Wednesday, 27 June 2007
A week or two ago I had a mishap on the way home from work one evening, as there was a bang followed by a big crunching sound from my 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub. It had been skipping in 1st gear for a while but I put that down to old age as the bike is 60 years old. But after the mishap with my hub I have been forced to borrow a friends bicycle while my new bike arrives. I have ordered a 24 speed Kona Smoke for commuting to work on and general touring as it will be more reliable than the Humber for daily use. But I haven't given up on getting my fathers Humber back on the road again and I've had a kind offer from a fellow 3 speed bicycle nut who has offered to repair my Sturmey Archer hub for me. I think now that I may have been a bit hard on the Humber as I did a few long rides deep into the hills of over 80kms or so. So once I have the Humber back on the road again I'll take more care of it and only do modest short rides so as not to damage it etc. In the meantime I'll continue this blog but I'll be using my new Kona smoke for touring on instead of the Humber.
Thursday, 7 June 2007
After a long hot ride and a heart stopping downhill with my brake pads melting I needed a beer & luckily not far from Gozu is the Swan lake brewery which serves fantastic award winning beer. Over the years the brewery restaurant has expanded to include Ikarashi Tei a restored large landowners residence which offers fine dinning and Kura an old Japanese storehouse converted into a bar with private rooms. So after a short ride towards Suibara where the brewery is located I was soon sitting down outside Kura with a glass of porter if only I had bought my pipe with me but in my rush to leave home I had forgotten it. After a relaxing beer at Kura I was ready to hit the road towards Niigata & just after I left the brewery a car travelling behind me honked their horn and waved out , it was one of the couples who I had spoke to while cycling along the Yamabiko rd. By the time I had arrived home it was 2.30pm and I had clocked up 75 kms , but what a fantastic day off. The above photo show some scenes taken at Swan lake brewery
The photo in the last post of Mt Gozu was taken from a natural spring located by the side of the road, you often find these located out in the countryside and they are often crowded with cars as a lot of people around the area and also from the cities drive there to fill up large water containers which they use at home. This particular spring has become so popular over the years that they had to build a large car park to stop the cars parking on the side of the road. The outlet for the spring has been moved and now two pipes dispense clear spring water, just the thing for a thirsty cyclist.
After riding up and down a few gentle curves and taking in the awesome scenery the main decent started down towards route 290. I must point out that 60 year old sturmey archer drum brakes do not slow you down when you are a rather robust chap like I am and soon my front fibrax brake pads were squealing like a stuck pig scaring off every wild animal within 3kms of me no doubt, luckily nobody was around to witness this or complain to me. But being a little worried I stopped to check my front brake pads only to find they were melting and sticking to the SS rims and man were those rims hot, dam hot. I took it very easy squealing all the way to the bottom of the road as it would have been dangerous to have let go of the brakes on such a downhill as this. The photo in this post was taken just before the fun started
Little did I know that the Yamabiko rd would be so long and have such great views but I was rewarded with fantastic views of the Niigata plains and riding though the shade of the cool trees was nice on such a hot day. Along the road were quite a lot of large stone monuments with inscriptions and my student informed me that many of those were Haiku ( Poems ) I'm not sure why they would be placed up there high on the side of the Mt but I may find out later I guess. There were several viewing areas along the route and I only met 4 people out hiking and they very surprised to see me on an old 3 speed. Pictured in this post is one of the views taken from the road
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
After slowly grinding up the valley through the shade of large cedar trees finally I came to a rest area located beside the river, there was also a new toilet block that looked like it had just been built and some evidence of campfires so I guess a few people come up this road over the summer, soon after I pulled into rest area two cars arrived and they said they had been picking wild mt vegetables these are quite popular as you often see people out in the hills picking them as they are fantastic when cooked in tempura batter. At the rest area was a large sign board detailing the Yamabiko rd and the points of interest along it so after studying the sign I realised that it would take me around the side of the Mt and take me down to route 290 so I thought I'd give it a go. This road is useally closed over the winter as Mt Gozu is covered in snow. Pictured above is the yamabiko rd signboard with my route marked in yellow
After hearing from one of my students who lives near this area that a free foot spa had been built recently I decided to try and find it. Well upon entering Murasugi spa I soon found out where it was as it was located behind the public onsen up a slope. So after parking my bike near the foot spa I filled up my water bottle with some fresh spring water located across from the spa and then took off my shoes & socks to refresh my feet. The foot spa was free and it seemed to be proving popular as many couples & families came & went while I was there. Everybody seemed thrilled that this had been built and my feet felt fantastic, so after chatting to some locals who went there everyday I dried my feet in the sun and proceeded to explore the roads around the village. After cruising around the village I found a road the headed up a valley and decided to follow it , little did I know that this was the start of the Yamabiko rd which is closed all winter due to snow but I'm glad I continued the uphill grind to discover it. Check out the next few posts for more info on this part of my trip. The above photo shows the foot spa located in Murasugi village
Well as the rain season is approaching fast I try to make the most of my days off, so yesterday Wed the 6th I had a day off and it was fine with reports of rain coming late in the day. So I decided to head for Gozu an area of small mt villages and spa towns located at the base of the Mt Gozu. I left home at 8am and after an 1hr & 10 mins I was in Yasuda ( now this area is known as Agano City as many of the smaller towns have merged ) and after passing through Yasuda I headed around behind a small hill located next to Suntopia World ( a kids theme park ) from there I explored the back roads that run parallel to route 290. I had never been on any of these roads before but they were most interesting as I came across villages that I didn't know existed, it was rather peaceful compared to the narrow but busy route 290 which often has a lot of heavy traffic. After joining 290 for a few kms I then headed up the road to Murasugi spa a small village of osen hotels , barber shops , and a well known tofu shop where the master aparently dresses up in cowboy style riding gear to ride his motorcycle, a Harley no doubt. Musasugi is only a small spa town but seemed pretty busy while I was there and that was in the middle of the week. The above photo shows part of Murasugi with a public osen that is located in the center of the village.