Archive for January, 2011

Very Overdue: Bike Riding

Yep, seven months late; sorry about that. Here’s what I started to write in June.

With the weather warming, I have broken out the ol’ 3-speed Road Warrior to travel around. Here are some of adventures on it:

An End to the Endless Road
With the disappearance of snow and arrival of spring (in Shichinohe, late May), I decided to tackle the Endless Road once more.

I flew past the sapling army, crept through the not-quite-ghost village, double-checked for deer-wolves, and continued up, up the winding gravel road into denser forest growth.

And then, around the last leafy bend, I reached it:

the end…kind of.

Merging with another, much less mysterious and (psh) paved road wasn’t exactly the climactic end I was expecting. But, it did give me some closure to the Endless Road conundrum, and the downhill return was pretty fun.

Ride to Lake Towada
In preparation for my trip around Aomori prefecture, I began biking to destinations I would normally drive to: 12 km to volleyball practice. 40 km to visit a friend, and my longest pre-trip ride, 70 km to a lake. Fiery orange and red in autumn, frosty white in winter, and lush greens in spring and summer, the scenery surrounding Lake Towada attracts admirers from across Japan. On a cool, overcast Saturday, I began my ride. Off I went, and the cool cloud cover quickly became sticky humidity and I was soon drenched in sweat. After an hour or so, I suddenly found myself riding through a leafy canopy tunnel and the temperature dropped as if I rode into a bike-in refrigerator. I had reached Oirase Gorge, the stream outlet of Lake Towada.

Along skinny two lane roads and around hairpin turns I rode among beautiful foliage and terrifying tour buses. At last, I reached my destination.

Definitely a good ride.

Tour de Aomori
Since arriving in Japan, I’ve followed the blog of a guy who did the JET Program a couple years before me, arrived back in the States and decided to go on a two-year bike ride around the world. Addictive writing chronicling amazing adventures, his blog sparked something in me (Check out his blog, Teacher on Two Wheels). To get started with training wheels, I decided to go on a 4-day tour around my home prefecture. 2 nights at friends’ houses, 1 night camping by Lake Towada. Here we go…

The route


Coast on the way to Aomori City

Rest at some rice paddies

Underneath the mountains surrounding Aomori

Aomori Bay



Bridge view of a bridge

Friends in Goshogawara City. They performed a play speaking only in the local "Tsugaru" dialect.

Welcome to Kuroishi City

Snack at a Little League game

Town on the way to Lake Towada

It never occurred to me that the squiggly lines in the road leading to Lake Towada were switchbacks, indicating a very steep incline. Too steep for my Road Warrior. So I ended up pushing my bike for a majority of the time from Kuroishi City. Now, flash back a couple weeks before my trip…

Me: You know what we haven’t seen since we’ve been in Japan?

Friend: What?

Me: A real rainstorm. You know, thunder and lightening, the whole bit.

Friend: Yeah, we’ve only just had sprinkles. Weird.

Back to pushing my bike. Up and up the road goes. I’m hoping I get to my campsite before dark. Suddenly, I see out of the corner of my eye a flash, as if paparazzi in the woods sneakily took a shot without my knowing. 3…2…1…CRASH! Thunder that literally shakes the road beneath my feet, followed by a torrential downpour. Myself, backpack, tent, sleeping bag are immediately soaked. Fog rolls in, cutting visibility to that of pea soup. This continues through most of the uphill push.

Japanese thunderstorm

The "I'm still alive!" smile

Sleeping in the rain with a soaked tent and sleeping bag didn’t excite me too much, so I decided to skip camping, bike around Lake Towada, and head straight back to Shichinohe.

Scenic view of the lake

9am departure from Goshogawara. 8pm arrival in Shichinohe. 3 hours of actual bike riding.

220 km later, back home, exhausted, relieved, and psyched more than ever to do long-distance biking!