Left home in the cool pre-dawn for what I thought would be a morning excursion but one thing lead to another and before I knew it I’d gone Coast to Coast and still had to get home, which is near the coast so…
Was a fantastic ride! @1150km in 20hrs with @250km of that on the expressway. Nice and cool at altitude so tried to stay up there as much as possible. Got to finally do a road on my bucket list, Sugawa Touge on the 403 between Niigata and Nagano. Exceptional views and a fantastic hillclimb. Bit narrow on the south side though. The phone was overheating unfortunately so here are some other snaps from the ride instead.
About the Bones
Now, why did I start the day with a 190km expressway run out to Nikko? Let’s roll the clock back a bit. Almost two years ago to the day while returning from several great days of touring Tohoku with a Viking, coming around a right hander into a narrow bridge crossing, I was met with a a black van on my side of the road and a tough choice…
Head on Collision…nope!
Dodge the van and likely hit the guardrail over the bridge…guardrails are rather unforgiving from previous experience, so…nope!
Try to pull up and go off the corner…lots of thick grass to plow, a concrete pole and tree to dodge but ok…
It all happened so fast that there really wasn’t a decision process to ponder. As soon as I grabbed that brake lever, a wide line was inevitable and going off road it was.
The braking was strong enough to leave a faint gray streak for the last metre or so before leaving the sticky stuff but by then we’d slowed to running pace. After shimmying across the dirt and then off the brakes into that long welcoming green grass with about as much traction as butter, the grass had a another surprise for us.
Just as I was sizing up the tree’s thick branch that we were going to have to plow through at just above front wheel height, we launched a little on a hump hidden in the grass. Not a space bound launch but I’ve many a time thought what would have been if I’d hit it with pace… In any case, it threw me out of the saddle enough to unsettle me and after that I was a mere passenger.
It was about then that my eyes widened to dinner plates as there was a gaping trench below the branch which had also been hidding behind that long grass!
A stone walled creek/river of unknown depth and bottom. Yep, the crash that keeps on giving! Branch crack, crunch of fairing-plastic and then the odd pop-click-crack, like lobsters on the reef if you’ve ever heard that when diving but a hundred reefs of them pop-click-cracking out from your marrow to your sensors. Bones n joints doing what they aren’t intended to. Head first into the wall! Just above the helmet visor. Then again to the crown of my head on a lower stone step protruding from the wall.
I came to, draped over the FZ1 with my left fingers in mesh summer gloves filtering clean clear mountain waters gurgling below me. The old beast had saved me once more.
I did the sensory check and then the digit-limb-everything check and I was in one piece, operational but quite badly winded. Clambered to my feet noticing a sore wrist and bit of dizziness. Looking around, I was ankle deep in a 2-3 metre high 2-3 metre wide concrete bottomed, riverstone lined creek/river teeming with life, both plant and insect. The FZ1 had lost the front below the fork stanchions but looked ok. It wasn’t. Discovered a fatal frame crack much later. Still pains me.
Back in the trench, I was bewildered and having a little trouble staying upright when the Viking appeared above. He’d been some way back but close enough to see something amiss. I just remember asking, “Did I fk up?” Oviously!
On extracting myself from the trench with the help of a good samaritan passerby, I painfully realized something was not at all right with my wrists. As the shock and fight or flight chemical dump wore off waiting for the ambulance, it became painfully apparent there were a few things not quite doing what they should’ve been doing.
The ambulance and fire crew were great while the local inspector Cluoseau wannabe bordered on comical with his various hypothesis and line of resulting interrogations. Later, at the hospital after some xrays and CT scans, the injuries were clear.
Rehab lasted a while. The back is still not right, the left wrist isn’t either but I’m no spring chicken and that wasn’t my first rodeo. I can still ride!
And ride I will. One day shy of the second anniversary of that decisive day, I went to look over that place and make peace with my demons. It is a beautiful little area and was all the more so in the early summer light.
Think I’ll make this a regular place to visit around this time each year. A pilgrimage to pain and life and what could easily have been my last ride!
Had a great night’s rest and woke up ready to ride. But the inn was silent. Climbed out of my cubbyhole trying not to wake anybody but old wooden buildings like to chat with even the most cautious of feet. So with creaks and squeaks but never a thud, I dressed, loaded up and crept downstairs. Snoring continued from at least one cubbyhole…
The peace and quiet and soft morning light splashing over the mountains and flooding the vast western windows of the inn before seeping its way through the open wooden labyrinth was a magic way to start the day.
MotoGP pit the night before, twisty hunter staging area the following morning. ☺
And out the door we went.
The Michael way to minimise downtime!
Making our way south east, the conditions were just right and we were having a ball on the wide open bypasses and squeezing through the tighter canyon passes.
Came upon a deserted XR and after a short trek into the thick mossy forest..
… spied Michael soaking up minus eons down by the waterfalls below. Nice!
Then we climbed…
Crossing over into Misakubo, the wildlife are quite different…
Seems the wildlife like to jump onto the back of speeding bikes too. So best to go slowly, apparently. Defies my logic but I’m not a cute girl on a dualsport so…
Michael and John enjoyed the climb. 👍
Who’s that way over there?
Mountains to the horizon..
How do you like that John?
Just like the way up, endless twisties from there on down.
Views aplenty too!
Soon we were back tracing a river and a closer look was warranted.
Out on the mossy bridge taking pics, soon discovered that my new can’t-miss-that-yellow helmet was a flying-bug magnet. And there were plenty of big stingy ones above this river.
So, back on the road I went! 🏃
And where there are steep mountains and deep canyons with roads cut into them, there are almost always sharp stones falling from the walls. The MT10SP picked one up unfortunately.
Fortunately, mechanic Michael was there to save the day. I pulled in under the dragons…
… and he flew into action.
Nice plug mate. 👍
Plugged and pumped up, we got back into it and soon found ourselves in the great green lined hills of tea.
This is the kanji character for cha = tea
Flowing east and then north we twisted our way up toward Ikawa and its mighty dam.
Round the north side of the dam, we pulled into an old favourite for lunch.
The food’s always fresh from the local fields and the kitchen is staffed by local ladies who know what they’re doing with such great ingredients.
From there, with furnaces fueled, we twisted our way back down out of the mountains and headed east for home.
Back in the big smoke, Michael’s work spoke for itself by getting the MT10sp and I back without event. And the rest of the tyres show it was a well rounded test. 😂
The only thing left to do was celebrate @3000km and a week-plus well ridden.
Abalone anyone? Couldn’t wait…sorry. ☺
Now that’s some choice Hayama Premium beef!
Great suggestion Michael. That was an epic post-tour feed. Thank you!
Brilliant Goldenweek of riding with a great crew. Full of sideways skewing events but nay a scar or regret. The weather gods tested us a few times but blessed us with predominantly fine weather and clean clear roads. The tour started and finished with three and hats off to Michael and John for their endless enthusiasm, tireless tyre rounding and being a ZERO-PITA. 😁
Meanwhile, down by the Pacific Ocean, all fired up and ready after waiting all year to ride coast to coast, 80 odd riders and their steeds were all kinds of excited, sleepy and confused, I’m sure.
