19 October 2014

255 kms on a spectacular day -- Akiyama, Kawaguchiko, Ashigara

Mt. Fuji .. hidden when we were there at Noon, but visible now that we have made it back to Nakai/Hiratsuka.
About 50 riders joined the Nishi Tokyo 200 brevet on Saturday.  Originally scheduled for March but postponed due to snow on the passes, the weather was spectacular this time.

The morning was cool and chilly as I headed out to the start in Machida, just warm enough so that I left my arm warmers and full fingered gloves packed away in my saddle bag.  The Brevet route quickly headed into the mountains to the west, so that we were at Mt. Fuji Kawaguchiko area by mid-day.  It was still cool, the elevation and mountain climate offsetting the mid-day sun.  Even on the big descent from Kagosaka Pass (1130m elev) through Subashiri (800m elev) and down, down, down to Ashigara Station (370m elev), it was warm enough for me to not bother with arm warmers, cap.  By the time the sun set we were back in the sprawl of Kanagawa -- around Hiratsuka -- so there was only a modest evening chill.

We started near the Konno Seisakusho / Cherubim shop, and headed out through Sagamihara.  (Indeed, I saw at least 3 or 4 Cherubim handmade custom bikes among this group -- each one beautifully maintained and spotless).  I rode some at the start with a group that included Kojima-san, whom I met, but have not seen since, 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris when we struggled together to get back toward Lodeac on the return leg, both near sleep in the dark on the bikes.  He slept at Lodeac and I continued on--a mistake on my part.  He looked somehow different on a beautiful morning in October 2014.  Different clothes, helmet (no light) and vest.  Different eyeglasses, maybe?  But helpfully his vest had the lettering "Kojima" on the back, so that was a tip-off!

Anyway, I did not want to ride with the group through all the traffic signals of Sagamihara.  It is so much effort to start and stop repeatedly with a group of 6~8 persons.  So I worked hard to get off the front and get at least one signal between myself and the group.  That worked well and I was able to time my solo ride to catch more of the signals until out in the countryside.  Of course, most of these folks passed me on the first, or second hills.
Along Route 35 as we head through Akiyama toward Tsuru
Once past Lake Tsukui the route was spectacular, if familiar, for about 30 kms.  We took Rte 517 then Rte 35 through Magino and Akiyama and over Suzugane Pass (tunnel) to Tsuru.  This route goes through hilly countryside, up and down repeatedly, and eventually up to the tunnel at just under 700 meters elevation, then down past the Maglev test track station and to Tsuru.  Everything looking great with blue sky, cool air, persimmons ready to pick, tidy houses -- both traditional farms and modern, even a few contemporary homes.  There was clear running water over rocks in streams and rivers.  And almost no traffic.

Some of us stopped on the road to Suzugane at Hamazawa village in Akiyama to get (and consume) freshly cooked, piping hot manju, filled with sweet red beans.  I have heard about this for at least 6-7 years, from MOB and numerous others ... but had never actually experienced its wonders until Saturday.  You could see the wood-burning stove, flames bright and several little old ladies in their white baking clothes working away.  The seasonal flowers in front of the shop were glorious, and when I mentioned them to the woman serving customers, she told me they had been changed only yesterday.  Fall has arrived!
At the famous manju shop on Route 35

Fresh local autumn flowers next to the wood-fired oven room.
A small shrine just of Route 35 on the climb to Suzugane Pass
After a check point at a Tsuru 7-11, we slogged up Route 139 to Fuji Yoshida / Kawaguchiko area.  I hate this road, but must say that on Saturday morning the traffic was manageable, and with the perfect temperatures I did not suffer as much as usual.  I did not to stop and get some sunscreen, given the total lack of shade and the sun getting higher in the sky.
A temple just off the road as we near Kawaguchi-ko
Kawaguchiko was spectacular, as we stopped at O-ishi on the (scenic and less crowded) north shore for a checkpoint and view. Mt. Fuji was obscured in clouds, other than the lower slopes, but it was still a beautiful scene.   We next passed through the incredible congestion of Routes 139/138 through Fuji Yoshida and up the slope to Yamanaka-ko.  This hill is less than 150 meters over almost 5 kms, so only around 3-4%, but with heavy traffic, lines of cars creeping along and exhaust fumes, much of it is unpleasant.  The route left the main road (Route 138) and was quite pleasant through the areas of second homes and company facilities SW of Yamanakako, then climbed up to Kagosaka Pass.
Cosmos at Kawaguchi-ko
The park at Oo-ishi ("Big Rock"), on the North Shore of Kawaguchi ko.
I faded on the steep parts of the short climb from Yamanakako to Kagosaka Pass, and could barely turn over the pedals.  I started to think it had not been such a good idea to get to bed very late Friday night, up very early (only 3 hours sleep), and then to ride hard an extra 28 kms from my home to the start of the brevet instead of going by train.  Two American riders, David and Aaron, caught me near the top of this climb.  They would have left me far behind, but we soon reached the top.  The next leg, 20 kms of downhill to Ashigara Station, offered a good chance to recover on the bike, making excellent time with minimal effort.  And once we got off of route 138, the road (local route 150) was excellent -- low traffic volume, few signals and a long steady downhill.

