29 December 2016

No Festive 500 - Festive 2017!

This year for the first time in quite awhile I am not joining the Rapha "Festive 500" challenge.

Of course, as always the timing (December 24 to 31) does not match Japanese New Year vacation, which usually starts on December 29 or so and goes until January 4 or 5, details depending on the calendar.  Rapha really needs a Japanese version of this, an "oshogatsu (New Year's) challenge".

More important, my sons are visiting Tokyo from the U.S. this week, and so it is not the most convenient time to disappear onto the bicycle.  Instead, we went (without bicycle) to Nagano for two days, and even drove part of the Venus Line (around Kirigamine, up above 1700 meters elevation) with a light snow pack on the road. Most of the places we went by car the two days I knew well from traveling by bicycle at a different time of year.
Nagano welcomed us!
From Kirigamine - was here during SR600 Fuji by bicycle during warmer weather.

Shirakaba-ko  ... usually come here by bicycle
Hot spring hot water at one of the Suwa Taisha shrines

And unlike last year, when I took a monumental ride on December 31 to get in over 500kms for the week, this year I really need to rest on December 31.

Why?  I signed up for the first brevet of 2017, which will be held from that Midnight on New Year's Eve (12:01AM, or maybe 12:00AM and a few seconds on January 1, 2017.

This is a 200 km event sponsored by Tamagawa Audax, with a start at Futako Tamagawa, within a few kms of my house.  We will ride SW through Kanagawa, get to the coast around Ninomiya/Oiso area, then loop counter-clockwise along the Shonan coast and Miura Peninsula.  If all goes well I should see the first sun rise from the coast line, and finish my first brevet of 2017 on the morning of January 1.

Unless there are events scheduled in Australia or New Zealand, the first finisher of this Tamagawa event might be the first finisher of ANY Audax ride in the world for 2017.  There really ought to be a special prize for that -- there seems to be for just about everything else in Audax.
Anyway, just because I am not joining the Festive 500 does not mean I am not riding at all this week. I did get out on Saturday with the Tokyo Cranks, go for Yomiuri-land loops Sunday and Monday, as well as a ride this morning (67 kms) out the Tamagawa, then Onekan/Tank Road and back, and hope I will be able to do another morning ride tomorrow. The weather has been dry most days at least.  So maybe I can end up with a Festive 300 and a good start to 2017? 
Santa Claus garb? Worn on 12/24 and 12/25
Tamagawa on 12/29

Solar project at end of the Tank Road on 12/29

11 December 2016

Tsuru Tsuru Onsen

Jerome and I planned a ride for Saturday. It seemed our last chance to get in a ride together thisyear. We planned a 730AM start so we could get in some serious hills!
Well, we ended up with an 830AM start -- and a good thing to as I had work left over from Friday to finish.
On the way from the Tamagawa toward Itsukaichi, we took the path along the Akigawa. But this time we stayed off the main road longer than usual, and found that we could go under the Ken-O-do and join Mutsuhashi Dori further west than we usually do, much closer to where the traffic lightens up.  Here (except we got off course on the return and ended up back at Mutsuhashi Dori once):
Avoiding Route 7 - Mutsuhashi Dori
We sometimes go along the Akigawa here, but the ability to easily connect up with the main road AFTER Ken-O-Do makes a difference. We will take this route more frequently in the future, despite the very rough surfaces at places along the Akigawa.
A beautiful late Fall day on the lower Akigawa!
We were both sluggish and made our way finally to Itsukaichi, where we had planned to decide whether to ride the "reverse Paul Jason" tough Kobu Tunnel, or do a closer loop over Iriyama Pass and, perhaps, Wada.
As I went inside and got some food and used the bathroom, Jerome lay down and dozed. My stomach was feeling heavy (okay, I seem to have picked up a kg or two, in recent months). Neither of us were enthusiastic about a longer ride.
Jerome had a brilliant suggestion -- a trip to Tsuru Tsuru Onsen, about as close and nice a destination as we could think of, and we both really wanted to soak in a tub and rest. We recalled the first time we tried the SR600 Fuji and stopped at a very local onsen in Yudanaka after descending from Shibu Pass. Soaking in the hot water pretty much wiped me out and ended my SR600 attempt!
The famous Tsuru Tsuru Onsen, a day spa and popular destination for hikers
Likewise this time, after a decent bath it was time to rest, then I felt like rolling downhill and downriver and home again. By the time we left Tsuru Tsuru Onsen, around 2PM, the sun was already noticeably low over the hills.
A few hundred meters down the hill, we popped into a bike shop we had noticed on the climb! What was a bike shop doing here, all the way up a valley with almost no through traffic (sure, a few cyclists, but I could think of 100 better spots to serve weekend cyclists).  Anyway, it was a roadbike shop called RIN, and the owner/manager was there.  He asked if we were from the Yokota Airbase.  Actually, he said it in Japanese more like "so you must be from the Yokota base".
It seems like a De Rosa/Campy specialty place, another semi-retired Japanese salaryman who decided to set up a shop.  Awfully lonely.  Jerome asked to borrow a floor pump. He was charged 50 yen.  Jerome bought a bell.  There were a few nice bikes in there, one in particular that looked interesting, and I asked if I could take a picture.  He said "no".  He was worried about the photos might lead to bike thieves.
Anyway, I wish him the best of luck. I will not be among his customers, absent emergency.
115 kms in all.  Short for P.E., but a decent trip.