Blog Archives

New Year and Fall

Start the year as you mean to go on, by cycling. In Japan, there is a tradition to go to a shrine on New Year’s Day. I had already been to one at midnight so was late getting up. When I finally did rise at 11AM I received a visit from a friend who was leaving that day. I said I was planning to cycle to a shrine, but by the time I would be ready to go then it would mean I would be late getting back. Plus I didn’t think I could make the 54km round trip given my lack of cycling lately. She said, “oh that is nothing for you!”.

So, then I thought damn it, if you don’t even try then how will you know. So I got ready quickly and set off.

It was a beautiful day for winter, blue and not so cold.

I use google to find the shortest route to places, that means I set it to walking mode. Unfortunately, that sometimes means it takes me down dirt tracks. These are fine for walking but not for a road bike. I should use the runtastic roadbike app, but that means setting a route before hand and not just setting off on a whim. So there I am on a dirt track and I see a puddle, I should not go through that on my lovely bike….hop over the middle ridge and use the non-puddly side, easy!

Whack, next thing I know I am on the floor in the puddle as my tires have no traction and went from under me.

See that shiny skid, that is my flight path. It didn’t hurt and I burst out laughing once I got up. My chain had bounced off, but luckily it was on the non-contact side so the gears were ok. I just threaded it back on and cycled away to a lovely 7/11 and had a drink and a sandwich.

When I put the bag on the handle bars to hold while I drank I noticed the bar, it was a bit skewiff on that side. Bugger. I checked the brake cable and it worked fine. I decided to carry on my journey and I will take the bike to the giant shop when I get paid. Still, buggery buggerty.

On the way, I passed a cool pottery shop.

Look at all those chickens, not the year of the rooster is it?

It was flat for most of the journey, but the last 500m felt like it was almost vertical. I got off and walked/pushed. There was a boy and his family coming down and he was saying over and over, I am tired. Me too, I replied.

It was worth it, though.

I stayed a while and played with some cameras. For a beautiful shrine, it was very quiet.

Then I quickly headed back as it was already 2:30pm and it would take me over 2 hours to get back.

It was a tough ride back, I was tired and my gloves were too big, which made them uncomfortable. Then just as I was getting annoyed with my choices I saw this;

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Was I getting over tired, wasn’t Mount Tsukuba behind me?? Wait that isn’t Tsukuba, it is Fuji! I have never seen it while cycling near my house. Wow!! and then just as quickly it was gone. But it’s appearance gave me a boost and then it seemed I was home in no time at all.

I had a bath and went to bed early, 54km done. Plus one damaged bike and a scrape and bruise.

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Here is part of my route, my watch died on the way back. It has been doing that lately. I think I need to unlink the cadence sensor to reserve the battery.

https://www.strava.com/activities/817465949/embed/1b4a86acdd94f6517efa049572bd593914fc3843

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RinRin and Free Pears

I have actually been cycling a fair bit recently, but I have gotten out of the habit of adding blog posts. I have been obsessing with my camera blog instead. Yesterday I did go for a blog worthy ride, but despite the million cameras I have, I completely forgot to take one with me. Therefore no photos of my fellow riders or need for pseudonyms.

The destination for the trip was the good old RinRin Road, which of course I have written about before. Here and here and here.  I made a new map of the road because I could. You don’t really need a map until one point where the road disappears for a little while.


I even added two toilet stop and parking places 🙂

Anyway for this ride we headed to the lower stop at Fujisawa as there was a special event… Free pears from Ibaraki for cyclists. Who can resist?

Here is their website about the event, from which I stole the featured image. Hopefully you are using a web browser that will automatically translate the site from Japanese. And here is their Facebook page so you can find out about more events.

I live about 12-15km from the road depending on the entry point. There are a few teachers now living in my area so we made a village trip. Two of the attendees were children and most of us had not ridden much recently. That made for a slow ride. As you can see from the stats at the end of this blog our average speed was 12km an hour. To be honest that is not bad considering two children and two mamachari bikes with no gears.

It is a straight road to the RinRin from our village, but not the best for cycling on so we stuck to the paths, which is not legal, but much safer and rarely stopped.

