Yesterday night I watched the movie „THE SHINING“ by Stanley Kubrick. I guess one has really fallen in love with cycling when one cannot help thinking during the opening scenes that this might be a beautiful place to make long cycling tours. Despite the music that preludes the horror to come.Also motivated by the blogs of David, Ludwig and Tom about the great tours they made under beautiful skies on Sunday, I decided to ride out on my own to Chichibu the following day. The weather was not as perfect as on Sunday but it was warm, dry and without to much winds so I decided to ride from my house up to the Tamagawa and further up to Ome instead of boarding an overcrowded train as I normally do.
The „Tamasai“ ex-cycling, now pedestrian with dogs obstacled road along the Tamagawa was as boring as ever. I noted however the increase of homeless settlements along the road, in particular under some of the bridges (Sekidobashi) which somehow links cycling to the ongoing economic downturn in Japan. Or for the cycling fanatics among us I would like to provide the proper analogy: These poor guys can barely afford mama charis and even hybrid-bikes with Shimano Sora group sets are well beyond their reach.
In order to reflect the actual situation I believe that the Japanese flag shall be modified: The red circle, symbolizing the sun, should be partly covered with a not so precisely round blue tarp which is so often used in homeless settlements. The final curtain is closing quickly in front of the Japanese sun.
Well, all the land between the river and the embankments is designed to be flooded in case of heavy rainfalls in the upper reached of the Tamagawa and that is why it is not such a good idea to settle there. The older members of the team may recall the floods of early 2006 and the devastation it brought to portions of the cycling track. The park close to Mutsumi bridge was closed for almost a year before it was finally reconstructed and opened again.
Naturally with these gloomy thoughts it took me almost 2:15 hours to reach Ome station. In no way my physical conditions can be blamed for this one.
There I conducted one of three fatal mistakes of the day: Instead of buying the fantastic „royal milk“ at the Aurore bakery which provides plenty of energy for the rest of the day (I mean any day, regardless of the time when eaten and degree of physical activities), I opted to buy only two smaller pastries and subsequently I bonked later in the day when riding up the slopes. Which again provides a good argument to keep with approved team traditions.
The ride I had in mind was to do the most ridiculous routes, accounting for the longest distance and the highest elevation gains to finally reach the fabulous capital of Chichibu, fanciful and aptly named Chichibu-City. The former a promise, the later a joke.
So I started to ride along prefectural road 28 in direction Hanno and took #70 to the West until finding the entry to the fabled Hanachiba-Naguri Line. The climb was fast and I was completely alone after the first Y section. How I love the silence in the woods, away from all the noise at the Tamagawa. I then descended on the other side to road #53 leading to Yamabushi and Shomaru Pass which we have conquered also quite often by now. But before reaching Yamabushi, I took a right turn on #395 to Amamezasu Pass which at 480 meter elevation is slightly lower than the mighty Van Hai pass.
I like this climb. It is only 2.6 km long but covers an elevation difference of about 220 meters so it is somehow similar to Wada but not as demanding. Also it is very quiet and completely in the forest.From the top one has also a nice view on the hair needle curves that are waiting for the adventurous downhiller on the other side. So basically I went up the same ridge from the South that I went over first from the North and now I was heading on National road 299 back in direction Hanno.
In Agano I did a left turn on #61 and went up the slopes of Koburi Pass (顔振峠). Although this road is also no stranger to the Positivo team, I guess it is less frequented by us. But the climb is really nice, short, less than 3 km, but covering about 300 meters up and at some points there are breathtaking views over the Chichibu mountains. The view compensated me very well for bonking. Plus I lost my water bottle somewhere, which was the second fatal mistake of the day.
I don’t care so much about loosing water bottles. I have plenty at home and they keep accumulating naturally after attending races. However, this one was special at it has a very unique one directional flow valve attached to it. It is big and red and one has to pull it out with the teeth before starting to drink. I think it is the right bottle for somebody with a big mother-complex. Which I am not, but nevertheless the bottle was always good a for a laugh or two.
The skies were not as clear as on Sunday, but that gave the far mountains an interesting shade of different greys, almost like in an old Chinese ink painting. At precisely 500 meters elevation, Koburi Pass is even sightly higher than the mighty Van Hai pass.From there onwards I rode along the Green Line. What makes Chichibu so different from Okutama and other places I have went so far is the unbelievable variety of paved roads criss-crossing the hills. There is always the feeling of choice and uncertainty. Why not taking this small road here for a change? Why not trying this one today? Sure, there are many rindos in other parts of the Kanto region as well and also many we don’t know yet (the North approach to Wada until recently a good example). But Chichibu has so much more.
It is always tempting to take a new road, but not without water and at 4.00 PM on a mid November day in Japan. So I made my way up over the Mini-toge of the Green Line to the mighty Karibazaka Pass (at 818 meter higher than the mighty Van Hai pass, Shiraishi Toge (higher than the mighty Van Hai pass) and finally Sadamine Toge (still higher than the mighty Van Hai pass).
The mother and daughter ramen operations at Sadamine Toge had already closed , perhaps for the rest of the season and I started to make the final descent into Chichibu city on road #11. It was getting dark already and I just arrived at Chichibu City limits, famously serenaded by Ike & Tina Turner in the Seventies.
OK, so here I was at Chichibu city on a Monday night at 5 PM.
Which reminded me of the only joke from my home town of Moenchengladbach which I really appreciate. See, I am coming from a non-discript town with almost no hills (the biggest one being artificial, the garbage dump), so we didn’t managed to bring even one famous cyclist to the circuit. Our biggest claims to fame is the local soccer team which I unfortunately support since they were good and famous in the seventies. And which brought only sorrow and tears in the last 20 years. And then we have Nick Heidfeld, a formula one racer and Joseph Goebbels.
Anyway, the town is close to two bigger towns called Duesseldorf and Koeln (Cologne). These cities hate each other, which probably has something to do with the historical fact that one of them is catholic (Koeln of course, with its cathedral) while the other is dominantly protestant. They compete in many aspects, soccer, ice hockey, economical …. Duesseldorf became the capitol of the federal state, Koeln has all the media … character-wise I definitely tend to Duesseldorf and I even lived there for some time in the 80ties and 90ties.
Now, back to the joke. Tuennes and Schael, two immortal characters from my home town (actual Cologne claims them as theirs as well) meet each other and Tuennes says:
“ I bought a new motorcycle. That is so unbelievable fast…… If I start in Moenchengladbach at 7.30 in the morning, I arrive in Koeln at 8 already.“
Whereas Schael answers:
„So what to you do at 8 in the morning in Koeln then?“
Same question, different context: „What do you do in Chichibu City at 5 PM in November?“ Yes, it is along way home by train from Chichibu. I finally made it home by 9 after a 4 hour train ride, partly because I was too stupid to board the right train in Hachioji (again) which in turn allowed me to have look at the nightly silhouette of Ebina city. Third fatal mistake of the day.
All train, no joy, makes Jack a dull boy.