Category Archives: Ride Reports

Iwami Loop

Yuki and I decided to take the bike down to Masuda on an errand, and we ended up doing a nice long Iwami Loop. We took route 9 down to Masuda to get a tennis racquet restrung, and when we learned it would take four hours the only option was to ride it out. We headed down through Hagi, and over the border into Yamaguchi to the Tamagawa campground. We drove down past the campsite to walk out to the beach, where we took the only two photos of the day.

After a couple of great burgers from Wild Kitchen at the Tamagawa rest stop, we headed further down route 191 to catch route 315 into the Yamaguchi mountains. This may be one of my new favorite roads. I will definitely be back. It has a nice balance of twists, turns, and beautiful mountain views. I think I need to go back to see it again in the fall…

From 315 we hopped on route 13 to swing through Tsuwano, which is a fantastic town to visit. However, today we just cruised straight through and hopped on route 9 back into Masuda, where we stopped in for a coffee at KuriKuri Coffee. Rather than return home up the coast on route 9, we decided to take another of my favorite roads, the Western Iwami Farm Road (A.K.A. 石見西部広域農道). This is a beautiful winding mountain road which is fairly new, and very lightly travelled. This is the nicest ride home from Masuda to Hamada, and it brings you right into Yasakamura, where you can visit friends before grabbing route 34 for the last thirty minutes back home.

Overall, it was a beautiful day for 200k. I am looking forward to a lot more beatiful two-up rides in the future. Next time I will remember to take more photos…

Route 34 Video

Since the riding was so gorgeous last week, I decided to bring the camera long for the ride home on Thursday.  So, if you are curious about what the roads are like out here in West Nowhere, and you have 34 minutes to spare, then crack a beer and check out the video below.  For the record, there is no crazy knee-dragging, stunts, or wheelies. This is just a casual ride along empty mountain roads in West Nowhere. For a more authentic experience, please cue up Moving Pictures by Rush to play in the background, as that was what I was listening to during the ride.

For the record, the bike is a 2012 Honda NC700X, so while the RPMs sound quite low at times it is perfectly normal. (Listening to the video, without my helmet of course, allowed me to hear the engine a bit more. It gave me the urge to tell the damn rider to down-shift on a few occasions, but that is just how this bike rides. I usually keep it just around 3k or so on the tach. The bike redlines at 6K and is a ‘short-shifter’ by design. It has plenty of torque and it quite nimble, so it is a pleasure to ride. I like that, as being on liter street racer would probably wake the inner idiot in me. I love my “boring” motorcycle.

Route 34

Another Thursday, and another longer-than-necessary ride home.

Last week on the ride home from Masuda, I passed the Sun Eight rest area in Mito, and today I thought I would stop in there for lunch. Sadly, they did not have a place to eat, but they did have a map on the wall which changed my planned route home. I was planning to take the same route home as last week in order to get some good video of the ride, but as soon as I say the map I noticed the loop in Route 34 just a few kilometers down the road. The decision was made.

The road from Mito to Hamada would bring me through Kitsuka and Yasaka before dropping me on route 9 along the coast. The first half of the ride was fantastic, as I don’t think I saw another vehicle the whole way to the Kitsuka Dam. The roads were just twisty enough to be fun, but the stray sticks, leaves, and stones kept me at a reasonable pace. That and the constant riding-in-the-sticks fear that someone who lives on these roads, and rarely ever sees vehicles, just may be crossing the street with a bamboo pole over their shoulder. (It only had to happen once to become a feature attraction in my riding sub-conscious.)

The second half of the ride, after the dam stop for some dam selfies and photos the dam lake in Kitsuka, was fairly relaxing. The traffic picked up here, as I actually started seeing an occasional car, but the roads became less ‘twisty’ and more ‘mildly wavy’; just the way I love ’em. Sure, I love to lean into the twisties and test myself a bit, but I find the slow wavy roads along rivers to be the most relaxing to ride. This is what it was like for most of the way after the Kitsuka Dam. Once passing through central Yasaka the road does twist up a bit, and as it is slowly dropping down nearer to sea-level the ride is quite fun. As usual, there were few cars, so I did not have the frustration of being stuck behind a slow-mover through the twisties. That said, Japanese countryside drivers really are fantastic about making room for riders to pass.

Yet another beautiful Thursday, and another great day on the bike. Now I have some camping to look forward to this weekend, and hopefully I will get my first paddle on the SUP in as well. Any week which involves both the bike and the SUP is a damn good week…

A Therapeutic Commute

Sometimes it is really nice to commute to work. While my usual commute is a five-minute walk door-to-door, once a week I have to travel about 40 kilometers (about 26 miles) down the coast. One of the reasons I accepted this part-time post was that it would be a nice way to take the bike down the coast once a week. However, for the first few meetings of this class it has rained, so today was the first time I was able to make the commute on the bike. It was worth the wait.

