Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tamagawa Weir Bike Ride

(Bridge near Ome, over the Tamagawa)

Golden Week is one of two major holiday periods in Japan, the other being Obon Yasumi during the Summer. Golden Week is made up of a handful of one-day holidays, all strung one after the other, culminating in Children's Day on May 5. Generally, the Japanese take this time to travel to various sights around the world, or possibly return to the family home. Usually, the airports and trains are congested because of it.

(Tamagawa, near the Weir)

I had been thinking of cycling the 80 miles to Mount Fuji and back, which would be a 2-day excursion. On April 30, I was forced out of the apartment for 6 hours, so I figured I'd try doing a practice ride to Mt. Takao, 36 miles away. The problem with both the Fuji and Takao rides is that large stretches would be on narrow, busy streets, packed with cars. But, both would also start along the Tamagawa. So, I figured that I'd try riding the Tamagawa from Noborito all the way north as far as I could for 3 hours, then turn around and come back. If I could find signs pointing west to Takao, I'd try going that way until the traffic turned unbearable.

(Old commerce channel leading to Edo)

As it was, I could follow the bike trail about 25 miles north (no signs for Takao that I saw) until it deadended at a "weir". According to the dictionary, a weir is a dam placed across a river to divert it for some reason. Apparently, a few hundred years ago, the Japanese diverted the Tamagawa into a man-made side river to create a commercial route leading into old Edo (now modern Tokyo). I couldn't see the damn, but I did find the old river.

I then took some side roads out to Ome, which brought me past several shrines and temples. At one point, I found myself on a road leading into the hills, and on impulse I rode past the chain onto a dirt track. I didn't know it at the time, but I was entering the back end of a hiking trail. The trail was mostly well-kept up, ignoring various wash-out points. And, it was empty except for 2 hikers that I encountered an hour later near the main trail head.

Interestingly, there was an old building along the side of the trail, and the path leading to the front door was overgrown with bushes and small trees. It have been unused for 5 years. The door had rotted off the lock but it still opened smoothly. Inside, there was an electric organ, an amplifier and a snare drum. Plus lots of lumber still in good condition. Strange, since the maintenance on part of the trail elsewhere looked to be no more than a few months old.

The hiking trail was steep in several places, with lots of exposed roots. My bike isn't designed for this kind of trail so I ended up walking stretches of it. Eventually, I reached the trail head, and rode back to the Tamagawa Weir. From there, it was an easy, scenic 2 hour ride back to Noborito. Unfortunately, by the time I got back home, I'd been riding pretty much all of the 6 hours, and I was overheating when I got to the apartment. It took me an hour to recover, and I was so wiped out that I had to take a nap for an hour afterwards. Of course, I took a shower just to knock all the salt off my face. In all, I'd consumed 2 Balance bars, an energy jelly pack and 3 bottles of water. When I got home, I went through another bottle of water, a carton of juice, and a package of Calorie Mate.

(Abandoned building near hiking trail)

I'm thinking that Mount Fuji is completely out of the question, and if I'd only covered 50 miles or so on this trip, then maybe even Takao is unattainable. It's too easy to blame my age, my being out of shape, or my bike not being a $2000 Trek road bike. The bottom line is that even though I spent maybe one hour talking to people along the way, I can't have covered more than 60 miles in 5 hours, and at the end of it I was wiped. Sigh.

(Daruma drinking water)

At least I had sunscreen this time. Visit the photo album here.


Shiroibara said...

It sounds like a lot of fun, though I think I probably would have been worn out long before you were. My sister has been conditioning herself for long bike rides so I can tell you with confidence that you can get yourself to the point where it is possible if you push yourself jut beyond your comfort zone each time (but don't overdo it!). Keep us up to date on your progress.

Interesting that there were instruments in a building that was obviously abandoned for a while. Why do you think they were there?

TSOTE said...

Thanks, I'll try. I may do one more moderately long ride this week, before Golden Week ends. Otherwise, I'll stick with the little 1 hour rides along the Tamagawa.

I have no idea. The building may initially have been used by the people developing the hiking trails. There's still a fair number of 2x4's and other finished lumber stacked up along the wall, so there may have been a plan to put up a second building. And, it may have been used by hikers as "party central" until the power was cut. Either way, there's at least one book showing the trails in the area, so I expect that it's fairly well-explored. So, I'm surprised that no one has gone in and staked a claim to the place more recently.