In Taipei: Along the river trails - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

December 19, 2018

In Taipei: Along the river trails

Rachael and I both have an awful time sleeping.  I wake up about every hour all night, lying awake trying to will myself back to sleep by revisiting each of our tour’s overnight stops, in reverse.  The trick is to remember the town, something about the lodging, and where we stashed the bikes - my version of counting sheep.  It actually works quite well, but these are especially trying times,  even after I get to sleep, I pop awake about an hour later.

Around 4:30, we realize we’re both awake, as start sleepily chatting a bit, discussing whether I should just get up and start assembling bikes now.  The buffet breakfast our hotel office runs from 7 until 10, so the timing is about right but still a bit long.  We decide to close our eyes for a few more minutes first.

At 9:10, a reminder alarm shocks both of us awake.  We’ve both been as dead as rocks for over four hours.  We can hardly believe so much time has passed, and both immediately recall our first night of our first tour to Europe,  25 years ago.  We were in Fontainebleau, and exactly the same thing happens.  Then, we were blasted back into consciousness by a jackhammer outside our window.  I was really shocked that the French would allow that so early in the morning in a residential zone, until we realized it was after 9.  We nearly missed our first French breakfast.

It’s the same thing this morning, and we nearly miss breakfast.  The buffet closes at 10, so we rush down and find a nearly full dining room, and a nearly barren buffet.  One sad look into hard boiled egg.  One small croissant.  A few small slices of ham.  Dibs of scrambled egg stuck to the side of an otherwise empty bin.  Toast, corn flakes, some fruit, conji, a vegetable-rice mix.  And coffee!!  It’s just barely enough to see us through.

Even after the coffee, I feel completely stunned.  I haven’t been hit this badly by jet lag in years.  We have to get out on the bikes though - that’s our ticket to getting back on schedule - so I fight through the haze and start unpacking and assembling the bikes, working in the only space available - the bathroom.

Pretty cramped, but I’ve made do with worse.
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Reassembly goes reasonably well, and around noon we’re quietly  wheeling our bikes down the hall to the elevator, wondering if anyone will challenge the fact that we have bikes in the room.  A few minutes later, we’re a block down the street and Rachael realizes one of her brakes has no stopping power at all.  I could experiment, but it’s faster and more likely to be successful if we take it to a mechanic.  Fortunately there are two bike stores quite nearby - a Fuji dealership, and a Dahon one.  We pick Fuji, only a quarter mile away, and wheel over there - slowly, because of Rachael’s malfunctioning brake; but we’d be going slowly anyway because the road is full of taxis, busses and scooters - and the bike path is the sidewalk, and full of pedestrians.  Pretty slow going, but we find our way there without too much difficulty.

This is why there’s a bike lane. It looks a bit different this morning.
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It’s not apparent at first that the bike store even does repairs - it looks like just a retail store.  We hopefully ask the first man we see if they work on bikes, but he doesn’t speak English.  Pantomime works though, and he calls his coworker over.  They confer a bit, shake their heads some, and then the second one wheels it over to a bike stand I hadn’t seen before.  Ten minutes later, we happily wheel out.  When I pantomime how much to pay, the mechanic smiles and shakes his head.  Very nice guys, the both of them.  I smile back gratefully and say Xièxiè, congratulating myself on remembering to look up the Mandarin word for thank you this morning while I was assembling the bikes.

This is actually the third bike store we visited. We were holding out for one with uniforms that would coordinate well with Rachael’s bike.
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While we wait for the mechanic to do his magic, I might as well look at some of the strange vehicles lining the walls. I don’t remember seeing one like this before.
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Nor this one. Is it even a bike, with those puny crank arms? It looks like it has a belt drive and internal hub.
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A few minutes later, we’re a block down the street and Rachael realizes she can’t shift into her upper chainring.  Before, we didn’t get up enough speed to need to shift so she didn’t know - and there hadn’t been any room in the bathroom to test things out either.  We’re a bit embarrassed to go back to the Fuji dealership, and we’re not sure that they’re actually a service shop either - we may have just gotten lucky to find a nice, competent guy.  We decide to go to the Dahon shop instead, so Rachael looks it up.  Happily, it’s really close now - only a block away.  It’s the same shop.

This time it takes longer, so he hits us for 150 NT$ - roughly five bucks.

By now, it’s nearly two so we shrink our sights significantly and just head down to the river to ride along Taipei’s awesome network of riverside bike paths.  We bike as far as we have time for, and then backtrack - which is fine,  the goal of the first day of a tour for us is to manage the transition - unpack and reassemble the bikes, iron out any wrinkles, and get a test ride in.

If you’re not familiar with Taipei and its riverside bike paths, you should read up on them.  They really are wonderful, once you manage to make it through the city and to the river - no mean trick, since there aren’t many places where there’s a navigable gap in the highways that ring the city.  Taipei sits at the confluence of three rivers: the Keelung, the Xindian, and the Dahan.  The Xindian and Dahan merge at the southwest of the city to form the Tamsui, and then join the Keelung at the northwest to before continuing on to the sea by the town of Tamsui about twenty miles to the west.  The rivers all have bike paths along their banks, usually on both sides - there must be a hundred miles of riverside riding you can do here on day rides from your hotel.  Totally awesome.