Another epic collection of bikes and riders!
5:20am…ishRising up out of a great sleep to a beeping alarm, had the feeling that someone was watching me and none too impressed…
Then it hit me. COAST to COAST Twistybutt day! The one day of the year not to sleep in! So, like Fred Flinstone but onto a bike, I was outa there!
7:15ishRolled in to the start point and of course no one was there. Beautiful morning though 👍
So, with hares to hunt, it was time to get to know the SP side of the MT-10SP.
The Viking caught me here and plied me with rider fuel as I topped up the somewhat thirstier than usual eMpT-10 ☺ Then we were off again!
Toilet stop and refocus here.
Blasting through a subterranean valley to valley wormhole, loving the thrum of the MT10 crossplane rattling the tiles on the tunnel wall, I realized I’d completely missed the turnoff for the snaking touge overhead and as a result had lopped off around 20km of the C2C500 route! Doh! It was time for a pitstop and refocus. The riverside here did the trick. 👍Head back on straight, no time for photos and deciding to try and catch one pack or another doing the same route, the tyres stayed medium-well done all the way till Asama yama was in the mirrors and my furnace needed fuelling. Still hadn’t seen anyone I recognised but it was lunch time.On the road again headed for the Tsumagoi Panorama Line with the bike and belly full, the Touge Express was ready to rock again! But, within 300m, the grey sky turned black and a chill took the air.Ouch! Took a hard hit to the knee… Bug? Maybe. Ping-tock-ouch! Something bounced off the tank, hit the bottom of my helmet and jammed in between my neck and collar. And it burned till I dug it out! Then the heavens opened and grape-sized hail was bouncing around everywhere. Luckily, across the way there was a post-office with a decent verandah out front. In the MT and I darted. And as fast as it started, it finished.The remnants of the hail was melting away and there was road to ride so away we went. Over the 292, through Nakano and Iiyama and along the last farmer/panorama line before dropping down into Joetsu we went. And with plenty of daylight left, the MT10sp and I pulled up on the sand by the Sea of Japan.
Got to the hotel just behind one of the groups I had had in my sights but that was it!The rest of the riders, groups and coast to legends rolled in over the following hours. Yearly acquaintances were renewed, new faces were put to names and we gassed on about our rides and the freedom of carving one’s way from coast to coast, again. Brilliant!It had been a few years since I’d done a solid C2C Twistybutt and although it was only @490km, it was truly one for the nostalgia files.
Eyelids slowly seperate and a new day’s light pins the retinas. Thank you! Woke up to the rustling of futons in the next room. The Viking was up. I wasn’t…
Creaked into a somewhat upright position and sculled some water and decided a 10minute back stretch was in order. Then the paparazzi pounced. Good morning day 3, for me.
Being surrounded by Hida’s finest roads was bound to draw at least one of us out early. Barely out of bed and the drainpipe on the KTM fired to life and could be heard trundling down the hill. Not long after, the Viking was wailing on the throttle and announcincing his gallop off into the twisties. Worth noting, the Viking helmet version of a muffler was already over a kilometre and one ridge away and sounded like one long gravely “O—DI—-N!”
All packed up and cabin in order, we headed out into the cool fresh Alps air under an inviting blue sky lightly dusted with high faint cloud.
First order of the day, west in search of breakfast. The 41 down to the Miyagawa River was just the wakeup tonic needed. Munched thru a simple combini feed then back on the road.
The Viking’s GT was a little on the smokey-sick side so he headed out early again taking it easy this time while the rest of us swung back east to get a little slice of 471 heaven again before a hop-step and a jump over to the run out of Takayama heading for Kiso.
The 361 was a treat once again but a little of its character seems to disappear every year as more and more bypasses are added. Still a fun workout though and just before Kiso, we pulled in for a coffee and rest. And something smelt good!
While fish-feasting, the Viking called in to report he’d just had a little private time with a member of the constabulary. No penalties but a timely heads up for us.
We continued on over to the 152 and on the run north started to get some warnings of more constabulary ahead and sure enough came across two on bikes hiding up on a perch ready to pounce. Fortunately, we werent to be prey that day and we still had the twisty north section to enjoy.
From Chino, we supercruised down a busy Chuo expressway and rolled into our first view of Fuji in a couple of days. Tony put the hammer down for Tokyo here and said farewell until we ran into him again at a service area. T, really wanted an ice-cream there with you but we had a time sensitive treat for the lads. Next time. 👍
Actually, that service area was past our turn-off but was a warranted detour due to the eMTy10 needing a drink.
All fueled up and saying farewell to T, we sailed onto a deserted but hot Chubuodan Expressway with great mountain views all around. Our last stretch of monotony before getting back to rubber rounding on the climb up to the five lakes region of Mt. Fuji.
Swinging south after Motosu Lake, we rode straight into bumper to bumper traffic leading to a local cherry blossom festival. Those poor cagers, it was like a parking lot for several kilometres in all directions. And sorry gents for riding us straight into it. 🙏
We got through it though and were soon circumnavigating the mighty Mt. Fuji from west to south before turning up the Fuji Skyline and climbing on the long switchbacks to the highlands before the final tight climb to the 5th station. Michael loved the highland section sooo much he sailed right on by the turn up to the final climb. At the turn-off, John and I waited, called and then thought he’d probably already gone ahead up the mountain so we followed. Didn’t really have time to wait around either as the shadows were growing longer. Only at the 5th station did we confirm we’d left him behind. Sorry mate.
Always a great view and special place to be but boy it was chilly up there and we had to make tracks as the next day was to be a big one.
Buuut that festival’s traffic we’d waded through earlier was now on the march home, as were we, and gridlock was everywhere. So it was time for some roads less travelled. Interesting fun roads!
Our route had us up on the Ashinoko Skyline right on time for a fantastic sunset over Mt. Fuji.
From there, it was a wriggle across and then run down the Hakone Turnpike and Seisho Bypass home.
Good long day gents. We made a lot of ground and had a variety of riding. Too much fuzz maybe but…the tyres were still round all over and not a chicken strip in site! Well done.
More to come. Stay tuned…
MT-10 SP Update
Had the chance to ride the MT10sp back to back with a BMW S1000XR again. Always a pleasure.
A couple of days and 1000+ kilometres aboard the MT10sp had shown it to be a quick and comfy tourer. The XR is really smooth and easy to handle making it an even comfier tourer on top of being deceptively quick. Quicker than the MT10sp…? Maybe after a few hours in the saddle and the comfort possibly makes for a less fatigued rider.
But for outright squirt and tarmac twisting, the SP has got the upper hand, with a caveat. The S1000XR, for me, had the ability to make a quick rider of almost any jockey right out of the box. The MT10sp on the other hand is sharper and more focused and speaks volumes more about its interaction with the road and you. And for that, not as easy to handle as the bigger spoungier S1000XR. But if you can learn to read its language and utilise what it telegraphs from the road, it is far more rewarding and the conversation will have you whooping and laughing all the way to the next fuel stop which comes up all too soon!
Oh and let’s not forget the sound! The Yamaha CP4 firing out the upswept muffler sounds like rampaging clydesdale hooves! 🎶 Charge!
