Today I went on a crazy ride from my house, over Yangmingshan to Jingshan and then from Jingshan to Tamsui along highway 2 and finally home along the river. I tried to leave at 6:30am but when I looked outside it was raining pretty badly so I thought the ride wouldn't happen. After having tea with Queenie I looked out the window again at around 7:30am and saw the rain had stopped so decided to go. I went downstairs for breakfast and headed off at 8:00am. Despite the threat of rain all day it only drizzled a bit in some parts of the ride, but nothing serious, and I did manage to get home dry 117km later at 5:30am.
I started outside the Taipei Public library on Chienkuo South Road and headed North. Getting out of Taipei always takes time. There is always traffic and always red lights. Even though today was a semi-public holiday, there were still some cars on the road. I went down Chinekuo South & North road slowly & stopped to take a few pictures here and there and I was soon cruising along the road at the back of Songshan airport. I crossed the Dazhi bridge and headed along the North side of the river towards Yuanshan. Some of the structures for the Taipei flower show that just ended were still visible, but apart from that it was a pretty uneventful ride into Shilin.
Once in Shilin the traffic and buses ramped up and it became quite a challenge to weave my way through the traffic to get Yangmingshan. Many of the buses were heading to the official residence of Chiang Kai Shek, but a fair number of them were also heading to Yangmingshan as the national park there is a big tourist attraction. I finally got to the bottom of Yangmingshan (the bottom of Yangming Boulevard) after riding for about 12km. It wasn't that hard and, apart from the traffic in Shilin, was a fairly pleasant ride.
As can be expected, the ride up Yangmingshan was a big challenge but even though riding up the mountain was difficult, I appreciated being there on a bike. I have been up Yangmingshan many times in a car but it is definitely different on a bike. I felt much closer to nature and really enjoyed smelling the vegetation (and yes this in spite of the occasional spurt of traffic). As can be expected, as I got higher onto the mountain, the traffic thinned out as people went their different ways. Another great advantage of being there on a bicycle was the flexibility. I could stop anywhere I wanted to take a picture or enjoy the view. Stopping randomly is not possible in a car as the traffic will get blocked up behind you. So there were definite advantages and, even though it was cloudy and misty, the greenery, as always was spectacular and riding through the sulphur fumes, although a bit smelly, was lots of fun. And do note, since my legs were pretty much exhausted after the first 2km, I had lots of mini-breaks along the route to enjoy the scenery!
Of course, the best view of all was the view at the top of the mountain (although I couldn't see anything because of the mist). But still, I was happy to have finally made it to the peak. I spent a short time there to gloat (about 2 minutes) and then headed down the mountain towards Jingshan. This was the most thrillig part of the ride. There were some points along the descent where I was hitting 60km/h. I think that is the fastest I have ever been on a bike, and it felt awesome. Some cars did try and pass me but they couldn't as the road had many bends and they had to reduce their speed to go around them. I did stop on occasion to take pictures of some of the scenery and for my part, I felt that the scenery on the North side of the mountain was much better. The sad part was the rapid descent was over all too quickly and I soon found myself in Jingshan. At that point I stopped for a short rest and to get some more water and then turned my bike towards Tamsui on Highway 2.
Just to give some perspective of the different challenge of riding up Yangminhan, when I got to the bottom of Yangming Boulevard my speedometer said I had ridden 12.xkm. When I got to the top, the speedometer showed I had finished about 27.xkm. So the ride from the bottom to the top of Yangmingshan was about 15km. Those 15km took me about 3 hours. I stopped a lot and had a lot of leg cramps along the way so could only go slowly. I figure I could probably walk to the top in the same time (maybe not) but even though I plodded my way up the mountain, it was a great feeling when I got there. However, coming down the North side of the mountain, when I got to Jingshan my speedometer read 45.xkm. The 18km down the mountain took a mere 25 minutes - certainly a huge difference in pace (and trust me, I preferred going down).
Getting back to the ride, after taking a short break in Jingshan I headed along highway 2 to Tamsui. I have ridden this road before (see Cycle Trip to Tamsui, Via Keelung) but that ride ended in disaster with the rear gear being ripped off the bike. This time I was able to end the ride by getting home with only one small glitch (that was easily rectified). My first view of the ocean was not the best but it certainly improved as I headed further down the coast. I enjoyed the coolness of the breeze blowing off the ocean and although it was a really gloomy day, it made for perfect riding conditions. Along the way I met another guy who was also riding the same route as me but he was super fit and left me in his dust. He suggested we ride together but I knew I would slow him down. Anyway, I followed the road to Shimen (saw the stone arch), went past Baishwan and San-Zhi and finally into Tamsui where I stopped for a quick bite. Along the way, at certain points along the coast, there were some couples taking their wedding pictures. I remember doing the same thing 9 years ago (taking wedding pics on the coast in cold and gloomy conditions). It was a great memory! I also saw a car that had been driven into a restaurant (see the picture below) but once again, apart from cramping legs, it was a pretty uneventful ride.
After taking a short rest in Tamsui - and grabbing some food - I headed out to Taipei along the river. This is a well known route regularly ridden by weekend riders (and me) so there was nothing really new for me to see. I did see a guy riding a horse next to the path. As I took a picture the horse decided to take care of business. How apt! Also, going out from Guandu I saw the new bridge they were building near the incinerator. It is half finished and looked a bit odd. So anyway, after blasting my way past Guandu I rode to Dadaocheng where my chain fell of the bike. It was easy to put back on but I did have a nightmare flashback to when my whole gear rack was torn off the bike.
I suppose the biggest surprise of all was how low the river level was - it was terrifying. For some parts of the ride all I could see was the riverbed and no water whatsoever. That is frightening. Taipei really does need some rain and after seeing that I felt bad about bitching about the rain earlier. I have heard Taiwan is experiencing a drought and water shortages may be implemented but I was shocked to see how empty the rivers were. Hopefully we get some rain soon.
Anyway, it was a super awesome ride. It was tough, my legs were sore, and I know that I will do it again someday (just not too soon). It was a wonderful 117km! If you are fit enough, I highy recommend the ride. Thanks for reading, much appreciate it.