18 March 2010

Tunnels, Ice and Snow

A little bit late perhaps, but I don't like to miss the chance to report about the ride of the splinter group on Saturday after saying Sayonara at the Doshi-Michi / Yabitsu Entry. Ice and snow will play an important role so as fallen trees.Well, while Jerome, James and Dominic were happily chatting and riding in direction Yabitsu, our social ride came to a sudden end when Ludwig, Fumiki and me continued on Doshi-Michi in direction Yamanakako. As usual Ludwig picked up the pace and Fumiki could easily follow him, while I was taking a more "legere" approach. Sometimes Ludwig stopped along the roadside to stretch his back or do the opposite with his bladder and so I could close up again.All around us was snow and there was a lot of water on the road, sometimes flowing downwards on the slopes which we were riding up, giving us the impression that we were very fast if compared to the asphalt surface.But soon we had climbed up to Yamabushi Toge, the last pass before Yamanako lake and then descended on the other side. Meanwhile the accumulated water on the road and the additional spray we have received from passing trucks and cars had completely soaked our socks, legs and behind with water. That felt pretty miserable but as hardcore cyclists our codex didn't allow us to show our feelings completely, so we continued in direction Kawaguchi Lake and Saiko.Saiko was very silent unlike the JCRC racing day in November when I usually go there. As this might have been the last time to see the lake, I went to our favourite hang-out at Cafe M and said good-bye to the owner. We then continued to the next smaller Fuji lake (I forgot the name) and then took road 706 to the North in direction Kofu. This leads to a long tunnel first and the approach to that was looking like the swamps of Louisiana. And then we had a classic Ludwig comment which I would like to preserve for the blog readers:

Ludwig : "These are the worse road conditions here"
Me (assuming that Ludwig knows the roads ahead) : "It will not get worse up there?"
Ludwig: "No idea, these are the worse road conditions SO FAR."

I can imagine the spin-off of these words for future club-rides. Imagine riding over Otarumi to Kobu Tunnel, Kazahari, Matsuhime, Dozaka and Yamabushi to Yamanakako while stating on the top of Otarumi:

Experienced PE rider: "This is the worse climb."
Newcomer (thinking): "Oh great, the worse is over."
Experienced PE rider: "Well,so far"
Newcomer (thinking): "..sigh..."

Of course it wasn't by far the worse to come, but before we come to that we experienced a beautiful downhill ride from the tunnel at elevation 900 to elevation 400: Wide, curvy roads, nice slopes, not too much traffic allowed us to ride in the most enjoyable 40 - 60 km/hr bracket.

Then we stopped and discussed whether it would make sense to continue on road 358 through the long tunnel to Kofu or climb up on old road 113 (in use before the construction of the tunnel) to 右左口峠 (Right-left-entry pass). Of course I opted for the Right-left-entry-pass as I was eager to add more passes to my list and I desperately wanted to paste some Positivo Espresso stickers on the top.

So we rode back the road a little bit, then entered road 113 and were immediately greeted by a barrier to discourage normal human beings. Behind the barrier were some fallen trees on the road.
Again, this might be discouraging to normal riders but for me it is like that there is the ghost of the road standing next to the barrier with a megaphone in his hand shouting "Ride me, ride me". Or "Roads shouting: ride me ride me" (RSRMRM) in reference to a long forgotten Japanese punk rock group : Seagulls shouting: kiss her, kiss her" (SSKHKH).

I could convince Ludwig and Fumiki that these trees had not fallen down there by chance, but that they have been intentionally placed there by the locals to discourage powerful cyclist such us as. So I crossed over and was greeted by another barrier of trees (perhaps not intentionally placed) and then by another and finally the asphalt surface ended and then a small gravel path was all that was left.
I was some 20 meters ahead as I was scouting for the way when Ludwig and Fumiki tried to convince me to give up. But I didn't budged so they rode back to the tunnel while I moved along. Meanwhile I still had 190 meter elevation to climb and the surface was now made of snow and ice and landslides. So I couldn't ride up but needed to walk most of the time. A terrible thought stroke me: "What, if this isn't the road up to right-left-entry-pass?" Because I had fully relied on Ludwigs guidance, we haven't seen any signboards at all. And while I was sneaking up through the snow, already with a pretty empty stomach I wondered if this was really a good idea.

In the end I made it up to the top (naturally, who else would write this stupid post?) and there was the signboard indicating that this would be right-left-entry-pass indeed.
I made some photos and then I realized that I had just climbed up from the village 上九一色、the famous hideout of the Aum-Shinrikyo sect who launched the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. In this place they established their secret gas-factory which, if I remember correctly, was called DAI-7-SATIAN (Meditation place number 7). When working for Schindler, we used to call our headoffice DAI-8-SATIAN all the time in reference. Well, that was close and despite standing freezing with wet socks and trousers plus empty stomach on top of a lonely hill in the middle of nowhere I was glad to have escaped such sinister place.

Now going down, would be a breeze I thought. Well, it is not easy to ride through the snow. In particular if you are going down and the snow and dirt clogs the brakes so even if you pull the levers fully to the handle the braking effect is virtually none. Well, I know know there is a reason for v-brakes on MTBs.
I ignored that however most of the time and before long I had a flat tire and when I checked more closely I also had lost a spoke somewhere (no idea where).
So in view of the road conditions I decided not to repair the tube as I had only one exchange tube, but walk down until I meet a decent road and then exchange the tube. This was again an endless walk through ice and snow. Sometimes footprints were on the trail, but as bears do not wear sneakers, I assume that they were made by human beings.

Finally I found the road, repaired the tube and rode for about a kilometer before finding a 7-Eleven and filling up with food and drinks. Ludwig and Fumiki have long arrived at the station in Kofu and were on their way home. They were so kind to call me from the station. After a seemingly long and boring ride free of obstacles through Kofu (I was by now so used to fallen trees and gravel road that a ride on a straight and flat four lane semi-highway seeming extremely boring) I finally arrived 2 hours later than them and took the express train home as well.

It was a very adventurous trip and I am happy to report that I have survived. Please don't tell my family about it and my apologies to Ludwig and Fumiki for my stupid insistence to go up that road.

Of course on the following Wednesday I made something similar stupid, but this will be the subject of another post.

2 comments:

TOM said...

First read the story as an email without the pics and thought...."haha! here is MOB again at his hyperbolish best"!

Now, having seen the pics, I realize there was not a touch of hyperbole for once. What a crazy ride again!

Manfred von Holstein said...

I knew it was true, but it nevertheless made my morning here on the other side of the globe, where I found myself stuck in a 6:30am morning meeting with no coffee and a topic that didn't really interest me that much. I was glad I had my BlackBerry...

As for the ride - the amounts of water were really quite crazy, and in particular the shape they left my bike in. I have never seen it so dirty!

I don't really recall the cited conversation - where it was and what I said. Maybe MOB can remind me in German and I can provide a proper translation...