Monday, August 11, 2008

My Great Tohoku Cycling Adventure: Part one

Well, I'm going to start from the beginning again, because, well, it makes the most sense to me. And really, that's what a lot of this trip was about, finding out how to make me and my life make sense to me. After 9 and a half days and over 650 miles of me in my own head or talking to my bike while pushing myself physically harder than ever in my life... well, it's a psychological experience for sure.


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Lessons learned: First 1000km+ solo tour

The Plan: 10 or 11 days to bike, starting in Sendai heading north along the coast. I'll bike till I'm tired and hope my karma is good enough to find a place to crash each night.

Why north? That's the way the wind blows. or so some cyclists I met once told me.
Why coast route? Why Tohoku? Looks beautiful. And it must be flatter than the central route (ha ha ha ha ha..... call me naive? sure, I deserve it. but I prefer adjectives like intrepid or blithe)

The Stuff:

Tohoku Mapple Touring book. 1:140,000 scale
5 year old Bianchi Brava, steel frame.
Mostly original parts except SPD shimano clip pedals and shoes, Selle Italia Gel saddle, new Michelin tires, red handle bar tape
Ortlieb Rear bags
Top Peak pannier rack
Condition? Well, no professional tune ups since I got it... because, well, why fix what isn't broken? Personally (read: amateur-ly) tuned brakes and front derailler.
2 500ml water bottles on the frame one 1L bottle in each bag, for a total of 3L of water.

Attitude: I'll fix it as I go. It'll be part of the journey.

Training/Experience:
Commuting 30 miles round trip 3-4 times a week. 8 consecutive days biking between 30 and 50 miles a day. Exactly ONE mountain climbing experience--TCC Westside ride.

Attitude: Confident... mostly. Well, perhaps mostly over confident.

Day -1
Setting up the bike and packing I suddenly get the feeling of being massively under-prepared and over my head. Similar to the feeling I got when I had impulsively planned a trip to Korea and was sitting on a bus heading out of Seoul only mostly sure I knew where I was going with no plans, no knowledge of Korean, and no reservations. Well, that didn't turn out too badly... this'll be fine.

In order to make the bags and rack fit on the brava frame the rack is at an angle sloping toward the back and only attached on three points but shouldn't be too much of a problem right?

Day 1
hours on train 4
start in Sendai 1:30pm (unfortunately late, but necessary)
Sendai is preparing for their legendary Tanabata festival and I put my bike together under huge Tanabata decorations.


I cycle out of town with high hope and eager to get out of the city. Immediately, my cycling computer starts acting up and I get a bit confused about what road to take. As a result, all numbers are approximate. The computer acted up (obviously) the first few days but possibly the whole trip.

LESSON LEARNED: before you tour, it's useful to get used to reading a map with the same ratio. Previously I'd used 1:60,000 scale maps and therefore judging distances in my new map book took a little adjustment.

After only minor frustrations and slaming into a post designed to keep cars off side walks (my nemisis scores a point!) I cycle past Matsushima, known as one of the 3 most beautiful views in Japan



Yes, it's very nice, though personally I found it a bit overrated. I did think it was wicked cool, though, that after being lost and not really knowing where I was to stumble right on the part of Matsushima that is in most of the "money shots" in the travel guides. I love my bike. Sometimes I think it's smarter than I am. except when it's trying to kill me... but that comes later.

After about 75km, I ran out of daylight and found a placed to stay. I stayed in Ishinomaki (business hotel) with a local festival in the streets and watching fireworks from my hotel window.

yes, it's a horrible picture. It's the only one I took. For much much better festival pictures go here. I took these at the Narita Festival near Tokyo.

Also, as it was hot and I hated my long hair, I cut it. Maybe 5% as a symbol of not caring what other people thought of me and my journey while I was grimy and sweaty on the road but mainly because little pigtails are much much cooler and shorter hair is easier to wash.

yes, it's a weird picture. All pictures you take of yourself in the mirror are weird. There's no avoiding it.

I hacked off a good six inches! And yes, I did get it professionally "fixed" later.

And finally, before going to bed each night there was one more thing to do. Laundry.

That's right, I've just showed the world my not so dirty laundry. I feel like I should feel more strongly about this than I do. eh...

and the adventures continue...

5 comments:

inkandpen said...

Hooray for short pigtails! Sooo cute, sooo sexy. Awesome.

It all sounds amazing so far-- looking forward to the next installment!

Murray said...

Sounds like a great trip. I'm excited to read more! And, cute hair. =)

Claudious said...

I love what you did to your hair!!! You look so increadible, and now that you've aired out your dirty laundry you should live with no more fear.

Deb said...

Wow! Fanatastic trip. Wish I was as brave as you:)

SonicLlama said...

The hair does, indeed, look sexy. That's a nifty picture of you.