1/20/2008

3:45 a.m. and I'm Off


I don't like to do signs on this blog because I think it's a tired topic. (Most of us have already seen a million posts on mangled English). Nonetheless, this one caught my eye when I crossed a bridge from Danshui (淡水). I mean, who the heck is going to ride down that?

A view of Hsin Tien (新店), Taipei from the river. A haze has been hanging over Taiwan recently. Pollution is six-fold higher than regular levels, due to a lack of wind and weird weather patterns.
My street at 3:45 in the morning.

Today was the first sunny Sunday in Taipei in ages. People were even calling me up to tell me the weather was finally going to be good. Needless to say, I was excited about this latest development, so much so that I took off on my ride at 3:45 in the morning. Normally, I ride with my road-weanie friend Eric. But it seems he's sneaked off to Vietnam for a little R&R, so I was on my own.

I think I was the first cyclist on the road today. (There were a few old guys riding girls' bikes with baskets, but nothing serious going on.) It was pitch-dark, so I had to slow down just because I couldn't see a thing. I decided to follow the river out to Danshui and then head north. On the highway, I managed to catch up with a Formosan riding team, so I rode with them for a while. Then, I took the river route back to my home, putting in a 100 plus km in all. It was a great ride, and I was back for breakfast too.

Coming down the homestretch, I realized that I hadn't had any close calls with cars. Just as I was having the thought, a taxi driver decided to make a right, cutting me off and sending me for a tumble. No sooner had I picked myself up than I heard a terrible screeching sound followed by a scooter driver doing a 10-foot slide brought on by a sports utility car driver trying to make a left when he absolutely did not have the right-of-way.

I was very hungry, so I decided to stop for fried turnips, Formosan omelets and soy milk. "I'll be right back," I told them at the restaurant. "I want to pick up some chewing gum and a newspaper at the convenience store next door." When I returned, a woman was demanding the restaurant fork my omelets over to her because "she had waited longer than the 'foreigner!'" So, the cook gave her my breakfast and told her how sorry he was. Instead of getting a gracious

"That's OK," the woman scowled at him, hunched her shoulders and stormed off. This brought up a furious debate among the restaurant staff and goers, who concluded that I had placed my order first.

"Don't worry about it," said the lau-ban niang (老闆娘, meaning owner's wife). "She's a spinster (老處女, which literally means old virgin in Mandarin). What are you gonna do?"

"Not much," we shrugged, and went back to waiting for our grub.


According to my Cat Eye bike computer, I was hitting speeds of over 40 km on this ride for the flats and 30 plus for descents. I'm still a bit nervous coming downhill. There are two reasons for this. First, my bike is really fast. I'm afraid if I let her go, I won't be able to regain control. Second, I still feel nervous because of my accident five months ago. I took the above pic today to contrast with an earlier one; the wounds still haven't healed. Sometimes, my leg aches. And it's been feeling really itchy recently.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought that the sign is for the bridge and not the stairs?

I have seen the same sign on a bridge in Taipei. It meant no riding on the sidewalk in this case...

Patrick Cowsill said...

I'm sure that's right. This particular sign is a total waste of money, as it's the end of the sidewalk.

I wonder how much money was wasted here? When I first came to Taipei (a decade ago), I was told that it cost the city (or people) NT$17,000 to put a single garbage can out on the sidewalk.