zaterdag 29 augustus 2009

Vulgar route?

Assembled with the VLAAMS boys on top of Koremasa Bridge at 6:15. There were only 4 of us this morning. As usual, we held our little conference to decide on the day’s route. My appetite wetted by Michael and Laurent’s ride earlier this week and especially by that magical mystery photo Michael took at the peak, I proposed a climb of Arima-toge. My mates looked at me horror-struck… “You really want to ride that “gehin-na” (vulgar/coarse) road?” “Why not? One can cycle over it all the way down to Chichibu!”

I couldn’t convince any of my buddies and so we stayed together only until Itsukaichi where we parted. As always, the ride on the flats to Itsukaichi was extremely fast and I was relieved that I could continue the rest of the day’s ride at my own slower pace. At the trout-fishing venue, I completely forgot about the old Positivo Espresso adage and made the wrong turn to the left! The road was steep and at one spot barricaded; I joined some off-road motorcycles and crossed the gate together. Higher up, the road got slimy with plenty of rocks until I hit a dirt road. One of the bikers confirmed that the remaining part was a graveled path. Double back!

This time, I stayed on the right path, a very pleasant and not too steep climb with lots of bends constantly climbing…I felt like one of the protagonists in Takachiho’s Hill Climber novel…無になる、無我の境地に達するsomething like attaining a state of self-effacement but for me this is simply being able to empty my head, getting rid of all daily worries - the smaller and the bigger ones! Reaching this quasi-ecstatic state of mind is what I love so much about climbing hills these days; before it was more this sense of accomplishment that I was craving for.

I had left my magic wand under my mattress at home but nevertheless, Arima-toge commanded a fine view of the lake and dam and the Naguri area below. The downhill towards Chichibu was medium-fast, I was warned to be careful and watch out for those metal grills and indeed, I did cross one with a 15cm-wide gap…murderous!

In Chichibu, I visited my preferred Fudasho No. 4, Kinshoji but unfortunately the little bakery was closed for the Summer (until Sep 12). I filled up my bottles and proceeded to the Green Line starting with Sadamine all the way to Ka(o)buri-toge. When I hit 299, I turned right as I was still hungry for some more good climbing. I easily found the entrance point to Nenogongen (the last 100 meters or so are crazy!) from where I immediately dipped down towards Takedera; yes, a repeat of my last ride along the “Haraitibanaguri-sen”! A helicopter was operating above lifting up tree trunks for the local lumberyard…

I got home around 4:30 with exactly 201km on the meter. A typhoon is approaching and rain predicted for tomorrow…so glad I got to ride some great-quality miles today!

maandag 24 augustus 2009


Brand-new rindo discovered ! Called "Haraichiba-Naguri-sen Rindo" 原市場名栗線林道 connecting Naguri on the Nariki-kaido (53) to Hanno-shi. To climb this marvelous little forestry road, turn right at Asaokaya Shoten 浅岡屋商店 on Nariki-kaido. Thanks to the old lady living in the house on the corner, I discovered a jewel of course. She was just about to re-enter the house after a brief rain shower passed when I greeted her asking "where does this road lead to?"..."All the way up to Takedera," she replied staring at my bike as if to say, no way you can get up there on a bicycle!

In less than one minute I found myself on a completely deserted but well-maintained mountain path; what a difference with over-crowded Yabitsu yesterday. The path goes up quite steeply and looking behind me, I recognized the whitish and kitschy Kannon-sama and other religious edifices usually seen from the bottom of Nariki-kaido en route to Yamabushi-toge. After about 20 minutes of climbing, the path gradually turned into a ridge with plenty of short ups and downs...marvelous!

At one point, I found myself swearing in come I've never been here before...breathtaking 180-degree mountain views and not a soul around! A bit further as the road was tilting upwards again, some species of pit viper -red-checkered towards the head (probably not a mamushi) - crossed the road in front of me. The sky above changed dramatically; some stretches were still wet and cool from a toori-ame that must have passed through very recent. Soon there were more little downhills than uphills until I hit Rd. 350.

Instead of continuing to Hanno-shi, I decided to pay a brief visit to Takedera turning left. The road here (Hachioji-sen, 八王寺線林道)was much wider but also much steeper! Takedera was just around the I was greeted by bronze (and wooden) sculptures of what appeared to be an extremely fierce Viking (or is it a 錘馗様 Shouki-sama??)... a quick google and I learned this is the one-and-only GOZUTENNOU 牛頭天王 (or, GOZU-MYOU-OU牛頭明王), some ancient Shinto god with roots back in India! Right next to this dreadful Ox-headed Deva King and guardian god against pestilence, graceful golden-rayed lilies were in full bloom...yamayuri were adorning the whole area of Hanno-shi and surroundings. The bamboo forest within the premises of Takedera was radiant with delicate shades of green.

I was riding "unplugged" today, no GPS just the i-gatU in back pocket. Eventually I hit the Irumakawa-river followed by the Sayama tea plantations, familiar VLAAMS Asa-ren (V練)parcourse! What a beautiful summer day this was...I ought to do these solo rides more often!

zondag 23 augustus 2009

Crowded Yabitsu

Laurent and I rode up Yabitsu this morning, two days in a row for me but quite a difference in the amount of traffic coming down and up Yabitsu. Whenever cars were crossing there was a brief hold-up. We first rode over Odarumi-toge and Makime-toge at a steady pace. On the flats I had some difficulty staying in Laurent's wheel, my legs still feeling fatigued from yesterday's TCC "Threepeaks" and could barely keep the speed at 30km/h. We parted on top of Yabitsu, Laurent descending direction Hadano and me double-backing direction Tsukui-ko. Halfway, I crossed a bright orange Positivo Espresso guy...Michael? I called Michael's name but it was in fact James with his 2 mates following right behind. Positivo Espresso is really starting to dominate the Kanto mountains!

zaterdag 22 augustus 2009

Threepeaks Brilliant Insanity

Insanity, brilliant insanity...couldn't find better words than those coined by Sergey of TCC to describe today's ride covering three major peaks...Yabitsu (warm-up), Ashigara and Mikuni followed by a superfast downhill run along Doshi back to today's RdV at Hashimoto Station. Complete i-gatU map is here.