Beyond Lugu… but not much more

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Tribute To Turton

Seeing as I did this ride on Sunday, I guess it is a testament to how little blogging time I have had as of late. 

I decided to give the climbing a test and headed out to the hills above Lugu with the hope of capping the tea farms of Sanlinxi. The distance is already a challenge from my home in Taichung city, but it is the climbing that wears you down. I have done this ride before, and I learned I am still some way away from that level of fitness. 

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Here is a sign telling “poor cyclists” to ask the staff for a pump or tools if they need them. Awesome! 

The ride down the Highway 3 to Jiji was like sleepwalking. I just turned the pedals and I was there. Then as soon as I turned onto the Route 131 to Lugu, the legs kicked in. I was feeling fine and just enjoyed the weather with one eye toward the mountains to gauge how long I might have before the haze congealed into a mass of water. 

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Everything looked perfect.

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There were several low elevation tea farms turning in a harvest. 

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I then hit the steady climb up to Sanlinxi. At about the spot where the road between Sanlinxi and Si Tou split, I felt some discomfort in my knee and promptly turned around. Last year I would have willed myself to the top. This year a wiser man took over and I was happy to roll home with my knee feeling… okay. I kept the throttle open until I ran out of gas just at the Taichung city limits. By the time I rolled to my door I had put in 150km and the weather was looking nasty. 

Nice ride. Nice way to wrap up my summer vacation. 

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Sanlinxi Century 台中–杉林溪–台中: Climbing A Mountain Of Tourists

Making A Statement At The Slurpee Machine

I was feeling brave all week and decided to talk myself into doing a Century Ride–my first in 5 months. A Century Ride (160km/100mi) in and of itself is no easy feat, but I decided to celebrate my return to distance riding by adding a bit of climbing to the challenge just for sport.

I decided to make an attempt at Sanlinxi (杉林溪), the tea and tourism area up in the mountains over Nantou County.

Mingjian


I started the ride along the Highway 3 into Mingjian and then took the Highway 16 toward Shuili. The morning was bright and crystal clear. It looked to be a promising day for weather and blog-worthy pictures. I tried to get out early and get a jump on the broiling heat that was sure to come once the sun had a chance to put its magnifying glass on our little neck of the world.

Mountains

A light haze hung around the skirts of the mountains, but there were no signs of the rain clouds that had been predicted all week.

Jilu Bridge


I crossed the river at the Jilu Bridge, a shortcut to Lugu I had never tried and as I crossed I could just make out some of the lower reaches of Lugu up on the ridge just below Fenghuang Mountain.


I was making really good time and kept telling myself to pull back as the fun stuff was still up ahead on the mountain. Everything to the Route 131 was just a prelude to the ride I had planned–the commute to a hill climb.

The Route 131 is really the best route up the hill for a cyclist. It is much easier than the introductory ramps of Route 151, which can take the piss out of you before you even start the ascent.

Just as I started up the initial climbs on Route 131, I had to stop to pull a staple out of my rear tire. The process took way too long as I fiddled with the terrible Lyzene CO2 kit that never really works and had to fall back on my mini-pump. I guess I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy, but I am always glad I am.

After changing the tube and filling my rear tire to an acceptable, but not ideal pressure, I started working back up to where the Route 131 meets Route 151. I intended to stop at one of the numerous convenience stores along the way and use their pump… as the area is marked by the local government as a recommended cycling route. I was out of luck. None of the stores had a pump, so I pressed on wondering exactly how much pressure I was riding on.

Going To Hsitou


No sooner had I started up the Route 151, when I ran smack into 15km of temporary parking lot.

The line of tourists idling in their cars started at Lugu and snaked all the way up the mountain to carnival the village of Hsitou, where thick clouds of tourists drive high up the mountain to cling to anything edible and escape life in the crowded cities.

Lugu Resort


The nice thing about the line of cars was having carloads of college girls cheer me as I passed.

Food At Hsitou

Beware of Elf

Genius!


After refilling my water bottles at the Family Mart I hunted down the Giant bike rental station at the Hsitou shopping oasis.

