|Bridge of Dreams:
2007 PCC InterState
Ipoh - Taiping - Bukit Mertajam - Penang
story and photos by Darren Lee (see Articles page for links to related articles)
additional photos by Kong Ee Pheng
Day 2: Taiping to Bukit Mertajam, 135km (the long way again!)
Mercifully, PCC decided to start today's ride at 7:00am. Which meant that we actually made it to the start line with minutes to spare. Minutes I tell you!
We all gathered in front of the Resort lobby before being flagged off. The early birds lined up in front while the people like us hung around at the back. The photographers were already running around taking shots which would be featured at the daily dinner. Further behind, the support crews were busy packing up, checking out, arranging bags and moving the vehicles. I think compared to us riders, the support crew has it harder. All we do is ride but they, well, besides scurrying around before and after the ride, they have to drive the vehicles for hours while following the (sometimes-slow) peloton. I've not driven support before, but I'm sure it can get real dull at times.
Finallly we are flagged off. Just a few minutes late. Punctual, they are.
A long, deserted and straight road out of the Resort on a cool fresh morning was certainly the recommended way to start the ride. However, my cyclo-computer was again acting up and I spent the better part of the start fidgeting with the gadget while trying not to run into/over anybody. Now that will win you lots of friends in the peloton...
Nice, long roads. Just one of the things the PCC InterState is famous for.
We hit the wider roads and pretty soon the pace started picking up. Hmm, there must again be a "race" today. There was one yesterday for sure, and there will probably be one tomorrow too. We kept up with the 34km/h average wondering what was going on in front. Before the ride I had heard from the PCC regulars of a "hill" appearing sometime during the ride but my guess is not many riders in the peloton knew about it because as soon as it came into sight, a chorus of "whoaaaa!!" cascaded from the front and down the line.
Since I don't have a name for it I'll just call it the "nice little surprise". When you're grinding up a 10% slope and you happen to be overgeared, looking around for road signs of the location isn't exactly the first thing on your list! It was "only" 1km long, but at 7% average it was certainly a toughie. Riders started going backwards and all over the place; the support vehicles had a hard time trying to drive past.
We slowly crawled to the top of the "hill". Like they say, after every uphill is a downhill, so the 2 kilometre 4.7% downhill was a welcome reward. Riders were taking advantage of the downhill to make up their deficit on the leading riders, some going into their most aero position. Me, I just coasted downhill and watched the antics of various people zooming past me.
Most of my friends were already in front of me by the time the downhill flattened, so I had two choices: either catch up or ride alone all the way to BM. While contemplating what to do my cousin Colin came along and I decided to ride with him. This is his first InterState in 5 years and it's been a while since we've ridden together. Soon, Gaf joined the "team" and the three of us chugged along, picking up passengers and dropping them off the train along the way.
One of the "passengers" for the day turned out to be a Singaporean named Faizal. I offered him a Kandos Crispy bar (something that costs RM0.40). He hesistated for a while before chomping it down. Later after the ride he thanked me for the "Crispy Treat" and commented that he hadn't eaten this snack since he was a kid. Such a candid remark left quite an impression on me, and for those few moments I was transported back to my own childhood when Crispy, ice-cream on bread and Chickadees were the ultimate treats, Transformers, Voltron and Thundercats were the kings of cartoons and your first bicycle had four wheels. How simple were things then, the toughest choice you had to make in your life was to choose between a "Pallas" or "BM2000" school shoe...
Back to the ride…
We soon approached the Selama / Mahang / Kulim area (South Kedah). This is where we have our Monthly Rides so the roads were familiar to us. Although, I hasten to say, familiarity doesn't make them any easier! The rolling terrain, so typical of oil palm plantations abundant in this area, tested our legs and the brilliant sun in the cloudless sky sapped every drop of sweat we produced.
And further up, who do we have but the unmistakable Tan Boon Foo, owner of BikePro, "where everyone knows your name"...
And, a back view. Here, we see Boon Foo drafting Finian (left) and Budak (right). I say, good job lads, we'll have a *MAJOR* discount on our next visit to BikePro. Muah ha ha ha ha
Sometime around noon, Gaf, Colin and myself, along with Yati in the support car made a detour to the town of Mahang proper, adding another 4km to the route (the official route bypasseed Mahang). We were famished and the next town, Kulim was still over 30 km away, so it was a toss between riding 2km or 30km to the next food stop. Hmmm, tough decision!
We found a Malay coffee shop and proceeded to have our lunch. Yum, chicken rice with soup. All that salty soup is just what the doctor recommended! Having loaded on essential nutrients, the "BM Train" again chugged towards Kulim town and then onwards to BM, picking up more passengers along the way. One of the passengers was "Ah Huey" once a prolific contributor to the PCC Newsletter but now no longer productive and causing the PCC editors to grab whoever they can get their hands on...
We rode slowly as we entered BM town, which was as usual crowded with motorised traffic. It's one of those towns that typically grew out of their small "simpang empat" and spread over a wide area over time, without adequate town planning. So you have odd turnings and confusing attempts to smoothen traffic by converting some roads into one way streets. Some dodging of cars was required before we reached our hotel for the night, Summit BM. Again, a very nice hotel and having a shopping mall right below the hotel certainly helped, especially when you're craving for something really salty after 435km over 3 days.
Say, Finger Lickin' Good….
We had an 11th floor room which gave us a super view of BM and the surrounding areas. Well, at least I think it was a super view. When I got back to my room I found it in total darkness with the curtains drawn, as my roommates were already having a siesta by then. Tripping and falling over piles of bags, I found my way around before being relegated to sitting by the bathroom for some light to read the day's newspaper.
At the dinner that night, everyone listened intently to the briefing as no one wanted to miss the most important ride of the event, across the Penang Bridge. "Everyone please be on your best behaviour" was the mantra here. Get your bike tags ready, no stopping on the Bridge, no fooling around, no overtaking, no repairs, etc. For good reason too, as anything mischevious could mean this would be the last time we're allowed to cross the Bridge.
Thanks for reading and next up: Interstate Day 3!
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