15 August 2016

Ride Back from Karuizawa

A friend recently bought a place in Karuizawa that he and his wife plan to run as a "guest house" in high season, and use for themselves and friends the rest of the year.  It is within 15 minutes' walk of the shinkansen station, so seems to have no difficulty attracting guests.  In fact, the cars were lining up nearby in Karuizawa when I arrived on Saturday afternoon.
The quiet countryside?  Lines of cars in both directions.
I rode to Tokyo Station, rinko'ed the Ti Travel bike, and was in Karuizawa before I knew it.  Then 5 minutes or less by bike from the station to the guest house.  Door-to-door just over 2 hours, despite peak summer travel.  Not bad at all.

We took a short afternoon spin through some areas on the south side of town, climbing through a quiet area of second/vacation homes to the entrance to the Myogi-Arafune forest road that I had ridden from the other end back in 2009. It was a decent climb up to the road entrance, and we were ready to loop back.

The forest road was closed in the direction we wanted to go.

 ... but we figured this would just add to our adventure.  Indeed, the road was passable 90% of the way by bike, though we needed to dismount and walk or carry our bikes a few times.

Classic Gunma mountains -- the rindo skirted the Nagano-Gunma border.
Maybe neither city or prefecture had the budget to maintain a road that included the other?

My host pointed out that we were very close to the site of the Mt. Asama corporate lodge of Kawai Musical Instruments site of a 10 day seige when Japanese Red Army members holed up with a hostage and a cache of weapons back in the early 1970s. I guess the day the police stormed the building to break the seige is a marathon live broadcast event that everyone remembers in Japan who saw it.  Anyway, the vacation home areas south of Karuizawa seem quiet.  Last time I came into town in 2009 via the forest road, they were deserted.  At least this time, the absolute peak of peak season, I could see cars in driveways and some people out gardening or strolling.
The only exposed stretch of expressway between two long tunnels, from the forest road on Saturday afternoon.
My main ride was the return trip to Tokyo on the next day, around 180 kms door-to-door.  I left at 730AM or so.  I usually go in the opposite direction -- brevets, even the SR600, leave Tokyo and pass through Karuizawa.  And there was that trip Jerome and I took in 2010 where we arrived in Karuizawa via Chichibu, Shigasaka Pass, Tano District and Shimonita.  That was 183kms and 2750 meters of elevation gain on a very hot day.
Going under the expressway Sunday morning.
I thought about doing a "reverse" of that 2010 route, since I would at least shave maybe 8-900 meters of elevation gain off by starting from the high ground.  But when I got to Shimonita and recalled that in this direction I would need to slog uphill for over 20 kms, the last 3-4k ms climbing inside a tunnel, I opted for a slightly easier route around the south side of Tomioka, with a relatively short stretch on congested Route 254.
Almost no traffic to Shimonita, after getting past the expressway entrance route ...

Central Shimonita.
Bike leaning. Close to central Shimonita.
Say "Shimonita" and most Japanese think "Konnyaku" - a kind of vegetarian gelatinous
low calorie food included in "oden" and various "nabe" dishes.
Konyaku plants without flowers -- a perennial. These fields dot the landscape around Shimonita.
180 kms and almost 1500 meters of climbing -- not bad for a "downhill" route back to Tokyo.
On Gunma Route 193 - again no vacation traffic here
My route took me through the town of Karaku.  The michi-no-eki was not yet open.
But I noted the bike racks and lots of other attractive features for a return visit.
These michi-no-eki can be very pleasant surprises.
Also in Karaku SE of Tomioka. Spacious old houses and a stream at roadside.
Jerome was planning to ride out to meet me, and he ALMOST made it to the top of Yamabushi Pass, despite a late start.  As it was, I met him on the Tokyo side of Yamabushi as he climbed through 450-475 meters elevation, and we rode the last 80 kms or so home together, arriving back on schedule a few minutes before 5PM.
Still hydrangea in bloom on the north side of Yamabushi.

Flowering trees north of chichibu.
On Sunday night, my thought was that I am not doing enough of these classic one-day 130-200km rides this year or last.  It is hard to fit them in with my current schedule AND focus on the longer 400, 600 and 1200km events that take preparation and recovery.  Maybe next year?

1 comment:

fabian said...

Great trip! Would definitely be long enough for me :-)