Friday, December 20, 2013

Tokyo To Matsuyama

Oct. 6. Yokohama to Fuefuki near Mt. Fugi. 155 km
Finally the rain stopped and I needed to get back on the road. I had a place to stay with a guy named John from the Gaijenriders forum. He lived near Mt. Fugi with his wife and kids. He and a friend were starting a new motorcycle shop. On the way, I saw a few crazy motorcycles riding slow and revving as loud as they can. Later when it was getting dark, I saw another group. This time riding in the same direction as me. A few of them had 4 cylinder street bikes with skinny chopper bars, high seat back and long strait pipe exhaust that went way up in the air. Others had 2 stroke triples with a 3 into 1 pipe with no muffler. Just a trumpet. Later I learned they were Bosozoku. The Bosozoku Gangs used to be a crazy biker gang. Many Bosozoku would then go into the Yakuza Gangs. They aren't “badass” and scary now.. they are just annoying. I found Johns place and we chatted over a few beers. We made plans to ride the next day near Fuji.

At a bike shop. A Honda "Monkey" and "Gorilla".

Fuji behind the clouds

I didn't take this video. But you can hear how the like to "rev" and see the styling. Its quite funny. 

Oct. 7 Fuefuki To Shizuoka. 188 km.
John took me on some very good twisty roads. He was riding a WR250 with supermoto tires and can ride that thing pretty well. When It got tight he pulled away from me like I was sitting still. I had my bike loaded, but still. I was quite surprised how quick he was with that bike. After about 50 km of twisties with John, we split up. He went back to work and I went south. I knew I wanted to go toward Nagoya then Kyoto but I didn't want to take expressway. On my GPS map it looked like a few small roads went through. One of them was blocked for construction. Another was a dead end on to a goat path. I had to back track some but on the 3rd road I tried, it went through to the heavily populated area near the ocean. It wasn't long before my stomach was making noises and I decided to find a hotel.

The only picture I have with John in it. 

Road less traveled?

The arrow is so I stay on the right... I mean correct side of the road.

Oct. 8 Shizuoka to Nagoya. 247 km.
I stayed off the expressway to Nagoya and went over some nice passes. Once you get out of the valleys you see almost no cars. This also makes for roads with lots of leave/pine needles/gravel on them from the rain. You have to be careful, especially in the wet. There seems to be construction of new expressways everywhere. Since land is a premium in Japan, these are built in the mountains. So you have tunnel, bridge, tunnel, bridge. In this sense, the Swiss and Japanese have a lot in common. The smaller roads in Japan remind me of Northern Italy. I got to Nagoya in the evening and tried 3 or 4 hotels before I found a Hostel. The hotels were around $60 or $70 and didn't have Wifi. Hostels are usually cheaper than $30 and have Wifi most of the time. Also, you can usually meet some interesting travelers. I was sitting in the common area checking the emails and I here a guy say “Hey Noah, when did you get here”? It was a french guy who I met in Yokohama. He and I had shared a whiskey bottle together waiting for the rain to stop last time I saw him. We had a few beers and chatted.

Some sort of crazy climbing monorail thing that was very common in Japan for the farmers to get access their crops on the steep hills. 

Another expressway

Oct. 9 Nagoya.
It was raining when I woke up so I decided to stay another day. We walked around the city and had some sushi for lunch. In the evening we found a restaurant/drinking establishment. Later I thought them the card game “durak” and we played till 2 in the morning drinking Suntory whiskey.

I guess this is how you solve a parking problem

Lots of sushi

Best icecream bars ever. 

Pay to talk to a girl. Prices above. 

Soju and grapefruit 

Oct 10. Nagoya to Kyoto. 137 km
There are so many good twisty roads in Japan. It would be a dream on a supermoto. My memory of the roads in Japan will be this: Small roads twisting their way up and down mountains, along emerald blue rivers, through tunnels just big enough for a small truck and epic views. Most of the time, the road is only 1 lane so you can't go very fast. The hostel I found in Kyoto didn't have a place to park my motorcycle. So I put it in pay parking a few blocks away for $2. Normally I would NEVER leave the bike in plain sight that far from me. But this is Japan. Its making bad habits. When I go into a store, I leave my keys in it, I leave the GPS on the dock, I leave my camera in the tank bag, I leave my helmet and gloves on the bike. Nothing happens. Its crazy. Its like a utopia of Safe.

Oct. 11. Kyoto.
The Hostel didn't have another room so I packed up and made my way to “K's hostel”. There are 7 or 8 different K's hostels around Japan. They are usually pretty nice and reasonably priced. They let me check in at 11:00 so I could change and go explore. I decided to try to see some of the shrines. The Fushimi Inari Shrine was very close to where I was staying so I went there first. There is a large temple at the bottom of the mountain and you wank your way up the mountain on different paths to a shrine on top. Along the way, you walk along paths through countless orange arches and past many smaller shrines. If you go here, make sure you walk to the top. Most of the tourists stay at the bottom so its hard to get a good picture that isn't full of tourists. But the higher you go, the less people you see. Near the top there are a few good places that overlook the city. I didn't make it to another shrine that afternoon. Instead I worked on my motorcycle. I replaced the HID highbeam with a normal 55w bulb. The HID had been giving me problems so I tossed it. That evening I had dinner and drinks with a girl from Florida. Its nice to have good conversations once in a while.

Amazing hand made knifes. 

Huge carp. He pushed it back in. 

Scooters like this are very popular here. I can't understand it.  
This was a common symbol before some a-hole messed it up 70 years ago.

Oct. 12. Kyoto to camping in Wakayama Pref. 181 km
It took me all day to get to the camping spot where I was meeting up with 9 or 10 guys from Gaijenriders. I go there just after dark so I had to cook and set up the tent in the dark. We drank some beers around the campfire and planned the ride for the next day.

