Liz Does Japan!

Our cycling friend Liz came to Japan! We met Liz 5 years ago, when Rich was talking me out of being a couch potato and into tandeming. Liz talked us both into biking 150 miles in three days for charity. It seemed like a huge step for this couch potato at the time.

Since she was visiting for 3 days, and we were able to borrow a bike, with all of our local rides, which do we take her on? It's got me pondering why we love certain rides here in Japan more than others.

Variety is why I love riding to Hamamatsu. Starting across flat roads through paddy fields, we quickly cross two rivers and take a winding path along the ocean. Initially riding through scrub pines between sand dunes, the path is rolling and fun. It comes out to follow the ocean to the Tenryu-gawa, the Heavenly Dragon River, delta. Even though the ride is now only 10 kilometers from a city of half a million people, it's still peaceful. It goes through onion fields, across another river, and then follows the Magome-gawa up to the city. The last kilometer starts getting into the city, but along lightly traveled roads. Total distance: 55-60 kilometers depending on the return route.

Straight, unabashed flat-out riding is why Rich likes riding to Sagara cho. Sagara is as far East as we can ride without riding into the umi (ocean)! The roads aren't as low traffic as our other rides, but are long and straight (unusual in this part of the country), so we can ride without a lot of slowing down and turns. The ocean views at Sagara are gorgeous. And we get some spectacular chances to see them because the return route has us climb out of Sagara on a steep road that winds back and forth. The sea spreads out below us as we climb. The summit crosses a plateau covered with tea plantations, dark green and sculptured in long straight rows. A swooping downhill drops us off the plateau and back to the flat rice paddies. Total distance: 70 kilometers with a remote start from our work location.

The ride to work is a kick, because of seeing Japanese life around us. We pass many of the same folks each day, saying ohaiyogazaimasu (good morning) to "friends" on bicycles; to the farmer taking care of his cows; and to the melon growers by their greenhouses. The ride to work is basically flat through fields of rice and some grains. I have seen the fields go through all their colorful cycles, from the bright green of newly planted rice, to deeper green, and finally to the gold of mature rice. It has made me feel in touch with the rhythm of life here. Total ride: 26.8 kilometers round trip.

Ruggedly beautiful and challenging describes the ride up Awagatake. With 529 meters of climb, this mountain has breath taking climbs, and breathtaking views. One valley makes you feel like you are looking at the Japan from 100 years ago. Except for distant power lines, this valley appears untouched by man, covered in the deep green of cedar. In contrast, the view from the top of the mountain looks over an expansive city, spreading out across the flat plain until it reaches the sea. The climb hugs the side of Awagatake and is lined by cherry trees, so the spring has us climbing a twisty band of pink against the steep mountainside of green. Total ride: 70 kilometers.

The ride up the Tenryu-gawa we have described before - the most beautiful ride we have ever done. Total ride: almost any distance you want! To our favorite Onsen (hot bath) and back to just above Sagama Dam is about 40 kilometers.

So Liz came to visit. What rides did we take her on? The ride to Hamamatsu; up the Tenryu-gawa (with the Onsen to relax in); and a new ride: a tour of three local temples in one day!

Liz's only complaint - why wasn't there an Onsen located at the end of every ride. We'll work on it!

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