The Giant sign was prominently displayed and I was sure I could fill my rear tire to spec and maybe pick up a spare tube if I was lucky.

I was directed over to the bike area, where two helpful employees produced a hand pump and proceeded to let the remaining air out of my tire. The sound of gushing air only seemed to excite them as “the pumper” frantically tried to jack his hand harder until he turned purple from exertion and nearly fainted.

I produced my Schrader Valve adaptor, but they were having trouble getting it to work. I explained I was hoping to get the air pressure up to about 115psi, but was told it was “impossible” to pump a tire that full and “bike tires can only be inflated to 40psi”. I threw caution to the wind and probably cost someone face, but I waved them off, thanked them and pumped with my little mini-pump again.

At that moment one of the bike guys asked if I wanted him to fill up the front tire while already moving in that direction. I emphatically declined with a loud string of “Buyao, buyao, buyao!!!!”

Now, to be fair, I think these guys just worked for the hotel at the Giant sponsored rental station… but once you put your name on it… you own it.

Soon I was back on my way with an unknown volume of air in my rear tire.

Turn Markers


The turn off the Sanlinxi, or “Sunlink Sea” as the local tourism board calls it, was actually below where I took my pit stop and once I hit that road the beauty of the mountains was mine for the taking.

The road up to Sanlinxi consists of 12 turns, each marked by a different zodiac animal.

Forest


The climb is really quite spectacular as the jungle and bamboo gives way to cedar forests.

Ascent


As I looped up toward the 5300ft. top the temperatures dipped into the high teens or the sixties in Fahrenheit. This is a dramatic drop from the sizzling plains. I figured this might happen, but I figured the exercise would keep me warm and the descent would be quick. Still, something for anyone considering a mountain ride in Taiwan at any time of the year.

Withdrawal at the Fog Bank?


As I neared my goal I could see the valley filling with mist and a bank of fog was moving in fast. I feared it might rain and pushed forward trying to beat the weather. The scenic landscapes were gone. The sharp-ridged mountains had disappeared. The only thing I could see were the ghostly shadows of tall trees amid swirls of mist.

Six kilometers from the top a light sprinkle started to fall and I stopped momentarily to assess my predicament. Was this the beginning of a rain storm or the light droplets from a fog bank?

I was so close to my destination I decided to concentrate on getting to my goal before turning back. Visibility was down to just a few yards and I turned off the music to listen for cars. It is in those moments as a cyclist when you are slowly climbing on the side of a quiet mountain that you really feel tiny and alone.

I trudged up the last of the way and beat a quick retreat. To my surprise, the mist cleared and the clouds went away as I cruised off the mountain. I was soon sweltering in the heat once more. I took the Route 151 all the way down to Zhushan and hooked onto the Highway 3 once more.

I put the crop to my ass and hammered to Nantou, where I found a pump revealing that I had been riding on a rear tire filled to a mere 40psi. No wonder my ass was hurting.

What a lovely ride.

Distance: 165km/103mi,
Altitude Gain: 6247ft.
5652 calories burned.

Looking For Lugu

Biking Around Sun Moon Lake and Beyond

Shuili


What a ride! Sunday’s ride was really something special for me. It marked my first significant ride without knee pain in almost four months. Things had been looking up for the better part of two weeks and I had been itching to get out of Taichung. Before, I would simply hop on the bike and ride 200km or more to put some distance between myself and my city. Lately, I have simply been stuck, sitting at home, while everyone else was out sketching Taiwan’s rugged topography by bike.

After last weekend’s success I concocted a plan to go further afield, while building back into shape. The last thing I want is another three weeks off the bike.

The plan was to loop from Shuili Township in Nantou County, up the Nantou Route 131 to Sun Moon Lake, and then exit the lake at Dehua Village on the southeastern shore along the adjective defying Route 63, and then back to Shuili on the Highway 16. The entire route was only around 50k, similar to last weekend’s distance, but with the addition of a climb up to 800m.

