Today I cycled from Kumagaya to Takasaki. It was hardly a difficult ride, but stopping over at Takasaki was a necessity. Not because it's such a vibrant city though, because honestly I just cycled through and it could not possibly be more boring. Takasaki is a necessity because it's the last comfort stop before the massive climb to Karuizawa, which I'll be attempting tomorrow.
There's a big road going directly from Kumagaya to Takasaki and it's utterly boring, yet satisfying to drive. It's got two lanes on each side and is side enough for bicycle, truck and truck to ride side by side. It's also completely flat, so I made great progress at a higher cadence than I usually do. But after 20km's I got fed up with it and made a breakfast stop. I put on some music and went off in search of some riverside. It wasn't too hard to find, but a few kilometers out of my way. Then I realized: it's not like I have anything better to do. So off I went.
I managed to get very close to Takasaki without any difficulties. The path was wonderfully paved with no bumps at all, and hardly any traffic. Every few minutes or so a cyclist would pass me, but not more than that. It was a beautiful, peaceful ride. This is what I was looking for when I decided to do this trip. Not busy city roads, not doing 100km in a rush because I need to make it to the next hotel. No. Just cycling, in peace.
Eventually the riverside path joined up with the main road again and I had to take a bridge to get back on the road to Takasaki. Around noon I stopped for lunch at a family restaurant (Gasuto). Somehow whenever I start getting hungry there's always one of those around. The seat-pointing person showed me to a four person table even though I was alone and saw the perfect tiny table a bit further away. It's happened to me before, and I wonder what the policy of family restaurants is towards this. Do Japanese people feel so insanely guilty about hogging up a table for four that they try to leave as quickly as possible, making it available faster? The Japanese guy sitting next to me at a four-person table seemed to disprove that, as he was reading about four thick book simultaneously and did not seem to be in a hurry. Is it the gaijin effect? Does the restaurant want to show off 'the gaijin' as a way of showing other customers that they get foreigners? Either way, soon after I finished eating a queue started building up and I felt obligated to get the hell out of there, fearing angry stares from the natives.
Back on the road to Takasaki, I took it slowly so as not to arrive too early, but that turned out not to be a problem, as I soon got a flat tire. A bad sign! So soon on this trip.. During the last trip it took weeks before I got the first flat. Oh well. Since it was exactly mid-day and hardly a bit of shade to find anywhere, I asked a local car repair shop if I could take cover under their roof and fix my tire, which was of course ok. It took me quite a while because of my luggage making things hard to access, and because my spare tubes are wide mountain bike tubes, whereas my outer tires are sort of exactly in-between mountain bike and regular bike, so I never know which kind of tire to get. Eventually I got the damn thing in and resumed my course for Takasaki.
Have I mentioned that Takasaki is boring? It's quite boring. There's hardly any people around, maybe because of golden week. I cycled around the town center a bit, spent an extraordinarily long amount of time finding a conbini and checked in to the hotel. I'm going to need to buy some supplies tonight, as I can foresee myself spending a lot of time out of breath in the mountain pass tomorrow, and I don't want to be out of food or drinks.