Sometime when riding the focus becomes too much on the process, whether it be the technique or the speed, and not enough on the surroundings. It was for this reason that on this day I strapped my DSLR around my neck and decided to take a nice leisurely ride among the rivers and mountains between the Japan Sea and Hiroshima prefecture.
The ride started around 13:00, and it was about 30℃ (85℉ for you Americans) and 75% humidity. Not a great time to be following good ATGATT philosophy, but at least all of my gear is well vented. The gear actually does a good job of keeping the sun off of me, while allowing the wind in, so it is actually rather comfortable. (I feel the need to state this, as when people see me in my full riding gear under the blazing sun the first thing they ask is “aren’t you hot in there?”).
I followed route 5 from Hamada through Kanagi and then Asahi, where the road opened up offering a beautiful view of rice fields in the foreground with green mountains to the rear. (This is where I must mention that taking photos with a DSLR while wearing riding gloves and a modular helmet is an interesting challenge, and not exactly conducive to Ansel Adams quality photos…). From there the route followed along a small river, where I spotted a few fishermen out catching dinner. It was just beyond this point that I stopped at a curve in the road which passed around a rather large boulder. This boulder looked more like a mountain in miniature, and it was located right where the river took a bend. I found a great spot to sit and watch the river flow towards me before it passed off to my right. If it weren’t for the cheeky bastard who had decided this was a good spot to burn his PET bottle collection I would have stayed longer, but I have filed that spot away as a nice place to take lunch in the future.
It was from here that the road led me into Mizuho. The entrance into Mizuho was marked by the sudden appearance of a nicely repurposed gondola. As the town is renowned for its skiiing at Mizuho Highlands, I found the novel use of the worn gondola quite fitting. This was not the last of these I saw either, so I imagine that most of the bus stops in the area are the same. After passing through Mizuho I entered into the fun little section of route 5 that heads into Oasa. As the road gets quite twisty and narrow there I did not stop to take any photos. It would make for a nice ride video sometime though, if I ever get a camera mounted on the bike…
Coming out of the twisties I found myself looking over another field of rice; this one showing signs of sagging and getting heavier with rice. It was after passing through this valley that I reached Hiroshima prefecture, and therefor the halfway point of my daytrip. Turning from route 5 to route 79, I started my return home, putting the sun to my back. 79 led to 40, and then on to 186, which would lead me right back home. I always enjoy riding 186, and it is one of the highlighted routes in the Chugoku/Shikoku Touring Mapple. It is a nice winding road, with some nice views of the Shimane countryside. I have often found myself wishing I had a camera, or the time to slow down and appreciate the road more, so this day was my chance. So it was that I finally took a photo of the van/shed that is always one of my favorite landmarks on the road. I wonder, was the roof put on before or after the van was put out to pasture? Either way, it seems to make a nice spot to store things…
Passing along through another winding section of 186, and then to the more open area, I came to the spot where the road looks down upon a beautiful river. I have always viewed this as I passed by at around 70 kph (45 mph for the Americans out there…), so it was nice to pull over and snap a picture. I found that by having the camera focus on the foreground I was able to more accurately replicate the way I usually see it… Just down the road a bit I decided to turn left down a dirt track, which turned out to be my first off-road experience with this bike, and see if I could get a better view of the river. I did not snap any keepers, but I did quite enjoy riding down a grass two-track road for a while. I ended up doing a three-point turnaround after a few kilometers, as you never know how deep into the mountains some of these roads go, or where they will come out for that matter. It was just as I completed the turnaround that I spotted the large black snake racing away from my foot. I wonder if I stepped on him. I like to think that my riding boots are fang-proof, but I don’t feel the need to test that theory any time soon.
After my off-road adventure, I took one last stop off at the Osa ski resort. I took the chance to stretch my legs, hydrate, and watch a few old men play miniature golf in the shadow of the now green ski slopes. This is where I took the photo at the head of this post, and where the camera was put away. Unfortunately, it was at this point that time caught up with me, as my son’s soccer practice was coming to an end and I had to rush home to pick him up. So, while my leisurely ride with my DSLR ended with a bit of a mad rush home, I would have to say that I highly recommend riding with a DSLR around your neck. It is a reminder to keep it slow, as any excessive speed would lead to your camera swinging wildly about you, and helps to keep your focus on scanning the surroundings for interesting things. Overall, it was a great way to slow down and enjoy the ride.