Japan Update #8

Monday, December 11, 1995

Call us cold weather wimps! It was 28F this morning and we took the car to work. We realized what wimps we were when we saw how many elementary school kids were still walking to school in shorts. And the ones that were riding their bikes would alternate which hand was on the handlebars and which was in a pocket or tucked into their sleeve for warmth. No gloves for these kids! Oh well, we're wimps.

The past two weekends had us on some interesting local rides. This is very special terrain for biking. We took the tough hill route into work last Sunday, and then went exploring on the return. We went about halfway back up the hill and then made a left turn up to the ridge. (The hill route followed a stream up to the top) There were quite a few switchbacks and then we got to a glorious view of the valley beneath us. We could see the local villages, the ocean, and even saw the `Act Tower`. The tower is the only `skyscraper` building anywhere around here. It is in Hammamatsu, about 30 miles from where we were.

As we continued along this ridge we were treated to an unusual sight. The sides of the ridge were so steep that we could look down into the valleys on both sides as we rode along. I have never experienced riding on such a sharp rise. We had picked this route with the aid of topo maps. We had tried to pick out a hill crossing that had `ups` within our abilities. We knew from the map that there was going to be a steep section in another 0.75KM and then we would have an easy ride back home.

Boy did I blow that map reading. What I thought would be a tough but doable 1 kilometer uphill prior to the downhill turned out to be one gloriously long downhill run into the valley! As we cruised down, drum brake on, we kept saying `I hope this wasn't a wrong turn!` It wasn't, just topo reading error. With so many ridges it does get hard to keep track of the ups and downs. It definitely made the ride more fun. When you are prepared for a rough climb and it just disappears, it's very exhilarating.

This weekend we rode to Hammamatsu to go gift shopping. We figured that whatever we would take back with us on the flight home for the holidays had to be small and light, the same limitations that we would have using our panniers to transport the gifts here. It worked well. We were able to ride right into downtown with only about 1/2KM of heavy traffic riding. It's amazing how little traffic there is on the small streets that run parallel to the main roads. A distinct advantage to cycling in Japan. We parked at one of the bike parking areas at the train station. Funny, ours was the only tandem!

We rode home as the sun was setting. It is really beautiful riding along the ocean bike path with the setting sun reflecting on the water. The silhouettes of the fishing boats on the water and the surf-fisherman's cars out on the sandbars were stunning. It's also amazing how few (none) other bikers were out on the bike path at sunset. However, when we got back onto the roads, we almost ran into some Ninja bikers as we turned onto a bridge. Ninja bikers are those that ride at night in dark clothes with no lights. Of course our Santana is equipped with a NightSun and vistalights. We made a right turn onto a 4-foot wide path and were almost wheel to wheel with three bikes coming at us. We stopped against the rail on the left and they just squeezed by us. I don't think their gene pool will survive the way they ride on the roads cloaked in darkness.

On Sunday, we went on another new hill route. I guess we have become acclimated to the hills, much better than when we first got here. This one had some tunnels near the top, which eased the climb at the very peak. I think that when we get back to the states I won't know what to do with a long, steep downhill that is straight! There are so many switchbacks on these hills that we never really get up to high speeds. 45KPH is often the max, using full drum brake most of the time and adding the rim brakes just before each turn. I wonder what a good downhill team could do on these roads?

In Kakegawa we parked in an enclosed bike parking area at the train station and walked around to do some more shopping (same rules as the previous shopping trip). When we got back to the bike we got what we think is a ticket. It seems that this was a private parking lot that people pay for by the month. At least that is what we think the faded sign was saying. We will have someone at work translate the little tag that was put on the bike and we'll find out.

Well, we head back to North America in a few days for 3 weeks of R&R. We will visit families and go to Mount Saint Anne, Quebec for some cross-country skiing. I will be back on line with Japan stories in mid January.

To all, have a good holiday season and Happy New Year!!!

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