The next checkpoint was at Hashimoto, a small grocery store within 100 meters of Ashigara Station.  The proprietors had several road bike racks out front (the kind where you hang the front of your saddle over a bar, rear tire off the ground) and some spare chainrings hanging in the window -- clear signs that cyclists are welcome.  In addition to the usual fare, I got some cucumbers.  When I asked at the register if they had some salt or miso for dipping, they quickly brought some as "service" (no charge).  They looked happy that I was very happy at this -- just the kind of experience that makes me want to come back again next time I am anywhere near Ashigara on my bike.

We climbed Route 78 to Ashigara Pass -- almost 400 meters of elevation gain, including some quite steep stretches.  It was a hard climb after many hours of riding.  Then it was part way down the even steeper SE side ... then another short but painful 60-70 meter climb up a side road to the barbeque area at 夕日の滝 (Yuu-hi no Taki -- maybe "twilight falls"?)  This was a delightful stop, manned by Nishi Tokyo and Kanagawa Audax staff serving charcoal grilled hot dogs, whole fish and yakitori (though only chicken skin -- a type of yakitori not favored by foreigners).  One of the leaders of Kanagawa Audax was supervising the bike parking area, and I asked him why there were so many Kanagawa Audax jerseyed staff on this Nishi Tokyo Brevet.  He said that both Nishi Tokyo and Aoba Randonneurs are Kanagawa Audax "spin offs".  This I had heard long ago, but it seems they still maintain close links and work together.
Maya Ide, volunteering at the Yuu-hi no Taki stop, talks with a rider.  She told me she did the Merselo-Verona 1200 this summer and was raving about riding the Arlsbergpass, then Reschenpass and into Italy via the Sud Tirol (Naturns, Bolzano)!  Some of the most beautiful summer cycling territory on the planet!
At the Yuu-hi no Taki rest stop.  The two riders on the left rode as a pair the entire ride.  They both have beautiful Cherubim bikes!  David and Aaron (right rear) also rode together, one or the other going ahead on climbs.  And the rider in the orange vest is, yes, wearing blue jeans.  He did the entire ride on a mountain bike with massive tubes, fat tires and, yes, in jeans, in about the same time as I did on and in, ostensibly, more appropriate gear.

Anyway, the rest of the descent from Ashigara was less technical, allowing very high speeds.  After some zigs and zags, and long lines of cars, we took Kanagawa Route 77 the rest of the way past Nakai and Hadano to Hiratsuka.
On the fast mid/lower part of the descent from Ashigara Pass
There was plenty of up and down on Route 77, but the traffic was not so bad until we emerged at Hiratsuka.  From there to the finish, it seemed like every signal we passed slowly by long lines of cars.  Urban sprawl and weekend congestion along Kanagawa Route 63, lasting even after dark and into the dinner hour.

My Garmin battery died somewhere in Atsugi along this sprawl of Route 63.  My chain also jammed under the chain-catcher as I tried to get back on the bike.  I hailed another rider -- the very Nishi Tokyo audax staff member who had done my bike inspection, Yamada-san (who was riding a Centurion frame and wearing a Team Telecom German national champion jersey, and said he lives in Machida.)  He helped with light as I managed to remount the chain, and I followed him most of the way to the goal so I could ride without fumbling with a cue sheet in the dark.  Thank you, Yamada-san.
Beautiful custom Cherubim bike with Rohloff rear hub, front dynamo hub (in matching red), and classic cloth/leather bags.  Leather bar tape, of course, and full fenders.  This rider did the Ise 1000 ride ... started and finished earlier than me, but I recognized photos of the bike!  Pedals for normal shoes!?

It was a glorious day for a ride, and even if the route included some stretches I would rather avoid, there were many other stretches that I love, and Ashigara Pass I climbed for the first time.  So all in all a very nice 200km Brevet.
Home to Start
Start to Atsugi ... where GPS battery died
Goal to home


Manfred von Holstein said...

Nice one! So the Edge 800 keeps the recording up to the point when the battery shuts down? The Edge 700 is not able to keep anything when the battery goes... Sounds like some progress that Garmin has made!

BTW, I had a nice Fuji view almost all day - from the second and third highest mountains in Japan, i.e. above the clouds :)

David Litt said...

Manfred: When the battery goes on the Edge 800, the device freezes completely. If you add some charge back and turn it on, the touch screen does not work and you cannot record further or access without a full reset/factory restore. BUT, this time I just put the device away, recharged it, and somehow managed to extract the data to my computer BEFORE attempting a reset. Still a failing grade for Garmin.

Richard said...

Sorry to hear about the Garmin woes. I've got one of these on order:


I'll be using it with an SP dynamo hub, and use inline connectors on the cables so I can easily add it to the mix when needed.

The revolution doesn't have a cache battery, but I read in a review that Garmins don't like it when you stop cycling when drawing power through a box like this without a battery cache. It beeps and throws up an error message. So when using it to charge my Garmin I'll include a small cache battery in the chain.