The 308 Blues: Day 23

Osaka Nara Mountain-Top Village

We’re having fun, I swear. It’s the trip of a lifetime, no one’s making us do it. Every day we have amazing experiences, ones that I’m sure we’ll tell our grandkids about. Some days, though, it takes a lot to remember that this is fun, and not some forced endurance challenge, or a kind of torture. Unfortunately, today was one of those days.

Osaka Net Cafe Osaka Club

Although we should have started the day well rested, none of us got more than five hours sleep. Andrew fell victim to the easy computer access at our net cafe, and ended up working on the blog until late at night, and Scott and I went out to see Osaka’s nightlife. While all of us had a good time, rolling out of our computer cubicle/bed to make the cafe’s 9am check out was a bit of a struggle. But today was the day to be sleepy, because the map showed an easy, straight 30km to Nara, where we would recharge by enjoying the famous temples in Nara Park. We could just glide sleepily along and reach Nara in no time without working too hard, right? Right?

Wrong. A combination of our navigator (me) not checking the terrain of the route and Google Maps neglecting to factor altitude into it’s directions meant that our nice straight route went straight over a mountain range. As the rise came into view on the outskirts of Osaka, I told myself there must be a way around, or a low pass, or something I’m not seeing. Surely the road can’t go over that. We stopped at the last convenience store before the foothills to check one last time that our route would indeed take us to Nara. The clerk confirmed that, then mimed a cyclist flipping over backwards on a steep incline, and told us to take care. He knew what we were in for.

Osaka Nara Mountain-Top ShopThe next 3 hours were not something I enjoy remembering. We managed to ride for about 15 minutes past the store, before the road got so unreasonably steep that we were forced to walk our bikes up the slope, under the pounding sun on a windless day. The “highway”, boldly drawn in stout yellow on the map, turned out to be a twisting, narrow road barely wide enough for one car to pass us on the shoulder. The going was so strenuous that we could not push for more than a handful of minutes at a time without a breather. Finally, exhausted, we reached the crest of the road, complete with a small souvenir shop and rest stop, and the border into Nara Prefecture. We were too exhausted to be excited, but at least we were satisfied. Surely, the worst was behind us.

Osaka Nara Mountain-Top Border

Osaka Nara Mountain-Top Border

By the end of the day that proved to be true, but not by as much as we would have liked. Coming down off the mountain, while easy on the legs, was hard on the nerves and brakes. Now we were taking occasional stops to cool down our brake pads. Our route, the straight and true 308 running all the way to Nara City, meandered down into a valley town, and disappeared. Once we realized we were no longer on the right highway, we had to loop back and try to pick it up again as it wound through town along narrow streets in umarked turns. It also seemed to seek out the steep hills, and more than once we were again forced off our bikes, pushing.

Todaiji Gate

Todaiji Main Gate

We persevered though, and eventually reached the City of Nara, and the end of our path along the deceptive 308. However, much to our disappointment, our easy 30km had taken the better part of seven hours, putting us on the wrong side of 5:30pm, which is when the temples of Nara Park, which we had come solely to see, closed. We went for a despondent ride through the Park, but the blowing sakura and famous ubiquitous deer could only console us so much.

Thankfully, the day ended on a much more positive note. As dusk was gathering, we made our way to an okonomiyaki restaurant that Andrew had been to when in Nara before, and that he in turn had had recommended by his friend Craig Stanton, who had walked the length of Japan some three years prior. Dinner there was ridiculously delicious, complete with what I’m sure were abnormally large portions for us worn out cyclists. The proprietor, Mr. Jun Ohashi, chatted with us amicably about his restaurant, okonomiyaki varieties, and our trip while preparing our fare, and even investigated as to where we could camp that night in the area. We were sent off happy, with full bellies and good directions to a riverside area a little ways down the road, where we could stay in peace. Even better, when we reached the river, we found a small bamboo forest right beside the bridge, shady and well-sheltered, and set up camp there. And there ends our unexpectedly challenging, somewhat disappointing day, as we settle down amidst the creaking, knocking bamboo and rustling leaves. Tomorrow, I’m sure, will be better.