Today, we follow the right bank of the Tamsui (the merged Xindian and Dahan) to the confluence with the Keelung, and then bike upstream along the Keelung until we run out of time and turn back.  Once we hit the river, we haven’t had to cross a street or leave the bike path for twenty miles.

It’s a shockingly nice day to ride: warm, almost hot at 75F; sunny, almost windless.  The air pollution is noticeable, but not bad.  That’s the trade-off of visiting Taiwan in the winter - its the driest season, but also the most polluted.

We’ll be back on these bike paths a few more times before we’re done here, and I’m sure we’ll bring the zoom camera along to pick up a few shots of the herons and egrets that frequent the rivers; but for now, there’s no time for that.  Let’s just ride and make a few quick photo stops along the way.

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Looking north along the Tamsui to Yangmingshan. If things go to plan, we’ll bike up there into the national park tomorrow.
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The riverside bikeways are often lined with colorful barriers separating them from the highway.
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One of Taipei’s many stylish bridges. On this one, note the sinuous bike ramp rising from the riverfront to the main level. It’s quite easy to bike across the river, once you find the right bridge.
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Speed skating 101
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The massive Grand Hotel was established in 1952 by Chiang Kai-Shek soon after his retreat from the mainland, so he would have a suitable spot for hosting visiting dignitaries. For years it was the tallest building in Taiwan, and is one of the tallest Classical Chinese buildings in the world.
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Looking northwest along the Keelung to Yangmingshan
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Another striking bridge, and a nearly full moon
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It’s nice to see some field workers in traditional dress so early in the tour.
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Mike AylingBut not necessarily traditional tools!
Mike
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3 months ago
A bit of crab maintenance
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Andrea BrownIsn't that a crab? Let's ask Bill.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonYours so good, Andrea! Bill can give a third opinion, but now that I look again I believe you’re right.
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3 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltYeah, I refrained from commenting, but now that I have been mentioned... twice!

I also noticed the crab looks like it is half hiding a grin getting ready to nip the guy!
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3 months ago
At the confluence of the Keelung and Tamsui, looking northwest toward the sea.
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Kite gazers
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The needle shaped skyscraper is Taipei 101, named so because it’s 101 stories tall. Completed in 2004, it was at that point the tallest building in the world until the giant in Dubai dethroned it.
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I assume we can credit the air pollution for the brilliant golden sunset this evening.
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We’ve timed it right and make the most of our remaining day, getting back to the city just before sundown.
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We’re both half starved by the time we get back to the room - we had pretty meager breakfasts and didn’t break for lunch - so we hurriedly shower and step out the door.  We’re bound for Merlot Cafe and Bistro, a lovely restaurant we found on the last day of our first Taiwan tour.  Then, it was a three mile hike each way to this restaurant.  This year, having this restaurant in mind, we booked into a much closer hotel.  It would be only a 13 minute walk, if you didn’t count the long delays waiting for traffic lights.

The restaurant is as good as we remember it.  Better really, because Bob, the owner, stops by the table for an extended chat.  He vaguely remembers us from last time - we’re a bit conspicuous here - and is very interested in our journey and story.  He’s from California, and has expatriated back to his father’s homeland with his wife, the co-owner of the restaurant.  Bob is great - he offers to be our restaurant consultant in Taiwan, gives us his contact information, tells us of other restaurants around the island he thinks we would like, even offers to serve as a translator if we end up stuck in a restaurant somewhere down island and can’t figure out a meal.

We walk back to our room feeling a warm glow from this heart-warming encounter.  Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful here so far.  In a short period of time we’ve been reminded of why we were so excited to return to this place.

Things look a bit different in Taipei. If you come, keep your toes well back from the curb while waiting for the light to change.
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Rachael’s meal: grilled sea bass with assorted veggies.
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Rachael with Bob, the co-owner with his partner Vicky of Merlot Cafe and Bistro, our favorite restaurant on the island on our last visit. We intentionally booked a hotel in easy walking distance this time, hoping it would still be here.
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Rachael is installing a new web app on her phone that Bob recommended, so he can keep in touch with us. He’s going to send us recommendations for other restaurants around the island he thinks we might like.
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Rippled skyscraper
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Except for the language difference, we could be in Texas - weapons, the Stars and Stripes, and hot babes loving their semiautomatics.
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Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanTrue, but look at those hot babes!
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3 months ago
Bruce LellmanAlways looking on the bright side. That's what I like about you, Scott.
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3 months ago
We’re too full now, so we take a pass on the cute panda modeling sesame buns. Maybe tomorrow.
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Today's ride: 29 miles (47 km)
Total: 29 miles (47 km)

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