Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Northern Cross Again: In which the Bike Gods reward the Faithful

Enjoyed another staggeringly gorgeous Northern Cross Island Highway Ride, with possibly the most beautiful weather I've had for two days on that ride. Lovely skies without a cloud in them, gorgeous mountains, four friends whom I love. It doesn't get any better than this. Click on read more for the whole nine yards.... (Michael Cannon's pics are here)

Michael Cannon spotted this stunning lunar moth outside 7-11 at the Yongning Metro, a clear sign from the bike gods that things were going to go well. Also, here I met Kelly from Idaho, who was in Taiwan for a few days and going on a hiking trip....

Grabbed this close up with my point and click.

Dom and Jeff follow along the 3 in Sanxia as we head for the 7A and up into the mountains. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the ride is the sudden transition from city to countryside. Surreal.

Heading to the 7A.

Jeff tags the bridge where we cross from the 106 onto the 7A. This avoids a heavily trafficked and not particularly nice section of the 7A.

Traffic falls off as the climb to Sanmin begins.

Swinging through one of the villages on the way.

Between Little Wulai and Taipei the roads are lined with vendors.

Jeff pulls away to enjoy some solitude.

Every weekend these guys are out here. They ride their multizillion dollar motorcycles up this hill... then turn around and take pictures of each other going downhill round the turn.

It was a staggeringly gorgeous day, and stayed that way the whole day.

Game birds, anyone? Spotted her in Sanmin....

In Sanmin we stopped to repair Jeff's bike. Dom in the background lost his internal struggle with zaniness.

Heading into Little Wulai.

Michael enjoys the ride.

Posing by the pink bridge.

Crews at work on the bridge.

Crossing the bridge above the pink bridge. At this point the crowds return to Taipei, and you're in the mountains. At last.

The road narrows for most of the first day.

Road crews sacked out for lunch.

I set the Canon EOS 550D to Landscape for most of this ride. Won't make that mistake again.

There are plenty of places to get water and snacks on day 1.

And of course, excellent views.

Some traffic, but it isn't too bad.

I let the bike rest by a curve.

Jeff catches up.

Many 'never seen that before' moments. Not much haze either, so stuff usually not visible was clear.

The road tracks a river gorge.

There had been a race earlier that day, and some of the riders were returning.

Runghua, where the dam operations center is, and where we always stop for coffee.

The dam below Runghua.

Minutes later, enjoying a break at the coffee place in Runghua.

Dom takes in the dam.

The constant presence of rock walls warns of landslides and makes you feel higher up than you really are.

Biking through a local village....

Dom enjoys a beer in Baling, always our target for the first day. 62 kms, with about 1100 meters of climbing.

Lower Baling town.

A group of cyclists gathers for a ride back to Taipei.

Beer and conversation, one of the joys of riding with bright, interesting people.

Morning below Baling.

Taxis await tourists.

Michael snaps breakfast.

Dom sallies forth.

Another perfect day.

Michael aligns a shot.

Really should be doing this every weekend.

As Dom observed, slipping from shade to sunlight and back was like transitioning between different climates.

Michael blasts into Sileng at 1172 meters.

Break time.

There are far fewer cars after Baling.

Kenji, one of the best people to ride with, rolls downhill.

The whole ride is nice, but the long downhill after Sileng is especially wonderful.

Letting the bike rest. Actually, we cruised through this ride, felt strong the whole way.

Climbing into Mingchih Forest Station, I exchanged greetings with mom and kid.

Small world moment: resting at Mingchih, we encounter Kelly from Idaho, whom we had met at the 7-11 in Yongning in Taipei the day before. Even smaller world: the woman who was taking him around was a friend of Jeff's.

The climb continued past Mingchih, but flattens out on the cliff face. Here Kenji sweeps past the awesome views of I-lan.

Just perfection.

As you head along the cliff face, you can see where you are going....on the right....

....and where you've been.

It was so clear you could make out I-lan city and the ocean, 40-50 kms distant.

Finally, you begin the long fall to the Lanyang River 800 meters below. 10 kms of downhill.

I take a break from riding to let my body relax. Going downhill like this makes me tense.

Finally, at the bottom.

Other riders streak past.

The riverbed is usually green with crops.

Today, instead of taking the 7 straight back, Michael and I had time, so we diverted to the 7 alternate at the bridge to Niudou. Highly recommended. It adds only a couple of kms and is sooo much prettier and less trafficked.

The roads are tree-lined in the opening section. Very welcoming.

We lunched at a small farm cafe with plenty of home-grown foods.

We swung across the bridge....

...then climbed the hill next to Changpi Lake. Nice little park.

This brought us to the top of the hill with good views of the I-lan plain.

Heading through Sanhsing, where we picked up the 196 east.

Plenty of farms.

Tree-lined, good views, not heavily trafficked. The 196 is splendid.

Take the 196 to the 61. It crosses this bridge over the Lanyang R and returns to the 7 at Yuanshan, just outside I-lan.

We overnighted in Jiaoxi, intending to take the 9 back to Taipei, but decided to take the coast up to Fulong instead. Morning, grabbing buns in the market.

Another lovely day.

Egrets at a fishing port.

I love this coast.

Relaxing on the coast road. Sure wish YOU had been with me.
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! Delenda est, baby.


Domenic said...

It certainly was redemption weather-wise. Really nice pictures, especially the one of Michael C. speeding along. Looking forward to more in the future. Thanks for planning!

TG said...

Great shots. I doubt I will ever have the fitness and the willpower to go on such a tour. But it would be worth for the views. I'm realizing, that I'm quite a city guy.

Michael Cannon said...

Thank you Michael for the invitation and awesome welcome back to Taiwan ride.

The distances and elevation details for each day are broken out at http://connect.garmin.com/splits/236075728.

The main thing is that each day is a 1,100+ meters of climbing. Not 800. :)

We work hard for the food and beer.

Michael Turton said...

1100 meters in 62 kms. Like 1.7% average grade for the whole trip. Ouch!

Dom, that shot of Michael C into Sileng went right into my favorites.

So glad you guys could come...

Anonymous said...

Always love the the glimpses into the life in Taiwan your pics provide.

Patrick said...

Awesome pix & write-up! My wife Megan & I are still trying to get over for this tour with you & the gang.
Patrick at Ploom in San Francisco

Michael Turton said...

Patrick, would be great to have you!

StefanMuc said...

That looks like a fantastic tour, and the traffic seemed moderate.

I finally managed to buy a bike for my Taiwan visits (thanks to super-awesome father in law who organized some space where I can keep it). So next year I'm planning to do some big tours, too. :-)

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Always being unable to join in on your trips I managed to do my own solo northern cross trip which began two days after yours. Your posts really inspired me to give it a go and it sure delivered. I rode from Taichung and spent the first night in Zhudong, second in Baling and third in Yilan. I did it during the weekdays and traffic was virtually nonexistent, just me and the sound of wind in the trees. Was caught a bit off guard by the fog and rain that enclosed me at the top but since this was my first time I guess I haven't earned the privilege of clear views yet.

I'd love to come along on future outings, near or far. Thanks for the posts, they've really helped motivate me to try new and rewarding routes.

Dallas, Taichung

Michael Turton said...

Thanks Dallas, always welcome!