Started out with a morning hotspring soak and the view from the outdoor tub was of a blue sky over snow dusted majestic mountains to the south. That’s where we were headed and it looked cold.
First up, meet for breakfast at a nearby cafe.
Some really needed it. Wasn’t sure if it was the beer or their first naked public outing the night before. Yep, John’s first onsen 😂 You did well mate 👍
All were in good spirits thanks to the much improved weather. Caffeined up and general plan acknowledged, it was a 150km expressway haul to Matsumoto then west into the mountains again. Had intended a visit to Matsumoto Castle for John and Michael’s benefit but in the lead, I was lead astray by my garmin and the alluring mountains in the opposite direction.
On route, deep in farmers’ country, we had a rendezvous with a water god memorialised beside a crystal clear icemelt channel flowing out of the Hida Mountains.
Powerspot Pitstop – Fresh air, green fields, blue skies and cute little frogs everywhere.
After fueling the steeds, we twisted our way up the 158 to Fuketsu no Sato michinoeki for some wasabi croquet and pig on a stick. Yum!
Just a tad over 10°C – Four lounging lizards happy to catch some rays.
Palletes tickled and itching for twisties, it was time to torture some tyre writhing up the 158 to the wormhole that pops you out on the west side of those majestic peaks, in Hirayu.
On the other side, colder, rimmed by steep mountains and snowcapped peaks. We pulled in to the covered rest area to acclimatise.
Layers added and shrunken bladders emptied, it was on to Hida’s little slice of heaven. Rt 471! Blue skies overhead, sun-warmed roads under tyre and cool Alps air being syphoned into some seriously starved airboxes. The sound of the string of 4s and the big Vtwin must’ve appeased the road gods as the 471 didn’t disappoint.
Swinging left over the big blue bridge and onto the 41, we made our way west on our way to the night’s cabin. That little bit of the 41 has a few chickenstrip chewers too. Big long ones! Pulling up in the cabin carpark and the crackles and soft hisses from the steads spoke volumes. 😉
Just after midday with cabin secured and packs offloaded, we hit the road again to sample the Hida region’s ample twisties.
Back to twisting and turning, we’d chewed through a fair chunk of time over lunch and the Viking on the GT had sailed out way ahead of us. So, we took a little squirt down the extensively tunnelled and bridged Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway to attempt, unsuccessfully, to catch up with him in Shirakawago.
Look at those smiles!
With daylight fading, we made our way east and back toward the cabin.
After suffering chokablock traffic through the near endless and choking tunnels on route to Takayama, we were glad to get out into the fresh air, even if it was hand numbingly cold and pitch black.
We made for Rt.90 which also had an epically long and chilly tunnel. But just before we got there, the rain started to sprinkle softly and add to the 5°C chill.
Emerging on the backside of the 90, coming out of the tunnel to find no rain and some nice winding tarmac made things better. But still cold.
Pulling into a combini at the bottom of the 90, the Viking, who was way ahead, chimed in to let us know he’d found us a place for dinner and it was warm and inviting. Michael took the lead and with the promise off a warm meal, we had a great blast through the night!
Hida beef on hoba miso buried under stringy mushrooms and chopped shallots. Hida at it’s most delicious!
Was a cold night back up the mountain in the cabin. Our fuel expert John got the kero stove fired. The hot carpets were wicked up also and we were all good. Then it was beer o’clock!
More to come, stay tuned…
MT-10 SP Update
The silver surfer performed flawlessly! First day I started to feel at home on it. Climbing, twisting, turning and stopping with ease and confidence. The riding position continued to feel just right but the seat was proving a little unforgiving the further I rode. Neither my butt nor the seat were yielding it seems. 😂
Fuel economy was proving more reasonable than I’d been lead to believe with an average of just over 15km/l. The first bar of the fuel gauge being 1/2 tank was odd though.
Was also the first day of extended dry nice twisties and the traction, suspension compliance and trailbreaking proved a treat! A lack of braking feedback was becoming more obvious though.
Did find I was getting used to the buried indicator knob. Also had a good play with various settings. Actually find myself hoping for red lights as an opportunity to adjust something. Settled on level 2 across the board.
Woke up to an overcast morning with sunshine promised. Michael and John were in Yamanashi, as was Oyly so we were meeting there.
Old ironbutt, twistybutt and general touring marauder mate Tony had chimed in and was joining for a few days too. 👍
The SP was ready and waiting having gained a garmin navi, fuzz warner and luggage resplendent with bunjy cords and a cargo net seemingly big enough to double as a hammock. Never know…
Hit the road with an hour and a half to the meet surging from light to light until zipping through a toll gate onto an expressway.
Humming along at a steady speed with 100+ uninterrupted kilometres ahead, it was time to test the cruise control and…for several kilometres, I poked, prodded, slid, swiped, long pressed, short pressed, double tapped and even resorted to multiple fingers. Thought it was broken or I was missing something and I was. Finally stumbling on a usable velocity…it maxed out at 105km/h indicated. Jp-spec! The right hand was sorer than intended on arrival at the meet and the gang was already there.
Just waiting for the MT-10
Had a bite and a coffee while catching up. Then it was off to do some twisties and scouting.
The blue skies turned grey running through the southern lowlands of Yatsugatake. Approaching Suwa Lake, the temp started to drop and as we climbed, at around 900m and 12°C, a spotty rain started. Soon climbed into low foggy cloud and up around 1100m winter’s white was lingering.
Sailed on through patchy weather with just a stop for fuel demanded by the eMpTy10.
The bikes were starting to look ridden 👍
With the MT showing 8°C, a soft steady drizzle and the road shiny, the Venus Line wasn’t as fun as it could’ve been. Especially on Pirelli Rossa Corsa II… which Michael assured were ringed on the edges with pure carbon ‘slippery when wet’ death-strips! He was on the same rubber and wasn’t trying to overtake me so I took his word for it and we kept it real while waltzing the steeds along the winding mountain main roads and down through Ueda on the way up to Jizo Touge for a lunch break.
Was similarly chilly up there, crossing the Nagano-Gunma border at @1750m, and the hot beef curry went down a treat!
Yunomaru ski run atop Jizo Touge showing rare May snow
Riders fueled, it was onto the Tsumagoi Panorama Line – Manza Highway and up to the Shiga-Kusatsu Road.
Climbing the Manza Highway and passing the snowline from where it got whiter, colder and incredibly scenic when the weather allowed, it was time for me to add a layer, done the heated gloves and plug in. Pulling over in Manza outside the visitors centre, much to John’s confusion ☺, I got to it. He looked even more confounded when I started flapping my hands about like a princess in a fly farm. Yep, the cold wet hands needed help getting dry enough to slide into lined gloves.
Gear on and feeling warmer with every rev, we picked up Tony and his green machine then made the final switchback twist up the snow covered mountainside to the Shiga-Kusatsu road. Japan’s highest national road, peaking at 2127 metres.
Øyvind and Michael waiting up in the fog on the Shiga-Kusatsu road at almost 2000 metres. Thanks for waiting gents 👍
They didn’t wait long with the empty scenic mountain top road rolling through the snow drawing them ahead. That left John, Tony and I to get the snow wall photo.
