I WASN’T SURE WHAT TO EXPECT. I had images of the Japanese Alps being impossibly steep vertical inclines and frosty peaks. Whatever the case, after rising early yesterday near Mt. Fuji, the team set out aggressively toward the Southern Alps to meet our fate. After 40 km or so, I decided to check in on a connection in Matsumoto, Nagano. His name is Takefumi Sato, and he has also ridden the length of Japan. In fact, before the trip, I often consulted with him for insight when preparing. Since learning of my intent to cycle from end to end of his home country, he generously offered the team a place to stay when we passed through his city. Our dilemma was that Matsumoto was 115 km and several mountain ranges away. Surely we would be in for a rugged day of hard pedaling if we were to make it all the way to Takefumi-san’s. Gluttons for punishment (and warm beds) as we are, the team decided to dig in and shoot for his place.
The day was rather uneventful on the surface. We pedaled for a long time, and finally arrived around 10 pm at Takefumi-san’s. However, this recount overlooks the splendid views of the Southern Alps we had the privilege of staring at all day. Also, it omits the difficulty of our trek. Except for the final 30km into Matsumoto City, we cycled nearly all 154 km uphill yesterday. Needless to say, we were tired. Also, somewhere between the constant incline and beautiful views, the team’s total mileage for the whole trip edged over 2000km! Once we showered at Takefumi-san’s apartment, we revived a bit to hang out with our friendly host. As he cycles around Nagano frequently, he gave us lots of invaluable insight into the route that lay ahead of us and also, to our surprise and joy, promised to ride the 65 km to Nagano City with us the next day!
Sleeping soundly, we awoke this morning when Takefumi-san’s friend from Tokyo, Shimizu Takuya, arrived by car. Turned out he would be riding with us as well. Awesome! After some discussion between the two, the plans were changed to get a more direct and downhill route to our goal for the day, the Sea of Japan. This also meant we would ride to the 1998 Winter Olympic site in Hakuba Nagano.
We rode quickly, but I’m not sure how we stayed on the road since most of our time was spent admiring the snow-capped Northern Alps. Every bend brought a more stunning view, and it was nice to have experienced guides to show us less a few traveled roads.
In Hakuba, we went to Takefumi-san’s favorite restaurant called Grindel where I ordered a jumbo rice omelet that Dylan had to help me finish. After lunch, we rode the chairlift and toured the large hill of the Olympic ski jump. It was impressive to look down, but I’m glad I’m not afraid of heights. Finally, before parting ways the five of us enjoyed soaking in a free public foot bath. It was hard to say goodbye to our new friends, but dusk was quickly approaching and we still had 50 km between us and the Sea of Japan.
This 50 km was cake and made up for all the pain of the day before (almost). Completely downhill, we cruised toward the huge setting sun, arriving at the Sea of Japan just as it dipped into the horizon. Mission accomplished. I am happy to be done with the Alps. Although they were really physically challenging, they also only took 2 full days of cycling.
Now, I write this outside of a supermarket as Dylan and Scott pick out dinner which Dylan will cook for the team. After eating, we’ll find our campsite sleep. Today’s total mileage was around 130km, making our two-day Alps total nearly 290 km. Hopefully, there are flatlands ahead.
Thanks for tuning in! See you tomorrow.
Calves: Positively Maybe
Spock: Sea of Japan!!!