December 2014 marks the new wettest month for San Jose in decades. Is the drought finally behind us? I am so glad we got more than 10″ by end of December but in return I am in my own riding drought. I hardly put on any miles. The roads are always wet. Dark cloud hang around all day. I remembered last year I rode every weekend in December but this year I hardly put on any miles. During my second day riding in Taiwan, one of the guy asked me why did I decided to ride in Taiwan. I am still relatively new to international riding so this tour will give a chance to learn.
Day 1 (Saturday 12/27/14) : SFO – TPE – Hsinchu | Distance: 50 miles | Elevation: 2,281ft
The day started out very well. Flight departed and landed on time (at 6am). Fourty five minutes later I got through immigration and by 7am I was in a taxi heading out the meeting place. My taxi driver was small lady yet mighty. She weaved through the traffic to get me to the meeting by 7.30am but we didn’t get there until 7.45am since she didn’t quite get the location. Nonetheless I was there before most people. Since I arrived on the first day of riding, I missed the Friday pre-ride meeting, therefore I have no idea what my bike looked like so I went around to look for it. It was an old beater; however I didn’t expect anything fancy on this trip. I was glad everything was functioning. I swapped out their pedals with mine and that was it. I was ready to ride. By 8.30am we started riding and the rain started to come down. As the day progressed the rain got harder and harder with no sign of stopping. Some areas we encountered strong wind as well. Luckily for us the temperature was around 18C. Everyone was soaking wet from head to toes. With a group size of 25 riders with skill level ranges from beginner to crazy cycle fiend, we re-grouped every hour. On a steep climb we would re-group even sooner. So for a fast rider, he/she would have to wait for the last rider to come in + 10 minutes. Sometimes the wait can be up to 20 minutes. Imagine rapid cool down and get back on the bike again. For lunch we had 11-course meal. The food was so good I stuffed my face until I almost passed out. Once I got back on the bike, I could barely pedal. I was too full and my stomach started to hurt. Lesson learned for days hereafter.
Day 2 (Sunday 12/28/14): Hsinchu – Lukang | Distance: 70 miles | Elevation: 1,739ft
There was a small wedding at the restaurant where we stopped for lunch today. It was in a small town, Taichung (if I remember it correctly). There might have been 3 to 4 tables. The people made some really loud noise every time they toasted. It was ONE TWO THREE in Vietnamese. It took me awhile to figure that out. After I finished eating I made my way over to say hello. Most of them are young, in their 20s with Northern accent. I was wondering what are my kin are doing in Taiwan? How did they get here? Are they fluent in Mandarin? Do they like it better in Taiwan or Viet Nam? One of the boy told me “there’s no place like home”. Their names I never asked. With a firm hand shake I went on my way, continuing my ride. The first 3 hours of the ride was still wet and in light rain but not as bad as the day before. By 11am or so we rode mostly on dry road. Even though we put on 70 miles, there was not any hill. In addition we had tail wind the entire time. For about 10 miles stretch one of the tour guide was pulling 20-25mph, which I found it very unusual because we ended up dropped about 50% of the group. Since there was no rain in the evening some of us decided to walk around old town Lukang after dinner. The night market was closing for it’s Sunday night. There is an old temple which we stopped by. And that’s all I can say about this town. There are 22 people in my riding group total. With skill level from beginner to avid rider. There is one gal from LA, she just learned how to bike 3 months before the trip. For some folks 70 miles today set a new personal record for longest ride. Here are some facts I gathered so far about this bike tour:
1. This is a bike tour, one will spend 5-8 hours on a bike with rest stop at 7-11 instead of historical or point of interest sites. There were some interesting (or at least I thought it was interesting) spots I wished we could’ve stopped.
2. After dinner which is around 7pm, there is about 3 hours left to explore the city. 6am wake up call the next morning.
3. For my particular tour, 2 of 25 riders are non Mandarin speaker. 1 is I and the other is a blonde from AZ.
4. Average speed is around 13-15mph. Average regroup time is about 15-20 mins.
Day 3 (Monday 12/29/14): Lukang – Chiayi | Distance: 46 miles | Elevation: 833ft
After crossed the bridge we were asked how many towers there are? The correct response was 31 and for that I won a Gaint cycling cap.
The ride today is flat. Mostly through inner cities with heavy traffic. There was a 10 miles section of farms and I thought I was a bit better. At the end of our morning stretching session, an older man approached me and said that we’ll be visiting some touristy sites today based on my conversation last night. I didn’t remember bringing it up to Giant tour guide but I am glad we will be doing something more than just riding.
Today we ordered our own lunch instead of a fixed meal. I was so happy with that set up. I told my friend to order just their top 3 dishes. I was happily full today. It was an interesting restaurant, their famous dish is steamed rice with gravy. Very tasty indeed. Today’s lunch lasted 20 mins so we had 40 minutes left to play. As I walked through their kitchen I found an super old bike that weights probably 50 pounds. It’s an antique. I took it out and set it up by Giant van as a photo prop. People in the group loved it.