Just about every five minutes I saw something that instantly made me regret not setting up a helmet or handlebar GoPro before leaving this morning. The recent rains brought out the greens along the side of the road and in the mountains, while also clearing  the air. The result was some fantastic ‘B&G Therapy’. (Blue skies and ocean, Green grass and mountains…)

The riding was so fantastic that I decided to take the long way home.

It took twice as long as the ride down the coast, but it was well worth it. If the weather is good again next week I will probably take the same route again. However, I will be sure to set up a GoPro and bring a camera along, as I truly regret not having pictures to share here.

The only image I took all day was actually at Yuhi park, which is just a few kilometers from the house. I have so many photos from there I hardly need another, but here it is anyway.

Motocamp SUP Fishing (Video)

Friday I saddled up the bike with the inflatable SUP, tent, tarp, and fishing gear and made my way to the Japan Sea. Even caught a fish. (An edible one this time.) Check out the video below.

The other day I posted about my arrival at the Iwami Seaside Park on my weekend Motocamp, SUP & fishing trip. Well, it turns out, that while the bugs were biting on Friday night, the fish were biting on Saturday. I ended up pulling in a Flathead (コチ in Japanese) while trolling over crystal clear water just a few hundred meters offshore.

I figured I might get lucky and pull in a flounder, as I see them skirt away from my shadow fairly often, but I was a bit shocked by this fish. My reaction was something like “What the hell are you?!?” Luckily there were a few old guys surf casting near my take-out, so they filled me in on the details. Apparently, these only grow to about 60 cm locally, so at 50 cm this was  pretty good catch. They suggested I slice it up for sashimi, but we ended up just tossing it on the grill. Good eating. Not bad for my first edible catch from the SUP.

Exploring Tatamigaura on a SUP

Swami Seaside ParkNo matter how many times I visit Tatamigaura, I always find it interesting. More so now that I can view it from the sea. It is a quick trip from the Iwami Seaside Park (which is a GREAT camping area), so it makes for some good exploring.

I have actually paddled the area a number of times already, but since it was a beautiful Sunday morning, and my head was still a bit unclear from the Saturday night camping activities, I thought it would be a great day to take it slow. The water agreed, as it was as smooth as glass, which makes it far easier to hug the rocks and navigate the more interesting caves and inlets.

In the interest of brevity, the video I threw together is just highlights, but I hope you find it interesting. Even though I was there in person, and alone to boot, I still enjoy watching it. I have also consciously decided to not add background music to paddling videos, as it is the stillness of the experience that I truly enjoy. Gliding along with nothing but the sound of my paddle and board moving through the water accompanied by waves slapping rocks, birds calling out, and the occasional sound of fish jumping and/or flying.

Here is an album of some highlights from the paddle.


I actually spotted a few fish on this paddle, and a number of fishermen as well, so a trolling rig for the paddle board is in the work. I am hoping to be catching my dinner during my weekend paddles from now on.

Kokufu Beach to Iwami Seaside Park on the SUP

Cruising over a lunar landscape
Cruising over a lunar landscape

Kokufu beach is a rather popular surfing location in Hamada. Every weekend you are guaranteed to see a lot full of cars with Hiroshima license plates as the watermen make their way to the Japan Sea. It is a good starting point for me on the SUP, as going left is good for a 10k paddle to the Hamada port, and right is a quick paddle past Tatamigaura to the Iwami Seaside Park.

As I was camping with family and friends at the Seaside Park this last weekend, Kokufu made a nice turn-around point for my morning paddle on Sunday. The water was nearly smooth as glass, and paddling was smooth. The views, along the coast and below water, made for a relaxing trip.

Just before rounding the point to the park I spotted a few medium-sized fish off my bow as I passed through some seaweed. Once around the point is was all sand-bottom and nice cruising. While the water looks rather shallow, the area with the sandy bottom is probably about 10 meters deep. I love cruising over these areas, as it feels as if you are flying low over a desert, or a lunar landscape. Which reminds me that I did not add music to the video. That was intentional, as the near-silence of paddling is one of my favourite aspects of the sport. I hope you enjoyed it as well…

Shimane Green Line

As today was the Autumnal Equinox, and a national holiday, I decided to take the bike out for a ride. I had just ridden the bike about 100 km back from the shop last night after having new tires installed, but they were all highway miles, and the shoes needed to get some gentle initial wear on the edges.  So I thought it would be a great chance to head out to the Shimane Green Line for a slow winding ride.

