Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Great Tohoku Cycling Adventure: Conclusion

After rolling out of this beautiful hotel to the running narration of a gaggle of Japanese seniors oggling my bike set up. or perhaps they were oggling my ass in biking shorts. or both.

naka naka umai ne. They'd say over and over as I pumped up the tires, put the bags on, etc.
translation: just keeps getting better and better.

I love old Japanese men. They crack me up.

And so began day 6, but to tell the truth, the next 5 days are pretty blurred together. I had my groove. I'd hit a hill and say to myself outloud, "hai!"
or as was often the case, I'd just chant to myself, "climb fucker climb!!" in creepy Micheal Jackson voice.

Perhaps needless to say, my own company and only my bike to talk to for 10 days made me a little loopy.

LESSON LEARNED: Though I was glad to have done the difficult finding my groove stuff by myself, some company might have been nice too.

That said, most days I got amazing streaks of clarity about myself and my life and WHAT IT ALL MEANS. A month later I'm still panning through it all.

I love graffiti.

This a famous place in Iwate prefecture called Kita Yamazaki. It is as beautiful as the posters but really, the trip as a whole can't compare to anything I was able to catch on film.

Highlights of the last half of the trip included staying with a cool couchsurfer. I would have loved to stay with more couchsurfers but not having a schedule was a very good thing too.

Aomori prefecture in the north was beautiful too. I spend all my time on the ShimoKita Peninsula. ShimoKita translates to something like "Below North" To futher clarify, it's advertised like this
I took this picture without getting off my bike. I totally felt hard core.

Something in me loves faded wind swept coast towns.

The wind was tough and blowing southward--i.e. a headwind. Though I had originally changed the direction of my tour hoping for strong coastal tailwind, it never happened. But that's ok. At this point, despite being sore and tired, everything was totally ok.
This says, "The road north" or "The north road" and made me happy. Stupidly happy, really.

The sign, from top to bottom indicates how many kilometers I am from
New York

I felt kind of near the edge of the world.
The wind kicked my ass.

Day 8 was spend circling the peninsula and was my longest day, clocking out with over 7 hours of "in the saddle" time and 135 km.

Now, Aomori Prefecture is known for many things: great seafood, apples, big flashy August festivals... but for me I will most remember THE FLIES. The swarms and swarms of BITING FLIES. Circling the peninsula required a good amount of climbing at a decent grade. And by day 8, my body was starting to get tired... ok, more than just starting. None-the-less, I hit the hills with a good attitude, my groove was on. And then the flies came. I think I smelled well well dead. Or rotting or something. Perhaps it was better I was cycling alone. Anyway you cut it, to those M*&%$*F$#*#$ers I smelled delicious.

Now, I'm not an especially fast climber. I think I'm a strong climber but I'm not fast. So with my bags and everything, I'd hit the 10% climbs in my slowest easiest granny gear and "spin" up the mountain. At a blistering 6 km/hr. Now, I didn't really care. I was happy just to be doing it for hours a day. But the flies are faster than 6 km/hr so suddenly, I had to push it. Ever time I dropped below 12 km/hr, they'd attack. And no talk of stopping to catch my breath! Only on very wind exposed corners could I stop to get a drink or rest for a minute before they found me.

It was a day of much cussing.

A local later told me that it was because my bike shorts are black that they attack me and sure enough, they were going for the thighs more than the exposed calves. What this meant is that in addition to huffing and puffing my way up the hills, cursing all the while, I was also reaching down to swat the buggers off the bottom of my thighs, causing me to swerve like a mad woman.

I was lucky. I ended up with less than half a dozen serious bites and didn't fall of a cliff. It was a good day. And the scenery.....
and the cows!

Um, back where I'm from we wouldn't use anything so fandangled to keep cows locked up. Why on earth are they tethered like that?

oh, life giving food. how I love thee. somehow, I'm always still hungry.
and what an end to a fabulous day. the tourists in tourist buses go to the top of that mountain. That's where one of the gods comes from, they say. It also smells so strongly of sulfer that it's hard to breath, they say. I left the peak for the tour buses...
Day 8 finished clocking out at 135km and over 7 hours in the saddle, I was very sore. I was so sore, and not just the muscles, that I wasn't sure if I could ride the next day.

but I did. I couldn't really stop myself. I was very lazy though and wanted to stop and take pictures every 5 minutes. It was so beautiful and my body was so tired, it was hard to resist.
I love maps and road signs. I saved a bunch of road signs for their own post but I'm such a bad blogger I don't know if they will ever make it up.