Anyway, it took us a while to get there as it was a hot day. By the time we did arrive we were thirsty and hungry. The pears were delicious. After some of us headed to the mall for icecream, then we all headed home for a nap.

Here is our route and stats. The others were really curious about the Strava suffer score. I can see that strava maps are still not embedding properly, which is disappointing.

 

 

 

 

Kokaigawa Towards Toride

Yeah, a sunny, none-windy day and I am not sick!!

I was so happy to get out on what still feels like my new bike today. I went along my usual route towards a lovely park, but then I thought, “Why do I alway turn at this point? What is the other way?”

So I decided to check and I am so happy I did. It was gorgeous. I was in a great mood so I might have had rose colour glasses on. I rode all the way to what seemed like the end of the road/cycle path. I am sure there was a little further I could have gone, but I haven’t been out so much lately so I decided not to push it. In the end I did just under 50km.

Here is my route. Seems like embedding Strava still does not work..only on the preview.

There seemed to be some work being done on one side of the dyke/levee, maybe due to the recent flooding. This website has a ton of information about that.

Along the route I saw two huge Koi-No-Bori ready for Children’s Day on the 5th May.

I spent a long time looking at them, they are so beautiful. They also made me think of the children of Kumamoto and how they will be celebrating this festival. I still get alerts on my phone telling me there are large earthquakes there quite often. Here is a website with information and ways you can help. Myself and Japan have really had a crappy year, well, things can only get better.

Here are some photos of the koi-no-bori.

I also stopped for a rest under some wisteria, which is out in force right now. Japan really is a beautiful place in the spring.

 

Rinrin and Cherry Blossoms

I haven’t been riding as much as I would like recently. Mainly due to weather, health and new hobbies. But despite a sore throat that later turned into tonsillitis I got in my rental car and drove to one end of the Rinrin.

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I have written about this road before. If you live in Japan or visit at this time of the year and like cycling then this ride is a MUST.

Why? well look at the photos and see. The road is lined with cherry and plum trees so there are blossoms galore.

At some points it was like riding through snow and unlike Tokyo it is not so busy.

As it was a little windy going out I only went as far as the castle ruins then turned back. You can see by my speeds that the wind made it an easier return. There were a few people taking advantage of the recent, rare blue sky. I even saw a film crew shooting an advertisement..or TV Show, not sure.

Here is my route and stats.

 

 

New Bike, Lucky Break

This week I decided to get rid/sell my beloved Giant Bike and get a new..Giant Bike, but one that fits. Having bought a second hand one in the uk in my size I realised that it really isn’t good to ride a bike that is too big. Here is a great blog with symptoms you might get when riding a bike and why they happen.

So I sold my old bike and a few other bits and pieces, mainly cameras, so I could afford a new Giant Liv. I love Giant because they are affordable and well made at the same time, plus the shop I go to in Japan has amazing service. For example, as soon as I walked into the shop this week they handed me a bag of shoe bits I left there A YEAR AGO!! Not when they figured out who I was or when they rummaged in the back, but as soon as I walked through the door. Plus when I said I wanted a bike that fits the assistant said, “oh yes, the blue bike is too big for you”. WOW, take my money.

So here is my new bike…

Not the best pictures in the world, but I was too excited to settle and take better ones.

This weekend I went back to my old route of trying to get up that damn mountain, cold weather be damn I am going to start trying again. So off I set. I also decided to use a throwaway camera to record this event, unfortunately the camera shop screwed up the processing. So excuse the state of the pictures.

I got to the start of the Fudo Pass with no worries at all, a breezy 12km ride from my home. Flat and clear as it was a week day. Usually this pass is heaving with cyclists at the weekend. I decided to stop a few places on the way for photo ops.

Then comes the start of the ascent. On previous attempts, at least 6-8 months ago, I got half way and then had to stop for a break, then walked/rode the rest of the way. It is about 4km long and up. This time I wasn’t expecting to even get there as I am heavier and much more out of shape. To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to the up, but was really hyped about the down.

I got to 1km and stopped for water and then again at 2km. I was actually pleased with that as they were brief stops. While I was drinking a small branch fell from a tree right next to me. A morbid thought entered my head, what if I go over that on the way down..I might crash. But with little more thought on the matter off I set again basically walking and riding the second half.

