Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Tesla of Bicycles!

It's not a folding bike, but I still want one!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gone Surfin!

I recently traded in (not really) my bikes for a couple of surfboards and have been trying out some of the local surf spots.

Here's a short piece I did about a recent trip to Shimoda and Shirahama Beach.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Just Ride!

biking in japan, cycling in kamakura, biking in kamakura
So, Ok, I have no excuse. I took a prolonged winter break from cycling and developed an oversized but unimpressive table muscle.  The only biking I’ve done for much of the winter was using my wife’s electric bike to make beer runs to the local combini. 
To be fair, I live on a hill, and beer in the quantities that I consume, can be like really really heavy! So, like the electric bike is really really nice.
Well anyway, about two weeks ago, for some reason that I can’t recall, I jumped on the scale and got a nice little slap in the face.  I’m too embarrassed to say what I weighed in at, but lets just say it if I were a UFC fighter, I’d be in Octgagon with the big boys.
So, ok, I’m like what the hell?  How did this happen? After a little micro reflection I realized that I haven’t been cycling, swimming or running for a long, long, long time. 

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Beach near Enoshima
So, BOOM! I decided to get back on the bike and in the last two weeks have done three local rides that left me feeling great, refreshed, excited about riding again, and, combined with a reduction beer intake, a few pounds lighter.
The first ride was a repeat of one my earliest rides after purchasing my first folding bike, Yokohama to Kamakura, Enoshima, and then on to Chigasaki.
The best thing about this ride is that once you get out the coast you can ride along the beach, and from Enoshima to Chigasaki there’s a bike path ride alongside the beach and away from road.

Sub at Yokosuka Navy Base
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My Brompton Taking a Rest on Coastal Park Road Near Yokosuka
The second and third rides were from Yokohama to Kanonzaki and on to Kurihama.  From Kurihama, I fold up my Brompton and jumped on the train home. 

biking in canonzaki, folding biker japan
Beach and Lighthouse at Kanonzaki

There nothing really new to say about these rides as I’ve covered them in past posts. I guess the only new thing is a reminder to myself that it’s so easy to get distracted by this, that, or the other, and in doing so, forget about how fun it can be to get out on the bike and start cruising the local coastal and backroads.
Flowers at the JR Kurihama Train Station
Note to self.......JUST RIDE!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Loro - Folding Bike Shop in Yokohama

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Rad Folding Bike at Loro

One of the good things about cycling is that you get to see things that you might miss if you were in a car, on a bus or a train.  The same goes for walking apparently.

Though I have crisscrossed most of the roads in the area from Yokohama Station to Yamate many many times on one of my folding bikes, I had never come come across a speciality bike shop called Loro in the area between Sakurakicho and Kannai.

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Micro Folders

Fortunately, I decided to do several errands on foot on a recent sunny day and serendipitously (I have always wanted to use that word!) stumbled upon Loro, a very cool folding and recumbent bike specialty shop.

The owner told me the shop has been in business for seven years.  

The variety of bikes was impressive with the usual Bromptons and BD-1s and then several brands I'd never seen before.  I'm sure I'll be a regular window shopper and minor annoyance in the near future.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cycling in Aomori (Tairadate – Tappi – Jusanko – Inagaki Hot Spring Hotel)

biking in aomori,
Aomori Coast
After saying goodbye the nice owners of Penshion Diaba, I jumped on my bike and continued to head out along the coast of the  Tsugaru Peninsula hoping to reach the northernmost tip at Tappi by noon.

As the road is flat with very little traffic the riding was pleasant. The road passes through a lot of small fishing villages and there are plenty of places to stop for food and drinks.

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Cape Takano

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Takano Cape Lighthouse
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View from Cape Takano

I really enjoyed the views from Takano Cape and Takano Cape Lighthouse and stopped for a short break.

Just as planned I rolled into Cape Tappi just before noon. This is the northern most tip of the peninsula and the area where the tunnel that links Honshu with Hokkaido starts.
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Cape Tappi View
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Cape Tapi Aomori

There is a bit of a climb up to the lookout. But, I strongly encourage you to make the effort as anyone who does will be rewarded with some amazing coastal views.

