Sunday, October 17, 2010

70 kilometers of bike lanes and paths

For 35 km I rode out on Hwy 9 with my new friend Mark Blacknell escorting me and helping encourage me to go farther. The entire way there was a nice wide lane designated for us and scooters, not always with this median area - but on the long "Rainbow Bridge" crossing the wide Siouguluan River to the town of "Yuli" - we had extra elbow room. He continued on to the goal of most the group- a marker for where the Tropic of Cancer crosses the island. This ended up to be a total of 98 Kilometers when they returned. My ride was 70 - and I was wiped out, tired, happy, and a drowned rat with completely soaked clothes. Richard of Cyclelicous warned me of my clothes staying damp the entire trip. Damp versus Soaked are two different things!

My solo return started and while I was thinking of re-crossing the river - I notice a path to the right. Taiwan is littered with new bike paths and "cycling stations" to encourage recreational riding and tourism. I thought... "heck, I'm here for an adventure, and it looks like it parallels Hwy 9 - why not go explore". Sure... I have NO TOOLS or spare anything, but in Taiwan, a Country where I know not how to read the alphabet - nor say anything but HELLO or THANK YOU, I've never felt safer. I've travelled a good part of the world, and in Countries more developed - and with a language I speak, I would worry about getting stranded, especially as a woman.

After crossing a straight bridge for pedestrians/cyclists only - I continued on an amazingly empty and beautiful flat path that was clearly once a busy railroad track. Stunningly bright green rice fields flanked the path - and the rain let up for my peaceful exploration and photo ops. I came across a colorful building that was once a train station, a "Giant Cycling Station". Giant is the worlds largest bicycle manufacture and based in Taiwan - and here was a store, snacks, maintenance help. Pumps, water, rest.
Facilities at the bike station - men's and women's showers and lockers.

I briefly hesitated to pass the unknown message on the barriers - but if I didn't I would have had to back track all the way to the beginning and then return on the hwy. The construction is freshly happening along the path. Seemed like the Anasazi Indian's ruins... like they abandoned in mid project there. Strange place to stop with boards leaning and laying and unattached. I looked around wondering if the workers where hiding in the rice field or something. Ha!
The pathway was smooth and safe - as long as you kept your eyes forward and didn't accidentally roll into the exposed Rebar and fall off the raised levy into the rice field 10 feet below.
A new bike station to be was at the end of my Path journey. Just before I found my way back to hwy 9 - after about 12 km of path, this station was not very far along, But they already had racks installed. Can't help but feel they are so far ahead of us in their infrastructure to encourage sustainable transport, recreation. and tourism.
A close up from the pathway map - even let's you know how much fun you'll likely have!
The erie emptiness of being on this route alone, was surreal. I pondered the history of this very spot, and imagined the station in it's full glory - full of workers commuting to larger villages with industry and jobs.
Not long after I returned to Hwy 9 for the rest of the return, I was so fortunate to have the speedy Mark Villegas from BikeHugger.com come up on my left. He caught me in mid sentence of seriously talking out loud to myself, but that didn't stop me from locking onto this back wheel and picking up my pace to get the ride over with. Yes, I was that tired and needed to get back sooner than later. My slow pace was going to be the my nemesis - and his too fast a pace, was my challenge. My ill fitting Giant bike with not so great ergonomics was making my hands tingle with uncomfortable numbness, and my wider - slick but not pumped up well tires were feeling like lead weight. I owe this man his next cocktails for the next few days I'd say!
Our group made the paper! Strategically placed just behind the dignitaries - you can see Kate, an orange shoulder of Mark V, Pink with flipflops Niamh, then me in my SLaB jersey.

Front row: Giant Founder King Liu, Mr. Mao Taiwan Minister of Transportation, Chieh-Ting Magistrate of Taitung, Janice She Jen Lai -Director Taiwan Tourism.


1 comment:

  1. So cool Honey! Looks like you're having a great time!

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