|Bridge of Dreams:
2007 PCC InterState, Part IV
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 3: Bukit Mertajam - Penang Bridge - Tanjung Bungah, 85km: Ok! The day that everyone has been looking forward to for the past six months is finally here. At the dinner the night before (in Bukit Mertajam), it was announced a starting time of 6:30am would be observed, as the authorities would only allow us to cross the bridge during the 7:30am - 8:30am window. Ohhh! 6:30am again! If there was a ride that we are not to be late for, this would be it.
So it was lights off early the previous night, and some careful packing and stashing of everything that could be stashed. Don't you notice that when you go for multi-day tours like this, you end up buying junk food (or just food) at every stop and for the next day's supply, only to find that you don't really finish everything and pretty soon your hotel room is full of small plastic bags containing bits of food here and there? If this went on for another ten days I would be able to open a sundry shop.
We would be leaving my car, which was used for support this year, at the hotel's parking lot. This was because most of us would be riding - of the 12, only Yati and Hooi Kiang would be driving the (other two) cars across the Bridge.
So I'm happy to say that we got up on time, but we overlooked the fact that there were only 2 lifts servicing the more than 250 riders that morning. By 6:00am the said lifts were already jam packed with people moving bags, bikes and themselves downstairs. I actually tried waiting for the lift for ten minutes, before realising I would probably never make it up again in time, and this means that we'll only have one trip to make. The race against time has started…
Walking unsteadily, and sometimes tipping over with bags and a bicycle each, Finian, Jimmy Lance and myself found a little-used service lift and quickly stuffed ourselves into it. Ah ha! A way out. I shall afford myself a sniggle. But, like a good movie, the lift didn't take us to the ground floor but to the 4th floor where the main kitchen was. So imagine a bunch of lycra glad guys balancing themselves on Time/SPD-SL cleats scuttling through a slippery kitchen floor, much to the bewilderment of the chefs and kitchen staff who were preparing breakfast for the day.
We finally found another lift and got ourselves down to the hotel lobby. Phew, that was close! We joined the rear of the now-very long peloton. We were lined up along the side of the shopping mall/hotel I knew it was a long line because I could see red blinkers from where I was to the front of the peloton. Ok, it's time for a photo:
Note to self: Get a REAL camera one day….
The organisers had also announced that the peloton would be escorted all the way to the Bridge, before each bike is checked for its tag. No tag, no ride. The peloton would then regroup after the checkpoint before riding together over the Bridge. Hmm, I guess there shall be no racing for today. And since you only get to ride over the Bridge once (and maybe once only), it was only wise that each of us make the most of the scenery and experience instead of bolting like madmen across it.
We rode calmly and "compacto", accompanied by many police outriders. Since it was an early Sunday morning, traffic was at its lightest and the cool morning breeze swept us along - very cool as it had rained again the day and night before. Pretty soon, we were up onto the highway itself and kept to the left-most lane. I took a few photos but most of them turned out quite blur as we were moving and my camera phone's shutter speed was slow. Anyway, for what it's worth, here are two of the "better" photos:
In the second photo, you can just make out the name "George Town" on the overhead signboard on the left. The guy on the right is Wai Lam, graphic designer of all things Interstate this year.
At the toll plaza (the checkpoint where our bikes were inspected), and while waiting, I took a few more photos for posterity:
And here I am with the geng... at the very rear of the peloton. That's for dropping your chain right before the toll plaza!
Further up, we have Finian and Edwin..
And, fuuurrrther up, we have Jimmy Lance and Melvin.,
Here is a view after the checkout, err, checkpoint.
We used the new toll plaza which was opened a few months ago. There is now a lot of toll collection gates but that doesn't really solve anything as the Bridge itself is still two lanes wide and huge traffic jams build up especially during rush hour and on weekends.
Finally we move off! What a thrill to be on the Bridge. The lead PCC vehicle had the photographer perched, sometimes precariously, on the top. Later at the dinner we would see some cool photos of the peloton stretched over the Bridge. And, for the last time in this series of articles, as Borat would say...
At this juncture, one should not forget to mention the Knights of the Round Table and Azmi for making this possible. Without them, we would have taken a 3 hour trip across in the ferries!
The ride itself was controlled at 25km/h and I didn't see much talking around me (except for myself who was blabbering away endlessly to Gaf and anyone else who cared to listen), so it's fair to say that all the riders were taking time to savour every kilometre of the 13.5 Bridge ride. The mid-span of the Bridge averages 2.4% and was used to award the King-Of-The-Mountains points at the Tour de Langkawi some years ago.
Here is a photo I sneaked in before rain started falling forcing me to pack away the camera phone. At least I got one. The drizlle got heavier after the mid-span so everyone concentrated on keeping a safe distance from each other while at the same time, trying to enjoy what's left of the Bridge.
After the Bridge, we headed to Penang's newest shopping centre, Queensbay Mall, for a cuppa sponsored coffee, tea and herbal drinks
Thanks for reading and next up: Interstate final part - Queensbay, Balik Pulau and hills!
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