Okunamiaki in Nara 1 Okunamiaki in Nara 2Camping in a Bamboo Forest

Rider Condition:

Crash: OKU-
Calves: -NOMI-
Spock: -YAKI

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28 Responses to The 308 Blues: Day 23

  1. Leta Stewart December 9, 2011 at 1:47 am #

    Just some guys hauling bikes up a hill. Ya, it was really steep and really long.

  2. LunaFeles July 8, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    omg with bike Ö___Ö
    that’s…. GREAT!

  3. J.D. Gibbard June 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    Ha! When I saw the article title I was expecting some commentary on the recent Canadian election (308 MPs).

    • Andrew June 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

      Sorry! Just some guys hauling bikes up a hill.

    • Dylan June 7, 2011 at 12:18 am #

      It was a bit nice to hear the election results while I was outside the country and busy, so I couldn’t dwell morosely. Biking over mountains and camping in parks also helped to distract.

      • J.D. Gibbard June 7, 2011 at 5:25 am #

        Elizabeth May won in my riding so I had something positive happen that night.

        I probably won’t be wearing any maple leafs when I’m in Japan this summer.

        • Andrew June 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

          Oh you guys and your Maple leaf talk.

  4. Frank May 10, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    Wow, What a day! Well, you are now on the other side of it.

    Great to read what you all write!

    Would there be a book in this for the three of you after?…

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:27 am #

      Perhaps, but it would be short book. Maybe an eBook if there was market for it. Since everything is available for free on this site, I’m thinking of maybe making a mini series of 30 minute episodes of all the video footage we shoot but never put up. I don’t know if it would sell for $2 and episode on this site or not, but it’s worth considering for now. Thanks for the comment Dad!

  5. Ruth May 8, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Now that’s an epic “hump” – but this probably feels more accomplishing than the traffic you guys had on a previous day. Albeit more exhausting. Looking forward to the next posts! Goodluck you guys!

  6. PinkGloom May 7, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    That mountain reminds me of San Fransisco and how my boyfriend and I were practically walking at a 90 degree angle. We were exhausted after three days and I think my thighs burned for a month after that!

    At least the day ended on a good note and I hope that the road smooths out for you 🙂

    Keep up the hard work!!! At least it can only get easier

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:22 am #

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. Lori May 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    I loved the video =). It’s really too bad you went all that way and still missed the park though! I agree with Tammy that at least the bamboo forest looked beautiful =).

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:20 am #

      Ya, we were bummed to miss Nara Park. It’s like the #1 place to tour in Japan in my opinion. I’ve been there before, but I feel bad for the other guys. Oh well, it’s a big country and we’re still having fun.

  8. Perry May 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    I can’t wait until you guys get to Hokkaido. I’m really interested to see the countryside there.

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:20 am #

      Same here. Everything North of Fuji will be mostly new to me. I’ve been to the Alps once this past winter, but it all should be still be new and beautiful.

  9. Robyn May 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    is that puke on the side of the road?

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:17 am #

      Hahaha. sure looks like it. Naw it’s just road.

  10. Emy May 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Keep with it! You are doing great. It looked so steep! The food sounds so good!

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:17 am #

      Thanks for the encouragement. Your brother is a monster on hills.

  11. Craig May 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    308! Oh man I wish I’d known you were going that way. I did the same route as you on foot, Osaka to Nara via Kuragari-toge. And I got lost when 308 meandered through the small towns on the way. Luckily some guy had written the kanji for Route 308 on a piece of paper incase I needed to check it against signs.

    So glad to see Jun still doing what he does 🙂

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:16 am #

      Jun says hi and also said you two have been emailing. It was great to catch up with him and the okunomiaki was delicious as ever.

  12. Russ May 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    The video really shows how steep that road is! I’m glad that you made it, but it must have been exhausting — kind of like climbing a 14-er with multiple false summits. Really enjoy seeing and hearing about the adventure.

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:14 am #

      Ya, it was really steep and really long. But now it’s a great memory and I think helped bring the team together even more than we already are.

  13. Tammy May 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    Oh, I’m sorry you guys had such a rough day. In unrelated news, wow your legs show that you’ve been riding bikes for 23 days. In sorta related news, you’re just over half way there and I’m super proud! The bamboo forest look beautiful.

    • Andrew May 10, 2011 at 12:13 am #

      Your husband is a ham for the camera. I bring out my Canon Powershot and he starts looking all pensive and aloof in that bamboo forest. Hahaha. It was great.

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