The Green Line is a nice meandering road through the mountains and of Shimane. I assume it gets its name from the virgin surroundings, as while the road is well built, and rather fun to ride, the areas it passes through are not very developed. It is a road that I have ridden many times, and greatly enjoyed. However, I think that I have only explored a bit of it as it seems to extend beyond where I usually join it.

The path I usually take is from the entrance to Mimata Onsen (A), where we used to live a few years back, through the mountains to route 9 in Gotsu (B).
View Larger Map

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I just had new shoes put on the bike, so today was all about taking it easy. It was a good thing too, as it seems that the clean up work  on the Green Line after the last few typhoons seems a bit behind schedule. While I was able to take some photos (below) of a number of the partially closed off sections of the road, there were a number of other hazards that I did not capture. The first actually caught me by surprise, and if I hadn’t been taking it easy on the new tires it may have spelled trouble. It was the largest landslide I encountered, and it was right around a tight, and blind, corner. It was a good reminder to take it easy, so I simply slowed down and appreciated the full greens of the surroundings while seeking out the signs of  autumn in the leaves.

About three quarters of the way through this section of the Shimane Green Line, alongside Mt. Koyasan, I came upon one of my favorite roads in Shimane. This particular road is barely over three kilometers in length, but I have certainly taken more photos here than anywhere else along the route. This is the maintenance road for the windmills overlooking Gotsu.

The views from up here, especially at sunset, can be rather stunning. I love to come up to this road and just ride slowly and take in the quiet and the views. As it is only a maintenance road, there is never anybody else there. It is the perfect spot to break out the camp stove and brew up a fresh cup of coffee. (I think I just gave myself a great idea!)

While I have traveled this section of the Shimane Green Line more times than I can recall, I also passed through another section in Asahi earlier today, and I think there must be more. I look forward to following the Asahi section back in the other direction to find out just how many other sections of the Shimane Green Line I can discover before the snows start to fall…

The Long Ride Home

After spending a week and a half away from home, it was time to head back to Shimane. After our last day of riding in Hokkaido, cruising from Kushiro to Tomakomai,  we arrived at the Shin Nihonkai ferry terminal.  Just as we arrived the sky started to darken, and as we shuffled into the waiting area the rain started to bath the bikes as they lined up for boarding. The rain, while quite light, seemed to be a portent of bad weather that would follow me later on this last leg of the Hokkaido 2013 tour.

As luck would have it, I was the last bike, and therefore last vehicle on the ferry for this trip. We quickly parked our bikes in the allotted spaces and left them for the ferry workers to strap down while we sought out our bunks and a few beers for a farewell toast to Hokkaido. Gary and I sat and drank our beers as we watched the lights of the Tomakomai coast receded in the distance. We had done some great riding while up north, and these parting moments were spent reflecting on the roads we had ridden, the places we had visited, and the people we met. As we moved further out into the Japan Sea, and the cell coverage slowly faded away, we moved down to level three to retire to our bunks. Without a signal for my iPhone, I could no longer check in on the forecast for my ride home, so I gave up and caught some well deserved sleep. I awoke with the morning breakfast announcement and moved up to deck five to get some fresh air and catch up on some reading. There was not much else to do on the ferry unless you wanted to participate in the occasional bingo contest or watch a Japanese movie… So it was that I pushed most of the way through Tripwire; the third book in the Jack Reacher series.

As we approached the Tsuruga ferry port we were back on the phones checking routes and weather forecasts. Gary had an easy three-hour ride home to Kanazawa in fair weather, and I was looking at a 15 minute ride to a business hotel in Tsuruga. We didn’t speak much while we loaded the bike in preparation to ride ashore, as we both slowly came to grips with the end of the trip. We planned to meet up on the road somewhere before our paths diverged, but we ended up just waving and sharing an “お疲れ様” (“Cheers”) while we rode off our separate ways. I arrived at the hotel, checked in, and upon settling in immediately checked the forecast for the next day’s ride. The forecast was for rain. Rain starting at 4 a.m., and increasing in intensity throughout the day. So it was that I decided to get up as early as possible and get on the road. There was nothing to do about it, I was just going to have to do the 487 km ride in the rain.