Pic taken, away we went. Saw 3°C near the top @2100 metres. Getting stuck behind a bus for a bit then a truck, looking through the grit encrusted visor was like getting a feed from a fridge in a blackout. Thankfully, warm-n-safe have a handy visor wipe on their gloves that works damn well!
Rounding up the truck, wiping off the visor and dropping a gear, the run down into Nakano was fun bar the odd Pirelli shimmy on wet expansion joints.
As the road straightened, we got the gang back together and soon pulled into a combini for our last powow before the run into Joetsu.
Well, almost the last stop. One last stop to pay our lack of respect to the returned drizzle and the limiters on the jp spec bikes! 🖕
Twenty or so kilometres later, we were slabbing into Joetsu as the afternoon sun was falling fast behind thick cloud. It hadn’t been the best weather but the roads trumped the weather and all were in good spirits.
Tired, cold and thirsty, it was time to retire to a hotspring soak followed by a good feed and some much deserved rehydration.
Cheers for a good day fellas!
More to come, stay tuned…
MT-10 SP Update
Was a testing first day. Comfy bike and no handling, braking or power delivery surprises. It did rain a fair bit of the time though. Good day for traction control and ABS testing.
JP-spe = 105km/h cap on the cruise control and most definitely a 180km/h speed limiter.
The cruise control positioning was obviously designed and tested by someone with a triple jointed thumb with a very thin hook on the end…
Limited luggage attachments and the rear/pillion seat is tiny for touring bags.
Turning is superbike wide.
Filling the fuel tank to the brim only gets an extra 8-900cc of fuel.
Headlight/s are shockingly bad off centre when banked over.
Let’s get this started with a our riders out on the road April 28-30. Enter the trio of Oyly, John and Michael on a KTM GT and a duo of S1000XRs.
None of them were in Japan through the colder months, smart. John was completely new to riding in Japan. But, Oyly is an old hand to touring in Japan and Michael put in a very respectable 5000+km of rubber rounding, two sets in fact, last Goldenweek and is a good riding mate of John’s so he was in good hands.
They set out on April 28 under fine spring skies to enjoy some twisty tarmac goodness of the Izu peninsula.
The steeds above Ashinoko with a cloud-capped Mt. Fuji in the background.
They did get a bit rained on though. And when the going gets tough…
The tough sniff flowers!
And embrace the challenge…
Michael took a novel approach to escaping the rain ☔
Two and a half days in Izu and they seemed to have had a ball riding the Izu Skyline, Margaret line, Nishi Izu Skyline and a bunch of other rubber rounders leading them to a wet ride up into Yamanashi and the doorstep of Apexmoto on the 30th for some stickier rubber.
John’s steed shedding its old hoops.
With fresh rubber on the road and riders dialed in to the twisties and all weather riding, they were ready for some Twistybutt route scouting. And May 1st was set to be a fine one.
For this year’s Goldenweek, an MT10SP and I had come to an agreement thanks to the friendly folk at Marutomi Autos.
But I had commitments for the first few days so the King of MT took a little preride rest. Hard not to ride it though with that sweet thrumming crossplane sound it has…
Having ridden coast to coast several different ways, endured some expressway marathons, scrabbled over and around a surfeit of crumbling mountain passes and even risked life and limb on a frozen northern adventure, the bar was just about high enough for one of those ‘…one day…’ rides. Yep, it was about time for a whopper.
This one goes a ways back and definitely needed some working up to. But, boy o boy is it a day dream filler!
Righto, lets get started shall we…
Thursday and a group tour around Aomori has just dissolved leaving only 2 of us, a night’s accommodation booked at Lake Towada Saturday, 5 days of free riding, an approaching super typhoon and well… nothing better to do 🙂
Me: ‘Hey, what do you think about riding Honshu end to end via as many good quick roads as possible, NO expressway?’
James: ‘Sure. Just tell me where and when.’
Me thinking: That a boy!
Fast forward to Saturday morning and J sending messages and photos from the road on his approach to Towada via Oga Hanto leading me to switch off the phone. Yep, I was working till 6pm and had no intention of tormenting myself…well, maybe I checked a few of his photos from the road…
6pm came around soon enough and the feet were a Fred Flinstone yabadabadoo blur out the door. Around an hour later, the FZ1 roared to life and we were northbound with around 850km of mostly slab ahead.
Now, slab should be a dreary exercise in managing the toothpicks keeping ones eyelids propped open but the approaching typhoon had huffed and puffed up a fair old gail through Ibaraki and Fukushima. The action peaked when I swear I sailed through a burgeoning tornado sweeping the bike from one lane to the other then back again all in the space of a ‘Whoahooo Nellie!’ and not a thing to be done but hang on for the ride.
Now, slab should be a dreary exercise in managing the toothpicks keeping ones eyelids propped open but the approaching typhoon had huffed and puffed up a fair old gail through Ibaraki and Fukushima. The action peaked when I swear I sailed through a burgeoning tornado sweeping the bike from one lane to the other then back again all in the space of a ‘Whoahooo Nellie!’ and not a thing to be done but hang on for the ride.
Slowing down significantly only seemed to make things worse, with the gusts feeling like they were actually scooping up and tossing us about at will. Keeping the throttle steady in cruise mode and punching holes from gust to gust was a tad less dramatic and guaranteed to get me there sooner as long as the errant branches, eye watering dust, trucks swinging around like wayward punching bags and all sorts of airborne nastiness could be survived.
Around Iwatesan, the fury of the four winds eased to a steady easterly roar. Then around Morioka, being as considerate as the omnipresent ones are, they turned on the shower to wash off the gusty dust. Great! Nothing for it but to wick up the heated grips and hunker down for the final hundred or so kilometres. Longest shower I’ve had in a quite a while actually. Too bad it was cold.
The accommodation was lakeside which meant twisties and through the hills around Lake Towada once off the expressway. Was excited about that till I got there and found the roads blanketed with autumn leaves. With a squiggle here, a drift there and a whole lot of cursing the FZ1 had got me there again and we finally rolled in to Yama no iie at @3:30am to find J up and full of beans chasing stink bugs with a vacuum cleaner. Yep, that was one loopy night!!
The twisty stuff starts tomorrow…
Nothing like waking up with the dawning realization that you have a bunch of days of riding ahead and that’s all!
Due to the late landing the night before, it was 8 o’clock. But, the sun warming the futon was a welcome alarm clock.
Bit hard to rise into biped mode after just shy of 4hrs sleep but there was riding to be done and the sun was out. So, up and at ’em!
Less than an hour later, the bills were paid, bikes loaded, riders suited up and the two yammies sounded a call to the roads across Towada Lake.
Tracing the lake around the northwest coast(454), the road was damp, still carpeted in autumn leaves and dastardly slippery. We took our time easing our way around to the Nishi-Towada IdeYu Line(102) and it was no better but is always a beautiful road, even in testing conditions.
