|The quiet countryside? Lines of cars in both directions.|
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.|
|Going under the expressway Sunday morning.|
|Almost no traffic to Shimonita, after getting past the expressway entrance route ...|
|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.|
|Still hydrangea in bloom on the north side of Yamabushi.|
|Flowering trees north of chichibu.|