Finally I get to the top and for once the picnic table is empty. I stop for a drink and a snicker. Then I notice lots of fur around me, lots of fur. And right next to me is a dead raccoon dog. Usually I am not a suspicious person, but with the morbid thoughts I had already had I started to think maybe I should go slow on the decent. Plus it is a new bike and the brakes may not be bedded in.

So off I set back down, holding fast to the brakes when suddenly on a corner right by the branch my front tyre gives up and goes flat. My wheel started to wobble and slide, but I wasn’t going fast so I could come to a safe stop. Holy crap.

Happy, safe…but now I have to walk down the hill in cycling shoes, new ones too. By the time I got to the bottom, 2km away, the back of my ankle was bleeding. I used google to find a bike shop as in my haste to go out I did not take any equipment to fix a tyre… There must be one nearby such a popular route.

YES…No 😦 shut

Dear Ms Friend who has a car… please come and pick me up 🙂 YES!!

Thank you Ms Friend, as I did not fancy walking 12km home in those shoes. Morals of the story:

  1. Listen to your instincts
  2. Carry fixing stuff even if you are not going far.
  3. Be nice to your friends (unless they are really annoying,then try your best)

If you are interested here are my stats and route on strava.com

https://www.strava.com/activities/506815840/embed/6887c0f73adff3d07e40f4c18ebc7e2af9375ee5

Awesome Cycle Day and Penis Festival

Yes you did just read that in the title.

I subscribe to a local blog that posted some interesting photos of a shrine about 10km from my house. So I thought, that is a perfect distance to cycle and is close to a cycle path I like. It was just the right distance when I have just recovered from influenza and the wind is gusting, and I hate gusting wind. So off I trot or bike and for the first time in a few weeks I was not coughing in the slightest, not even the wind could blow off my smile.

It took less time than I thought to get there. When I arrived I was surprised to see festival paraphernalia. So now you can tell I didn’t actually read the blog and was just swayed by the photos and wanting to go out on my bike. I did read it when I got home 🙂
Anyway here are my photos from the event. You can read the blog I linked to for more information, it is apparently very detailed.

I bought phallic shaped mochi..but I am not sure if you are supposed to eat it or put it somewhere as an offering (it didn’t taste very nice).

On another note I got a new camera 🙂

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This is at maximum zoom.

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This is at wide open….the above image is on top of the mountain!!! 1200mm

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I mainly got it to capture birds without changing lenses.

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“wow” says the bird, “that canon sx50hs is amazing!”

My friends pointed out that I previously cycled to a shrine with boobs, so now I am all balanced.

Kasumigaura Circuit

Yesterday I finally had nothing to do so I decided to complete a goal I had set at the beginning of the school year, cycle around the main part of Lake Kasumigaura. I had cycled the smaller section before, but this part is about 97km around.

Here is the activity information.

Setting off from the park I felt great, but had a nagging feeling of, “what the hell and I doing, I have only cycled 50km recently.’ My English brain said, “it’s fine, it’s flat…a kids could do that.”

I started at Kasumigaura Park, free parking, toilets, windmill…what more could you want? It was busy, by 9am the car park was full. Luckily I have the world’s smallest car and could squeeze in a reduced size bay.
          

I had a bit of a wander around the park then headed anti-clockwise, against my nature but I had been that way before for about 30km along. A little way up from the park is Yokaren Peace Memorial Museum. I haven’t visited there yet, but a friends says it is very interesting. It has information about kamakazi pilots who set off from this area.

A little further away I arrived at this hill. It is next to a shrine. Being the start of the trip I felt fit and ambitious. Last time my friend tested himself by trying to get to the top. I failed miserably. So I decided to try again.

  

…and failed again, worse. My back tyre slipped on the green stuff, I put my foot down to stop myself falling, got a cramp in my other foot. Decisions, hit the deck and stretch calf or stay upright a deal with the pain. Nothing in it, hit the deck. I ended up with my bike hitting my knee which I knew would leave a big bruise. I carried on with the ride, nursing my pride.

