Fantastic place to ride and although I rode 6days there, only these scratchings have been etched. No time for the pen in a place like Shikoku!
Woke up to a pitta-patta of rain and someone farting on the tent nextdoor and then springing away with a chuckle as the surprised sleepers inside alternatively cheered and revolted at the pranksters antics. Camping while touring, certainly an experience.
We’d been to the south-west tip the day before and had quite an eventful day. Dodging and weaving through traffic, running a great skyline and dissapating a hangover. It ended poorly with a rider from a late arriving group making a REAL impression in the back end of a mini-van. Spent a good part of dusk and evening at the hospital seeing he was ok. Being a good, if often throttle demented mate, I’m glad to say he is still with us.
Back to the soggy tent, the reving of an FJR in the distance told me FB (suspected windy prankster) was hitting the road with Gord and Shelley in tow. My bag o bones is always willing if the riding is good but the rain which had persisted from the night before, was not encouraging. Never the less the road was waiting in some compacity and we were here to ride. So, reluctantly, I rose from the safety of the tent, donned the riding gear, grabbed the mappple and staggered off in the direction of the steeds.
Cracking open the pannier in the soft rain, fished around for the poncho, rain proof pants and gloves and then snapped it closed before the dry resembled a coconut. Seemed a few of the others were floating around between the carpark, toilets and undercover refuge of the main shop and office of the campground.
Volker made me chuckle in his stylish half leg tracksuit, sandles and umbrella. Looked like a rich designer floating aroundthe GP pre-race grid. He’d actually spent the night sleeping under a sunshade in the rain in his leathers begging for a sunshining morning. To his credit, he was full of beans and ready to ride. I like riding with him! Simon, Ant and Tony were soon on the scene with Richard. As we cursed the rain, threw up ideas for the day and basked in the rider’s atmosphere a lone rider came waving out of the campground – iphone in one hand, luggage in the other. Colin was ready to roll. Not quite but he was out of bed and seemingly had the key to forcasting an end to our weather woes with his iphone.
We soon discovered, wih the help of said iphone, that the weather was coming on thick and fast and the end of the riding world was nigh! Not quite but it did look pretty dismal with rain streaking north-westerly everywhere across all the weather maps. Seems there were a few typhoons down south responsible for our evacuation to and loiteing about the front of the dry main shop.
Colin and Volker took the opportunity to take another dip in the nearby onsen and most of the crew disapppeared for breakfast at a Joyful family restaurant too.
We had to finally make a plan and everyone was bouncy ideas and switching ride groups like zombies in search of a feed. After a lot of Mapple browsing, some zumo plotting and the rain easing up we headed out in 2 groups. Richard and Phorest heading for the big smoke. Volker, Tony, Ant, Mike and I on our way to the hospital via some twisties. Damn the rain, we wanted some good riding and we were gonna get it!</span>
Boy did we get it! Only a short run north and then swung right leaving Phorest, Simon and Richard to continue north while we headed inland on rt4. Ant had raved about it, Egon had backed him and an Osakan mate had said not to miss it either. Glad we didn’t. What a ripper of a road. Started off a bit dodgy with a lot of tight and house lined roads but it had good views. Then the narrow licorice strips sprung up between homesteads. Tunnels encased in spring green trees with white edged blacktop snaking away around tight blind corners all the while following a river to our left.
Sparodically wide flowing dual lane tracks began to pop up in front and thankfully they became less sparodic and longer as we floated further south.
The race replicas had streaked on ahead and when I thought I had mysteriously caught Richard with Phorest in tow(the big twin silver cans?) and was winding up for a blow by I saw the 3 speedstars in a rest area waiting for us to catch up. Not used to arriving when others had already had time to take off helmets, I focused on the pawns in the Fazer’s sights. Rounded them up and gunned it down the wide open road and onto the best piece of riding road I’d seen all day. Long wide open sweepers with no traffic, plenty of vision ahead, great views down the swollen riverside across to the mirror road on the other side of the valley and it was bone dry! The Fazer was finally getting to breath a little. Admittedly it was packing weight like a 70’s Elvis but like the King, it still sung a good tune and had some moves.
Plan was to swing south-west onto the 353 before jumping the 56 west to the hospital.
I arrived first this time and it went something like this in synchronised stereo. Blip-blip, blaaaa, blit-bla-blit-blaaaaaaaaaaa and Volker came around the bend with Tony roasting his rear tyre. They almost over shot the turn off but had seen me trying to get there attention, waving my arms about like a banana starved monkey, from the scenic bridge top I’d stopped on rather than waiting on the boring but logical corner. Anyway they saw me last minute and only marginally overshot the corner.
