Well, maybe not. And my climbing is certainly no faster than in the past. … but I did at least feel almighty cycling on spectacular roads on Saturday that were entirely closed off to traffic (until late April, I might add).
If you’ve ever seen ‚Bruce Almighty‘ with Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston, you may remember that, when God (Morgan Freeman) bestows Bruce (Jim Carrey) with his powers for a week, one of Bruce’s first acts is to clear a path through the cars for his commute, a kind of „part the waters“ adaptation, very Old Testament. So I needed to ask myself, how had I managed to make all the cars disappear? (Bruce also makes his dog pee in the toilet in their apartment, and miraculously expands Jennifer’s chest size, … before he starts trying to listen to other people’s prayers and the movie takes some predictable turns and goes downhill.)
Of course, for me it was just the delightful Japanese desire to stick to schedules and plans even when reality suggests an alternative approach. Here it was the most glorious day of the year imaginable, and roads were closed for „winter.“ After riding to the Chuo Line and hopping the train to Otsuki, I rode Rte 20 up to the SE entrance of Sasago Tunnel, then turned onto the old road for the climb up to Sasago Pass and the old tunnel (elev. 1095 meters). About half way up a road with suspiciously few (no?) cars, I found this.
At the top, based upon posts by Tom S. in past years, I was prepared for an eerie, haunted tunnel, deserted except for ghosts of samurai past. … Instead, I found a remodelled tunnel with a smooth surface, completely dry, and with a few hikers at either end. Still unlighted, and so would be very, very dark at dusk.
After descending the other side toward Kofu/Koshu and Rte 20, I found the climb up the Hikawa (Day River?) toward Kami-Hikawa Dam and Kami-Hikawa Pass. Again, I eventually arrived at a gate that blocked the road. This is what I faced at the parking lot near the top (approx elevation 1600 meters — Ludwig/Tom territory!!!):
The climb from the South to Kami-Hikawa is long and at times steep, but the grade is variable — nothing Wada-like, at least not for very long. But it was getting hot without much shade for some stretches, and my right ankle was in some pain (minor sprain last weekend — unnoticed from normal activity but very much noticed during/after these climbs!). I felt I might be experiencing a kind of alerted, distorted perception.
But I did make it up, above the earthen dam and reservoir, and down the other side, which is steeper — a road stapled to the side of a mountain as you descend from 1600 meters to 865 meters where you join Rte. 411. The descent also was behind closed gates, with NO TRAFFIC.
I thought for a few seconds about turning right and heading up to Yanagisawa … but realized I would be riding home to Oume in the dark, and that my legs did not have much left anyway, and so descended toward Enzan. At around 550 meters elevation I found a turn off (barely marked) for a road along the edge of the hills toward Katsunuma and Kai-Yamato. I took that very nice road, past fruit orchards and flowering trees, until it turned into the official „Fruit Line.“ I made it to Rte 20, then backtracked to Katsunuma Grape [Capital] Station (Katsunuma Budou-kyou Eki?) and took the train to Tachikawa, riding from there home.
On Sunday, Jerome and I started at 7AM, rode via Oume (Aurore) and Okutama-ko, over Matsuhime and back to Sarubashi. After stopping for lunch at the traditional restaurant, next to the old bridge, we hopped on the train to Hachioji and rode home from there – back by 5:10PM. Jerome had fresh legs, I did not, but it was good to make it up Matsuhime on another glorious day.
Jerome wore his new NFCC kit, complete with jersey, bib shorts and wind vest. In Kosuge, he found himself riding down a street lined with sakura — one of many we passed.
We met a couple, Takahashi-sans, who said they live in Okutama, and so they can cycle these areas only a few minutes after leaving home. We passed them on the climb up to Okutama-ko. They passed us when I had tire trouble. Then we passed them as they must have stopped at the lake. Then they passed us as we filled our water bottles near these Sakura. … and we chatted a bit. They headed up the hill first. Then Jerome. Then me. I did pass Mrs. Takahashi at about the 1050 meter mark, as she had gone too fast on the lower slopes and run out of gas temporarily. She did make it up, and here is a picture of the happy couple at the summit.
A great day of cycling for all!