Sunday, 30 May 2010
Further along the cycle path we spotted a rest area across the road where we could refill our water bottles and after a short break he headed back towards the spot where I had parked my van. Near the end of the cycle path we stopped to watch a group of local " Gateball " players in action enjoying the fine weather. Gateball is the game of choice for a lot of retired Japanese and almost everywhere you go in Japan you will see Gateball courts. Most of the Gateball action takes place early in the morning but sometimes you see it being played in the middle of the day. As far as I know the game is very similar to Croquet. Even though our ride was only about 30km it was a fantastic day to be out on a bike, lets hope this nice weather sticks around so I can get out for some more rides before rainy season in July.
Pictured above is the rest area, map of the cycle path and the rider side gate ballers in action
After a leisurely lunch break we headed back towards the way we came, even though this cycle path is quite new some sections of it are in urgent need of maintenance with cracks in the concrete and sections of the path overtaken by weeds. It seems a shame that after constructing the cycle path it has received little attention in the way of regular maintenance and if they don't clean it up soon some sections will be unable to be used in the near future.
As it was nearing lunch time we were keen for a brew up and a bite to eat so Brian spotted a old shrine over the other side of the river. After a little bit of backtracking we arrived at the shrine we had seen and I set about boiling up some water on my vintage Optimus 8R gas cooker. I don't know why but it took several matches to get it going but when I finally got it going the water for our coffee was ready in no time. The joys of cycle touring or in this case pottering along a cycle road are that you can take your time and enjoy the day rather than racing to get to your destination.
Pictured above are a few photos taken at the shrine including one of a stone statue lion wearing a cap & smoking a pipe exactly the same as mine.
After stocking up with some food and instant coffee for our lunch break we headed back towards the cycle path and soon we were pedaling along the riverside path enjoying the scenery when we spied a rather large snake lying in the middle of the path, not the sort of thing you want to ride over and as there are no snakes in New Zealand I have always been rather weary of them and over the years I've had several close calls with large snakes whilst hiking or cycling so I prefer to keep my distance from them. The weather today was fantastic and it was so nice to be out of the city for a change.
Pictured above is the snake I saw heading under the fence at the side of the cycle road and a photo of my Humber with the mountains of Gozu in the background.
Today I managed to get out for a short spin along the Rin Rin road, a short cycle path alongside a local river of around 18km. My cycling companion Brian had been out cycling already with a group of riders from a local Triathlon club who were out to complete a century ride so Brian joined them for a 70km return trip instead and met up with me at 9am. After loading Brian's bike into the van we drove out of the city towards Niitsu a small local city where the cycle path called the Rin Rin road starts. After parking the van in a shady spot under a bridge we headed along the path into Niitsu itself. Brian's eldest boy was playing baseball against a local Junior high school so we stop by the baseball ground to check it out. To be honest as a New Zealander I know nothing at all about baseball but Brian explained what was going on and we watched for a short time before heading to a 7/11 store to buy some supplies for lunch.
Pictured above is a photo of me at the baseball ground and a few of the baseball players
Sunday, 9 May 2010
After a quick spin downhill with my Lucas cyclometer clicking like crazy I had soon retraced the morning route and was heading back up the steep 7% grade that I had enjoyed so much cycling down in the morning. To be honest I tried to cycle up as far as I could which was over half way before dismounting taking a drink and walking the rest of the way, but I did manage to cycle up all of the other hills including a 6.5% grade climb. I had saved some of my food in case I needed more energy to get me through the remainder of the ride but not far from where I started was a new rest area and a brand new toilet block which looked like a great place for another coffee. After relaxing over a coffee I then pressed on up the valley which then led me down hill back to my van. I arrived back at the van at 3pm after having done 76.4 km .
After a short stop at the campground I pressed on up the valley towards Otani Dam. On the hill climb leading up to the dam another road cyclist passed me but I wasn't even near the top when he passed me again going back down the mountain. What's the point of cycling into some beautiful countryside if you barely spend 5 seconds admiring the view before turning around and heading home. I really don't understand this type of cyclist at all and it seems there only goal is how quick they can get to their destination & back and because of this they always miss out on all the interesting sights along the way. Eventually I made it to the top of the Otani Dam and could see several buildings across the other side of the dam and a picnic area which seemed like a perfect place to stop for lunch. Several families were having picnics on the grassed area nearby the buildings and that's where I stopped for lunch and my first chance to brew up some coffee on a ride since I acquired the Optimus 8R gas stove. While consuming my sandwiches I lit up my cooker to boil some water for coffee and to my surprise it started up on the 1st match and the water was boiling in no time. It was so pleasant taking in the view of the dam & the surrounding snow capped mountains on such a nice day that I could have easily fallen asleep if I had stayed longer.
Pictured above are some views of the dam and the spot where I took lunch.
After some quick downhills on 6.5% & 7% grades and riding along route 9 for a short distance I was soon on route 289 and in a wide valley that gave me fantastic views of the distant snow covered mountains. Also the farmers in this valley were making the most of the great weather as were several packs of cyclists out training. In the distance I could see a large rock face that I had seen before in local tourist magazines the area is called Shitadamura and has a nice campground, plus nearby there appeared to be a large onsen which was very busy judging from the full carpark. I stopped off to take a short look at the campground and several families were either packing up their tents or cooking lunch. There was also a couple of small mobile homes and a caravan which is a rare sight in Japan.
POsted above are some photos of the valley leading to Shitadamura and the campground
After winding my way through the hills I then came to the junction of route 290 and from there headed up & over two decent sets of hills before I reached the next valley. Today's climbs really tested me out as I hadn't done any serious riding since last season. On the way I managed to ride all the hills which is a big challenge on a heavy British 3 speed even with a pass storming gear. Because it was such a nice day there were a lot of road cyclists out training in the hills as next weekend the now famous " Sado Long Ride " is being held so I guess some of those riders were in training for next weekend. One lycra clad roadie passed me on a steep hill climb and I could see from the look in his eye he was jealous of my classic Sturmey Archer 3 speed gearing and my fully loaded Carradice saddlebag that contained my Optimus 8R gas stove. If he really wanted to do well in events such as the Sado Long Ride he should be riding a heavy British 3 speed daily and then switch to his lightweight racing bike for events as I'm sure he would become much stronger pedaling a solid touring bike through the mountains than the lightweight carbon thing he was on.
Well finally I had a day off and the weather was nice so after a hearty breakfast I loaded the Humber into my work van and headed for the hills. I don't really like cycling out of the city as with all the cars it's not so pleasant and now that I have a van I can quickly get into some nice countryside for touring. The other day my cycling mate Brian suggested the ride I did today and as I had never been in that direction before I thought I would check it out. Even though I made a miscalculation re the starting point, I actually started further away that I had originally planned but it didn't really matter as I have never cycled through those parts before. I ended up starting from the small mountain village of Kamitokura and found a car park at the local community center which is now closed and from there I started my ride. Not long after I headed out of the village the road turned into a single lane and wound it's way uphill through a beautiful valley. Along the way all the rice farmers we busy planting rice or preparing their rice fields for planting.
The photos above are the 1st set of photos I took along route 226 and a map showing the location of todays ride