June 8th - Taiwan Lockdown - CycleBlaze

June 8, 2021

June 8th

Yingge

Last night I taught a student online for a couple of hours, using Skype. Last week we tried Google Meet, but it only worked on a small notebook of  Debbie's. There's a microphone issue with my desktop webcam.  Technology is not my forte.

Cycling is more my thing and today my goal is Yingge, a small town not too far away that's famous for pottery making.

My bike gets wheeled outside about 15 minutes before 10 o'clock and there's a mostly blue sky above.

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Route 114 goes from near home to Bade, where I was yesterday. The road is more direct than the back lane I cycled on to get back and it's only about 5km or so to the small town. It's easy and seems to be slightly downhill.

Since I was last in the new part of Bade, a light rail system that's being built has progressed and the huge concrete line is now elevated above the wide road on the edge of town where lots of tall apartment blocks have been constructed over the past few years. It seems a soulless place. 

Riding through the older part of town I notice a mural adjacent to an reclaimed water pump, depicting what this part of the world would have been like - rural - not too long ago, and my bike gets propped next to it and its photo taken. Then I decide to take one of myself in front of a temple across the road and standing there playing around with the tripod and camera, it sinks home just how hot it is today. 

I reckon it's got to be 32 degrees and there's no sign of a breeze.

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Ten minutes later I'm at the turning where a small lane twists down the escarpment. It's a narrow route that would be hard to find if you didn't know that it existed and as I ride around a sharp corner, a window on a dilapidated house is in a bit of sunshine and the canopy that would have been over it must have got demolished by passing vehicle years ago. All that's left are two rusty metal brackets and a sun-bleached piece of wood that's somehow managing to still be hanging onto one of them.  

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Yesterday as I pedaled up to the top of the steep climb there were a couple of scarab insects squashed on the tarmac - their iridescent green backs stood out - but they're not here now and my guess is ants have carted them off.  Who knows.

One of those large convex mirrors that you see on bends here in Taiwan and elsewhere is positioned nearby and I set my camera up for one more self-timed snap - this time of me riding past with the lane dropping away, and once that's done it's a case of freewheeling down to the small farmer's lane at the bottom that runs parallel to an elevated highway that's carrying fast traffic. There's the unmistakable sound of wheels whizzing along tarmac.

As I pedal down the straight lane, a red helicopter makes a series of small loops and hovers over the escarpment for almost a minute each time and I use the zoom on my camera to capture it.  The pilot must be practicing a rescue maneuver or something.

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Sometimes - usually - when cycling to Yingge, after reaching the end of the small lane and getting onto the main road, I turn off after a few minutes and drop to a cycle path beside the river. This time I keep on the road as I'll use the path on the return ride.  My thinking is to have a bit of variety.

The main road is OK. It's lined with nondescript shops and there are a couple of Hi-Lifes which makes me wonder about popping in to check out the IPA situation, but I reckon it'll be best to do it on the way home: What's the point of lugging three pints around? There are also few of the stores dotted along the 114.

I get to Starbucks in Yingge and take a snap of my bike outside, next to a mosaic in the shape of a large vessel which has four characters saying Old Pottery Street. This Starbucks is in a renovated building that incorporates various original features and it's a cool place to hang out, with lots of space upstairs, but currently it's take-away only and after ordering a sweet, iced frapuchino and a Korean sandwich, I take a couple of snaps while waiting.

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Looking for a place to sit and have lunch takes a few minutes. My aim was to drop to the cycle path next to the river, but a park appears and it's deserted and I find a polished steel bench near a toilet block and a currently fenced-off basketball court. 

It's nice to take my sweaty face-mask off, but within  a couple of minutes a mosquito or two are bothering my ankles, so I get off the grassy area and walk about feeling frustrated.

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An elderly bare-chested man is laid on his back on a tiered bench just across the basket ball court and he seems to be fast asleep. His cheap bike is parked next to him and it looks like he's had a bite to eat. 

Armed with my camera, I venture to take a secret snap, but notice a squirrel running around. Within a minute, the squirrel has had its photos taken, but the man must hear something and he raises his head and looks over at me just as my camera is pointing right at him. He's cool about it.

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Not wanting to suffer more mosquito bites, I get on my bike with the rest of my warming  frapuchino in the Starbucks paper bag and ride off in search of the path beside the river.

It's not as easy as expected and after fives minutes or cycling around, I get my bearings and then make my way to the riverside where there are various benches. A group assembled around a table in the shade of a tree seems best as it's a paved area.   

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The sun is slightly hidden and it doesn't feel too hot and sweaty for a while as I ride back towards home. The cycle path is empty and I stop to take a shot of a painted mural and also some purple flowers growing in the wet area adjacent the path. 

After a kilometre or two I get to where I have to veer onto the main road for a few minutes before getting back on the quiet farmers' lane.

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The farmers' lane is nice. Hardly anyone uses it. You might see a scooter come by every five minutes and people who have homes along the way drive past on occasion, but no-one else would bother drive along as the main road is parallel and the highway is right there, too.

I eventually make the turn to get on the climb up the escarpment and wonder to myself if I can pedal all the way up it today. It's become very hot with the sun now out in brutal force.

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I spin away and manage to round the couple sharp bends and notice another of those round mirrors and set up the tripod on a section of wall that's directly opposite the mirror. The camera is set to take three shots after 15 seconds and I know one of them will usually be OK. 

On the way home a drink is needed and a Hi-Life appears and in I go but there are only two cans of IPA in the fridge, so a discount is off the cards and I make do with a bottle of gassy lemon water and drink most of it in the AC before venturing back out into the heat and riding out of Bade on the 114 towards home, which is about 15 minutes away. 

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Today's ride: 35 km (22 miles)
Total: 132 km (82 miles)

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Comment on this entry Comment 5
Gregory GarceauHi Graham,
I am a big fan of words. I'm a big fan of detailed descriptions. Your words are great. But, man, your pictures are really all the description anybody could need.
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4 days ago
Scott AndersonYou’ve got an interesting eye, Graham. Most folks wouldn’t take note of a couple of squashed scarabs on the pavement, much less return the next day to see if they were still there.
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4 days ago
Graham FinchTo Scott AndersonHi, Scott

My speed up that climb was pedestrian, which allowed me to spot them and it was nice to pause for a breather - and it seemed odd that two had got squashed together. Who knows what they were up to in their final moments. The iridescent green is very special and I can't recall seeing any on the road before.
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4 days ago
Graham FinchTo Gregory GarceauHi, Greg

I wish my writing was better - my patience tends to get the better of me and being more descriptive and witty is something that always impresses me in journals, and writing in general. My snaps help give my journals an evocation of the ride and you're kind words are much appreciated.
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4 days ago
Graham FinchTo Gregory GarceauI should have said impatience gets the better of me - and a lack of natural talent.
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4 days ago