Then, onto the Soube-bypass to get across to the Towada Road east(102) down to Towada. Glad it was downhill as the FZ1 needed juice. The roads were drying, the wind had died down and the sun was doing its best to brighten the hills. So, switched off the engine and sailed as far downhill as the slope would take us. But the road signs made it kind of tough as they do things a little differently in that area…
Well, made it to gas and then pit stopped for some breaky before the run north. Trying to stay out of traffic, the 394 and 25 were a a lot of fun and had us making good time. Then it was onto the 338 or as we had named it a few years ago, the Nuclear Hyper Line as it is wide open and a good cruise through the forest by the Higashi-dori Nuclear Powerplant tucked away on the coast. With the barbed-wire topped electric fence and cameras in the bushes on the east side, it does inspire more than a little paranoia… get over that though and it’s a great road for the north run up to Shimokita Hanto(peninsula) into Mutsu.
Then it was north on the Mutsu-Hamanasu Line (279) all the way to Oma for the true start of this ride. While there, we had to have some of the famous Maguro(Blue-fin Tuna). And it was good. A fried lunch set for J and a sashimi set for me. Yep, if it isn’t cooked, J’s not into it!
2pmish, Rider furnaces burning Japan’s finest tuna, photos at the north tip of Honshu taken, it was time to turn it around and head south. The late and slippery start had certainly set our schedule back so we weren’t expecting to make it as far as planned but thought we’d give it a go. Back down the Mutsu-Hamanasu Line (279), tracking the west coast of the axe handle this time, we were making good time but the sun was fading behind the cloud cover. Just before sunset, patched into J sena to sena and called a combini stop.
I’ve ridden that road 3 times now, twice with J and what are the odds we would stop at the same Sunkus we stopped at the last time we were up there? Well, that’s the first one that came up and where we pulled in. Fed & watered and realizing we were about 350km behind schedule, we decided on making a run for Hirosaki after some fuel for the steeds. Route: 279-4(south)-242-MichinokuDoro-123-44-27-7 into Hirosaki station.
Then it was time for a real feed and watering at a local Izakaya(pub with decent food) followed by some much needed slumber at the Hirosaki Route Inn.
Distance for day 1: @390km
Distance from Oma: @ 190km
6:45am and the Stones’ strummed in telling me to get off their cloud…
An hour or so later with a belly full of Route Inn buffet breakfast and a hankering for twisties; the tank bag zips on, zumo drops in the cradle, givi-box locks down, tailbag clicks in, the leg swings over and the ignition key rolls around to 12 o’clock. Welcome to day 2..? Or is it 3?… Ok, day 2 of the Honshu End to End!
Blue sky from horizon to horizon, temp around 10deg and we were doing the red-orange-green stop-n-go out of town when J patches in over the intercom, ‘Car on your tail.’ Shoulder check and move aside as a Subaru screams by with a young agro guy all pumped up and rubber-necking a death stare only to look ahead and find a red light. Of course we filter up front and then take a look to see he isn’t thinking of escalating things and he seems to be shrinking in his seat somewhat. Light goes green and we leave scooby-doo behind. At the next red he’s suspiciously pulled into the middle lane 2 cars back. Yep, leaving troubles behind time.
We hit the UshuKaido(7) south out of Hirosaki then switched over to the 282. 75 odd kms later, we swung onto the 341. Knowing the 341 is scant on fuel but dripping in twisties and curves for many horizons, we pulled in for some gas. While there, the Sena-Xperia-Zumo bluetooth combo needed re-pairing as I didn’t have any tunes. Had stumbled upon a pairing combo that allowed screen search and call notification for the phone through the Zumo and the Walkman from the phone went straight to Sena in stereo. And of course, the Zumo streamed directions to the Sena. The pairing went like this: 1. Disable bluetooth on the phone and Zumo and power-down the Sena. 2. Enable Bluetooth on the Zumo and wait a minute or two. 3. Enable bluetooth on the phone and wait another minute while the phone and Zumo do their pairing thing. 4. Power up the Sena and wait for the notification saying the phone and audio were connected. But, missing any part of that pairing and things weren’t so flush. Maybe no phone, tunes or zumo guidance. Later in the ride, I would figure out that just pairing the Sena and Xperia first for phone and Walkman and then chiming in the Zumo, only for guidance, worked out to be far more stable and convenient. Especially when dumping the bilge.
Cool thing was, no matter what the combo or pairing dilemma, the intercom was always there for a chat with J. But, we generally kept the chat short and riding long. Occasionally though, the conversation did roll by with the road and for the first time I measured the duration of a phonecall-like chat in kilometres not minutes.
Ok, eyes back on the road! We were behind schedule, remember? About 300km behind when we hit the road that morning. So, as much as I wanted to ride the Aspite Line(23), and I reeeeallly wanted to, we gave a nod to the crews of bikers milling around the combini north of the turn-off and sailed right on. The 341 is a great road in itself and within about 3 corners my Aspite desires were forgotten.
As the road climbed, the fall colors came down to meet it and soon we were snaking through the golds, oranges and reds under a crystal clear cool blue sky.
Sailing back down out of the hills toward Tozawa Lake, the tunnels punched through ridges offered steady picture postcard views with each breach back into daylight.
From there it was west on the 46/341 to 50 and from there we jumped our first bi-road and got out of town and into the fields, eventually finding our way onto the Mizuhonosato Road and then the YuuheiFruitLine.
But you know J, can’t take him anywhere…
After a quick turn west on 342 it was south again on the 108 and into the 398. Now, the 398 was another one of those glad to be here roads that included a long peg-plow inducing climb up the OyasuKaido! But, somewhere between 2 and 3am on one of the route planning nights, I’d seen a road that wasn’t there and plotted in a dirt-bike/rock hopper road. Doh!
So, some route juggling was in order. And well, there was no other option than to snake, weave and wear off some more tyre shoulder all the way down the other side of the 398 on the Senzantsu. Best routing screw up of the day that one 🙂
That brought us down to the twisty 457 and a Panorama line like 253 before a decent stretch along a meandering 47. Then, 28, 347 and the next one was a routing gamble that seemed worth taking at the time but put us here…
But, things were a lot better on the other side
Some snaking winding and rolling downhill into Higashine for a much needed feed, rest and fuel. The sun was well on its way east when I trundled out of the convenience store, plenty of rider fuel in hand, and spied the day’s logo.
We just had to get some pics and check out what the f### they were selling. Seems it was some kind of hip streetwear place with a coolkat owner and a gaggle of skater bmxer type punks milling around. Seemed friendly enough and they didn’t mind us parked out front.
Rolling up the ear plugs, getting ready to hit the road, and the shadows were getting very long. It was obvious we were in for some night riding. J wasn’t especially keen on that but I promised to keep us off goat trails and bi-roads. Besides, we were still behind schedule and I think the day had been too much fun already to give up now. Besides, we had been getting updates from those following us on Facebook, saying that the typhoon to the south-west had whipped itself up into the biggest typhoon in 10 years and Noah had even sent out a warning that things were going to get nasty. That was likely to make the next couple of days a lot less enjoyable so we had to make the best of the brilliant conditions we had at the time. But it was getting cold…nothing the heated gear couldn’t handle though!
So back on the dusky road, it was the 13 south to the 268, 113 and then the Budo-Matsutake Line to the 13 again. Mmm, lots of 13s at night? We survived and even thrived, once on the 121(#####23L). Then, it was the 459 west before turning south onto the 43 and a little west on the 49 before swinging south again on the 252. And the 252 it was set to be for the next 125kms. But… yes there is often a ‘but’ when improvising, isn’t there.
