27 August 2009

Tour of the Dam(ned)

Since a few weeks Laurent and me wanted to ride out together and although the original plan was to ride to Horst's EX BAR in Roppongi. After having a substantial misunderstanding at my barber (I meant centimeters not milimeters, damned!) and not being able to go out in public without a helmet any longer, we finally settled on a more demanding trip in Chichibu.

I am not an early riser, but as the trains from Yokohama to Hachioji are very crowded in the morning hours I left the house at 6 AM to meet Laurent at 8 in front of the Ome station. I was very tired and not fully awake when I dressed up in full ETXEONDO gladiator cycling dressing which so favourably emphasize my body contour in hues of bronze. And when I was sitting in the train I wondered what happened to the ETXEONDO logo on the shorts, where has it gone? Then and finally I found out to my absolute dismay, that I had dressed in inside-out bib shorts and was running around like a complete idiot.

A short visit to the McD at Ome station could rectify the problem before Laurent saw me who came appropriately clad in new Positivo Espresso wear.
Immediately we were riding out in direction Chichibu. The weather was "ma ma", to state it positively. It had rained on the train ride to Ome ()luckily not inside the train I mean) and the streets were still damp. It seems only a matter of time when it would be raining again and we were not confident at all that we could make a long ride.

On the way on route Ken 53 we took a left turn in direction Naguri dam, where I have heard that there is a road leading over Arima Toge to road 140 close to Chichibu city. This is a beautiful rockfill dam and should be the first of three spectacular wonders of civil hydraulic engineering we were going to see on this day. We stayed on the North side of the lake until we came to a Y fork and decided to take a right turn and stay at the river.

We always take right turns if we don't know what to do, where we are and where to go.

This was the beginning of a long, long climb on a wet and slippery road which used to be in not too good of conditions. With the road being wet after the rain and many metal drain cover it proved to be a special challenge to ride up while chatting erratically about general life in Japan.

And going up into the clouds when we passed the 1.000 m elevation, the mist became even foggier and I was really worried about rain going to start any minute. It also became cold, the day has started with a miserable 25 degrees Celsius temperature when I left the house - hey, I thought we have August in Japan! And out there the temperature dropped to 16 degrees, like the average summer day in Germany, but we had less rain luckily.

And then suddenly before we reached the top, Laurent crossed a drain precisely at the location where the two drain covers should have met but didn't; his front wheel fell into the hole and he had a flat (tubular) tire glued to his Lightweight wheel. From all the locations we could possibly have problems, this was the one where help was the far most away. But together we managed to remove the tire and glue a new one on, which all went rather quickly. After we had said our prayers and buried the tire on the slopes, we went on and reached rather quickly the top.
At first the view from the top was somehow obscured by the mist, but then suddenly, like a miracle, the clouds opened and we had a fantastic view on the Japanese mountain called "Shiroyama" which by chance resembles so much a French moutain of the same name.
This miracle was followed by the miracle of a fast decent in which Laurent was almost killed when sudenly a huge truck came up the road around a corner. This and the car behind where the only one we met riding down and it is still a mystery to us what the truck was doing there.

Laurent has properly trained for the ride by scaling Odarumi the day before, so he was in the best of all possible shapes when we reached the second dam of the tour, the Urayama dam.

And so we decided to continue on road 140 in direction Chichibu lake. The road was nice and curvy, leading as gently upwards, the sun was coming out occasionally and we rode at a good pace to the lake, finally stopping at the tunnel before the dam.

This is very special tunnel. It is not as scary as Sasago tunnel or the one on Otoge, and by far not as dangerous and long as the new Sasago tunnel, but it is very small in diameter so that a traffic light in front controls the one-way traffic flow; plus it has a Y fork inside where one can take a turn to the left to come out just on top of the main arc dam.
And from there onwards we started to climb up to the Mitsumine shrine. This again is a long but very steady climb on a big road with almost no traffic. Laurent and me could ride next to each other and chat about this and that and before we noticed we had done again more than 600 meters of climbing up.

This was my second time up there, the first time was with Ludwig in autumn, in miserable cold climate and running out of daylight. So I showed Laurent around and we went to the platform to have a better look at the mountains of Chichibu.

There was already one guy there with his girlfriend and I asked him to take a photo of us. I told him that he just needed to push the bottom, but he was not satisfied with taking a simple photo. He varied the positions constantly, was complaining about the natural light and did this and that with the result that he took three beautiful works of art of Laurent and me which I can not possibly withhold from the public.
Stunning beauty indeed. Another family of four came up the platform and he was in his artistic mood he asked them if he could take their picture as well. I guess in their case you will see four shadows instead of two, otherwise everything identical.

