The Last Ride

•October 21, 2014 • 8 Comments

My last ride on this trip took me from Ibusuki to Cape Sata, which is the southernmost point on Kyushu and the main archipelago. I had to take a ferry to start the ride down to the point.  

 The 3000′ high, perfectly conical Kaimondake volcano is close to Ibusuki. 

At first I thought this was a woman, but she’s a manikin. Then, a few hundred feet further there was another, then another. This went on for a few miles. Very bizzare. 

Like the rest of Japan, the mountains are steep.  

Cape Sata sits just below the 31st parallel, which is also just south of Ensanada, Mexico or Houston.  I saw the sign below near Sata.  Cape Soya is where I started my ride last year, 2700 km away, which is on the 45th parallel (same as near Portland, OR, or Bordeaux, FR). 


My last tunnel

I haven’t totaled up my miles yet, but the number won’t be particularly big; however, total elevation gain certainly will be!

3 Big Days Riding on Kyushu, one with no GPS

•October 18, 2014 • 2 Comments

Kyushu is the southern-most island of the main archipelago. My cycling routes here were mostly on narrow roads through small villages and hilly farmlands (the operative word here being “hilly”).  The first day was from Beppu, a city famous for its many hot springs, and hot sand baths, to Aso which sits in the bottom of a huge caldera, with the active Aso volcano nearby (Japan’s largest active). 

Alison and I did this hot sand bath, but unfortunately I didn’t have my camera at the time

The ride from Beppu to Aso was 70 miles, with 8000′. Wasn’t supposed to be quite that much, but for some reason my GPS decided it wasn’t going to navigate the entire route. So, I had to improvise. 

When your GPS isn’t working, a sign like this brings no comfort

Fortunately, vending machines can be in the most remote of places, so finding water is never a problem

The ASO caldera is 17 km x 25 km, or 350 sq. miles… about the size of Denver. The floor is billiard-table flat, and is ringed by a range of mountains several thousand feet high. I cycled down onto the floor from the other side, then cycled up this side to one of the five peaks that make up Mount Aso. The volcano was spewing a huge cloud. 


The second day on Kyushu my GPS started working again. This ride was 80 miles with 6500′. Two monster days considering that, while my added weight is relatively low compared to a camping bike tourer, I’m still carrying an extra 23 lbs, which includes packs, rack, contents, and all the ancillerary items like lights, GPS, etc. 

I said small roads!  I’m assuming this pine tree debris was from the typhoon. It’s really soft, so riding on this for a few miles was not a problem

These arrows went on for miles…”yea, I get it, drive on the left!”

The third day, while not huge, added 55 miles and 4000′ to make the last three days 205 miles (that, in and of itself not a huge deal), but it had 18,500′ of climbing (with an added 23 lbs). No wonder the knees ache a bit. 




Continue reading ‘3 Big Days Riding on Kyushu, one with no GPS’

Okayama, waiting for Vonfong to pass

•October 13, 2014 • 2 Comments

Takashimaya department store is the Neiman-Marcus of Japan. The rain was playing music on their sign.  (Listen to the pings behind the rain)


Here’s a few more shots from Naoshima




At a street faire before the rain hit in Okayama.  These are bean paste sweets. 

Many of the older homes have burnt walls. It’s to protect the wood from a certain bug infestation. 


This is looking out our hotel window while waiting for the  storm to pass


These bikes outside my hotel didn’t stand up to the winds


Typhoon #2: Vanfong Causes a Major Route Change

•October 11, 2014 • 4 Comments

This is heading for southern Japan. Which is where I am at the moment. My route was supposed to take me through the southern part of the island of Shikoku. Which is where Vanfong will hit land, exactly when I was supposed to be riding. I took the train to the art island of Naoshima and met Alison for a few days. Then to Okayama to sit out the storm before resuming the ride schedule on Kyushu. 

I was able to squeeze one nice ride on on northern Shikoku. Shikoku being famous for its Route of 88 Temples.  Many people do the entire circuit, either walking (takes about 3 months), cycling (I met a couple doing that, they said it would take a month), or as this group did, by tour bus. 

