Monday, June 2, 2008

100k Japan Bachelor ride

Editor's note: RTP is delighted to have our very first contribution from Chapel Hill randonneur Wes Johnson.

When I got married two years ago my brother and his girlfriend (now wife) came back to the US for the wedding. The day before, instead for a bachelor party the two of us hit the road for some riding up Pilot mountain.
This time for his wedding we flew to Japan and I got to ride some of the roads there.

Matt races for a club team in Japan. Ken's bikeshop is their sponsor, for those who speak Japanese, or somewhat translated.

I was planning on bringing my Litespeed with S&S couplers that I used for PBP but Ken was nice enough to loan me a bike to ride instead. It saved me a bunch of time and I didn't need to carry a bike case all over Japan. Later in the week I stopped by and thanked them for the bike. I also purchased one of the team jerseys, and tasked to start the US division of the Ken's team.

The bike was a Panasonic - It had downtube shifters but I didn't see a slot for DVDs or a remote control. Just looking at this picture you can see Panasonics are so fast that just standing still it was blurry, or a slight possibility the photo is out of focus.

We planned on doing one of the pretty training rides the Ken's team does for training. I placed a very crude map of the ride in google maps. It started at their apartment in Fukuyama(an hour for Hiroshima) and went across some smaller islands using amazing bridges and two ferry rides. The first ferry was a quick ride from Onomichi to the first island. It was 100 yen (105 yen to the dollar) and 10 yen for the bike.

Matt and his team love this ride and I can see why. The rodes on the small islands are empty and the views for the bridges are spectacular. Every bridge has a bike lane totally separated from the roadway. The bike lane is used by both bikes and scooters. This first bridge (Innoshima Bridge) the bike lane was under the road. It was little creepy hanging way above and looking way down to the water. From sea level we climbed up the bike path from the main road to each bridge.

The next two bridges were quite impressive. We crossed the Ikuchi and Tatara Bridges. I think his team will ride up to 7 different bridges but we only had time for 3.

Like any good randonneur, I know food is a main reason of doing these rides. We hit a couple of well known Japanese food stands. First was a stand that makes "croquets", I think they are called. Basically its mashed potatoes with meat that is deep fried and looks like a hash brown. I think in a paper towel you may get too much grease if you stick them in a jersey pocket.

Our turn around point was a candy shop where Matt reserved some special treats. The shop was run by a fantastic fellow who made us green tea and gave us some extra sweets as congratulations for Matt getting married. The candy was sweetened rice with different fillings. We had some with red or black bean sauce and strawberries.

We took the candy and headed to the overlook park for the most beautiful bridge on the route. If you were a little skeptical about bean paste candy the birds will vouch for me. As I am taking some pictures, Matt went to buy some drinks. We turn around to see a large blackbird flying off with something firmly in its beak. The damn bird made off with my brother's favorite. As we guarded the remaining food it taunted us with a low altitude fly-over with an ill gotten strawberry in his beak.

We finished up the island tour on the ferry back to Onomichi. From there we did two climbs with me getting away on the first and nipping the sprint in on the second climb. Some payback for Matt kicking my ass up Pilot mountain before my wedding. I will say that I sandbagged some during the ride as I didn't know the route and followed most of the time.

Our only requirement was that Matt arrive in one piece. As you can see he did in fact finish the ride.
Being my first post I am not sure how to make a cool slide show and I'm sure the formatting sucks but I have some more pictures of the ride here.



Jerry Phelps said...

Nice story and pictures Wes. Glad you got to ride and see your bro. Did the in-laws like the pottery?

Branson and I missed you on the pre-ride.


Wes said...

Yea, the red vase especially was a big hit. Sorry I missed the 600k. Joe and I hit 3 mountain madness on Saturday.


bullcitybiker said...

France. Japan. Can't wait to see where you go riding for your next post.

Great stuff, Wes. Welcome home- Branson