Tuesday, August 12, 2008
My Great Tohoku Cycling Adventure: Day 2
There were things I needed to learn from this trip. This was more than just about pushing myself physically, it was also about searching for a different sort of head space.
From day one, initially getting kind of lost on the way out of Sendai and being very much confronted with what I already knew, things were not going to go as planned.
Things were, very much, not going to go as planned. This was something I need to learn to be better with. In preparing for the trip and fitting the training--cycling to work--into my schedule, I had to be really strict with myself about everything. Quick, you only have 10 min to eat breakfast. Crap, I'm 15min late going to bed. Constantly, I would scold myself for being behind schedule. In many ways it paid off, I felt confident about having enough money set aside and my legs being strong enough to get me north.
After structuring my days so tightly to make sure I was prepared for the road, being on the road became an entirely different mind set. Sometimes a road looked passable on the map but proved otherwise in person. I, quite on purpose, didn't have a set schedule but the feeling of being behind schedule still plagued me.
I pushed harder as if every hill would bring me a little closer to learning what I needed to know.
I got an early start and decided to do a detour around the Ojika Peninsula before heading north. With my killer map reading skills, I estimated that a loop would add about an extra 40 km. In reality, it was 80km. First I took the Cobalt Line, rt 220 to the tip of the peninsula, back on rt 2, crossing over on rt 41 back to Onagawa. It was tough climbing with some climbs at 10% grade. But still fresh and full of enthusiasm, I hit it with all I had. It was a nice overcast day and not too hot. There were very few cars on the road and the views were spectacular.
Lunch never tasted so good! It's amazing how much food changes when you are exercising so much. It continued to amaze me throughout the entire trip, so there will be many pictures of lovely life giving food.
The climbing was tough and at around 40km in I started mentally going through everything in my bags wondering if I could cut any weight...
At around 60km in, I'd established a pattern of 7km/hr 20minute climb up--dragon flies passing me on the way up, and 60km/hr 5 min decent, repeat repeat. I was starting to get beat. Scratch that, I was beat and was starting to get frustrated. While this type of road was exactly what I came north for-- beautiful, cool, low traffic-- it wasn't actually gaining me any longitude.
And then my front derailleur, which has always been a little moody, started to throw a hissy fit. I would adjust it and feel fantastic about my capacity to take care of myself. It would be great for one climb/decent. It would get all out of whack again. The worst part being that if the chain was on the small ring on the back and I tried to shift to the small ring in front sometime the chain would stick and not move, causing me to have to coast to the side of the road and lose all my momentum. Much cursing both of the derailleur and how I had shunned my friends' advice to get my bike properly tuned before heading out.
LESSON LEARNED: When touring you will most likely be in different conditions than where you trained. Therefore your bike will have different problems. Perhaps asking someone more knowledgeable than you for advice would be a good thing.
No worries, I'll find a bike mechanic in Onnagawa... which felt like it took 100miles to get to. The two bored looking mechanics were very nice, though didn't seem particularly knowledgeable about a proper road bike.
Wrench 1: Wow, she speaks Japanese pretty well.
Wrench 2: Yeah, I probably should have studied English harder though...
Wrench 1: blah blah, Disney yadda yadda
Wrench 2: Yeah. You're right about that.
The conversations I overhear are priceless because 1:) I don't catch everything and 2:) even after people know that I speak Japanese they still often speak as if I can't understand them.
Anyways, after their tinkering with the derailleur it was better, but not really fixed. They said "no charge, take care" ... which I think is about the same as saying, "good luck but we didn't really help you much"
LESSON LEARNED: I know it but forget it every time. Japan's countryside can be a very very different place than the metropolis. Many bike shops worked only on motorcycles and mamacharis and had never seen tires or shifters like mine.
Since I'd spent the day thinking about what I didn't really need to be carrying and because the mechanics were nice not to charge me anything, I give them my aerosol can of bike lubricant.
I still have daylight and push on to a tiny village of Ogatsumachi before the next big climb in a fantastic minshuku --clocking out at 96km.
The view from my room in the minshuku.
I leave my shampoo and soap at the minshuku, they seem to have a large supply of left overs and such so I don't mind loosing the weight, even if it isn't much.
LESSON LEARNED: Sure, you think you packed light, but you are going to start throwing stuff out once you hit the road.
LESSON LEARNED 2: Overcast days still give wicked sunburns. While I'm very glad I upgraded to padded shorts at the last minute a good 4 inches of leg were seeing the sun for the first time. Train in the same clothes you will tour in. Train with a similar haircut too--the back of my neck also sizzled a bit.
The food was fantastic and there's a phrase in Japanese similar to "Student All You Can Eat Style" meaning that the main courses are limited but eat as much rice as you want. I had three bowls. or was it 4...
the sashimi--i.e. sushi not rolled with rice-- was fantastic.
Sea urchin is a delicacy in Japan and is expensive. These three puppies could run $10-$30 in a fancy restaurant. Unfortunately... I don't like sea urchin much, especially in this state. It is so fresh that it moves when you touch it. I prefer my food dead and no longer moving. Call me a wuss if you must. I ate about half of one but couldn't handle it moving. I made it obvious that I hadn't touched the other to and hoped the two old people running the place would enjoy them.