Tag Archives: Route 191

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…

Hagi Moto-SUP Weekend 

This past Friday I taught a class about an hour down the coast, and as it was a Friday I decided to make a camping trip of it. The class was in Masuda, which is the most south-western city in Shimane, so it was only an extra 20 minutes to the closest camp site over the Yamaguchi border. So Friday morning I headed out around 7:30 AM to head down to Masuda to teach my class. As always, the ride down route 9 was fantastic. While I may occasionally complain about traffic on that road, I must admit the ocean views along the way more than make up for it.

After teaching my class I took route 191 south, past the Hagi-Iwami airport, and along to the Tamagawa Campsite. I arrived to find a completely empty site. I took my time settling into camp; setting up the tent, tarp, hammock, and getting my lay of the land. The walk to the beach was only about 200 meters, and I found the perfect launch point for the SUP. However, it was getting late in the afternoon, so rather than inflating the board I decided to cook some dinner, drink a few beers, and head off for an onsen. Did I mention that the Tamagawa campsite has an onsen?

After falling asleep to the distant slapping of jumping fish in the river beside the campsite, I awoke around six AM to an empty campsite. It was still just me, the crows, mosquitoes, and occasional lost crabs. I took my time, relaxed, and cooked up some breakfast before inflating the SUP. The forecast promised for cloudy skies until 14:00, when the claim was that thunderstorms were forthcoming. As such, I decided to get on the water early, and hit the beach at around 9:30. The Tamagawa beach is a fishermen’s beach. It is only about 70 meters wide, and I put in between fishermen on both sides.  The beach was more stoney than sandy, but the water was flat and welcoming. Putting in was a pleasure, and the first shot straight out to a small islet/rock off the coast was a smooth paddle.

The plan was to keep things simple, as it has been a few months since I have paddled, so I set my sights on reaching the tip of the furthest visible outcrop of the coastal cliffs. This proved to be about three kilometers away. Along the way I found myself sidetracked twice; once by a an odd floating yellow seaweed island about three meters across, and then again by the appearance of a small jellyfish which I chased unsuccessfully.

Once I reached the furthest outcropping, I paused to look off at Shimane in the distance, gave the token nod/bow to the fishermen who had planted themselves there for the day, and then turn back for camp. On the way back I opted to hug the cliffs and enjoy the sights a bit. While I neglected to take photos of them, there were a lot of 亀の手 (A.K.A. Capitulum mitella) everywhere along the cliff walls at the waterline. Apparently they are a bit of a delicacy, so I guess I will be collecting some next time I am out paddling….

The great thing about hugging the cliff lines is that you come across all kinds of caves and little coves. I did find some great caves to explore, but I due to the tricky nature of navigating caves I did not get any photos. However, did get some shots of the coves and rock formations. One cove was especially interesting, as the wall was covered in greens which were apparently populated by frogs. The strong disconnect of paddling into a sea cove to the music of frog songs was a bit odd to me. I am accustomed to the keening of the birds, and the slapping of the waves, but frogs were a bit of a surprise.

After the frog cove, I found a larger cove with water like glass. The sea floor was completely covered with what looked like river stones. I paddled slowly and watched the small fish swim along seemingly oblivious, or indifferent, to my presence. It is these moments of gliding slowly over the crystal clear water, with a living world existing below you, that you can find an amazing sense of peace on the water.

As the forecast had promised thunderstorms in the afternoon, and I had no desire to be the tallest thing on the water at that time, I pulled back in around noontime. Eight kilometers was enough for my first water walk of the season in Japan, so it was time for a nice hot bowl of instant ramen, and then some hammock time.

Overall, I would definitely go back to the Tamagawa camp site. The onsen was fantastic, there is a rest stop and convenience store just 100 meters down the road, and the paddling is fantastic. The trip was actually a bit of recon, as I had previously identified this campsite at the perfect starting point for a Shimane West-to-East paddle. The coast is only about 300 km, so I figure if I break it into shorter paddles it can be done easily enough. As such, I can’t wait to head back to Tamagawa to do the first leg of the trip.

*Grammatical errors brought to you by Asahi Super Dry

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.