Next came Colin with Mick in tow at a reasonable pace and then this BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA as Ant pulled out and tore up the right lane burning past both of them. And he just kept on going, straight past the turn off. We all had a chuckle and then saw the brake lights but he was just setting up for the corner ahead, banking it in to the right and tracing the gaurdrail out of sight. Well, 5 minutes later we heard him howling back and gotta say his race style turn and run onto the bridge was cool!
At the hospital, Jeff(crash tester) looked a damn sight better than the night before and told us to get on the road and not to worry about him. Hard to do both but we did manage to get back on the road, if only so briefly, after Ant and Tony had a ‘Nihongo-booking of a hotel-face off’. Ant sweet talked his way onto the podium this time.. While planning the next leg’s stops we found out Mike had a thing for the Sanuki Udon and was gonna lose a finger or two if he returned to Kanto without getting his fill. So we headed out in search of great roads and some Sanuki udon.</span>
A bit torn between it being lunch time and wanting to ride, I’d hoped for a restaurant about an hours ride away but wasn’t sure if we’d find anything offering sanuki. First stoplight turn left and then suddenly Colin, in the lead, is on the anchors haphazardly beaching the FJR and pointing to a sign. May your wish be Shikoku’s command Mike! Low and behold, not 100metres from the hospital, we had stumbled upon Sanuki udon. Was pretty good too.
Back on the road with Mike’s 10 digits secure for a while, we were in search of rt50 and then a long run up the 441. 50 was cool but the 441 was my kind of road. They are all over Japan’s hidden valleys and if you’ve ridden a bit out there you’ll know what we were riding. 100km of ever changing blacktop entertainment.
Swinging off the 50 the Fazer was leading the pack and the Touge-Express was ready to roll. We flowed, glided and generally got comfortable with each other. As the road opened up so did the throttle bodies and the smiles. As it tightened the gap between each of us closed along with the furrow in a few brows as slipping thru traffic on tight single lane touges (panniers?) is a testing experience. But as much as we drifted apart, the slowdown for towns always bought the lead pack back together. Mike and Collin were back there somewhere taking the memory snaps.
We stopped about every ‘break a sweat time’ for various reasons. For some the rain pants were a sweaty nuisance that needed airing while another was learning not to eat curry udon before riding. Entertaining and generally harmless stuff which made us all glad to be there.
But blessings were certainly being counted at being let loose on this road with almost no rain or traffic to complain about. There were some turns missed, shortcuts found and the waiting at T-junctions was cool with many a passing rider giving a wave. Memories of Hokkaido. Surprising how many dirt bikes there were belting along too.
Well, back on the 441, a few spits of rain here and there and a couple of hairy moments with roads trolls not allowing us to pass. But the Touge Express rolled on and I became very comfortable with the 70’s Elvis-Fazer’s rear end grip and planted feeling. It had put on some stylish rear end weight.
with the addition of the Givi panniers, 5L jerri-can and compulsory beer. Needed a change in riding approach that had me thinking back to the CB days. Easy on the brakes-alot of rear-keep the chain driven and then kick it in guts only when your exit line is clear and relatively straight. The tight stuff was a joy with a little navi-guided assistance. Guess a few following were wondering what the hell I was thinking when I backed down a couple of gears and wrenched it over into unmarked hairpins. hehehehe! <span> </span>Atleast they had fun trying to keep up with Elvis.
The troupe ascended and descended a few good hills and ran the vistas in between before finally getting close to an expressway and the quick shot to our Hotel in Niihama. Well, we got to the end of the 441 in time to see Colin, who was to zumo-guide us to our hotel, sailing overhead on the expressway leaving us behind. No problem, just call him up and he’s taking calls from the USSFJR on the starcom. He says: ‘Dude, I think I just got on the expressway! Where are you guys? I waited at the Cosmo gas stand but you guys weren’t around’ We agreed to meet at the first PA after we all gassed up, which we did and quickly set off in pursuit of our hare.
Caught him at some PA after shuffling down a single lane expressway moving at a crawl. We didn’t join the crawl. Heading out of the PA, the light rain was back and so was the Touge Express but we had to improvise without any twisties. Man I dig riding with Tony!
Around 7pm we met up just off the expressway and only a few kms from the Route Inn. Quite an appropriate name and not only a favorite stop over for me but also a few of the others. With comfy, clean (not love hotel) rooms, breakfast buffet and internet it was a welcome respite from the rain and highway fever. We all took a scrub and then met back in the lobby before heading out for a great meal and many beers.
The walk back was jovial and the drinking and joking in the foyer was cool too.
That was a good day.
Thanks to Colin, Volker and Tony and the Blues Brothers -aka: Ant & Mike
See you on the road