That's right there were free roaming horses and lighthouses. It was so awesome I almost didn't feel sore.
I feel so cool.
Boy1: is that your bike?
me: yeah.
Boy2: whoa, those are weird tires.
Boy1: Where are you from?
me: America, but I live in Tokyo.
Boy3: You rode from Tokyo?
me: no, from Sendai.
Boy4: Are you tired?
Boy2: Wow, that's far.
Boy3: Fight-o! Fight-o! (yelled for encouragement)
Boy4: Aren't you tired?
me: I'm ok, it's fun.
Boy1: Where do you sleep?
Boy2: Where'd you come from today?
me: at hotels, from Mutsu around the peninsula
Boy4:Aren't you tired?

etc. I love kids. I could have been from the moon and gotten the same reaction to them.
Boy3: Fight-o!!
What a fantastic decent (after the %^#$%@^$#@^% flies chased me up again) seeing Aomori bay.

I stopped for, arguably, way too many pictures.
It was a stunning stunning sunset. Everything was so beautiful in the world that day. ...except perhaps the insides of my thighs which were very saddle sore. sorry, you didn't want to know that did you?
my bike tries to fit in with local wildlife. can you spot her?
and finally, on day 10, I hit 1000km. omg does my body hurt. my bike's feeling like it needs some TLC too. I think about nothing other than how much I want a hamburger.

Local graffiti.

And finally, clocking out at more than 1040km, I arrived back at Hachinohe station and put my bike on the train. Perhaps the next bike journey will start here again but will go west, across the mountains. In many ways, I feel I can do anything now and I miss being on the road. I don't know when I'll be on the road next but I look forward to it. What and incredibly beautiful world...

the adventures continue.

I arrived home, tried to arrange to meet a few friends for drinks and food only to find that I was locked out of my apartment. When I had mailed my wallet back on day 4? I had left my keys in it. They'd been mailed to my school, which is not near where I live. Joe was out of town for the weekend and the key to his place was with the key to mine. My triumphant return was not so triumphant, tired and hungry and very smelly, I emailed a friend and asked if I could crash at her place No tears were shed. And in the end all was well.

the adventures do indeed continue.


Joseph said...

It's amazing how appealing a hamburger sounds after a solid day of biking. I think that, more than anything else, pushed me off vegetarianism.

And yeah, bugs are a bitch. On some hills, that was the only thing that kept us going. (Of course, they also kept us from getting off our bikes and looking at directions, and are hence somewhat responsible for our 50-mile detour, as well...).

SonicLlama said...

The cow with the chain on its head looks totally punk rock.

For some reason, I think that the picture of the people with the umbrellas on the coast could totally be an album cover for some kind of experimental music group or indy act. And I mean that in a good way. I'm picturing the title in the top left corner.

Bike mounted pictures are totally hardcore.

I also really like the picture of the coastal wind-swept town, the one with the road in the foreground. It seems all dry and ramshackle like piled driftwood.

Murray said...

Okay, time for another trip! I want to see more pictures and live vicariously through you again!

TOM said...

Solo rides are probably the best of all! This is one you will cherish forever I bet. Beautiful picture-postcard photos!


R. M. Preston said...

I popped over from PW and am very glad I did! Lovely photos, and what an amazing solo ride. I am relatively new to cycling and am in awe since my longest ride has only been 45 miles.
Verey nice account of your trip!

Momza said...

What a Life! I too, drifted over from PW, and I think I found a new favorite blog.
How on earth did you get to where you are?? Amazing Woman!

Khalilah said...

Hi there! I would really like to talk to you about how you organized everything. I live in Ibaraki about an hour from tokyo. I plan on taking a biking trip through Tohoku but I am an amateur lol. I dont know which scenic road to take or the directions. blah so much to take in and I also don't have a bike but I plan on buying one pretty soon. If you ever need company on a biking trip through Tohoku contact me. Maybe our schedules would match.