Well, we rolled into Aizu thinking that with it being a tourist mecca and all that, fuel wouldn’t be a problem. Well, seems no one drives after 6pm in those parts and it was already after 8pm and sprinkling softly by the time we pulled in to a MichinoEki west of Aizu to find the lights on, maps a plenty and some nice benches(yep, J noticed them). It was a lonely beacon of lumen goodness in an area darker than the inside of caveman’s colon. We weren’t alone either with a bunch of folk sleeping in their cars. Victims of the fuel curfew also, maybe? Anyway, we called upon the riding community and SNS to help us out of a bind and what a community it is! Within 15 minutes, 5 active fuel hunters were on the job feeding us locations, names and ideas. Unfortunately, the phones at those places weren’t being answered. Fortunately, I married a gem and she coaxed an elderly lady into opening a pump for some stranded riders in such cold weather.
She didn’t tell her we were men and foreign though. Arriving at her 2 pump tiny gas stand, around the middle of the twisty and likely deer infested rt.400, there she was in her nighty, teeth likely still in the glass by her futon and hair a shambles. To her credit though, she didn’t flinch at the site of the two of us and soon had the fuel flowing. We helped by filling the tanks ourselves and giving her a few extra yennies for being a saviour to stranded riders. Oh, and the beauty show!
Back on the road around 9pm with a cool tank between the knees and100kms of twisties and hillclimbs to go, in the dark, we wicked up the heated gear and got down to enjoying the road again. It was a nice night to be riding seeing as the sprinkles had stopped. Around Lake Tagokura the mist turned into fog and then pea soup and the road began to climb. Quite an adventure hillclimbing in pea soup, following the guard rail while stealing glances at the navigation to see that the lake was right there on the other side of the guardrail, not 20m away. That would be 20 horizontal metres and well too many verticle metres. But, onwards and upwards we went and the fog cleared fast as we got above it and found the lake blanketed in thick cloud under a bright 3/4 moon.
Cresting the touge at around 900m, we had to stop as the view was just amazing! Breath-taking! The typhoon was blowing the cloud into the narrowing valley pushing it up the valley walls like a wind blown lake’s waves lapping at the shores, only in super-slow motion. Even as we were there, some tendrils of cloud came up to tickle the road before rolling back over the edge, slipping away down the cliff-side into the endless white below. Disappointingly, the phone cameras couldn’t catch the majesty of it and my camera’s battery was flat. Very disappointed. The car-lit shot was the only visible shot I got. On the other side of those big concrete bollards was an abyss.
Back in the saddle, we descended into the next valley, relieved not to find any fog. On with the ride we went, all the way along the 252, under the Kanetsu expressway and then onto the Mikuni Hwy in search of a convenience store. Around 1am we found one, fed like weary starving animals then got on the horn looking for a bed. Just before 2am in Tokamachi, we fell hard on soft business hotel beds until tomorrow. But, it was already tomorrow..so what day is it? Not again- Distance for day 2: @690km
Distance from Oma: @ 880km
Late rise, shower and on the road at 8:30 for day 3 of the End to End.
Got to love Japanese business hotels and their willingness to accommodate the odd rider. We were parked not 5 metres from the elevator on the ground floor and almost street side. So, it was out the door, into the elevator, out of the elevator and loading the bikes, then one of the ladies from the desk came down to us to collect our key. Too easy 🙂
A short run down the 253 out of Tokamachi and we were back in the office, on our first Skyline of the day, the Ounuma Skyline(560)
Great little but longish road that one with fantastic views. A true skyline! It worked up an appetite so we made for a breakfast stop. 353-117. A fair way down the 117, having crossed the border into Nagano, it was 502 time and J patched in to tell me how excited he was and told me to go on ahead as he wanted to take a photo of the sign. J has a thing for Nagano and the 502 in particular which I soon found out about when I moved aside after having my mirrors full of menacing FJR. Past he went and was trackin that road like he would sleep walking a full bladder from bed to the toilet at home. FJRs shouldn’t be able to do that. Flip-rollon-brake stab-flop from corner to corner the FJR was working up a tyre sweat! It’s awesome following him when he’s truckin like that.
The top end of the 502 is a treat and often traffic free. Also, there are a lot of great views that we had to stop and just marvel at. In the distance the typhoon was lurking and looking to be all around us. We’d been lucky all morning but the merciful weather gods can only hold off so much for so long.
Before we knew it, there was a to-bogon run snaking down the mountain, a giant ski jump across the valley and we were in the winter Olympics area and in need of fuel! Like an alcoholic with intimate knowledge of out of the way bars, J had us covered with “There’s a Shell at the bottom of this set of switchbacks.” And of course there was.
Tanks topped off, we took the 38 to 403 and around lunch time had a feast on the climb up the 97 to 900m. Then, somewhere along the tail of the 97, spits were hitting the screen. It spitted and spatted along the 504 – 96 – 360 and by the time we hit the 36, the typhooon was no longer knocking, it was here! So, it was time for J to get his wets on. There was some kind of hikers/bushwhackers service area we rolled into and it was well kitted out. Drink machines, souvenir area and all log walled. Plenty of brightly colored, stick swinging forest folks clucking about, too!
Not really sure what they were all smiling at, trudging around in 10c rain. They were all probably looking similarly at us 🙂
Prepped for the wet, back on the road we went. And wet it was and getting wetter! From 36 to 31 to 147/148 it wasn’t so bad. Then onto the swifter 306 and the heavens opened and stayed open! Trucks going by in the opposite lane were like wave makers and the wind was picking up again. I was not in a good place, struggling with a migrane all morning and the concentration needed to ride in those conditions didn’t help. Without heat, I was cold and my goretex gloves had been overcome by the rain, waves and wind. The helmet was wet inside as the fog alleviating crack of the visor was enough, in these conditions, to flood the eye-port area of the X11 .So, we pulled into the first MichinoEki. Time for a hot substantial meal and to re-evaluate our situation.
Dripping wet with a short in his heated gloves that gave him a buzz every time he touched the clutch or brake, J was all for a break but wanted to get going and get back on schedule. Road hardened and distance addicted, he is a friggin machine!
Sitting down with a big hot meal in the restuarant, J walked in and the conversation went something like this:
J displeased tone: So, what are we gonna do?
Me grumpy: Seriously, if this is gonna be the next 2 days, we aren’t making Shimonoseki.
A long break ensued, until the hot goodness of the local food fired the rider in me and I could speak logically and positively again. Picking up the smartphone and running the weather angles, it was apparent that nothing had changed from earlier and it was just the beginning of a long wet afternoon. The rain was everywhere with no work arounds or ways to avoid it. We’d have to float on through or give it up and hole up somewhere. We’d come too far for the later. Back to the maps and route and decided Takayama(@150km away) would be possible at a safe and steady pace with a few more breaks than usual. J agreed of course and an ember of hope was still glowing on this ride. But, there was a more serious question: Can we make Shimonoseki? Original plan was to be at he westernmost point of Honshu by Wednesday night. Impossible now! I had to be back at work Friday morning and did’t care to be climbing off the bike and straight back into it so.. I told J, come Wednesday night and if we aren’t within 6hrs of the goal, I’m heading home. Of course he said he was in for the whole run by hook or by crook!