After that both of us where of the opinion that we did our fair share of work for the day and we went on a fast downhill to the dam and then further on to Chichibu city.

We had just missed the express train to Ikebukuro, so we hurried up and packed so that just in time we could also miss the local train to Hanno. Checking the train schedules, we decided to part, I took the train over Hanno to Hachioji, while Laurent went to Ikebukuro and we were all home after dark.

Conclusions:

There is a nice road over Arima Toge which is rideable.
There are many dams in Chichibu.
Miracles happen.

6 comments:

Laurent said...

Thanks for the discoveries Michael. Excellent ride despite the weather (and the damn anti-tyre metal grilles in the road!). I will add Arima Toge to the regular tours from now on, and I am curious to see those miraculous snow-capped peaks next to us again.

Another matter of fact about pictures: after extensive consideration and research, I have concluded that the photographer in Mitsumine was not David Hamilton, even though we intimately persuaded that he was.
For proof: he couldn't render our naturally pure, fresh and innocent good looks and make us look like 16 years old nymphs, even in the ambient fog.

From his wonderful and elaborate style, I am now sure that he really was George Romero, of "Night of the Living Dead" fame. A real artist.
Hence a fourth conclusion: we meet lots of famous people in Chichibu.

laurent said...

Oh And one more comment. There are reports in the press of several people seeing Superman riding a train to Ome. He was recognized by many fellow travellers who reported seeing a tall foreign-looking male riding the train, with what appeared to be a bicycle or a big contrabass in a bag. He was identified by the tell-tale sign of his underpants on the outside. He was last seen entering a MacDonald in Ome. The trail stops there.

mob said...

There were also reports that representatives from an aggressive Tokyo labour union were following us on bikes with loudspeakers and flags to the top of Arima Toge, handing out leaflets to bypassers.

They were completely exhausted and are not to be expected back in Tokyo before next week Tuesday.

Manfred von Holstein said...

Damn it, damn it, damn it!

As I was climbing up to 1,140m, I was entertaining myself by contemplating how to report on this trip by putting out a quiz - something like: where have I been? a pass of over 1,100m just within 80km of cycling distance from Tokyo?

No point in asking any longer, as Michael and Laurent would know the answer right away, by having gone there just one day ahead of me.

Anyhow, I also enjoyed the ride, and had perfect views from below as well as from above. It is a nice new way of getting into Chichibu-shi, just five kilometers more than via Yamabushi Toge, but quite a bit more climbing.

Where did I head next? See next comment.

Manfred von Holstein said...

This had started as a nice day of discovery for me, with Arima Toge. I decided to venture on to something even bigger: crossing Karisaka Tunnel, the longest tunnel in Japan, connecting Chichibustan with Yamanashistan.

I remembered well that Tom had done this a few months ago. Somehow it completely slipped my memory that he had also mentioned that the tunnel was actually closed to bicycles. Moreover, somehow yesterday, all my knowledge of Kanji disappeared from my brain and I did not notice what must have been tons of warning signs to not enter the tunnel by bike. I still do not understand how this could happen, to me least of all.

Anyhow, unlike Tom, I was quickly spotted on security cameras as I took photos on the entrance and then entered the tunnel, and a patrol car stopped me one third into the almost 7 kilometer long tunnel.

After much apologizing for my complete ignorance on my side, they offered to let me ride behind their car out of the tunnel. Great, I said - until they pointed into the direction I had just come from... I pleaded that this was just impossible for me - I would not be able to get home, having ridden over so many mountains and 150km in total and it was already around 3pm (I spent some time in Chichibu doing work calls).

This worked wonders and they opened the evacuation tunnel for me, asking me to cycle through it to the Yamanashi end of the tunnel - which I gladly did.

It was a fun experience, and it is sad that it can't be repeated so easily again. They said I was the first to ever do this - and I did not say I was at least the second - but you can be sure they will become even more vigilant from now on, putting up signs in English or sign language rather just in Kanji (which I told them was something they needed to fix).

As I had an evening appointment, it was too late to add another pass, so I returned home by train from Enzan.

TOM said...

Haha!! They must have put up all those signs and security cameras after the gate guards watched me emerge on the Yamanashi side earlier this year. I will never forget that ride...what a pity it can no longer be replicated...or can it still??

Michael, adored your pic of Arima-toge!! This is art!!