There is a famous old rock ’n’ roll song, which was also performed by the Rolling Stones at the beginning of their career just before the French Revolution:
“Get your kicks / on Route 76”
Last week Thursday, on a perfect Japan winter day, Ludwig and me meet somewhere along the Tamagawa and we headed out for a new destination to be explored: The Tanzawa Lake, between Mount Fuji and Sagamiko, South of Doshimichi. The Tanzawa Lake is relatively easy accessible from Southern direction out of Gotemba, however we wanted to ride there from the North. Coincidentally the road leading there is route 76 – and that is where we wanted to get our December kicks.
We were already late due to the fact that I tried for the first time to cycle through Yokohama in the morning to the Keio Keirin track at the Tamagawa and we hurried up to reduce the distance between us and our goal. At Otarumi / Takao, Ludwig went on to try his best on the time trial and in fact he set a new record with 13:50 minutes. I was feeling not too well this day, perhaps it was a cold, perhaps still the last symptoms of a very unpleasant food poisoning, perhaps it was not my day. Perhaps Ludwig is just faster.
We then went further along route 20 until the crossing with route 76 where we turned South towards Doshimichi. Route 20 is not my favorite one, but there is little traffic on route 76, some nice dams and bridges and a lot of meaningless up and down. Finally we came to the small village of Aone, which is located at the crossing of route 76 and Doshimichi.
Our last food supply dated from the Takao 7-Eleven, the traditional purchase spot of Positivo Espresso, so we were quite in need to get something into our stomachs. There were some unattractive local supermarkets, some of them guarded by wild beasts (dogs, in fact), so we choose one of them. It is interesting to note that the things they sell in villages like Aone is quite different from the things in Tokyo. This might have to do with the fact, that people living in Aone actually cook their meals, while the busy townsfolk of Tokyo just would like to have something in their mouths – immediately. So, whereas one can buy cheese burritos and ampan donuts in Tokyo, one has to live with flour, sugar and yeast in Aone.
We sat outside of the store, away from the wild beast, and as our tradition stipulates, I took a plastic sake crate from a nearby snack to sit on. Yes, even in places like Aone, snack bars exist. Once we had a German financial manager at Schindler, first time in Japan, who went out for dinner with his wife and, because they were looking for something light, entered a snack bar. After an hour or so they left still hungry, as the only food served were peanuts und octopus on a stick, but also with much less money. Mental note: They don’t serve light snacks at snack bars in Japan. You also don’t meet Turks at the Turkish baths here.
The snacks in case of villages like Aone consist of sixty year old country maams, with about the same consistency and charm as octopus on sticks.
One of them came out of the bar, saw us sitting there and immediately started to play Enka music at extreme levels. Hey, I got my Enka vaccination a long, long time ago and I react almost neutral to this threat today.
We then went back to the supermarket to try to find out about the conditions on route 76 with the local population. The following conversation unfolded:
“Is it possible to ride on the bikes from here along route 76 to Tanzawa Lake?”
”Impossible, there is a signboard saying that traffic cannot go through.”
”Hm, but, just as an example, if one would ignore the signboard [not that WE would ever do that], would it be possible to ride through?”
”It is impossible; there is a locked gate which closes the road.”
”Hm, yes, but, just assuming there would be some crazy foreigners (不良外人) [Definitely completely different from US] and they would not care about the gate and climb over it, would it be possible to ride through?”
“Impossible, it is very far away [Note that we have traveled already 90 km to the village from Tokyo].”
So with these bits of extremely helpful information, we tried to find route 76. After ending up on Doshimichi and a dead end, we finally found a promising road leading deep into the forest. We climbed up quite a bit and then Ludwig suggested to go back, because it looked like the wrong road. So we went back, tried some more dead ends, than we rode up again as we had no better alternative. Just by chance there was a guy working there and we asked him if this would be route 76. No, it wasn’t.
“All you bikers come here and think that’s the right road, but it’s not. This is a 登山 road which ends after the next corner.”
But luckily he knew where the entry to road 76 was and he showed as the way.
„Can we go there up to Tansawa lake?” we asked.
“Well I guess so, there are some parts of gravel roads and I guess it is impossible for a car to pass there, but you should be able to go through on a bike.”
No mentioning of signboards, gates and distances.
So we rode back one more time and finally we found the entry to road 76. It was then when I made my plea: “Ludwig, it’s almost 3 PM and I am feeling miserable, let’s ride back.” Ludwig finally concluded but now, one trip later I can reveal that this was only a dirty trick. Fully knowing that Ludwig would be on a business trip the following week, I wanted then to go there on my own and claim all honor for myself, not like in case of the Mitsumine exploration some weeks ago where I had to share with Ludwig.