So, donned the heated gear and packed everything up nice and dry for some serious scuba riding. And back on the road with the heat of the jacket and gloves, things were far better. It still amazes me how much difference rider comfort can make.
Southward and onward, 306 – 85 – 432 – 321 and then west to a blocked 278. Yep, we tried but the landslide was permanent. So, back around to the 25 and then onto one of my favorite roads, the NomugiKaido(158) from Matsumoto to Takayama. As it meanders its way along a river, tracing a gorge/valley, the views are great, twisties even better and it climbs to almost 1500m before ducking into a long tunnel leaving Nagano and pops you out in the highland wilds of Gifu. The down side is the dodgy old leaky tunnels and, as it is the only road running directly from Matsumoto to Takayama, the tour buses and trucks are tough to get by in those great twisties, especially in bad weather.
Before the action started though, we pulled in for fuel with the worst service I’ve had in a very long time! A dinky family stand with a lumbering troll that stuffed the nozzle in the tank without an ounce of concern. Disturbingly, he had nothing distracting him nor had we given him reason to be pissed. Seems Ma may have been the reason as he trudged inside to speak at 200% volume with Ma doing the same and ignoring me when he didn’t bring back my change. I had to go in to get it and he almost threw it in my hand like it was the thing to do. I give them the title unofficial title of worst pump monkeys of 2013 and beyond. Peanuts!
Anyway, away we went and wound our way along the Nomugi, climbing, winding and dodging manhole covers. All the while the rain was getting a little heavier. I was glad to make it to the tunnel and I was bone dry from wrists to foot, unlike my sopping wet compadre. He must have felt like he could finally come up for air!
After the tunnels, there is a rest area so we pulled in for a yap and refresh even though it was probably 50km fro the fuel break. Besides, it was chilly and had bladder that wouldn’t wait. While we were patting each other on the back for braving such conditions and survivng, a gaggle of bikers on all sorts of machines came in in dribs and drabs. We felt pretty ashamed to see a few girls on snmall bikes in there who pulled in, adjusted gear, had a giggle and scooted back out into the rain and the rain was getting heavier.
Time for a weather check and the heavens were set to unleash over the next few hours so Takayama was definitely going tho be our terminus and we would have to deal with whatever was coming between here and there. It was completely downhill and for once I was glad to be behind a dump truck as it was moving at a decent clip for the conditions as well as parting the standing water and rivers running across corners. We had our plow in front, heat turned up, not far to go and we were riding into the peak of the typhoon.
Soon, the streets had spots of man-made light here and there and the number of buildings and cars slowly increased. We were heading back into civilization straight down into Takayama and shining brightly thru the rain was the A-one Hotel logo. Good enough for us, we pulled into the main entrance and parked under the eaves. Next thing I remember is apologizing in the foyer for the pool forming on the shiny floor below me as my gear continued shedding water. To the staffs credit, they never complained and just smiled and instead handed out towels to get the hands dry enough for filling in the check-in form.
Later they would suggest an appropriate place for a feed and fluid change, supply us with umbrellas to keep our shoulders and heads dry there and back and give us a good farewell on the way out.
What will tomorrow bring us now the typhoon has peaked? We need to step on it if we hope to get this ride done!
Distance for day 3: @305km
Distance from Oma: @ 1185km
Finally, a good 7 hour sleep. Time to rise and shine and things have to be better than yesterday, don’t they?
An exploratory look out the window showed drizzle with a ray or two of sunshine on the distant hills and J got real excited seeing a lady in a short sleeve shirt. Things were looking up. Welcome to day 4 of the End 2 End. Wriggling our way out of Takayama, the drizzle was there but so were patches of clear air too. Headed west on the 158, we pulled into the first combini after the big golden-horned temple complex. Standing under the eaves, we wolfed down some fuel and then it was time to get rollin. First road, and I’m usually one to leave the best to last when feasting but the uni-directional route was dictating the menu so the GujouKaido/SeseragiKaido/HidaKaido(73) south was first up! If this was to be entre, the day could only get better. And it did. The rain was soon gone and the steeds were galloping. From the 73 to 257, 472, 156 and then some twisting and snaking through typhoon debris to the 4km shot through the Taraga tunnel to the 52. Like that road north but we didn’t have time as we were headed south and making good time. So, south it was and that top snaking part of the 256 is a niiice road 😉 Then we were rolling west on the 79, to 40 via the 157 and some creative road linking.
The weather was real primo on the 40, we’d had a good run and it was great to be really riding again after the scuba-like adventures of the day before. Ahead of schedule for the day, it was time for a fluid change and rest up at the Yume san-san Tanigumi Michi-no-eki.
After a monumentally long leak, some rays and a peruse of the route options, it was back on the road – Biwako bound and there were rain clouds on the smartphone’s horizon…
The 40 going west terminated at the 303 which we took northwest and all the way to Kinomoto. For the run around the top of Biwako, we threw our fortune behind the lucky rt.8 before rejoining the 303 and then south on the 161. The grey heavy rain clouds cruising east started spitting on us as we hit the 161. Before long it was cats and dogs and we were truckin on the bypass. Swinging around to the 303, again, didn’t bother patching in with J to see ho he was doing. He was already soaked, for sure and still there in the mirrors. Best to keep on truckin which no one does better than him.
Next turn put us on the 367 headed south-west and the rain was strong and steady! The road’s truck grooves were pooling and the traffic had us trudging along at a suburban pace in minimal visibility. It was getting depressing and the gloves, although heated, were sopping wet. Time for a break?
J agreed so pulled into KitsukiShinhonjin Michinoeki and found ample cover. Probably a local market when not flooded. Just the ticket for some rest, drip drying and getting a grip of where we were at and headed. J went in search of coffee and I got to figuring whether we, and if the weather would allow, could make Tottori for dinner. By the time he got back, it wasn’t looking good. So, he sent out a rider SOS for accommodation between where we were and somewhere further west. Thankfully, Eric, aka Haildamage, came through with a place offering cabins in a ski area on the far side of Hyogo. Still being in Shiga, we just had to get across Kyoto and most of Hyogo and dodge the weather along our winding tasty route which was forecast to stay wet and oppressive. 😦
Waiting for a break in the weather took a while. The rain just kept a flowing. After an hour or so, a few breaks in the downpour was as good as we got and the forecast was showing the blast was past so we ventured back to ride some twisties.
Headed south and swinging onto the 783/110 and things couldn’t have gone more sideways. With nice tarmac ribbons weaving through tall cedar stands and over trickling brooks, it’s probably an awesome road when clean and dry. Unfortunately, that day it was healing after a bruising from the typhoon.
The cedars had blanketed the roads, so bad in some places the only way you could make out the road was to follow the leveled snaking between the tall brown trunks lining the road. James was able to find a relatively clear area to pull up and take a pic..
Slow going that carpet riding and we drifted apart. But it sure was enchanting and captivating with the small narrow guardrail free brook crossings that had a fair torrent of typhoon muck streaming below.
