This being the last ride in my 30s, I made yesterday a pilgrimage to some (semi-)important temples and shrines around Chichibu. Chichibu is full of them, so I had to be selective.
At 8am it was still so early no visitors were in sight.
I then cycled into the most southerly mountains of Chichibu, up an increasingly steep road (the steepest part must be at least 20 degrees) to Nenogongentenryu-ji
– a first for me, but a temple which Tom visits quite frequently.
I was greeted by two devils guarding the entrance, and there were already a few hikers who had made it up the mountain (elevation 600m).
After a rapid descent to route 299, I cycled it up to and then through the 2km long tunnel – not a lot of fun with so much traffic, and in particular with so many dump and other trucks taking this route. It always amazes me how much dump truck traffic there is on route 299 between Hanno and Chichibu-shi. But then seeing that Chichibu basically sacrificed its house mountain and turned it into a huge quarry, it is not surprising what all these trucks must be doing. This place may well have the highest density of dump truck drivers in Japan!
Down in Chichibu city it was time to visit a shrine, the Chichibu-jinja
Soon I was heading towards the last and arguably most important stop of my pilgrimage: Mitsumine-jinja
. Somehow I felt well in shape and it took me only 1.5 hours to ride the 40km in distance and 900m in altitude from Chichibu to Mitsumine. At 1,100m the air was crisp and the many visitors were complaining how cold it was: something like 5 degrees. The sun had disappeared behind increasingly dense and dark clouds that were accumulating in the mountains around – the Chichibu plain itself was still in bright sunshine, clearly visible from up there.
I then rode on to try out a new rindo which according to Google should take me back onto the main road towards Chichibu-shi – or so MOB and I had discovered while studying the area online the night before. Indeed, not only did the rindo exist, it was open to all traffic, had surprisingly few warning signs, and turned out to be well paved and almost completely free of debries or leaves. After climbing to 1,200m, I reached a long and dark tunnel – one of those that threaten to unleash evil spirits on my fellow riders MOB and Tom, but usually leave me alone. After a bit of down and up there was another tunnel with another ascent, and then it was a very long and very smooth sailing down to the main road. Next time, I will definitely cycle up that side and take the main road down from Mitsumine. It makes for a nice loop.
Back at the outskirts of Chichibu-shi I was tempted to return to Ome via Arima-toge, but abondoned the thought as the long crossing (including the unpredictable building site Tom, David and Nishibe-san discovered the other day) would have meant I would have reached Ome only in complete darkness. Instead I took 299 up to just before the tunnel (and while it was full of traffic, thankfully all the dumb tracks were on their way back to Chichibu rather than heading up with me) and then headed up Yamabushi Toge. On my descent I caught up with two cars and one motorcycle which were preventing me from getting one minute faster to Ome, so much to their surprise I passed the mercilessly in corners and steep long sections.
I reached Ome station at 16:35, not long before complete darkness. 210km on the road, with something like 2,200m of climbing. And most importantly plenty of omairi to get me into a new decade.