The Ride to Akiyoshidai

Ever since I picked up my motorcycle and starting conversing with other riders, both in the area and around the country, I have been asked if I had been to Akiyoshidai yet. It seems that it is a bit of a requirement for anyone within a 500 km radius, or even wider if you are an ironbutt rider. So, as it is only 124 km from home, it was to Akiyoshidai that my son and I planned our first motorcycle camping trip together.

Click for route details
Click for route details

The planned route was dead simple: take route 9 to Masuda, route 191 through Hagi, and then route 28 to the campsite. This would bring us down along the coast of the Japan Sea for most of the ride, affording some rather beautiful views along the way.

Google maps claimed we could make the trip in about 2.5 hours, so I had hoped to get on the road by 9:00 to allow for a lunchtime arrival in Akiyoshidai. As to be expected on one’s first camp trip involving more than one person, one of whom being a late-sleeping tweenager, we got a bit of a late start of it. The start was made a bit more awkward as the curious housewives from the surrounding apartments circled around me as I started the packing process before 9, so we had the added pressure to get moving so that they could all get back to their kids and morning coffee. Complaints aside, it is always nice to have people lining the dock as you pull out on a voyage, so it was nice to have them all there.

Our late start down the coast on route 9 meant that we were in a bit of traffic to begin with, but it mostly opened up as we exited Hamada and left the stop light zone behind us. It was a beautiful day, and the blue skies and calm sea to our ride made for a pleasant ride. Taiga and I took turns pointing things out to each other over our bluetooth headsets, and basically enjoyed those strange conversations that happen when two people are trapped together.

We made our first stop to stretch our legs and take some photos as we arrived in Abu, just northeast of Hagi. Abu has some beautiful views, as there are a number of islands just off the coast. We took the opportunity to have some fun with my iPhone’s panorama option. Did you know that Taiga had a twin? 😉 After Abu, we took one more quick stop at the marina in Hagi to grab a snack, hydrate, and take some photos. Hagi is a nice area to drive/ride through if you ever have the chance.

From Hagi it was a short hop down the remainder of 191 to route 28 before we reached our campsite; the Akiyoshidai Refresh Park. We arrived at around 13:00, only to find out that the front desk for the campsite does not open until 15:00, so it we decided to keep riding and take the scenic route through the Akiyoshidai kart plateau. The road only takes about 20 minutes from beginning to end, but the views are spectacular. We stopped at a few spots to take photos, but we simply could not capture all the beautiful views. They were simply too numerous.

Once we arrived at the official viewing spot, we took a break to play with a miniature schnauzer that some other visitors had brought along. We chatted with them for a while, and in a very Japanese gesture the wife offered us some small candies as they offered up their seats and walked away. Taiga and I stretched out right there and took a short nap to recoup after the long morning on the bike.

Having recovered a bit, we hopped back on the Akiyoshidai road and pointed ourselves back towards the campsite. We checked in without incident and set about putting our tent up. There is something to be said about the simple interactions had when two people put themselves to the task of setting up a campsite. This was truly one of the best parts of this trip with my son; the simple, and often obscure/strange conversations we had while either working around the campsite or riding on the bike. It is these conversations that make a trip like this.

The roads, the views, the different locations are all beautiful in the moment, but it is the bonds forged in the simple conversations that have the most lasting effects.

We had checked in behind three other  motorcycles with Shimane number plates, and we set ourselves up far enough down the line so as not to bother (or be bothered by) them later in the evening. This turned out to be an unnecessary precaution, as Taiga ended up making fast friends with them as we met them along the path to the camp’s onsen (hot spring). We joined them in the rotenburo (outdoor bath) and joked and laughed a while. I joined them for a vending machine beer in the onsen lounge, and then we ended up spending the night around their campfire sharing food, drink, and good conversation. Overall, it was a great ending to a fantastic day.

…to be continued

This is why I love taking the bike shopping in Hiroshima

It is views like these that make shopping trips to Hiroshima so much fun.

A dam nice view
A dam nice view

Sure, I could make it Hiroshima in just over an hour on the highway, but why take the highway when I can make it in just over two hours while enjoying views like these?