Tagesarchiv: 27. März 2009

To the edge of Chichibu

Ludwig and me started to explore the trail of Chichibu in autumn last year. Although Chichibu is a massive landmass, second in size and roughness only to Wales, we already felt that we have explored almost all trails in Chichibu by now. So this time we ventured out further to the edge of Chichibu.

As some of you may know, the edge of Chichibu is called Gunma and sometimes Nagano and is basically identical with the end of the world. A guy called Tanaka had built in the seventies a town behind the edge of the world which is called Niigata. This is even behind Itoigawa.

And as it can be very far to the end of the world, Ludwig and me decided to meet (relatively) early and head out directly to Chichibu city, without trying any „shortcuts“ or adding any numbers of interesting climbs.

Of course we could not pass through Ome without stopping at the Aurore bakery; a Pavlovian Reflex for every Positivo Espresso rider by now, just as the 7-eleven in Takao. I guess that if someone of us is called on the phone and the other party says: „I am standing in front of the 7-eleven …“, then before even listening further one would assume that the person is standing in front of the 7-eleven in Takao. Even if we know that the call is from Mozambique.

And of course we could not ride up Yamabushi Toge without starting a competitive time trial which Ludwig won easily. The last time I saw him on the slope was when he was pedaling with his hands and whistled „Yankee Doodle Dandy“ while sitting upside down on his bike. Yankee Doddle Do or Die.

After a fast ride into Chichibu and a short break we rode further along road #140, the same one we had taken with our sherpa David in autumn, when we dared the climb to Mistumine Toge. But shortly before we went ride on road #210 in direction Otaki dam.
Now, here it starts to get impressive. Shortly before the dam, there is another loop which I assume would be a nightmare for Laurent.Wow. If this is not impressive, I don’t know what is [I don’t mean the shitty plastic bike with integrated ashtray in the foreground, but the magnificent engineered dream in the back]. Still I have the feeling that there might have been a less costly solution feasible for this road construction. In particular considering that this road is mainly connecting the industrial centers of Chichibu and Ensan.
Here we can see a very impressive Cervelo bike, mainly in orange. Further we went, riding along the lake towards the edge of Chichibu. It now became also a little bit colder. After coming home I found out that the Ciclo has recorded a max. temperature of 27 and a minimum of 4 degree on this ride. How to you dress for this?Then the road forks off, one direction Ensan, the other one up to the edge of Chichibu and road #299. Here the roads there are not in too good a shape, so that’s why there are many construction sites along them. I somehow have the suspicion that the roads are in bad shape BECAUSE they are misused by heavy construction equipments to transport concrete, gravel etc. to these construction sites. This is in contrast to three brand new (2003) concrete lined tunnels, all in impeccable shape.

Of course all this road construction is absolute necessary for the benefit of Japan and its population for the following compelling reasons:

  • Ludwig and me can ride these rodes and brag about them later (most important)
  • There is one village with about 42 inhabitants (probably all 72 years old or more) which needs to be stably connected to the outside world for the next one hundred years
  • There is substantial industrial development in the area (I will come to that later)
  • The road is essential to the vital nationwide activity of „Indian summer leaves watching“
  • It connects a not important road to another one AND
  • One can easily hide Patriot missile launchers there to shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles (I can only hope that North Korea as some ISO9001 certification for their missile program)

Well then the serious climb starts and one gets to a nice example of industrial decline in Japan, which is so well documented in Deathopia. Thirty years or so ago, this must have been a quite big Nicchitsu mining operations, perhaps for iron, zinc or other ore, perhaps for Sauerkraut [actually the biggest mining operations in Germany, conducted by dwarfs with red jelly bag caps in the region of the Sauerland]. I wish that Meinolf will read this one.
old wooden workers d
Beautiful dilapidated architecture on both sides of the roads, dormitories, a small post office, but still there seems to be some kind of activities ongoing, probably gravel or concrete for the road construction.
Another long push and we find a branch of the road leading to another Mikuni Toge, possibly in direction of Nagano prefecture. We need to check this one out in May or June when the climate is more accommodating. Another push. The road drags on forever, finally at almost 1.300 m height we arrive at Haccho tunnel (not only bloody long with more than 800 meters but also useless).
We are pretty much done. After a short rest and the obligatory memorial photo (otherwise nobody will believe us), we ride through the tunnel which seems to go on forever. There is not much light inside, then we arrive finally at the other side,almost in Gunma. It is cold and there is still snow next to the road. But what a view:This time not obstructed by any plastic. Absolute fantastic – this must be the edge.

We then continued our ride back to road 299 and made a fast run for Chichibu station. Quite a long ride with 187 km plus and we are glad that we can hop on the train home which will anyway take hours. I phone home to say that I am late and exaggerate the situation to my son, telling him that I am in Gunma. He completely misunderstands me and tells my wife later that „I have immigrated to Gunma and will not come back.“ Perhaps forever.


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Eingeordnet unter 2009, Mob

Izu Hanto Training Ride

Ludwig and me decided that it was finally time to ride out to Izu.

So we one morning we took the Shinkansen out to Atami – living now close to Shinyokohama makes these types of adventures quite easy for me. We started to ride along the coast instead of riding up the killer Atami Toge straight out of the Shinkansen. Then we climbed up at Usami which was much nicer and with better views and headed straight for the CSC Shuzenji.Ludwig had his 2nd 2009 JCRC E class race scheduled there the next weekend, so we made some training laps on the tracks and discussed possible race strategies. From there on I remembered that I had once taken a small road to the South, but I could not remember where that was. We searched for quite a while but got lost or on gravel roads and in the end we decided to take route #80. Which was nice, small and leading to the South. And just might have been the road we were looking for.

From there on we followed the main inner Izu road #349 and #414 in direction Shimoda. One escape attempt to find a smaller roads through the woods led to some significant climbing before we ended up in front of a gravel road again. Back again to the main road.The wild boar sanctuary closed down due to the economic depression it seems.

Then we reached Amagi Tunnel, the highest point on this road and we decided not to take the boring, modern road tunnel but climb even higher to the old Amagi tunnel which was constructed in the 19th century (Meiji). Of course another half gravel / rotten asphalt road but I didn’t minded any longer.For every civil engineer a wonderful tunnel, just straight out of forgotten engineering wonderland. An older couple asked Ludwig to take some photos and I complimented them on their good choice of the photo motive: Meiji tunnel plus Meiji car in front (plus almost Meiji couple in front of the Meiji but I refrained from saying that).Of course the tunnel has not only an entry in the „spooky place of Japan“ list, but it was also the scene of some love adventures described in the book „Izu no Odoriko“ by Kawabata, later made into a movie, even later made into a major express train.

Then the descent including the famous 414 loop. Due to our main attempts to shortcut we lost a lot of time and when we finally reached the coast it was already pretty late. So we started the after-burner and rode fast along the East coast. Traffic was not great but OK and after a further detour, we finally reached Ito station where we had to wait quite long before we could finally catch a train home.

A very enjoyable trip with a lot of climbing but also some fast runs. I hope that there will be more opportunities to ride in Izu this year – there is still so much more waiting to be found down there.

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Eingeordnet unter 2009, Mob