The rest of the trip wasn’t so interesting. We went back Doshimichi, then crossed to road 64 to Miyagaseko where we had a short break and then we took the fast road down to Hon Atsugi, where we hopped the train back to Tokyo or Yokohama respectively. Actually the way home from these rides is now much shorter compared to ride back to Tokyo.
So on Thursday this week I tried again. I slept too long. Then, just when I was ready to leave, I got a phone call which required some urgent actions. Finally I was out of the house at 10 AM. Now I fairly well know the road to the Tamagawa and I made good progress. Within almost an hour I was a Sekidobashi (compared to 45 minutes from home, or one hour 10 if I meet with others at David’s house first). In a break from tradition which was required due to the late time, I didn’t stop at the Takao 7-Eleven, flew up Otarumi (not that I was fast, but I was feeling much better than one week ago) and made the first break of the day after 2:30 hrs at the 7-Eleven just outside Sagamiko on route 20.
Then I proceed the same way as the week before to Aone, 76 still being a beautiful road.
Again no break as I was terrible afraid of snack maams, Enkas and wild beasts. And it was late. I found the entry to route 76, the trick is to look for signboards leading to a camp ground called 神之川. The road was in good shape, flat and led to the said camp ground. This must be a beautiful place in summer, now it was a little bit deserted and an old wrecked right-wing bus was left to rot on the roadside there. I always wanted to know where these things end up.
From there onwards, the road moves up the hill slowly. Within no time one find’s oneself in deep valleys. One still can see clearly the top of the trees on the ridges, as they are only perhaps 500 meters away, but the elevation difference is easily 200 meters or more. The road is still in very good shape and leading along the river. Then there is a final river crossing and there is the gate. It’s the typical hypocritical “Traffic Closure Gate”: Tom would laugh at it, it’s easily possible to climb over it and there is even a little way around it. Just to be sure I left an empty jelly bag with my finger prints and some DNA materials on it at the gate in case I get lost.
The road is still in good shape at the beginning, but after 200 meters there is a stretch of gravel road. But only for 20 meters or so. Despite the fact that the road is not maintained, the surface is good. However there are a lot of stones and rocks on the road and one hears the sound of the rolling stones from the slopes:
“Get your kicks / on route 76.”
Actually it is more like “rumble, rumble, plick-a-block, rumble, crash, krawummmmm.” Then the first tunnels are coming. One would naturally assume that these are very rough tunnels, excavated into the hard rock with bare fists by bold and rough men a century ago, given the fact that this is such a goddamn deserted place at the edge of civilization leading from nowhere (Aone snacks) to nothing at all (Tanzawa lake grounds). Yet, this is Japan and while as a tax payer I hate the former Ministry of Construction, as a bicycle riders I can only stammer “Thank you, thank you for all these wonderful roads in the middle of nowhere.”, get down on my knees and kiss the feet of their officials. The first two tunnels where built in 1991 and 1993, both of them wide enough to accommodate Hato buses with retired MoC officials on a day trip.
Then there is another stretch of gravel road followed by some asphalt stretches. But the relation between asphalt and gravel stretches is then heavily leaning towards the later. At elevation 600 meters there was only gravel road left, I still had at least 400 meter elevation difference between me and the top of the mountain where a perhaps 2.000 m long tunnel was waiting for me and I had no idea if one could pass through or not. And it was already 14.30hr, so I decided to ride back. I am not a crazy foreigner.
Finally I took the same road back to Hon-atsugi as I did one week ago. After precisely 140 km and 6:30 hours, I was back on the train heading home. As I made almost no breaks, almost 6 hours of that was spending riding on the bike. Coming home, I had the next surprise before jumping into the bath: Less than 93 kg of body weight, a first for this year.
Which brings me at the end to three interesting questions:
First, suppose you are 60 kg of weight and you have no muscles at all. You can subsequently not move, not survive and definitely not climb hills on your bike. All of this will improve substantially with 5, 10 or 15kg of muscles. Finally you have the preconditions to become a good hill climber. But from a point onwards, the more muscles you get, the more your performance on the hill will detoriate again. Despite all the power from your muscles you are getting too heavy. Your muscles will not be able to move up all their mass up the hills. A Sumo wrestler will not become a good hill climber, neither a heavy body builder. So where is that optimal point? Or, what percentage of muscle weight on your total body weight is the optimum (not considering the all decisive factor for most of us: the weight of body fat). Anybody any idea?
The second question is, who has been up route 76 or rode at Tanzawa lake? Graham said that he ran at Tanzawa Lake, but he tried biking there? We need more information if we successfully what to conquer that road. Although I guess that should wait until next spring.
The third and last question is, what happened at Juliane’s farewell party tonight? I don’t have the answer yet, but I will let you know.