I took Wild Greg out for a run our final day in Taipei this trip, but I chose to rent a bike, my legs still being tired from my run the day before. It is a good thing I went with this option, because he wanted to run with the freedom that relaxes the mind and taxes the body. The Taipei river-bike path system is a nice place to do this.
If you turn left after the small parking lot inside the Dadaocheng Wharf gate, you can cross the cement waterfront boardwalk to get to the bicycle rental tent. You will find a well stocked station. They have mountain bike style bikes for as little as 15 NT (New Taiwanese dollars, 50 cents US$) an hour. The rates sign is in Chinese characters, numerical digits, and “H’s”, but the proprietor spoke a few words of English like “two” and “hour.”
Some of the bikes have baskets deep enough to hold a little foo-foo dog. You have to bring your own foo-foo dog. The bike I rented had good shocks and brakes. The seat height could be adjusted. Helmets were available to rent for 5 NT. This is probably a good place to mention that I did end up with some thick grease on both of my legs, but I never felt my legs hitting anything, so be careful what you wear.
In order to rent a bike, you have to give them a phone number. For a tourist, the number of the hotel is acceptable; however, they require your passport as collateral. You get it back when you return the bicycle and pay.
I didn’t see the store hours posted, but they were open for business at least by 8:30 AM on Friday, because that is when I went by on my run. On this Saturday we didn’t get there until about 9 AM and there were still bikes available, although it was obviously doing a booming business.
Wild Greg wanted to run north, toward our old stomping grounds. I adopted a leisurely pace, taking in the sights and taking pictures. Everything from flowers to multi-level auto salvage shops interested me. I noticed that the stray dogs were more active, but still not aggressive. Maybe more like pigeons waiting to be fed, but with teeth. I still went all the way to the other side of the 5 foot wide path to go around them.
Even with the increased activity of a Saturday, there were not very many children out. I only noticed 3-4 families with children. There was one 11-12 year old riding by himself and not in a straight line. Almost everyone was riding a bike on this day. We did see a few runners. I don’t recall any walkers. They seemed to know better!
One group of bicyclists looked like a club.They were all riding two-seater bikes and wearing matching vests. They had small triangular club flags sticking up from the back of their bikes. Most of the club members looked like married couples. They seemed at ease on their bikes, and definitely not interested in great speed. There was much laughter and conversation among them.
We continued up the route until we had almost reached where the Keelung River (also spelled Jilong on one map, to illustrate some of the difficulties with Chinese translations) flows into the Danshui River. Then, we back tracked to a shortcut to the Zhoumei Freeway bridge. Two small roads split off from the city side of the path to get to this shortcut. There is a covered scenic view area on the river side right there. The far right road, once you have turned down them, is marked as a bike lane, but you will want to watch for cars. When you get down to the main street, roughly 50 yards later, go left. This takes you across a couple of side roads and down a wide cement sidewalk. On this Saturday, there was a crossing guard helping part of the time.
Soon you will see a massive blue overpass bridge. I was surprised to recognize this as the place where I finally got unlost from walking Greg’s bike back home that infamous day. It was the tower that had saved me. The ramps up to the overpass were steep, switchback, and narrow for two-way bicycle traffic. Large red signs stipulated that bikes were to be walked, which most people did. There were a couple of older gentlemen who rode down like there was no tomorrow, giving the rest of us a mild look of disdain.
On the other side, we turned left off of the ramp, which actually took us right, or south again, on this bike path. Most of the riders continued north toward the town of Danshui, so there wasn’t as much traffic in our direction. We rode until we came to a comparatively small bridge that only crossed Waishuangxi Stream. This is where Wild Greg remembered seeing a collection of basketballs and other debris in the eye of a typhoon.
Near there was another bike rental place. A mother was renting a bike for her small child, but the child was not easily pleased. The approximately 6 year old was evaluating each offering with the arrogance of an emperor keeping his subordinates in a state of humility.
It was only in the low 70s (F) when we had started out, but by this time, I think we were both wishing we had brought liquids. There were bottles of water for sale when we returned the bike, but we opted for fruit juice at a 7-11 store on the way back to the hotel. Two hours in the Taiwanese sun had left us a tad pink. Wild Greg’s face was encrusted with the usual post-run salt, so he was scary to look at.
I felt guilty looking so fresh next to Greg, so I practiced some Chinese by telling the bike rental cashier and the 7-11 clerk that Greg had run while I had only ridden a bike. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun to see their faces change as they understood. It was also fun to know that 4 years after having left our 8 month home in Taipei, it still felt familiar in some ways. My understanding of the city has even grown with this trip.