shit. And I'm sick of breakfast buns, scallion pancakes, and coffee. Actually, I'm not sick of scallion pancakes yet.

Nat texted me and said she was going to be back after dinner, which didn't help my mood because that meant dinner was probably going to be scallion pancakes and beer again. I also have no properly working bike and my translator isn't here. Finally, my bike clothes were in the washing machine, which was apparently made by the people who drive in Ilan because it constantly turns itself off in mid cycle, completely full of water.

I decided to venture out and try to get some new tires from the bike shop. The first shop I went to had some, but I didn't like the look of them (too light, one was a race tire) and they had a huge tool stand with every Park tool imaginable, except for a pedal wrench. The next Giant shop was closed. So I walked to the bakery and grabbed something that would pass for dinner, as well as a red bean paste bun for breakfast.

I then ventured to the night market and got myself a scallion pancake (shocker) for a late afternoon snack, or maybe call it dinner course #1. The guy asked me a question to which I just shrugged my shoulders. He pointed to an egg, and I said yes. He asked a few more questions to which I shrugged my shoulders again, and he said, "ting bu dong" which means, "hear no understand" or basically, I have no idea what you're saying. I said yes, ting bu dong.

I walked away with a scallion pancake. It was actually really good, better than the place next to the 7-11, but $5 more. That's like 16 cents I think.

So I got food but I'm in a bit of a bind with the bike situation. I think my fallback plan is to use the mountain bike with flat pedals and sacrifice my jogging sneakers if I have to. Not ideal, but apparently nobody takes off, or puts on, pedals in this country. Or perhaps the mafia controls all the pedal wrenches. Between bike pedals and scooter tires, you could probably completely throttle transportation in this town.

Second part of dinner is the bun, and it's ok at best:

The afternoon was generally work, TV, or waling around town looking for food, so it's a pretty boring day in all. Nat and Julia rolled in around 7:30 with some real food, at which point I realized I was hungry. I hadn't eaten a solid meal in over a full day, and I was hurting for some actual food, as opposed to what my limited vocabulary can get me.

Language is important. It now strikes me that these 5 levels of learning Chinese that I've done are worthless. I can sort of understand crap about totally useless things, like an interview or the new hat you got or the haircut you don't like, but I can't order a freaking meal. You'd think that any language lesson worth its salt would spend a significant time talking about food, water, the bathroom, and every possible scenario pertaining to them. I can say "I want to go see the historic sites and temples in your town," but I can't say, "Oh shit my eyes are bleeding, I need a hospital." Really, shouldn't you work on the essentials first?



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