Reposted from my Blog:Code:Cut Together Video: http://www.livevideo.com/video/C63BE...-wakayama.aspx Video Music Courtesy of the PodSafe Music Network. Artist Attribution: http://music.podshow.com/music/liste...5d253b2a9f7fff Dashboard Confessional - Hands Down http://music.podshow.com/music/liste...1357e44561b39a Wintersleep - Drunk on Aluminum http://music.podshow.com/music/liste...4066c7b952f308 Tricky - Evolution Revolution Love
Wakayama Ride - 2008 May 21 - 2008年5月21日
it's strange my fingers range from numb to hurt
thumbs hurt a lot
index fingers hurt a bit
middle fingers are a little numb and a little hurt
ring fingers are numb
and pinky fingers are really numb
hurt i can understand, but numbness is a little worrysome
But my first long (7.5 hours) ride in 2 years and in a new country, Japan.
I set out for my first *real* ride in Japan.
Although, unlike DNA, I didn't have the luxury of local guides nor the
luxury of not having to worry about being home in the evening and at work
the next day.... However, after riding my bike home from the shop (finally
getting my NANIWA --aka Osaka-- license plate) on the thursday, I set out
on the following Wednesday for Wakayama... the luring mountainous hairpin
filled supposed paradise for bikers.
For those who dont know any Japanese, the YAMA in Wakayama means mountain.
It is truly a prefecture (like province but smaller) completely covered
"Packing for the trip"
So, the night before I started doing some planning with my mapple (bike
oriented regional map book) and the NAVITime Navigation mapping/routing
website. Armed with these two resources and a recommendation from an
online forum, I plotted a route from home through the mountains of
wakayama to a place called koyasan. From koyasan, a highly recommended
skyline highway, and loop around back up another mountain highway back to
koyasan where I could take a variety of routes north again back to Osaka.
Now, the timing of this was critical...
This week was the ONLY feasible week for me to go on a ride since after
this time I won't have any free time until June 12th (when the rainy
monsoon typhoon season would likely start). Plus, I can't really ride on
ANY day I have to work since the probability of me getting horrifically
lost is just WAY too high making the chance of me being late or missing
work FAR TOO great =(
Plus of course after the rainy season is the scorchingly hot summer
season.... hot, humid, 35-48C weather
Furthermore, of the two days off in this week, Wednesday was supposed to
be nice with 23C weather and Thursday was to be getting cloudier and
moving towards rain (although about the same temperature).
So, the day was set and the route was plotted.
My first Japanese Riding (outside the city) adventure was about to begin!!
My first task would be to find the gas station...
Luckily, I've managed to plot a gas station on my route
but with the huge number of the one ways streets and places where you can't cross roads because they have traffic diversion
My first time getting gasoline was surprisingly easy.
In Japan almost all the gas stations are full service and unlike in Canada, the people working there actually know how to pump gas for motorcycles.
If you visit Japan, all you really need is
"Regular mantan" or "High-Oc mantan"
Japan has only really two octanes...
"mantan" means to fill it up all the way
Finally, they will ask if you want to pay by cash or card.
Now that I was fully gassed up at the overly expensive 165 per litre,
I was ready to tackle the Osaka streets of anti-navigational horror
In the first 10 minutes after leaving the gas station I made several wrong turns... the biggest problem with navigation is the lack street names and signage. Streets only have names if they are really big roads... and even then, the street isn't necessarily marked with its name. Instead, navigation is given using Intersection names. That might good except you can't always see the intersection names until it's too late or the intersection may not even be marked. Dru suggested that our best bet is just to memorize your area.
Actually, in my route planning I used distances between intersections and the configurations of the intersection where i need to turn (like roughly if the turn is shallow, steep, and what cross streets go through it) and this saved me several times.
Even though I followed my directions, and managed to double back everytime however I STILL managed to find myself lost eventually hitting a river area. Several elderly people seem to be farming even though we were still in the city.
(You can see the farmers here... on the outskirts of Osaka City Proper)
After 2 hours I finally made it out of the city.
I was really surprised that so many of the speed limits are really slow like 40 and 50kph! However, out of the city the traffic started to tie down and the speeds finally started to pick up.
A great sense of relief and that sense of mobility and freedom that I had longed for since leaving riding and my home country 2 years earlier, began to grow as I headed down the highway.
Off in the distance I spotted a VERY odd site and my renewed sense of adventure also began to return.
"Tondabayashi PL Peace Tower"
(Note this picture is not mine)
This area is filled with mountains... hell, wakayama --my destination prefecture (like a province)-- and koyasan --my destination-- both have the character for mountain right in them.
For those of you not familiar with how Japanese works, they have borrowed chinese-like characters they fit into the language... yama and san both mean mountain in this case and use the same character.
So, to get from my home prefecture, Osaka, into Wakayama, I have to go through a rather daunting tunnel.