Just below the lookout area, there is a Tunnel Museum and a small restaurant. I had the soba for JPY 600, was fueled and ready to hit the road.  Little did I know what the road had in store for me.

Well after riding the flats for the last four days, it was payback time. Up, and up, and up, the road winds, literally into the clouds.  The wind was really ripping and the clouds were thick. On some stretches I could only see 30 feet ahead.

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Cycling in the Clouds Near Cape Tappi
aomori biking
View from Cape Tappi
At one point, I saw shadowy animal shapes moving up in front of me. Soon after that I could see that I was surrounded by some sort of monkeys. Unfortunately, they were camera shy as I when I tried to take their photo they scurried off into the trees and clouds.

I really don’t remember how long the climb lasted. My guess is around an hour. It was  tough, but in the end it was well worth it. Not just the views, but the ride down was a real kick.  I had the road to myself and could go as fast or as slow as I wanted. 

After getting down to the west coast, the road is relatively flat with some great ocean views.  I do have to say that there is fair amount of garbage on most of the beach areas.

That said, the locals had just cleaned a large beach at Orikoshinai Beach to prepare for upcoming beach soccer tournament.  I was hot, the water and beach looked inviting, so I took a short swim in the ocean to cool down.

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Lake Jusanko - Aomori

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The Mark of Good Day's Ride

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Rice Paddies South of Lake Jusanko
cycling in aomori
Aomori Sunset
 Later I paid my JPY 100 for a 3-minute shower, toweled off, and again, started down the road.

In the late afternoon I rolled into a rest area with several food stands just at the very north end of Lake Jusanko (Jusan Lake).  I had a couple beers to relax and tried to scout out my next lodgings. The husband and wife owners of the food stand where I bought my beers helped me to reserve a room at the Inagaki Hot Spring Hotel, another 22KM down the road.

The ride past Jusanko is pleasant and flat.  South of the lake there a rice paddies stretching as far as you see in all directions. 

Later that evening I arrived at the Inagaki Hot Spring Hotel, soaked for an hour in the indoor and outdoor hot spring baths, and had a great dinner, a few beers, and fell into a deep sleep, exhausted and content from long but enjoyable ride.

aomori coast
Small Fishing Village in Aomori

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cycling in Aomori (Shin-Aomori Station to Tairadate)

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View to the West of HWY 280 in Aomori
I didn’t leave Shin-Aomori Station until 3pm.  Thus, I already knew that this was going to be relatively short ride.

I immediately jumped on HWY 280 that runs parallel with the east coast of the Tsugaru Peninsula.  The road runs in a straight line for about 20KM.  I ended up jumping over the older road right on the coast after about 10KM.

This road isn’t as smooth, has some ups and downs.  However, it offers less traffic and more interesting views of the ocean and the small fishing villages that dot the coastline.

cycling aomori
Coastal Route Parallel with HWY 280
At about 45KM as the sun was setting behind the mountains in the west, I pulled into the village of Tairadate and tried to get a room at the hot spring hotel.  Apparently they were booked solid.  I tried a minshuku down the road a bit, and they were booked as well

I was about to get a little perturbed when I was told that there was pension house about 1KM further down the road.  So down the road I rode.  After about 1KM I entered into an impressive grove of pine trees, and just a little further I found Penshion Daiba sitting cozily with its back against the beach.

Even though I’m still not clear as to what differentiates a pension house and a minshuku, I have to say that Penshion Diaba is now one of my favorite places to stay in Japan. It’s a family run operation and the owners are helpful, friendly, and are always smiling.

minshuku aomori
Penshion Diaba
The building is clean, light and airy with great views of the ocean.  The rooms are very spacious (think like studio apartment!), feature in room bathrooms, and WiFi.  There's also a sauna bath area, and a nice little restaurant with a range of seafood treats such as Ika (squid) Burgers, and Uni (sea urchin roe) Dons.  The entire place is decorated with hand crafted wooden furniture and colorful art pieces.

aomori minshuku
Mother & Daughter Management Team

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View From my Room.  Nice!
 My room was JPY 5,500 for the night and included breakfast.