  

At the 30km mark you get to a 7/11, which is the furthest I have been on the trip before. Time for breakfast and look at a swallow nest that had some fledging chicks…duck and avoid incompetent chicks. At this point I met a group of about 10 riders also doing the trip. And, see the lady getting out of the car, a parent from my school. The car is full of students from my school too. I was suddenly a star and got lots of attention.

  

After avoiding birds and minding my manners it was back on with the trip.    

I got a new shirt on eBay 🙂 it caused a lot of stares along the way.

  

The road around the lake is mostly like this, with very few cars. A couple of times you have to via away from the lake, but basically you have a 90km+ safe route. Not many places in the world you can say that.

 

At around 50km there is a great place to stop for lunch and a dip in a foot onsen. The pizza was delicious. 

  

  

Here is a location picture. I am using the iPhone app, so a map dot is tricky.

  
The foot bath was great. And now for the second half. 

To help me get through it I split the whole thing up into 15km segments in my head. I watched an interview with Bradley Wiggins and he said he did that for the hour challenge. Ok, so about 7 segments, I had done 3 and was on the fourth. Just 15km I could do that. I passed the group again at this point, one of them had a puncture. I realised with dread I didn’t have a puncture kit on me, stupid, fingers crossed is not the best strategy.

I was fine until the 80km mark. At that point I realised I had never cycled this far before and my butt really started to complain. The last segment was awful and I cursed everyone and everything.

Finally I managed to get back to the park. I sat/lay down on a bench and texted a friend. Then I looked at the GPS, 98km.

 

98!! Ok I had to do 2 more, had to. But then the strava challenge this month was 115km, could I do that?? By God I would try. And I did. I now had the right to buy this shirt. Earned the right.
 

It is $120, not sure though. My very shaky legs say I earned it, my wallet and brain says my skeleton shirt is fine. Not sure I will ever earn another though.

I am incredibly proud of myself so I might get it. I cycled 117km or 70miles in 6.5hours. 

I put on 50spf suncream and still have lovely farmer’s arms.  

The next day the only thing that really hurts is my new bruise from the fall.  

But at least it is a heart 🙂

Mount Houkyou and a break

I feel like I haven’t been on my bike for ages. It’s the end of a school year and that means reports. And for me that means working weekends as I don’t like working early or too late at school. Every report session means I have to write 30,000 words, with evidence, proof read many times. A dissertation on student achievements. And just when you think you have finished, a child does something you said they absolutely couldn’t and you have to rewrite them. Bless the little cherubs. Every teacher in the world hates writing them. If they say they don’t they are crazy or lying.

Anyway, I got sick to death of them this weekend and went out twice. First I went on an hour ride in honour of Bradley Wiggin’s and the hour challenge. I was so close, really….of course not. But on Strava.com I am first on two of the segments I created. I made them near my house and nobody else has gone on them yet 🙂 So I am the first for a day at least. I managed 22.2km, so less than half the world record, but it was windy. When I got back I tried to finish the reports, but failed. I was close to that too.

It did mean I was confident I could finish on Sunday, so I went for a cycle around Mount Houkyou. I had previous made a route when a student (8 years old) gave me a map and said it was a nice place to go. So I thought I would take her advice. I also added a few shrines to the route. I have been going up and down Mount Tsukuba recently, but I thought I would just have a pleasure ride today. Here is a gallery of photos from the route. It seems to look weird on the iMac, but click on a photo to see the full view.

Here is my route. At one point you can see I start going up “Furits Lane”, which I think is supposed to say fruits as there are many “fruits” about. But I couldn’t remember the elevation of the road and it was a pleasure ride. So I changed my mind. When I checked at home I found it was much steeper than my usual up and down route. There was also a huge snake on the road, but I always end up stopping and watching them slither away… and forget to take a photo. All in all a lovely day, and I finished my reports.

Return to Ushiku and a puppy update

School broke up today and my plan was nothing more than going home, relaxing and drinking beer for the rest of the day. I have a little issue with just relaxing, I need to be doing something. So I thought, I could cycle to Ushiku and be back home in time for beer before it gets dark. It was a lovely day, blue skies, very little wind. That sealed the deal. Plus I just found a forever home for the puppy, now named Juno and was curious about the other one. Could I help that one too?