Cover for apple orchard

 Making Udon Noodles

Kneeling the dough by foot!

A drone exhibit

Alison on Naoshima. 

Naoshima is a truly unbelievable place for art junkies. I’ve never seen such a commitment made to contemporary art. Definitely a must visit place for the art lover. 


A Few Rides Between Tyohoons

•October 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

Typhoons have a certain binary nature to them. First nothing, then all of a sudden all hell breaks loose, and then…it’s over: the wind stops and the sun comes out. After hunkering down for a few days, I was anxious to get going. 

I had to adjust the schedule, which necessitated a train ride. The Shinkansen part was uneventful, but when I transferred to the local train things got interesting. I was going to Matsusaka. And normally I write my itinerary in my book and show it to the ticket agent with times, connections, and each Line name. Well, this time I was rushing so I simply said I wanted a ticket to Matsumoto. Matsumoto is nonwhere near Matsusaka. 90 minutes toward the wrong destination I realized my mistake. So 90 more minutes and two transfers I was on my way to Matsusaka. Travelers Note: many city names sound alike to the Westerner’s ear, so be careful!

The ride today was another route with great roads and punishing, but wonderful climbs. This road was a bipass around a series of long, uninviting tunnels. What I didn’t know was that it had a long section of 10 to 12% grade. Plus, it had been hit by the typhoon a few days before, so there was debris from the trees all over the road.  Still, a great climb.

I’m guessing these trees blew down from the wind

My GPS has been indispensable. I can’t imagine doing a ride like this without one. But today for the first time, it told me to do something that was impossible. It suggested I make a left turn on this “road”. I came up with an alternate plan. 

Most of the route was on roads like these


These cars have nothing to do with my ride. I was sitting in front of the grocery store having lunch looking at this row of cars in front of me. I realized that since I’ve been in Japan, I have not seen one- not one -dirty car. And remember, this area was hit by a typhoon a few days ago so you would think that a curtain few might be dirty. But no. And then there’s the parking. Not like Santa Fe, where half the people park over the the line. Not here!









Nothing like a Typhoon to alter the cycling plans

•October 4, 2014 • 4 Comments

Typhoon Phanfone is bearing down on southern Japan. Which is where I am now. The rains started last night, and have not let up for the last 18 hours. The forecast for today and tomorrow says there is a 100% chance of rain. I’d say they are pretty confident.  

And, to make matters a bit more unpredictable, regarding the cycling, there is another typhoon laying patiently out to sea where this one started. Could be an interesting week. 

Unlike our Santa Fe thunderstorms that are very isolated, and can be seen approaching from miles away, this tropical storm is so huge, the sky is a homogeneous light grey, slightly luminescent lid. There is no definition overhead. Just a relentless, even downpour. Fortunately the winds are calm… for now.

I’m in Fujinomiya an extra day ’cause the ferry I was supposed to take today is not running. Tomorrow I take the train. Supposedly the storm, this storm, will pass the southern region Monday night.

I should be on the bike Tuesday, though with a slightly altered plan. 

Cycling up Mount Fuji

•October 4, 2014 • 3 Comments

I’ve done some great climbs over the years: Alp d’Huez, Tourmalet, Stelvio, incredible passes on the Tibetan Plateau… and Fuji competes with the best of them. A 22 mile climb, 7220 feet of gain, an unrelenting 8 to 10% grade the entire way, with a few 12% spots just to make sure I didn’t get lazy.  I swear to God, went it did occasionally hit 5% for short while, it felt like a relief.  3.5 hrs up, and 50 minutes down. 

This was my first sighting of Fuji-san when cycling to Fujinomiya the day before. 

And this is what I saw for the first two hours riding up the mountain. Fortunately I have two very bright blinking rear lights so I wasn’t worried about people not seeing me. 

 Then the mountain came into sight. 


But, when I got to the top, the mountain kept ducking behind the fog once again. It was difficult to coordinate the timing when Fuji-san was visible, I was near the sign, my bike was near the sign, and I was able to find somebody to take a picture. This will have to do. 


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