Another interesting site is the Center of Performance Art. The architecture is very interesting – red brick with ancient roofing style. I took some photos to share.
Here is an interesting facts about my group:
1. Youngest rider is 15. Oldest is 75 with 70 marathons under his belt. Both are male.
Day 4 (Tuesday 12/30/14): Chiaya – Kaohsiung | Distance: 75 miles | Elevation: 1,312ft
Today we crossed the equator line to a warmer climate. By 10am my jacket came off. It felt like California summer. For the most part we rode within cities traffic. The scenery hasn’t changed much. From what I was told day 5-8 are more interesting. Kaohsiung seems like an interesting city. There is a nice walkway along the river. Some of us went out for a beer after dinner along the river.
Something I noticed about the traffic here in Taiwan. Cars and scooters don’t give a rat ass about pedestrian or biker. If they need to turn (right turn for example), they will turn whether you like it or not. I’d say be careful while riding in Taiwan.
Everyday getting to and away from inner city hotel during rush hours is like a suicidal mission. There are hundred of signal lights and turns. Beginning and ending parts of the ride are my least favorite time.
After 4 days of riding, this is how my days usually go:
Morning: pack – breakfast – stretching session – get the bike and ride. Before we get to the hotel, we stopped like a million times.
Evening: arrived – stretching session – get the room key – charge my Garmin – upload my photos/write – shower – dinner – walk around to digest or look for beer.
Here are some interesting facts about my group:
1. The 15 years old guy is riding with his dad. And apparently the bank he’s partnering with has been following him to almost every city and check on him at night. Today in Kaohsiung, also happens to be his home town, people had a banner to welcome him.
For most of the ride today I got into my anti-social zone. I plugged my ears with familiar music to keep me from going nuts.
Day 5 (Wednesday 12/31/14): Kaohsiung – Pingtung | Distance: 62 miles | Elevation: 1,939ft
The ride got a little more interesting today. There was a long stretch along the ocean. The hotel we stayed at is by far the oldest one of all and it’s in the middle of no where. To get there we had to do a little of climbing and that scared some people. Since we are in the middle of the mountain, it’s actually very nice and quiet at night. A few of us went to the hot spring after dinner.
Some of us were allowed to break away and rode as fast as we could. That was probably the most exciting part of the ride today. Steve, Chao and myself were able to hang with the tour guide. He was young and fast. At the end of ride today we have decided that my bike bottom bracket is gone and it’s time to get a new one replaced or a different one. With that I think I’ll have a new ride tomorrow. Hopefully something better.
Day 6 (Thursday 1/1/15): Pingtung – Taitung | Distance: 62 miles | Elevation: 4,872ft
As much as we loved having the tail wind three days ago, we suffered for heading north along the east coast into a heavy wind storm today. I would say 30 mph is a reasonable guess. Today ride was hilly, 4k feet in 62 miles, mostly mountain passes. The first pass was beautiful, however, we encountered some drizzling in the morning. We also had a small crash during a decent. 2 female riders went down, luckily no one was seriously injured and we were able to continue right the way.
Another night we were spending in the hot spring area. This hotel is definitely better than the one last night. Taitung is small and quiet town unlike Kaohsiung. During lunch today one of the rider mentioned we had craving for pizza and that made me think I am actually getting quite tired with the food being served so far. Everything is great but I wouldn’t mind trying something else different.
The day started at 7.45am and ended at 6.30pm. Super long day.
By the way, Happy New Year to y’all.
Day 7 (Friday 1/2/15): Taitung – Hualien | Distance: 70 miles | Elevation: 2,679ft
Yesterday ride did some real damage to the group. A lot of the riders were still tired from the climb and with the longer distance today didn’t help much. We ended up with another long day. 7.45am start with an end at 6pm. 30 minutes faster since we cut down lunch time by 20 minutes.
Day 8 (Saturday 1/3/15): Hualien – Yilan | Distance: — miles | Elevation: —ft
I took a day off from riding today to visit some friends in Yilan. I got to tried a new seafood restaurant that is one of my friend’s favorite place. After lunch we headed to the beach for coffee/drinks and watched the surfers riding the wave. Since I didn’t do any riding today, my meals were much smaller and more enjoyable.
Day 9 (Sunday 1/4/15): Yilan – Taipei | Distance: 55 miles | Elevation: 4,160ft
Final and my most favorite day of riding. Taipei is like the Silicon valley. It is surrounded by the mountain. To get to it we must climbed over 2 big hills. 1,500 feet of elevation each. Some of the views were spectacular. There are traffic but for the most part it wasn’t too bad. By 4pm we arrived back in Taipei at the same place where we started. Each of us was awarded with a finisher medal and a certificate with our photo on it.
After 9 days of riding I have forgotten how many stops we have came to and replaced my memory with great conversations I had during our rests. I have forgotten the painful ride in the rain on our first day with beautiful mountain passes and spectacular views from the summit. Some of us started the ride with little to no expectation of finishing it but somehow we all have managed to push and help each other along the way to the finish line. We came from different places, speak different languages but we had the same goal to finish the ride strong.