I had the bike loaded and ready to go at 05:45, six minutes after sunrise, and the rain was already falling. So it was that I left Tsuruga in a light rain to start the ten hour ride home on national roads. It was about 45 minutes after I embarked that I realized that my new ‘waterproof’ over-gloves were not going to last the whole trip. While the material was certainly beading the rain, the water that was running down my sleeves was sliding right into the gloves, which lead to the creation of small lakes between my wrists and elbows. About thirty minutes later, after the rain started to pour down in sheets, I hit my first deep puddle. The resulting splash sent water directly up the inside of the legs of my waterproof pants and down into my boots. So now I had lakes in my sleeves, cold wet hands, squishy feet, and eight hours to go… As the rain let up to more of a sprinkle, I pulled over, drained my sleeves, and put away the waterproof over-gloves. Better to just ride with wet hands than deal with those forearm lakes. The boots would have to remain full for another hour before I pulled into a convenience store and attempted to drain them. No real improvement… Seven hours to go…

It was just around hour seven that the rain let up a bit and I pulled into McDonalds for my first meal of the day. I walked in dripping from head to toe and shook of the stares of all the other customers. I ordered a Big Mac meal with a coffee and sat down to warm up. I sat a good five minutes with the hot coffee cupped in my fishy hands. They were so white and swollen that it seemed I could simply scrape off a centimeter of skin without too much trouble. The hot coffee helped bring them back to life, and by the time I went back out to the bike I was almost feeling comfortable. The rain had completely stopped while I was eating, so I pulled out a spare pair of dry gloves and marveled at the seemingly wonderful sensation of dry leather against my skin. The Chugoku region, of which Shimane and Tottori are parts of, always takes care of me. It was in Tottori that the rain stopped, and the remaining three hours of riding were nearly a pleasure. Only the occasional squishing of water in my boots to remind me of the misery of the first seven hours. No matter how many times I come home from long rides, I always find myself marveling at the beauty of Shimane. Perhaps part of it is a bit of homesickness, but we do certainly have beautiful coastlines and the green backing of the Chugoku mountain range.

Overall, the Hokkaido trip was a fantastic experience. On both the first and final legs I dealt with heavy rains outside of Chugoku, but in Shimane the sun shone for me both times. She is good to me that way. All told, I put 3, 365 km on the bike on this trip, and I seem to have ridden my rear tire to the grave. The bike is essentially ‘up on blocks’ until the weekend, as I cannot ride on that tire. I guess she deserves a break, and so do I. A tow truck is coming Thursday to bring her into the shop for a new shoe and a check-up. In the meantime, Taiga and I will be planning a camping trip for next weekend. No rest for the wicked.

The road to Kanazawa

The road to Kanazawa was long and challenging. I didn’t even make it 10 minutes down the road before I met my first obstacle. The rains had washed out part of the highway I had planned to take, which forced me to take a one hour detour through the country. So the Google estimate for my arrival was bumped from 11:30 PM to 12:30 AM almost immediately.

The detour let me along some of the mountain and river roads in the backcountry of Shimane. The rivers were all swollen to a mad chocolate milky goodness and were wild to see. In many places water was pouring across the road, from the mountains into the rivers, causing me to ford many tiny streams along the way.
Once I get on the Chugoku highway I had another two and half hours of beautiful sunny skies. The rainstorm had cleared away much of the dust in the air. The remaining clouds only serve to make the perfectly blue sky stand out all the more. Soon the sun was setting behind me, and I was rewarded with beautiful blends of orange, pink and purple in my rearview mirrors. Unfortunately it seemed like I had rain ahead, as as I approached a rise in the road I was faced with ominously beautiful lavender clouds down the road.
The next three hundred+ kilometers were fairly miserable. It started raining almost as soon as the sun fully set, and my turn onto the Maizuru-Tsuruga was a turn for the worst… I spent the next four hours stubbornly pushing through a rainy fog as simply refused to stop for the night. My visibility was terrible, and I co scantly felt as if my understanding of the road was relying too heavily on extrapolated data.
So it was, that with 192 km to go, I stopped off at the Kasai rest area just west of the port of Obama in Fukui prefecture. It was just around 9:00 pm, so called Gary, to whose home I was headed, to give him an update. Gary, who is a bit if a weather-buff, promised me that if I sat tight for 15 minutes the rain would pass me by and I would have clear skies after that. Putting my trust in Gary’s meteorological promises, I spent the next 20 minutes phoning home and wishing the kids good night.
As it turned out, Gary was full of shit. The rain hadn’t slowed a bit, so I sucked it up and got back on the road. I spent the last few hours feeling like I was wearing a mostly-blind person’s specs. As I raced down the road in these conditions, trying my damnedest to arrive before midnight, I found dark thoughts entering my mind. I was feeling glad that I had wished the family good night, and told them I loved them, as the conditions really had me on edge…
Long story short (too late for that, right!), I arrived at Gary’s at 12:30, just as Google had promised, and sat down for a well deserved beer.

And her I am the next morning, making camp coffee in Gary’s tatami guest room as he snores away across the house. Overall, the trip to Kanazawa was an interesting one, and well worth it to meet up with a good friend. That said, nest time I will make sure there are no typhoons on the weather map before I leave!

(Posted using voice to text on my iPhone, and not sufficiently proofread, so please forgive any grammatical errors. )