I’m still catching up on blogging because of lack of internet at my previous hotel and laziness on my part in sorting photos. Oh well, it’s a short trip, I can afford to have a bit of backlog.
After my exhaustion on the first ‘real’ day of cycling I was mildly worried about the second, but the weather was on my side for the whole day, and it even got nice and warm during the afternoon. I woke up earlier than I intended to, I guess jet lag is catching up with me. I had planned to leave later so that the sun could warm things up a bit before departing, but I was deep inside a valley anyway so it wouldn’t have made much difference. That said, it was about 3 degrees C when I set off and I could see my breath with every exhale. This time I was wearing the appropriate attire, and the wind was gone, so it actually felt way more comfortable than the day before.
Before setting off I had to do some maintenance. I used the bandage tape to wrap around my handlebars to make them a bit softer to the touch, since my hands had been receiving some damage already, even with padded cycle gloves. I suspect this is more of an issue on touring bikes with front panniers since there’s more mass to turn with the handlebars, but honestly, that’s the way I prefer it. The bike just feels horribly unbalanced with all the mass on the back. After the handlebar was dealt with I pumped up the tires, which had lost a lot of pressure after the first day – way more than I expected. I probably have slow punctures on both tires since they lost about half their pressure over the course of the day. That very likely contributed to me having a miserable time at the end of the day before. After pumping the tires I used the disposable toothbrush each hotel in Japan kindly provides to clean my chain and then gave it a little lubricant spray. I’m not sure how much this helped but when I set off I felt a lot more positive and excited than I did at the end of the day before.
My route took me along a road which, during the planning of the trip, I thought was a mountain pass, but as it turns out it was more of a valley between mountain ranges, and it followed a river almost all the way until the end. It was an extremely gentle incline, going up to about 400 meters over the course of 30-40 kilometers. There were some ups and downs but nothing major, and all in all the cycling part of today was way easier than the worst case scenario I had prepared myself for. And there was hardly any wind! I hate cycling in the cold if there’s wind but without wind it was downright pleasant, and maybe even preferable over cycling in hot weather. Provided you have the right clothes, at least.
The scenery was amazing. Since it was a Saturday I was expecting tourist traffic, but there was hardly anyone anywhere. I guess it’s still too cold for Japanese sensibilities. All the better for me, since it meant I had the valley road all to myself for most of the time. It was a pretty good road, too. It’s likely part of a popular pilgrimage path, or at least I think that must have been the reason that the road nearly always had a wide pedestrian/cycle lane next to the main road, with hardly any bumps or ramps on it. Contrary to my usual stance on not cycling on the main road, this time I took advantage of the side path so I could stop frequently to take photos. Have I mentioned the scenery was amazing? The scenery was amazing.
The barometer in my cyclocomp was somewhat erratic today, which caused the elevation measurement to jump around a bit. It might actually because of varying air pressures in the valley, but I’m not sure. The only other times I’ve seen the altitude measurement go weird was during climbs in mountain passes, so it seems related.
After reaching the ‘top’ of the route after a very gentle climb spread out over dozens of kilometers, the way down was only several kilometers, and quite steep. After the first 200 meters or so I immediately stopped and had to reclothe myself because it was way too cold. More layers, better gloves, winter hat. Still no traffic. Awesome downhill. It’s the ultimate payoff that rewards you for putting in all the effort to climb those heights. I went down so fast that my ears popped.
Back at sea level, now at the other side of the mountain range, it was a bit more windy, but very warm. I stopped at a conbini to take off some layers again and had a look at the map. I wasn’t quite at my destination yet, and to be honest I wasn’t much in a hurry to get there. The destination for the day was a city (bad) I had been to once before (bad), and that I couldn’t find a decent hotel in in advance so I had to book a rather sleazy place because that was literally the only option available to me (bad). Instead, I wandered around a bit. Apparently the Japanese call this ‘pottering‘. It’s yet another bastardization of an English word that is so ridiculous that only the Japanese could think of it.
I found a rather famous temple on my map only a few kilometers from where I was, so I took some random zig-zag roads to get there and had a look. There were a few tourists there, but only a handful. It’s just ridiculously quiet everywhere and I’m not sure why.
After the temple I wandered my way down towards a major road and managed to find a Sukiya for lunch. If the temple is the goal of the pilgrim then the Sukiya is the goal of the touring cyclist. .. to be honest I prefer Cocoichi over Sukiya lately. Sukiya’s curry seems to have gotten a bit too bland for my taste.
Feeling refreshed after the food I had a casual cycle into the city, which was still quite a way away. I cycled on a main road, which was main enough to have a large wide foot-and-cycle-path next to it. Quite flat, and quite appropriate for ‘pottering’. Nope, I still hate that word. Can’t get myself to like it. I had some time to waste before the hotel would allow me to check in so I wandered around the town a bit. Lots of nice canals, and the usual family restaurants, conbinis, post offices, delivery services, etcetera. Good old Japan.
I wonder if by now you can guess where I’m cycling. I’ve given some fairly major hints in this post. I’ll do the reveal after the trip is over. This post has gotten quite long so I’ll save the bit about the love hotel for the next post. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t great.