21 July 2009

The Horrors of Sasago

The legendary Sasago Tunnel - entry point to untold horrors

Tom, David and me were on the way back from Odarumi on route 20, Tom in front and me some 100 meters behind and David some 300 meters behind perhaps when we came to the road that leads to Sasago Pass and the old Sasago Tunnel.

We waited some 50 meters of the road at a Jidohanbaiki for David to arrive, when I saw him passing by. I shouted "David!" but he just continued so I had no choice but to ride back to route 20 and follow him up on the slope, trying to catch him.

Actually, this is a very interesting probably non-linear mathematical optimization equation, or problem along the following lines:

You are following 300 meters behind a bicycle rider which rides at constant 20 km/hr towards an abyss (Sasago Main Tunnel) without knowing this. You are following this rider at 25 km/hr speed and you want to warn him, however you do not know from which distance between the two of you he can hear you.

Every time you are shouting a warning, your speed drops to 15 km/hr for a period of 10 seconds as you are running out of breath. Assuming that there is a logarithmic relation between the probability of your warning being heard and the distance between you and the bicycle rider with 0% chance at 300 meters and 100% chance at 0 meters, how would you time your warning shouts and at which distance from the start point would the rider stop ?

Not sure about the correct answer, but the maximum distance would be 1.500 meters (5 km/hr speed difference to cover 300 meter distance difference at 25 km/hr).

Anyway, David was tired and decided to ride home by train so we bid good bye and I followed Tom up the slopes to Sasago Pass. The climb is very nice, very gradual, but also more than 400 meters up. It is hard to imagine that this was the main road to Kofu until 1958 when the main road tunnel of route 20 was completed. And even the old tunnel was only completed in 1938, before that there was a pass even at a higher point above the tunnel.

Tom was fast as usual and despite all his lamenting on the blog that he has becoming an old man, not able to withstand the cycling challenges of middle-aged salaryman from Hyogo prefecture, I don't see this decay actually happen on the road when riding with him.

Since years I am telling my kids about the horrors awaiting oversuspicious cyclists in the Sasago Tunnel. I try to fine tune my stories along the lines of old stories by H.P. Lovecraft that I read as a kid. I was also inspired by a blog entry of Tom some time ago, where he felt that something slimy was touching his legs while riding through the tunnel, having lost all sense of room and time and falling into an eternal vertigo.
Wiki, now the source of all knowledge to mankind defines the work of H.P.
Lovecraft as following:

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror, the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. [.....] His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christian humanism.Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the mirror-opposite of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality.

"... momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality ...", I guess that has a lot to do with "defying gravity by speed of ascent up some semi-vertical hillock".

So I told my son (12) and daughter (7) who were listening with horror in disbelief, that in their are giant, invisible octopus living in holes arranged at the ceiling of Sasago tunnel. Every now and then, when a stupid cyclists rides alone into the tunnel, they let down their tentacles, try to grasp him and move him up so they have splendid dinner to chew on for some days. Tom was barely able to escape and I named him as the eyewitness to this horrors.

OF course my kids didn't believe a single word, so I had to prepare better evidence. Tom was so kind to take some photos of myself while fighting with the octopus in the tunnel. As I said, they are invisible so it is a little bit difficult to see them in the photo, but I presume that the expression of horror in my face speaks for itself.
Just when he handed back the camera to me, Tom was also attached by these godless creatures.
Luckily I could take a picture of this heinous assault.

After surviving Sasago Tunnel we rode down to this famous cedar (sugi) tree the older bike rider has told me about at Tomin no Mori some days ago. It is supposingly 1.000 years old and inside completely hollow to the top. It seems to have come out directly from a Miyasaki movie.

We then road a high speed to Otsuki. Although the compact crank is nice for the climbs, it is true that on the downhill a 52/11 gear ratio adds more speed, I was not able at all to cope with Tom here.

At Otsuki station I was lucky to get an express train back to Hachioji and then hop on the Yokohama line back to Shin Yokohama from where I wanted to ride the last 8 km or so back home.

But what did I had to notice when I just unpacked my bike at the station? Another flat rear tire. So far for the existence of the Japanese Tube Gods. I thought, OK, this is only small puncture and the air is coming out slowly, so if I inflate the tire again, I might be able to ride home. I had my small hand pump with me and I pumped as hard as I could and started tor ride as fast as I could. Which brought me exactly to the Nissan Stadium before I was out of air again. So I pumped again. Which brought me to Nippa station. So I pumped again, but his time the air would simply not stay in the tire.

I didn't want to pack and unpack the bike for only one station of a train ride and I was also very angry so I rode home on the rim.

Where I told my kids the story of the Sasgo Tunnel and showed them the photos. They didn't believed a single word.


Manfred von Holstein said...

Unbelievable your children can't understand the horrific experience you must have undergone. The pictures speak for themselves. Terrible torture.

Do we need to drag them to the tunnel to have them find out for themselves??

mob said...

Spoiled brats indeed, too many hours spend in front of a TV set watching Japanese quiz shows, nothing can scare them any longer it seems.

I will present them with brand new bikes on their birthdays and force them to join me on my trips.