Tag Archives: rain

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.

Touring with Taiga

Ever since I decided to buy a bike last summer, my son and I have been talking about touring together. Due to some complications with transferring my motorcycle license from the USA to Japan, I was not able to ride with a passenger until August 1st; approximately eight months after I brought home the bike.

So it was that  on August 2nd Taiga and I saddled up for our first ride together up the coast to the city of Oda. We spent the night there at a friends new house, and walked downtown to enjoy a local festival. Beer, paper lanterns, and oddly enough, hula dancers.

It rained through the night, and on through the early morning, so we relaxed in our friends’ new kitchen enjoying coffee and good company until the skies cleared up. Around noontime the grey skies were replaced by blue, and Taiga and I rushed to put on our gear and get on the road. The plan for the day was to head inland and do a lap around Mt. Sanbe, and then take the inland route home southwest through the mountains and along the rivers.

The Ride Home
The Ride Home

(The  map of our ride to the right is from an app on my iPhone called PlaceMe. Basically, it uses your phone’s GPS to drop a pin anyplace you stay for more than 5 minutes each day. Not a great app to keep on your phone if you are cheating on your spouse, but it is very handy for logging your stops while touring.)

We hopped on the bike and chose a route in Google Maps that would bring us in a loop around the mountain, allowing us to meet the rest of the group at Sanbe Burger about 45 minutes later for lunch. The first 25 minutes went smoothly, as we followed a winding route around the base of the mountain, but then we had to take a small detour to take the first photo below. It seems that the rain the night previous had washed out our route. No worries. A quick photo stop and then we were able to get back on the route a couple hundred meters down the road. We then continued on for another ten minutes before the skies opened up and unleashed on us. It was like Zeus’s hot tub overflowed, as it just hammered down on us for about five minutes. After that, it was back to blue skies, but now Taiga and I were riding along in wet clothes… As Pooh would say, “Oh, bother”.

To add insult to injury, we arrived at Sanbe Burger moments after the rest of the group only to find that they were sold out of burgers for the day… Seeing as there were no burgers, and we were standing around feeling damp, we decided to get back on the bike and let the wind dry us off a bit. We stopped off at the Sanbe Dam to take some dam photos and watch the dam fountain. We had some dam father-and-son fun, and decided to get back on the dam road.

We didn’t stop for a while after our dam break, as we were really enjoying the cooling sensation of the warm breeze drying our clothes as we wound our way through the back roads of Shimane. Eventually we connected up with route 261 along the Gonogawa river, which is one of my favorite roads in the area. We were enjoying the gentle curves of the road, perhaps a bit too much so, when I spotted a police car coming from the other direction. I slowed down just in case, but he banged a u-turn and pulled in about 500 meters behind us. (Can you imagine how pissed my wife would be if I were to get busted for speeding with my son on the back the bike on our first trip together? I certainly can…) So as I traveled along at a strategically selected three km/h above the speed limit, keeping one eye on the mirrors to see what his intentions were, I had just noticed that he had turned on his party lights when Taiga’s voice came over the communication system.

“Daddy! Look! Monkeys!”

Yes, there were two Japanese monkeys crossing the road right in front of us. A moment of panic about running over a monkey, and then the comforting realization that the officer must have turned around to check on the monkeys instead of me. Saved by the monkeys…

Since we had missed out on Sanbe Burgers earlier, and as it was nearly approaching dinner time, we decided to stop messing about with monkeys and head to the Mos Burger at Yuhi Park. Overall, not too bad for Taiga’s first overnight bike trip. I am looking forward to our first moto-camping  trip to Akiyoshidai soon…  I’ll keep you posted. 😉

(This post has been post-dated to match the actual dates of the trip.)