Owner of "Cafe Ride". A motoshop/coffee shop. So great. 

His race bike.

Easier to build a bridge then to cut the mountain. 
Oct. 13. Riding in Wakayama with Gaigan Riders. 165 km
We were up earlier then I am used to. I knew we were all going to get along just fine when the breakfast menu was Johnsonville brats and coffee. I did some fly fishing in the river while we waited for another guy to show up. I was able to catch some fish, but they were very very small so I threw them back. Later I would see people keeping these fish. Japan is like Russia with fishing. Anything can be eaten so don't throw anything back. This makes it difficult to find healthy fishery anywhere close to populated areas.
We had a wide variety of bikes that day. My 690, a KTM 450sm, BMW 800, 2 BMW 1200s, a cruiser, and a naked 4cy street bike. Since we were on roads that were not used much, the surface was dirty with pebbles and rocks. Nick on the 450 was following me pretty close and hit a large rock. It was a square rock about the size of a soccer ball. I didn't see it happen, but I know the exact rock because I swerved to avoid it. We stopped about 10 minutes later to wait for the group and I heard a hissing sound. I did not know it was possible to get a “Snakebite” puncture on a tubeless tire. Well it turns out it is possible. He hit the rock so hard the sidewall of the tire had 2 small pinch holes. Surprisingly, the rim was not dented, bent or cracked. These guys didn't have much experience with fixing a tire on the side of the road so I gave them a free lesson. First I broke the bead and tried to clean around the bead. I thought the air was coming from the bead. That helped, but then we found the 2 holes. So next I pulled the tire from the rim. Unfortunately, no one had a 17 inch tube we could throw in the tire. I sanded the inside of the tire to expose new rubber and wiped it clean with a rag/gasoline. Then I applied a patch. Since the patch was on the sidewall, I didn't know just how long it would last. Getting the bead to set was the next challenge. I put a tie down strap around the center-line of the tire and tightened it down this helps push the bead onto the rim. After ½ hour of messing around, the tire was finally seated on the rim and back on the bike. Next we had to worry about people running out of gas. I had to give Nick a few liters to make it back to a town with fuel. That insured I would be drinking for free that night. There was a natural hotspring 1 km from the camp so a few of us walked to soak. There are many “onsen” in japan where hot water comes from the ground. This particular one was just a few holes in the small rocks people had dug next to the river. The river water was cooler but the water in the pools was warmed by the ground. The further from the river you sat in the pools, the hotter the water was. Again we drank beer around the fire while cooking meat, veggies and brats. The BS was spread on thick that night.
The crew

Good but dirty roads

Noah's tire changing school.

Oct. 14. Wakayama to Tokushima. 197 km + 2 hour ferry.
I rode past a few custom bikes parked on the road. I looked back to see a sign “Bagdad Cafe and Rest”. I thought this would be a good place to have some lunch. The owner had a sweet old Ducati bevel head. I really like these old ducs. The look great and sound even better. He cooked me some noodles with fish and vegetables for lunch. A few days later, a friend of mine sent me this link to his blog. It appears he liked my story as much as I liked his. The ferry left at 4:30 so I had a good sunset on the way. I tried one hotel and they wanted $90 so I went to a hostel in the in a small village near the ocean. I think I was the only one staying there. It seemed like I may have been the only one staying there for a long time. I left the window open and slept to the sound of waves on the shore.

Awesome Rally car shop. 

She was traveling on a sweet little 250 Honda.

Oct. 15. Tokushima to Takamatsu. 149 km
It rained on me all day but I did get to ride some “super rinda”. Once again, it had rode for a long way on a gravel road that didn't have a barrakade at the start but 20km later, I had to move gates or go around blocks to get back onto the pavement. As soon as I got past the last locked gate, I smelt antifreeze and my bike was steaming. The radiator had a leak caused by the fan shroud rubbing on it. I added water and rode north toward a town and I found a nice shelter in an open garage building. It looked like it was meant to park highway department equipment in, but on that day, it was empty. I cooked some noodles while I investigated the leak. I also added radiator stop leak to ensure I could make it to a populated area. Soon I was in a bigger town but the only hotel I could find was a weird pay by the hour hotel with no attendant. Only a credit card machine in the room... doors were unlocked. I couldn't figure out what to do because it was all in Japanese. So I continued on in the rain toward a hotel that was in the GPS as a POI. I arrived in the dark and got a single room. I cranked the heater and nearly burnt up the hair dryer trying to get my stuff dry.

Road block #1

Getting around road block #2 required going outside of the guard rail.. on wet grass.. with a steep dropoff very close. 

For a few minutes I thought the weather was going to break. 

Shelter from the storm. 

Oct. 16 Takamatsu.
I woke up in the morning to rain and wet cloths so I stayed put for the day. Later that evening the sun actually came out and I had a great view of the sunset from the 6th story hotel room.

Oct. 17. Takamatsu to Matsuyama. 175 km.
I left in the morning after breakfast at the hotel. I didn't make it very far. About 100 feet before the craving of coffee set in and I stopped at a Mr. Donut. That, and there was a quick storm blowing over. Down the road I passed what I thought was a strange parade. A very tall cart with people in it was being pushed and pulled by a team of people all dressed the same. I snapped some pictures as they went by. A few km further, I saw 5 or 6 of these teams. Later I learned it was a festival of some sort. I made it to Matsuyama in the evening and found my friend Takayuki's house. He was the dude on the BMW 800 I met on Sakhalin in Holmsk. He had to work that night so I met him at his bar and we hit the town after that.

Kidneys and hearts?

Some crazy festival. There were about 8 or 10 of these. 

Takayuki and Chappy