Monday, June 18, 2018

Highways, byways, footpaths and stairs –

Fifteen days non-stop (non rest day) between Hiroshima and Odawara.  We never would have imagined the crazy route we'd take, the weather, the bike repairs, the unbelievable extremes of biking situations we'd encounter, the temple sites, camp-landing places and ascents and descents we'd experience.  But we did it.  We made it to our goal of arriving as planned at our Japanese exchange student, Takehiro's home, on time, on the 15th of June.  His parents and Takehiro took care of us like royalty this past weekend, and the brutality of the two weeks past was shed with the beauty of hospitality in this Japanese home. Some of the highlights of our past 15 days...
The 75 km Shimanami Kaido cycle path connecting Honshu to Shokoku by 5 huge bridges.  So much fun.  Likely due to it being Saturday, we cycled the route with hundreds of other cyclists.  We chose the "beginner route" to
"slow down and ease off" - the shorelines and the easy 3% switchbacks up to the bridges made for a leisurely and thoroughly enjoyable experience.
One of the giant infrastructure roads lifting us up on a dedicated bike lane to one of the bridges connecting the islands of the cycle route.
Ojizo-samas, commonly wearing red bibs.  This shrine we passed as we rode up the Iya Valley, an incredible gorge leading to a not so incredible "vine" bridge/tourist trap.
Koyasan - wow.  An incredibly sacred location on a mountain top, following an 800 meter climb which involved 24% grade pulling up of the bikes and gear, traffic on mountain switchbacks without shoulders, and rain.  We found refuge for the night beside a deserted baseball diamond and stayed dry, cooking dinner in the dugout which had its own lighting and sink!  Japanese attention to detail included a drainage system that allowed the flooding field to pour into a covered trench...keeping us dry and super happy.
Part of the course requirements for Phys Ed 30 - an active volunteer component.  Sampson shows off part of his 10 hour volunteer commitment: cleaning up garbage.  It definitely makes a significant difference to the sites we camp, which although mostly clean, often have areas that given a 1/2 of volunteerism, look sensationally better.  Here we are camped out by a reservoir.
Pushing the bikes again!  Another opportunity to get off a busy road led to smaller and smaller roads, then mountain bike/touring, then slippery slidey inclines.  We had to unload and carry our gear over a ravine at one point.  Part of the unknown involved with taking the road less traveled!
A delicious salad and corn-based stew with chicken, mushrooms and broccoli.  We connected with Japanese "Warm Showers" hosts and got to stay in their heritage Japanese tea house/guest room.  Takumi, Setsuko and their daughter Yuno also had the answer to a better fix on Rick and Tarn's rear-derailleur which the day before had twist/broken off the bent derailleur hanger in a likely "no possible return" way.  Rick had once again worked the near impossible with another ingenious solution, Takumi had a replacement part that meant the repair was solid for the long term.
These cats were super creepy.  We traveled some bike ways on dikes along the coast and every once in a while a bunch of wild cats would appear.  We camped in a rather abondoned park area one night and they were slinking around in the woods....usually we love cats but these ones.....not such a good feeling.
Markos on top of these giant cement coast line controllers gives them some scale.  How do they move these things here?  We saw a huge metal mold for creating them withing 1/2 Km, so at least they didn't have to be moved that far.  Maybe they were made in place?  In Japan we are constantly aware of our placement in relation to sea level.  Tsunami signage of evacuation locations and placards indicating how many meters you are above sea level are common place along the roadside.

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