Saturday, September 26, 2009

Epic Riding in Taichung and Nantou

Another great ride today, this time over 21 to Guosing and then back over The Fence to Taichung....

The day began at the traffic circle in Taiping, where I met my friend Drew. We first climbed up to Hsinshe up the Spiral there at the end of Dongshan road, a popular route with local biking enthusiasts. It is a 350 meter climb that for us served as a warm up to the bigger things to come. From Hsinshe we headed south on 93 through the mushroom farms that have made the area famous, then dropped down to the Dachia river north of Dongshih to pick up 21 through the mountains. Here I panned the river looking south toward Dongshih town.

93 is actually a very enjoyable little ride, with farms and orchards, and good views out over Taichung on one side and the mountains on the other. Here a miniature resort is tucked at the foot of a ridge.

Another view of the river, just before you start climbing on 21.

The tiny figure in orange is Drew. This is the opening part of 21, lined by a creek and much greenery. Beautiful. There were plenty of other cyclists out that day, too.

21 turned out to be an absolutely awesome ride. The road is wide and empty of vehicles even on a Saturday. Traffic is all locals, save for the yammerheads on huge, wasteful, inefficient, environmentally unsound motorcycles blasting noisily up the slope at high speeds. Thank you, WTO and GATT.

As you climb, the road is lined with orchards and vineyards. Here is a shot back toward the river over a field of grape vines.

In addition to being empty, the grade is quite low and it is an easy climb, despite the fact that it rises some 500 meters to over 800 meters at its highest point.

A winding, beautiful road....

The views are stunning, of course.

A pan of one of the areas seen from the road.

Feeling great, we approached the highest point on 21, there in the distance.

Right at the top is a little shop selling drinks and local goodies, including bee liquor. Please give me credit for manfully resisting making any bad puns about bee liquor.

A group of bikers who had more or less paced us stop for coffee nearby.

On the other side of the ridge are lovely views looking south toward Sun Moon Lake.

We dropped rapidly down to Guosing township. I'd like to show you more pretty pics, but I was having too much fun going way too fast down the hill. Here we stopped to take a couple of pictures where the road washed out.

Guosing Township.

On our way into Central Guosing we rested on a bridge over one of the area's innumerable rivers.

There we noted this sign for a Nantou political candidate in which he is supported by none other than the once great James Soong.

We passed through Guosing and reached Hwy 14 between Puli and Changhua. There we turned west, heading for 136. But not before I snapped this picture of no less than four candidates looking benignly down from their perches along the highway. And not before a flying squirrel glided across the road between us as we pushed on toward 14.

We then rode briefly down 14, a major truck route, ugly, dirty, and uncomfortable. The less said about it, the better. From there we turned onto 136.

I've blogged on 136 before, it's a gorgeous road, with great views, greenery, and the feeling of being walled in by towering peaks. Our original intention was to climb up a little ways to find a side road that would take us into Taichung city, clearly marked on the map, not so clear in reality. We never did find it, and we finally decided just to go over 136, which both of us had been saving for another day.

Probably not a good decision, having already done two big climbs. 136 is made to break a cyclist's heart. It rises up to 750 meters, and is much steeper than anything I usually ride, a sustained steepness that never relents. I had long quailed at the thought of it, for on the Taichung side it is not only steep, but becomes steeper as you climb. Local bikers have nicknamed it The Fence for just that reason. It is not as bad from the Nantou side, but it is still hard, at least for a duffer like me. I climbed the last two kilometers on sheer willpower alone, too tired to even think about taking pictures.

A map of our route. I highly recommend 21, empty, lovely, and wide, an easy mountain ride. The only problem is getting back to Taichung.... where you have the choice of the very difficult 136, or the dirty, crowded, gravel truck wasteland of 14 back to Changhua and Taichung.

UPDATE: Drew snapped this excellent pic of me at the top of 21:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

Holy hell! I resent having to walk a few blocks to my favorite vegetarian restaurant. Well done!

Michael Turton said...

lol. Get a bike, you'll be addicted in no time!

Feiren said...

Do you have a link for your Google map? Do you or Drew have a suggested route for getting from Dongshi to the northernn section of your ride?

Anonymous said...

"Traffic is all locals, save for the yammerheads on huge, wasteful, inefficient, environmentally unsound motorcycles blasting noisily up the slope at high speeds. Thank you, WTO and GATT."

This sound like it could be an interesting assertion, but for all I know, it's just a snide "in the know" unexamined statement. The motorcycles are illegally loud, but are they inefficient? My understanding is motorcycles use much less than cars.

Michael Turton said...

If I can get up those hills easily on a 100cc, surely 750cc contains 650cc of redundant engine power.


Anonymous said...

Those roads are a playground for idiots on heavy bikes who commit all the same offenses they hate auto drivers for committing.

Cary said...

If I can live well on vegetable protein, surely feeding grain to animals so that they can be eaten is seven times more than needs to be consumed by anyone. Much more of an environmental problem than 'oversized' motorcycles. I'll give up my big bike if you go vegetarian. Deal?

Michael Turton said...

I usually am vegetarian, Cary. I eat meat when I am out, and occasionally I BBQ at home. That deal is already made.

Cary said...

Good for you! We're on the same page, then. Can I keep my 350cc bike though? I swear, it's small for the U.S.

Anonymous said...

"If I can get up those hills easily on a 100cc, surely 750cc contains 650cc of redundant engine power."

Okay, I thought maybe you were referencing something interesting. 100cc is not enough to truly move safely in traffic among cars unless you stay to way to the right all the time. 125cc/150cc or above is much more reasonable. Motorcycles 650cc are probably capable of highway, and they are still more efficient than at least the vast majority of cars, and we don't even have to go to SUVs. I would say, don't miss the forest for the trees. Motorcycle culture in Taiwan for the most part has saved it from the gas guzzling culture of the US.

That said, I hate the noise.

Michael Turton said...

Maybe you can't ride 100cc safely between cars, but I have no trouble.