I would have liked to spend a few days at the Penshion Diaba just reading, relaxing, exploring the local area, and perhaps joining one of the local guided fishing excursions.   But alas, I needed to get an early start as the next day was going to be a big one.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cycling in Aomori (Hachinohe - Misawa - Mutsu)

View to West of HWY 338
This is one of the best cycling routes for relaxed country riding that I’ve been on in Japan. The road is more or less flat with little traffic, and there is decent sized shoulder for most of the ride.

On the down side, the views aren’t that great, as you can’t really see the ocean.  And, even when you can, it’s not that impressive.

I started around 2pm in Hachinohe and worked my way to HWY 19 and rode up the coast where it eventually merges with HWY 338.  About 25KM from Hachinohe I took a left for a 5KM ride into Misawa. 

cycling in aomori,  biking in aomori
Looking Towards Takahoko Swamp on HWY 338
There are quite a few places to stay here, and I think I picked the worst one, a small hotel behind the train station.  The building was in terrible shape, my room smelled like cigarette smoke, and didn’t have a shower or Wi-Fi. On the bright side, it did only cost JPY 4,200 including breakfast and use of the public bath and shower.

There’s a good-sized US Air Force base in Misawa with around 10,000 Americans stationed there.  That night, having been eating local food only for the entire week, I went over to the area near the main gate of the base in search of some non-Japanese food.  I had a great taco and enchilada dinner at the Tex-Mex place.

It was kind of a surreal experience.   I had been out on my bike for a week, having used very little English, and having seen only a couple other non-Japanese.  And then, all the sudden, I pop into this restaurant and everyone is from the US, speaking English, eating tacos and drinking Coronas. 

I met a really nice family who gave me lots of good tips about cycling in the area. And, later in a bar-restaurant called My Place, I had chance to talk with a lot more people about recommended cycling routes in the area.

folding bike japan,
My Ride - Tartaruga Folding Bike
Most people suggested that I head inland and avoid the coast, as there isn’t much to see on that route.  That said, I AM on this silly mission to cycle Honshu’s coastline. So, in the morning, I decided to keep with the plan and keep going north on HWY 338. 

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Coastal View from HWY 338 Aomori

The highway, as I said, is actually very bicycle friendly. But, the views aren’t great, and there are some remote stretches. At one point, I stopped and asked some surfers if there were any convenience stores in the area. They all answered in the negative, which made me a little concerned about where I’d get my next meal.

Well, within 15 minutes, I had found a convenience store, and biked past two more.  I guess, when you are in car traveling at 80KM per hour, you tend to focus on different things. Us cyclists always need to looking for future supply points.

To that end, I decided not to ride all the way to the end of the Shimokita Peninsula as I couldn’t see if there were any places to stay or even get a meal on the map, and it looks pretty remote. So, when HWY 338 leaves the coast and takes a left to Mutsu, I followed it.

The last 20KM of the ride was pretty much up and down medium-height hills crossing over the peninsula. They were just high enough to keep the ride interesting, but were not even close in difficulty as I what I had ridden over in Iwate-ken.

Mutsu is not really an attractive city.  It sprawls in all directions and looks pretty run down.

There are several hotels on the road that I followed and I got a room in Hotel Green for JPY 5,200 (in room internet – but no Wi-Fi).  I spent a couple of hours walking around Mutsu and found a couple of redeeming points.

aomori sports complex, biking in aomori
Sports Complex in Mutsu

Sports Complex in Mutsu 
One, there is a beautiful new indoor and outdoor sports complex with grass fields, basketball and volleyball courts near to the coast.  It’s one of the best I’ve seen in Japan.

Secondly, right across from Hotel Green, there is a great sushi restaurant that has been in operation and managed by the owner for 30 years.  The service and food was excellent. Prices were very reasonable. And, the owner/chef is very talkative and entertaining.

When I was walking by the sports complex I met a group of cyclists who told me that the scenery around the end of the peninsula was fantastic and highly recommended the ride.

I’m looking forward to returning to Aomori and riding the remaining section of the Shimokita Peninsula.