The wind blew hard, pushing me back as I started out at 10AM from Max's house. Every crank of the pedals took great effort, to combat the gusty onslaught. "It's gonna be another long day," I thought. Nothing to do, but keep going. The ride, I knew, was going to be a hard one. I had gotten advice from Max about which route to take. I had two options: long route with hills, or short route with hills. Wasn't too hard a decision.
The journey up to Chechang was mainly flat, but with the aforementioned headwinds, made my pace much slower. Once on the 199, however, the breeze slacked off, but I was now in hilly terrain. Crossing the mountainous terrain was fun at times, exhausting at others, but overall, it was scenic and cool. I passed quite a few other fellow "trekkers" along the way. We exchanged the now common nod or wave.
The shade was a welcome break from the beating sun, the wind no longer a adverse factor. Riding through the mountains was a beautiful experience. The serenity of moving on bike, climbing and cruising, in and out of shadows, past forests and fields made this area quite magical. When the 199 turned into the 9, I took a break at what appeared to be a common meeting place. I saw other riders, and a building that people signed to say, "I was here." From there, it was downhill, some of the best I've ever ridden. Coasting, passing cars, such a thrilling ride after a grueling morning and early afternoon. It flattened out after about 30 minutes and then I was riding along the eastern shore of Taiwan. This part was a bit depressing. No buildings, just a long lonely road, a vast grey ocean adjacent. No where to go but forward, I pedaled on in hopes of getting somewhere soon. My plan was to make it to Taidong, which at this point was still 4 hours away.
Then I ran into more of what the east is famous for, mountains. Slow going, it was looking more and more like I wasn't making it to Taidong. Somewhere in a no name town, I ran into a group of college students making their way on bikes also. There was about 10 of them, one on moped in back. We played leap frog for a bit, me passing them, then they passing me as I rested. I finally stopped with them and talked to them for a while. They had started that morning at 7AM from Pingdong and were also heading around the island. They told me they were going to stop at Zhiben, for some hot spring action. I said that sounded nice. I wanted to get into a hot spring, and felt I would deserve it that night. It began getting dark, which always give me a sense of urgency and nacent fear welling up inside, causing me to pedal faster. I don't like riding up (or down) in the dark. I finally got to Zhiben at about 8 or 9PM and haggled a room for USD$15. It was a decent sized room, brightly lit, with a nice bath to soak my strangely un aching body. After bathing, I decided to walk about and see what this town had to offer. Not much I found, and ended up buying some stuff from ubiquitous 7-11, and some fried chicken from a street vendor. I headed back home, ate and watched a bit of TV. I headed to bed, in the expectation of another long early day.