01 November 2010

What's So Funny about Dark, Fog and Rain?

This was a difficult weekend to plan a ride in the Tokyo area.  On Thursday, it looked as if Friday overnight into Saturday early afternoon would be dry, with Typhoon 14 passing off the coast late Saturday into Sunday.  I talked with a colleague about a REALLY early start (5AM?) Saturday to get in a good ride, work permitting.  By Friday, the typhoon's approach had accelerated, with rain to start Saturday morning and landfall possible in Kanagawa/Chiba -- no point trying to beat the rain.

On Saturday morning we got bands of heavy rain and typhoon-like low thick clouds, ahead of the storm, and the predictions were for strong winds and rain -- real typhoon conditions -- in early evening.  I watched the storm from my office, during a lengthy mid-day conference call.

Many people (my wife included) canceled their evening plans.  But not Jerome.  He had arranged a dinner, with Nishibe-san and me, and Senju-san, their friend and Beeren teammate from Kobe, who recently moved to Tokyo for work-related reasons.  The four of us met at Yotsuya San-chome station and wandered the back alleys of Araki-cho, finally locating Tsuruya Vino, the wine bar run by Jerome's long-time friend Serge.  Like Nishibe-san, Senju-san does not only ride, but also runs, and swims.  He is a very strong tri-athlete, and is already commuting by bicycle from Ichikawa, Chiba to his workplace in Tokyo (Odaiba).

After a delicious, very reasonably price meal and numerous glasses of French sparkling, white and red wines, talk turned to the possibility of a Sunday ride. The typhoon had passsed -- another "near miss" as Tokyo escaped with only a few umbrellas turned inside out.  Earlier Saturday afternoon, the forecast had suggested a spell of good weather to follow, even sunny on Sunday until the next weather front would arrive Sunday night.  But a quick check of mobile devices during dinner suggested the break in storms would be very brief, with rain possible any time after Noon on Sunday.  Hmmmm.  How would we ever get in a good, dry ride this weekend?

Inspired by the food and wine, Jerome and I thought, "NIGHT RIDE!"  "If we leave at 1AM, we can ride over Matsuhime or Yanagisawa, ride in dry conditions, return by mid/late morning and sleep at home in a warm, comfortable bed, before the rain starts.  We each had taken a liking to the Brevet night-time stages, and had the necessary equipment.  So why not?  We each were well-enough rested to try this, and we would enjoy the ride, without traffic or interruption, and have the pleasure of a hot bath and a deep sleep, total physical exhaustion, to await us at home in the morning.

Jerome rolled up to my house a few minutes before 1AM.  Max, our poodle, demonstrated his worth as a watch dog, barking as if on queue as Jerome approached, while I completed my preparations.

Glows in the dark ... making pictures/contrast difficult!
We made good time to Oume, stopping at 2:45AM at a 7-11 a few kilometers west of Oume Station -- no point in trying Aurore at this hour.  Jerome tried to rest in front of the convenience store, but I urged him to continue, as I was getting cold while waiting.  There was a chill in the air now, a real change from the shorts/short sleeves weather at our start.  Worse, I realized that I had brought two pairs of arm warmers and no leg warmers.  Fortunately, one pair was big enough fit over my legs and double as "knee warmers", leaving only an inch or two gap at the bottom of my shorts.
Next stop was Watanabe-san's cafeteria at the west end of Okutama-ko.  Here we confirmed our plan for an ascent of Matsuhime Pass. Of course, the cafeteria was closed at 4:45AM.  Our only company were some young hot rodders, whose 3-4 cars were parked on the bridge to the road up to Kazahari -- it seems the signs warning of highway closing on that road until 9AM after a heavy rain -- were accurate.  The gate across the bridge was locked.
That really was a very filling dinner!

"We are here."

We continued on Rte 139, toward Kosuge-mura and Matsuhime.  The air got colder, and a misty rain started.  I stopped in the light of some vending machines to put on my glove liners to cover my fingers in the cold.  At least 3 dogs in the nearby house started to bark, so I moved on quickly.