Now, keeping in mind my previous bike was a ZZR250 that weight perhaps 320lbs and my current ZZR400 weights probably about 450lbs...
I was concerned about the winds pushing my bike laterally, but the new bike wouldn't have it...
She stuck to the road not letting those japanese gods of wind and thunder have their way.
However, this tunnel was something else.
In Vancouver, we've all been through the George Massey Tunnel countless times... and in comparison that tunnel is miniscule.
Upon entering the tunnel, it started to strike me... I couldn't see the exit and it was rapidly getting VERY dark.
Since I use an orange high-contrast visor I also wear sunglasses... however, there is no where near as much lighting in this tunnel as the George Massey Tunnel.
This tunnel spans a few kilometers and quickly became extremely disorienting. A very narrow tunnel where I can't see and with no dividing to "protect" me from oncoming traffic ended up being my least favourite part of the ride; even worse than stop and go traffic.
However, once I made it through the long night of a tunnel, I would find my self in Wakayama... the kind of place that is 99% mountains and in the dreams of most of the riders in the region.
Of course, not wanting to take on some adventure on an empty stomach, I made a pit stop at the teenager filled yet not smokey McDs.
"McD in Hashimoto"
Finally, it was on to the twisty stuff.
Now, keeping in mind I hadn't ridden in 2 years and I had promised my girlfriend that I'd take it easy in the mountains...
It took a REALLY REALLY long time to get through the twisty mountain paths to my destination.
On the bright side I got lost much less in this leg of the trip (away from the cities).
I started out in 1st or 2nd, still unsure of my new bike's powerband and I couldn't help but recall riding back in Canada with
no hesitation revving the bike up or counting on the little 250cc engine to control my speed with ease.
On my new bike, however, it was time to start getting to know her... a little wining and dining if you will...
a process that took far longer than I had anticipated
Koyasan wasn't really supposed to be my final destination for the outward bound portion of my trip; I had hoped to have taken the
supposedly beautiful 371 Skyline Highway from there, looped around like a little duffy loop but it had taken so long just to get out of the city that I had to head back.
So, Koyasan, a quiet mountain village with tons of temples nestled into the mountains became my last rally point before making the return journey.
Now, back in the twisty mountain path on my new journey home.
By this point, I was much more comfortable being on a bike again in the twisties... but a far cry from when I was riding every day rain or shine with nearly daily jaunts up the mountains on the north shore (vancouver)
This time, being behind another vehicle allowed me to set my pace much faster...
The worst part about Japanese Mountain roads are that every corner is blind with only big mirrors that are hard to see anything in.... and everyone from the granny driver, GIANT tour buses, to the street/mountain racer will cut almost EVERY apex crossing over into my side of the rode. Many many times, a giant bus or some car would come flying around the corner nearly hitting me as they drove me almost off the rode.
You know, they say that these mountain paths don't have anywhere where the guardrails aren't scratched up from car grinding them....
I don't know how true that is, but it is certainly easy to find scratched up railings here
"Mountain Path Guard Rail"
Once you get over the threat of flying cagers, you can really start to enjoy the mountain scenery, the still silence (when you've pulled over and turned the engine off), the nice twisting paths.
Furthermore, unlike what I might see near Vancouver, the twists are continuous; there are no straightaway on this stretch longer than about 80 meters?
Finally oddly enough, this leg took about 60% of the time it did going in.
The route home I recorded most of it and used it when cutting together the video.
Not surprisingly, I got horribly lost even before leaving Wakayama Prefecture...
several map checks plus mobile phone GPS checks later, I was finally on my way back.
The tunnel was no better this time around except I knew what to expect this time.... still disorienting though.
Once I emerged from the tunnel, I found myself back in my home prefecture, but still a long ways from home.
Not surprisingly, I got lost several several times more and stuck in stop and go traffic...
but I figured as long as I am headed in the right direction I should be okay...
But the funny thing about Japanese roads is that they are not straight and you can start heading in a completely other direction before you know it.
Stuck in traffic, I rarely split lanes or filtered through traffic... the combination of still trying to get used to a heavy sport touring bike and paranoia
about police ticketing me for crossing a line kept me waiting in the hot hot heat and stop and go traffic. Of course, I don't doubt that in time I will be
filtering with the rest of the bikes since cagers would probably expect that.
Final thoughts on my ride...
I was great to be on a bike again... but it is something I need to devote an entire day to.
I cannot go for a ride on a day I work since the risk of getting horrifically lost is too high and I would be late for work.
People generally have poor spatial awareness... while cagers are more used to bikes being around them, they will drive
all over the place without concern for how much space is needed.
Kosoku, raised toll expressways are ridiculously expensive but don't always save you time.
Gasoline has risen to about 178 for regular and is expected rise again next month...
GPS Navigation is really expensive but since we get lost SOOO easily is very popular
but in the end, it's worth it.