I am now on winter vacation which means, I hope, that I can ride my bike more often over the next couple weeks. Friday, which was my first day of my vacation, I got off to a good start. One day into my vacation, one bike ride.

Even though I am on vacation by virtue of being a high school teacher, my children are not on vacation yet by virtue of not being high school students but elementary school students. So not did I have time to ride on Friday, I also didn't have to worry about children being home to look after.

Another good thing is that it is winter — or at least what passes for winter in these parts — vacation and not summer vacation because after having a nice breakfast with my wife and a small amount of grocery shopping, it was almost twelve noon by the time I got out the door and on the road. That would be very unwise in the summer as in the summer by noon it's too hot to be outside pedalling a bike.

It was another solo ride as it is very hard to arrange rides with other cyclists on a Friday. It is also difficult to plan a ride when one's not exactly sure when one is going to get out.

So around I go, riding roads close to home. The beginning of the ride was essentially a re-creation of the beginning of last Sunday's ride. That route includes a climb of a quite of a quite long and very steep hill. To give an idea of the difficulty of this climb, when the road was made an extra lane was provided for the ascent to give space to heavy trucks so the faster-moving cars don't get stuck behind vehicles going up the hill no faster than a snail. When I go down that hill, I frequently break seventy kilometres an hour. On a bicycle.

Can you imagine how it feels to ride down a hill at seventy kilometres an hour on a bicycle? At times like those I try to forget that the model of my tires are named "Detonator".

There were two variations between Sunday's ride and this ride, however. One is that I was riding two different bikes on each ride; two is that on Sunday when I reached the end of the road on which the aforementioned hill is located I turned left but on Friday I turned right.

Turning right at first takes me towards home but before I went too far I turned left, which takes me through a small village, up a short, steep hill, and through some nice countryside before itself comes to an end. At that junction turning right once again leads to my home but I, instead, turned left.

*That* road leads to a popular destination of the local cyclists. That is fairly large and old temple, the name of which translates into "Purple Cloud Temple" but most people refer to the place by the name of the hamlet around it, Bantianyian, which in turn translates into "Half-Day Rock".

(I don't know where or how they came up with the names of some of these places around here. For example, the name of the place where I live would translate into "Foreign Road".)

About two kilometres before the temple the road goes up at a very steep incline and not without a few switchbacks. Maybe that's why a lot of people like going up there.

Me, I don't, but not because of the steepness or the switchbacks; it's because the climb is not really that exciting. I like to go up the other way.

Just before the road really starts going up on the way to the temple, the road forks. If you take the fork, that road will lead you to a place about two or three kilometres above the temple. Taking a left at that place will take you down to the temple.

That is the road I take. It's longer and takes me a little out of the way, but it isn't as steep and, more importantly, it's much prettier. That road is really in the boondocks. There are almost no houses there nor any traffic. All there is are mountains, trees, valleys, and the occasional monkey. It really is quite beautiful.

Since you know I am a cyclist and really enjoy riding a bicycle, you might be thinking one thing about me. You may be thinking of images you have seen of professional cyclists and imagining me being skinny like they are. Unfortunately, that is not true. If people were assigned sports based on their body types, I would probably be told to play football or rugby. My whole life I have contended with my belly: It is much bigger than it should be.

For quite a while my weight has been around eight-three to eighty-seven kilograms. Last July my wife decided to change our eating styles (the easiest explanation as to how is that we cut out carbohydrates, or at least try to eat as few of them as possible) and sine then I have been undergoing a steady weight loss. My weight is not declining that much right now, but it is still going down and currently I am down to about seventy-seven kilograms from exactly eight-six in the beginning of July.

I mention this because of something else I mentioned in my last ride post: I don't seem to be struggling as much on the climbs. I noticed much the same thing on Friday's ride. In particular, I noticed two things: One, the big climb -- the one I talked about before, the one that eventually takes you to Bantianyian, which, if you want names, goes from a tiny place called Puwei to another tiny place called Dahu -- seemed to not take as long as it usually does. I didn't necessarily feel faster but I've been up that road so many times I know every nook and cranny and this time I seemed to arrive at certain places earlier than I thought I should have.

Two, I seemed to be using a higher gear on the climbs than I used to. Two climbs in particular I went up on Friday in my big ring and before I went up them in the small ring. (Although that isn't necessarily a good thing as pushing too high a gear on climbs is most likely very hard on the drivetrain.)

All told Friday's ride was a nice two and a half hours by myself, fifty kilometres travelled, adn almost eight hundred metres climbed.

(On the subject of strange names of places, Dahu translates to "Big Lake". This is a place in the mountains with nothing but trees and no body of water for miles.)

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