Today was it, the last day on the bike. The whole day is mine to take, if I so choose. So what do I do? Go back to Yangmingshan? Shoot for 100? Something else? I woke up early and really didn't know what to do. I rolled out at about 6:30, the sun pretty much done making it's appearance for the morning, and traffic still pretty light. I rolled down to the bridge the fastest way I could. This opened up any of 3 different ways I could take. I essentially punted the decision until the end.
As I got to the bridge I said fuck it, let's go to the Queen's Head rocks out on the north coast. The bike map looked reasonable, and I was over the bridge and on route 2 in no time. Traffic was normal, nothing crazy, and the pace was solid. No rain, despite the forecast calling for morning showers.
The coast was awesome because it was a different kind of terrain than I'm used to. Gone were the big trees and mountains and instead there were smaller blocks of rock covered in long grasses, almost like an ocean prairie, but vertical. These grasses must be super tough to be able to withstand the storms that ravage the coast. Another interesting thing I noted was that the area was somewhat dead.
Witness this apartment complex. I have never seen anything like this here, just totally abandoned. The shops on the bottom level were in shambles, as if some sort of blight hit and everyone just up and left. I'd love to know why this area is so neglected, especially with the ultra pricey shore town of Danshui not even 30 minutes away by car.
Maybe it has something to do with the weather. Shortly after I saw some massive, power-generating windmills. Maybe it's just too harsh here to support much of anything. Who knows, but I enjoyed the coast today, and in just 2:08 I was at the entrance of the recreation area with the Queen's Head rocks. But they charge admission to go near it. I said screw that and just took a long-distance picture and rolled out.
After a quick stop at 7-11 for some water and a Snickers bar, I turned off the coast road and started climbing up the backside of Yangmingshan. I had looked at the map quickly and saw that 2 connected to 101 up there somewhere. I guess I'm getting a bit blase as far as getting lost is concerned. With the GPS I know what direction I need to go, and where I've been. So unless I fall off the mountain, I should be good to go. Sure enough, it all worked out.
I decided to throw this in as my second goal of the day. Last ride, go for broke. So after the nice coast roll I hit the hills with the big mountain as the next target. As usual, it went up, and I slogged up with it. I think this pic somewhat goes hand-in-hand with what I quoted below. It's pretty epic here sometime. Shortly after I took this pic it started to rain, which was only appropriate for my last ride.
My average speed crapped out on the hills, dropping from 18 to 15 in no time. That happens here, which is to be expected when you go up 3000 feet. As I was getting to where I thought I should turn, sure enough a road took off to the right and said it was for the Datun Scenic area, which is what I was aiming for.
I was riding along the ridge on the side of the mountain and a cloud just started dumping down the hill. It was such a strange and unique moment. I wrote the following elsewhere, which I'll just quote here:"Gotta say that riding in the hills here so much makes me understand why religion is so prevalent here. I was riding up along a ridge on Yangmingshan today and a cloud/fog just poured down the mountain onto the roadway. I've never seen anything like it, and was concerned for a second that I had found myself in the middle of some insane weather phenomenon. It was like a giant was pouring the cloud down from above. It literally ran down the hill at 20 mph, just rushing down on top of the road. Pure insanity."
It was really awesome. If you live up in these hills and farm them, you likely feel as if you're seeing the hand of god (or some set of probably constantly bickering gods) almost daily. When the clouds go and you can see the valley, I imagine it only reinforces that feeling.
The top was so-so clear. You could see much of the 800 foot detour to the top, but not all of it. I was under no delusion that I'd be able to see anything but thick fog, so I skipped the leg-grinding extension and started down the mountain after a quick pit stop at the bathroom and vending machine at the visitor center. I'm actually fairly sure bikes aren't allowed up to the top, and it was a bit of a mob scene today, as many people have the whole week off.
I took the downhill fast, as everything was dry on this side. It was the very last test of the bike, and it did not disintegrate, nor explode, which is fairly boring as far as the narrative goes, but it did allow me to actually make it back to tell the story.
I came off the hill about 70 miles in. At this point I certainly had to go for the hat trick and bag the century, which is 100 miles for those non-bikers reading (ie, my mom and Maureen). I rolled out another 20-ish on the bikeway and then headed up the hill the most reasonable way I could, which still hurt. At the top, I stopped at the Family Mart for 2 teas and a pork bun. I was 98 miles in at this point.
This was good, regardless of how good it actually was. I sat down and watched the world, and enjoyed the non movement for a bit. I got back on the bike and rolled to the front door of the apartment and the GPS said 99.3 miles. I usually don't do this, but I rolled around the block to top it off at 100.1. On the way, everyone else happened to be coming back to the apartment for a quick stop before going out to get a haircut for Nat & Julia.
So that's it, my last ride of the trip. While I'm ready to go home I do have to say I'm going to miss the biking here. The mystery of this island is such a huge draw to me. Once again, I'll quote myself from something I wrote today:"I'm going to miss the biking here. I really like it here. So many things are just awesome, new, wild, and raw. Having said that, I'm pretty sure if I biked like this for 2 years I'd kill myself before the 2 years was up. I'm getting way, way too comfortable in traffic now, sometimes riding 6 inches from cars/trucks/scooters doing well over 20 mph. Today I jumped in front of a 5 ton cement truck that was cutting us off at a traffic light and yelled at the guy. Have to imagine that would bite me in the ass eventually."
Back at the apartment, the reality strikes me that the value of salty Chinese breakfast food cannot be overstated. Calvin bought me some stuff and it is nothing short of remarkably fantastic.
I'm going to more or less wrap up the post with that. The afternoon was my doing a lot of email and messages and catching up on personal things while everyone was out. Then I made dinner for everyone, which was a Chicken Florentine Casserole
I picked from allrecipes.com. And I drank some red wine, like 3 glasses of it.
At dinner, I also learned more about the religion of the country, and what I have been calling Buddhism is actually Daoism. I'll cover more on that in the next few days, when I learn more.Full picture set of the day here
: Flickr set