Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On the 3 and Into Taichung

Yesterday's post was a bit lacklustre, but I'm here to make up for it since I'm now in Taichung and this city is big. With the convenience of having a wanker (cybercafe, wangka) near me, I can now freely type out the truth about Taiwanese mountains on the Provincial Highway 3.

7 is a small number but not 7%. 7% is shit.

Imagine yourself - 60km of mountains, mostly up, but some down, then at the peak of 960m, comes a 15km downhill stretch. That's what I did on Monday, 25 April. The hills were long, stretchy and screwed up. I climbed up, mostly 7% grades, and that was enough to kill me. My bike wasn't really made to go up hills, nor was it adequate for touring ease. With gearing starting at 34 gear inches and going up to 91", it was truly made to do nothing but do the flats and downhill.

My Dahon Speed D7 became an English 3-speed. I was on gear 1, 2 and 3 95% of the time. 5% on the fourth gear. 5, 6, 7 was rendered absolutely useless. Yes, I tried to change my crankset to a Deore with 44t, but it didn't work out as it would derail all the time without a front dee or chainguard protecting it. That's why I stuck with the 52t stock crankset. I was truly pumping iron up the hills.

Not even close to 960m

I reached the cold 960m peak at around 5.30pm, and that means I only had one hour to get to civilsation before it got dark. But at the peak of all climbs is a great descend. So I was doing 41km/h (around terminal velocity). But at the foot of the hill, it was already dark and and I hit Zhongbu, which was in the same uluness league as Yujin, and they didn't have any place for me to stay. Had to go to Chiayi...

WTF is this? Mountains can be this high meh?
 I called my friend, Charmaine, to ask how's Chiayi. She noted that Chiayi was more of a historical city, nothing much but history. So I was like, wtf? Imma call Andrew Kerslake and set a time up with him in Taichung. It was a bit scary because Taichung seemed very far - around 160km from Chiayi.

I hugged No 3 for the whole of yesterday, but yesterday I quit

Didn't expect to make it, but I made it. 104km worth of... well... flat roads mostly. The ride from Chiayi was pretty hilly until I got out of the city, then it got very much flatter. I like flatness. Without doubt, my average speed didn't hang around in the low 10's or even single-digits, which was a good thing, because yesterday was quite a rush to Taichung. 
Oh hateful mountains, stay faraway

I set off from Chiayi at about 9.30am and reached my hostel at around 7.30pm. That's ten hours on the road, eating sometimes, buying water and mostly riding. I was quite frisky about the trip because on the map it seemed like it wa going to be 160km, since Google Maps told me the fastest route would be 136km, and I was taking an alternate route. Glad I didn't have to do a century, that would be shit.

Crossing the bridge on the Provincial Highway 1B (1yi) gave me a buzz as going downhill on the 74A (74jia). The 1B was full of cars and traffic was truly crazy, which was probably why nobody recommended me to do the Provincial Highway 1. However, it represented the crossing of the bridge that separates civilisation from... errr... the countryside.

AK and I visiting the fields of barley

After settling down, I went directly to call a cool guy called Andrew Kerslake of Taiwanincycles fame. We were slated to meet in Taichung yesterday, and we did. First on the list was a beer. A large, one-litre beer. I'm not a good drinker, but I downed that big glass of Taiwan beer like I was dehydrated. It was a good. Then we walked down to a place called Early Bird, which is a laowai hangout spot - you'll know because the waitresses speak English and there are more angmohs than tng nang.

My dinner was late, and it was average, but the Corona I had accentuated my inability to walk in straight line. It was that awesome. Met a few other people, Americans and one other Taiwanese. All of them made in America, including the Taiwanese. They all had American accents and most of them came from the South except Kerslake. All of them worked in the bike industry, except Kerslake, again.

It was a f***ing awesome adhoc birthday party.

The long chat I had with Kerslake illuminated how Taiwan functions. Apparently organised crime runs the small-to-middle end businesses. There's a self-sufficient loop where their money goes and it goes round and round. Kerslake talks about how someone could open up a KTV/motels/hotels, make loads, then channel most of the money made to the school, thus avoiding tax as educational institutions are not subject to tax. Then this school can be one that specialises in hospitality, and thus students get internship in the same person's KTVs/motels/hotels, or work there. Something like that. It's complicated. I haven't lived here for 13 years.

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