So, off I set. Firstly the second puppy was nowhere to be seen, neither was the old man. Around the area I could no longer see a water or food bowl, so my thought is that he found another home for the pup. I hope anyway.

The ride was great. I didn’t follow the same route as my last trip as I didn’t want to end up on the busy road again. I used the Google iphone app to find a walking route and mostly followed that, but took some detours knowing that the Google app would reroute almost instantly.

Along the route many trees were covered in wisteria. I love cherry blossom season, but it often seems man made or influenced. But wisteria just grows naturally on the trees, it is a purple extravaganza. I was just teaching my students about the history of purple and this was in my mind when I saw these gorgeous flowers.

The route is pretty much the same as my last post so I won’t repeat myself here. I will post some new pictures though. Also I used the iPhone app for this post only. It is easy to use but does post larger sized  pictures.

   
        

Ushiku, Shrines and Puppies

It has taken me a week to add this post due to an incident that happened on the ride, don’t worry I am ok no accident or anything.

For this ride I went down the “inside” bit of Ushiku swamp. It was a lovely ride that I will certainly do again, today was a little rainy so a sunny day would be great. I used the app Strava only and stole the route from a fellow Stravian.

Here is the route.

Just after I set off I almost ran over a couple of puppies that were roaming around.

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They were very cute and young. I stopped and played with them for a few minutes. I had seen them the day before and I rode this way to see if they were still roaming around, they were. Nobody was around to ask about them, but I could see a water bowl. I left them and continued on the ride, I would check on them on the way back.

The ride was along regular roads and passed by typical Japanese countryside. Recently I have seen a massive increase in solar panel farms. They have really taken off since the big earthquake.

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The app was easy to follow and I kept it on the map page rather than look at the stats. IMG_2312 IMG_2313

I saw other creatures on my ride.

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One thing I really like about Japan are the mirrors everywhere. Local governments and regular people put them up. They really help seeing around corners and things coming out of drives. At first I didn’t trust them and always wanted to look for myself, but once you get use to them they make you feel a lot safer. You should still look though.

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At the turn around point there is a small shrine overlooking the lake.

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Then as I was starting to head home I saw a sign for another shrine. It was up a steep path. I managed to cycle up it and speed up it too. It was short, but I felt proud of myself.

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It would be a great place to stop for a picnic on a brighter day. There are also public toilets here.

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On the way back I thought I made a mistake on the route and was heading on to a highway, but it was just a very busy road. On these roads I would usually use the path as they are often quite wide here and made for cycles on busy roads. But on this road there was a big kerb I could not get up and I must have missed the entrance. I cycled like crazy to get off the road and felt so relieved when I did. On the opposite side there were a group of cyclist. I bet riding in a group feels safer, but by myself I felt very exposed.

Anyway, I went back to check on the puppies. I wasn’t really sure what I could do, I think I really just wanted to play with them. This time there was an old man there and he explained that they were put out of a car and then the car drove away. He was looking after them for now, but didn’t know what do do with them. He then picked up one and handed it to me and said “lucky” in English. I asked “Honto? Really?”, where he replied, “dozo”, which mean something like “here you go”. So now I had to walk 2km carrying a puppy and pushing my bike after a 50km ride. All the while I was thinking, what am I doing? what am I going to do with this dog?

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I didn’t have anything and I was supposed to be meeting some school evaluators an hour later. I threw the dog in my car and drove straight to a pet shop and “tree-hugger girl” and “over-prepared man” helped me get stuff like food, poo bags, leads, collars, a toy chicken and shampoo. It was quite expensive. I then rushed to pick up the visitors, and the dog, now called barnaby, threw up in the car. The old man was feeding them people food. Later that night I gave the dog a bath and found it was a girl and renamed her Juno after a childhood pet.

She is the sweetest thing, it took her a few days to settle in and start to be playful. I had to take her to work each day where the other staff helped look after her. The students adored her. She has yet to bark and falls asleep when frightened. The vet says she is healthy, apart from a few fleas which she has been treated for. I slept downstairs on the couch for a week as I didn’t want her to go in the tatami room. Turns out she is perfectly house trained, bonus, but is in the chewy stage. Tonight she is sleeping at a potential forever home for a trial. There is another possible home lined up next week. It seems very quiet at my house now.