The next morning, we climbed over the Coastal Mountain Range again. Starting from the middle of the Yuzhang Tunnel (玉長隧道), we had over 10 minutes full speed downhill. That brought us back to the Huatung Coast Highway (花東海岸公路). We passed the Tropic of Cancer marker at Fengbin (豐濱) and rode along the Xiuguluan River (秀姑巒溪) climbing over the Coastal Mountain Range one more time.
The destination of the day was the Hualien Sugar Factory (花蓮糖廠) at Guangfu (光復). The factory was well-known with over 30 flavors of fresh ice-cream. Ice-cream had been the magic word in my bicycle journey. Indeed, it was the only motivation that kept me up to the speed of the team for the last 5km. Everybody got double scoops of ice-cream before check-in at the Japanese style hotel which was located next to the factory. As the ice-cream was really the highlight of the day, we decided to have another double scoops after dinner.
One of the tour mates asked me why I picked a hybrid bike instead of a road bike. I said I never rode on a road bike and got used to the straight handlebar. He grinned, “Once you’ve got on a road bike, there is no going back to a hybrid bike.” Well, the shifting of the hybrid that I was riding ended up breaking. Luckily, there was a spare road bike hanging on the support vehicle, so I got on a road bike for the first time.
The road bike was light and fast. I was cruising down the East Rift Valley road 193. We stopped at the Qixingtan Coast Park (七星潭海濱公園) for a picnic lunch. Then we started climbing up to Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園). We split the climb to Wuling into two rides. We would take a break at Tianxiang (天祥) (480m), rest a day and go hiking, then continue the climb the day after.
After a few days of high cadence pedaling, I could hang around with the team, sometimes I rode in the front, and sometimes I dropped back. And with a road bike, I could take photos whenever I wanted. The road to Tianxiang was magnificent. It was definitely one of the most beautiful rides I had ever had. Even though there were a lot of tourist and coaches, they didn’t bother me from enjoying the gorge. The only problem was I didn’t know where I should grab the road bike handlebar. It just didn’t feel natural for me and I hurt my left shoulder. I thought I used too much of my upper body to climb. Luckily, I had one day to recover.
Besides the shoulder pain, my body wasn’t sore at all. I was hungry to ride after a rest day. It was 67km from Tianxiang to Wuling with 2795m of climbing. We started very early in the morning to avoid the heat. The team leader reminded us to keep drinking and eating energy bars every 45min to an hour. I took a painkiller and was the first to take off.
I was a slow but steady climber. I would rather started off early than have a chasing mind. It was a quiet morning. There were no tourists or coaches passing Tianxiang. Indeed, I met a couple of cyclists on the way. The climb wasn’t too hard but very long. It felt like a never ending road. Though, the scenery was breathtaking. I put my hand on my chest, I felt the movement of my heart. I could hear the pump. I didn’t know my heart rate. I didn’t know my cadence. I didn’t care about the speed or the altitude. I was connected to the environment. I was part of the mountain, like a tree, like a waterfall. I was in my dream.