Making it out of there with the rubber side still down and not suffering from slippery-road stress induced lockjaw was great! And getting back onto a nice winding road was fantastic, even if it was still drizzling and misty.
That put us on the 38 westbound still. Another road with huge potential in better weather/conditions, it lead us up and over a pass and then wound down into a small town by the name of Nantan.
Warmed, a little drier and chuckling again, the road was calling us back. So, west on 162, 12, 27 then snuck around ayabe and Takatsu to the 74 and pulled in for a feed and call to delay checkin at the cabin and have a feed. Then off down the 429, up the 427 to 9 and down the 312. All rather uneventful and thankfully dry. The dark and cold were tolerable without the rain. Swinging west onto the 429 brought back twisties and a fantastic winding hillclimb and descent. Things were going smoothly and we were taking it easy and covering ground comfortably.
Not far from the cabin we swung south on the 6 and James, in front, starts swinging his head like he’d just stumbled into Hooters. But it was panic not pleasure. His mortal enemy was seemingly everywhere! DEER ! Tired and almost there, I took the lead and ran sweep. Better to have the magnet at the back, right J? Pulling into the resort, where the cabins were, the place was teeming with deer. Seems it was some kind of deer sanctuary and they had all turned out for the arrival of the deer-killer and were eyeing off JamesK. Even saw an evil-eyed doe with a suckling fawn that couldn’t break her death stare! Spooky. Needless to say, I stayed as far from him as possible and nodded submissively to all the eyes I saw.
Anyway, we’d made it! The cabin was brilliant!
We unloaded, fired up the heater, stripped off the wet gear and emptied all the moist luggage for a good wicking in the dry and hot tatami room we’d converted into a dry-room. Actually looked like a touring bike or 2 had exploded in there 😀 Well, some beers, a good hot shower and some route reconfiguring and we were beyond bedtime. Yep, bed was magnetic and an unfightable force that night. I gave in willingly around half one.
Good news was, we were just over 500km from the goal and we’d resolved to go for it!
The bed was warm and the heater drying the gear downstairs had warmed the loft nicely. I was kind of keen on staying there. But there was road to be ridden and with a little luck, a challenge completed. The roads of Okayama, Tottori, Shimane and Yamaguchi fired us up and had us on the road to meet the sunrise.
So, on with the run shall we…
North on the Inaba Hwy(29), 429 west which lead us out of Hyogo and into Okayama, 53/181down thru Tsuyama along the Tottori-Okayama border with a break for breakfast and gas. The weather was fine and the Izumo Hwy (181) west of Maniwa was smooth, winding and flowing, just where I wanted to be! Love that feeling!
The Izumo Hwy was arcing more northbound than we were looking for so we swung west again onto the 180 to 183. Before the 183 swung south, it was green(prefectural) road time. Yep, tight, twisty and narrow with Ryunokomadawa (a touge that’s not a touge apparently??) peaking at 690m. I was looking forward to it but the typhoon had been there before us and wiped out a section toward the end.
Didn’t realize the road was out until rounding a corner to meet a dump truck reversing down the road toward me while I was riding on clay. Seriously, clay! Hadn’t realized that either… The truck honked his horn for me to back up…yeah, easy mate. Just a tick. Much slipping sliding and cursing later, the FZ1 was heading down the hill with a clay-shod steamy rider on board. But, we were away. Turned down the nearest trail going in the general direction we were and waited for J. Unfortunately, I was a little out of site and he sailed right on by into a similar nightmare I had.
Anyway, the 15 took us into Shimane, our 14th prefecture since starting in Aomori.
The detour took us down the 108-107 to our route on the 314 and a nice national road again. Took that west a little way to the 432 and south before jumping another prefectural road west, the Kakeyakamiai-sen (38) and Utsuki Touge. It was fun and just the beginning of a great stretch of roads as it meandered down a farmed valley with lots of banking and cranking. The turn back onto a national road at the 54 was a return to wide open views and 6th gear, sometimes. vid Next up was the 40 but we needed a break and a michinoeki took care of that.
After the break, we u-turned and headed back to the 40. Great stretch all the way into the 30 and up to the 9. The 40 really got J rolling and so was the camera (video) around the south of Mt. Sanbe on to the 30.
The 30 lead to the salty scent of the sea, the Japan Sea. We’d been tracking the coast all this time and this was the 1st time to actually see it. From there it was a long run down the San-in Road(9) following the coast. Quite similar to the east coast of Izu for the most part. A combination of wide open rolling roads tracing the coast and towns of small shops with too many traffic lights all the while with a great blue view to the west. It had it’s ups and downs and more traffic than we’d had to suffer in a while. It eventually ran into the Kitaura Highway(191) and the road got a little more interesting with elevation changes and towns further apart. The Kitaura Hwy also took us out of Shimane and into Yamaguchi, our 15th and final prefecture!
At some point we drifted apart and west of Hagi, our paths diverged. James, back on the scenic and smooth San-in Rd while I stayed on the Kitaura for the best part of 191! Seems most of the traffic followed James on the San-in as my path was clear and the road was great! A long winding climb through steep mountains before the same going downhill into Misumi. All that…nice road.. really hd me feeling the miles so it was time to pull in for a rest and rider fuel.
Waiting out front of a combini where the San-in and Kitaura rejoined, James soon pulled in and he looked a little weary, not unlike myself I guess. 175km along the coast, fighting traffic and paranoia of riding on such main roads was taking it’s toll. So much so that when it came time to get rolling again, I thumbed the ignition which generated a flicker of light on the instrument panel and that was it. Damn! Left the ignition on, meaning headlights etc. Dead battery… Took a stroll and found a little bridge over the river behind the combini. So, pushed it up and rolling down the other side jump-started the FZ1 back to life. With a stutter and surge we were making power again and a short squirt in 1st brought a little life back. We were rolling again.
Next turn was onto the 34 with a quick jump across the 316 before rejoining the more rural section of 34. Fun but tight little prefectural road that wiggles its way around Toyota Lake. Got a good coating of bugs there! Also, J and I drifted apart again. The sun was on the slide toward the horizon and we had agreed at the last stop to just go for it. As it worked out, we ended up on slightly different routes again.
After a short link via 435, swung onto the 491 for the aptly named last touge of the ride, O-toge. From there, the 260 linked to the 262 south-west and then the 262 back to the 191. Yep, the Kitaura Hwy again. The 34 detour was a traffic free short cut 😉
So, southbound for not too long then filtered through some farmer fields looking for the road out to the goal. The westernmost point of Honshu, Bisha no Hana. But, the way there wasn’t as clear as some, maybe most, landmarks. After some head scratching, navi thumping and a lot of rubber-necking, there was a big sign at the entrance to carpark. A short while latter an eager growl from the FJR could be heard bouncing off the hills.
We’d made it! From end to end through crazy winds, sleep-ins, a typhoon, hidden roads, fatigue, electric shocks for some and the ride of a lifetime for both of us. Cheers for the ride J Distance for day 5: @535m Distance from Oma: @ 2195km
Like to send a big THANK YOU out to those who sponsored us and drove us on to finish the ride. Thanks to you, around 80,000yennies worth of goodies was donated to orphans.