Michael Turton was game for the adventure as he had never biked some of those roads, and we were joined by Andrew B. from Feng Yuan. (You can check out Michael’s write-up HERE)

I was feeling pretty anxious about things as a day of climbing could potentially lead to another flare-up with the knee. I imagined the possibility of getting to the furthest point and having to bail or continue forward in pain, each turn of the crank helping to degrade the knee even more. Since early March I have ridden with the fear that any real effort might contribute to making things worse. Still, I have ridden on these roads before as part of much longer rides, and I couldn’t wait to finally take my new bike further afield.

The ride was simply inspiring.

Shuili Bus Depot


Michael had the courtesy to drive us all down to Shuili in his van, otherwise I would have had to cancel, and we all unloaded our gear for a day of riding.

A Local Bus


Shuili is a pretty little town near the source of the Choushui River that was once a logging and agricultural hub, but it is now cashing in more from felling tourists than timber.

Michael and Andrew Embark Up The Route 131


We quickly headed up the Route 131, a route I have only taken downhill, and made pretty good time over the low rollers toward the lake. Andrew B. spun his way along on his mountain bike as we tested the terrain. I felt pretty good pushing a 39-27 gearing combination, but I was not about to over do it. The grades were between 2%-4%, so totally fine.

A Straggler


Several groups of cyclists came careening out of Sun Moon Lake as they had obviously had a much earlier start than our little “coffee and cake” ride.

Village Below Reservoir


The balmy heat was tempered by intermittent cloud cover and it made for some good cyclign weather… at least good for Taiwan in June. The temps were in the 30s (90s) and the humidity was otherworldly, but not bad at all.

Sun Moon Lake


The roads soon plopped us down on the welcoming banks of Sun Moon Lake, where we joined caravans of tourists jockeying for their own unique glimpse of the cloudy blue waters lapping upon placid shores.

Andrew Arrives


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Posing


Blessings


It was easy to keep pace with the traffic as we inhaled petrol fumes from tour busses that threatened to push us into the guardrails at every turn. Visitors in passing cars cheered us onward past the cable cars to Dehua Village.

Tourism

Locals?


We stopped for lunch amid tourist-lined streets and pushy vendors scrapping for their restaurant traffic.

Michael Climbs


As the grey skies closed in we decided to make the hill climb out of the lake before the rain could make the descent on the other side any trickier.

Over The Lake


I was really happy with my climb. I felt comfortable and steady with a good pedal stroke and it was here that I really realized that my knee would be ok.

Drizzle


As I waited at the top of the hill for Michael and Andrew, a light blanket of drizzle began to cover the entire basin below. Within minutes it was covering me as well. The descent would be far more technical than I had anticipated.

Careful!


Over The Valley


We turned the corner just over the peak of Route 63 to reveal the rippling ramparts of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range. My pictures just don’t do justice to this scene. The interplay between the light, clouds, shadows and scenery, punctuated by a weaving plunge through hillside farms and betel nut groves was a treat for the senses.

Great Roads Below


Cloudy Skies


The rain tapered off as I reached the bottom of the descent, just in time for a high speed assault on a ribbon of smooth pavement leading to the base of the valley.

Rolling Along


With mountains on all sides, we rolled smoothly along the valley floor. My legs were getting a little tired after so much time off, but with the entire scene spread out before me and the thrill of that descent, I was stoked on enough adrenaline to keep moving rapidly with a smile on my face.


The Flood


Suddenly, without warning, the skies opened up into a torrent of pounding rain. The air was filled with the deafening sound of thick raindrops pummeling the valley.

Brave Soul


We took shelter under an aluminum garage/betel nut stand and waited for the rain to abate. Within minutes we were back on the road.

UFO Cult?


River Wild


We were soon exiting the valley and headed back into Shuili. My legs were in great shape, albeit tired. We had had a great ride through great country. With good spirits all around we drove back under the sun drenched skies of Taichung.

With this ride I was able to regain the confidence I had lost after so many disappointing false starts on my road to recovery. Now I feel I can start to really enjoy riding again.

What a great ride!

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