Japan Update #15 - It was the best of rides,it was the worst of rides

Monday, June 3, 1996

I have not written for almost 7 weeks, but not for lack of riding. It seems that the four-letter "w" word (work) has gotten in the way of documenting our rides, but we don't let it keep us from riding!

Just to let you know that not all riding in Japan is great, I will briefly tell about the worst ride we have been on since we have been here. We took a half-day vacation on a Saturday since it was a nice sunny day and we did not want to miss the opportunity for pleasant riding. We drove into work with the Santana on top of the car and rode from the plant starting at lunchtime (hiru yasumi). We decided to try some new roads, and map in hand headed east. We had decided earlier that if the wind were gentle we would ride to the eastern seacoast, new horizons for us. If the wind seemed strong, we would turn north and go up a river valley and return via the hills. Well, the wind was fierce out of the west so we headed northerly. We did not have maps for the entire area with us so there was a little "seat of the shorts" navigation aided by a handlebar-mounted compass. BTW, these compasses actually work on aluminum frame tandems!

Well by the time we got to the northern terminus of the route Lindy felt she was not up for the hills. We decided to head a little bit further east and return via some as yet undefined route (remember no map!). The easterly leg was OK, then we got to Kikugawa and started looking for a lunch break. We saw a sign for what we thought was a large supermarket, but it seems that this one only had the hardware store section completed. So we headed down the main street. A relatively narrow two-lane road with busses, trucks, and no shoulder. Lots of traffic and no place to get out of the way. No offense to Jerseyites, but it reminded me of routes 1&9 in Jersey City, New Jersey. And I would not have ridden a bike there. This had to be the worst road we have ridden on in Japan. And we stayed on it for about two kilometers until we found a small grocery to get lunch. From this stop we headed back to where we had left the car. Remember the winds?

The westerly legs had some brutal sections when we were out in the open fields. We were in granny gear, on the flats, struggling to stay in double digits (in kilometers!). We were not always successful, dropping down to 8 KPH (5 MPH) at times. Then we turned south. Crosswinds from hell! I had to work so hard to keep us going straight (or close to it) that I decided to alternate south and east about every half kilometer. I think it was worse with the crosswind than the headwind.

By the time we got back to the plant, and the car, we were beat. It was only a 32-KM ride but it was more than we had bargained for. My arms were more tired after this short ride than any other ride we have ever done. Fortunately, this was the only bad ride we have had in Japan.

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