As we approached Kosuge, we saw many signs for "Kosuge no Yu" onsen.  It looked like a day hot spring bath (hi-gaeri onsen), and we thought "what if it opens early, for the locals?"  If it opened at 6 or 7AM, it would be worth killing some time to get a hot bath.  A slight detour up a side hill brought us to the entrance of an impressive facility, in the middle of nowhere.  The only visible signs listed the CLOSING time ("last entry into facility, 5:45PM", "building closes, 7:00PM").  Nothing about opening time.  We rested on benches under a trellis and grapevines near the entrance -- a good cover ... unless the rain really picked up, as it did at times.  The survival sheets helped and we actually got 30 minutes or so of partial rest -- enough to revitalize me for the climb and plenty of time to take some photos of the scene.

Finally, around 6:20AM, a neighbor came by walking his dog.  We asked him what time the onsen opened.  "10AM."  We quickly packed up and headed for Matsuhime.

As usual, Jerome climbed a bit ahead of me, but I kept close to him, my body telling me it was morning now.  The mist and rain grew thicker as we climbed.  Jerome pulled off to have a snack at the 1000 meter level -- bonking from lack of food.  I kept going and was pleased that the climb seemed easy, easier than I remembered.  I was not sitting in my lowest (34-27) gear, but most of the way had a gear to spare, or 3-4 to spare when out of the saddle, a bit of extra motivation as I looked back to see if Jerome was visible behind me.

As I rounded one corner in the dark, I came across a deer about 30 meters up the road.  Not just any deer, but a big, noble looking buck, with what seemed like huge antlers, longer than my arms, and dark brown, heavy wet coat of fur.  He was more startled than I, and took off, his hooves clattering as he went further around the corner.  By the time I could get up the road and see the next stretch, he was gone, I assume down into the trees on the hillside below.  I thought, I might be the first person -- on bicycle or in car -- to come up the North side of Matsuhime today.

On top, as I waited for Jerome, I was joined by one car that came up the South side and parked, a man getting out and heading out on a walk or hike.  Otherwise, all was quiet, no view in the clouds, as I waited for Jerome to emerge from the mist.

That pass on the right shoulder of the next mountain is O-Toge.

Here comes the refueled Jerome!

The rain picked up and I started to get really cold as we started down the South side, going very slowly because of the wet, leaf covered surface.  But eventually we made it to the wider, clear road, the tunnels and reservoirs and picked up the pace, getting a chance to show Jerome how my nice new HED wheels can slice through the air, given a straight-away and downward slope.

After a stop along Route 20 to refuel, a nice fast ride back in toward town, zooming on the many flat and slight downward stretches), and a quick breakfast at the "Gust" at Sagami-ko, just below the Sagami-ko train station (the "Jonathan's" has closed since a group of us sought shelter there back in 2008), we parted.  I hopped the train home, ready to rest after 150 kms of night riding (and managed to doze off, if briefly, on each stretch of the train ride: Sagamiko-Takao, Takao-Tachikawa, Tachikawa-Musashi Mizunoguchi, and even Mizunoguchi-Kaminoge).  Jerome continued home by bike as is his tradition -- passing Tom and his daughter as they climbed Otarumi on their morning ride in the "mizzling" rain.
Mission Accomplished.  Really!
I slept very soundly Sunday afternoon, evening and night.


TOM said...

Almost too insane! Takes a lot of guts and willpower to start a ride so shortly after midnight and a typhoon near-miss.

Great "moody" pictures!!!

Jimmy Shinagawa said...

Either too much wine with dinner, or not nearly enough.

Manfred von Holstein said...

Very impressive and yet another "only David and Jerome can do"!

We all got short-changed by the weather forecast this weekend. I followed the forecast which had sunshine for most of Sunday, and ended up in drizzle and light rain in the mountains. More here:


mob said...

Probably insane, but in the best Positivo Espresso tradition. Interesting to note how individual preferences develop once all of us have gone past the stage where we need a full day to scale Tomin no Mori.

David L. said...

As I rode into the office today -- a clear, bright and not-too-cold autumn day, and a public holiday, wasted from the cyclist's perspective as a result of work -- I could at least look back at the insane weekend ride.

Of course, a little insanity was good on Halloween morning -- Halloween night would have been better than Halloween morning, and a Halloween party would have been better yet, but Sunday night was not an option.

We had just the right amount of wine with dinner -- enough to make the idea of the ride seem plausible, but not so much that it made the implementation impossible.

And I will always remember that buck, the "Stag of Matsuhime".