Mark V report from the 15th
After our slog through the monsoon to Shirotori, the sun came out accompanied by a stiff wind from the north. My knee was questionable, but if we were to maintain our schedule, we had little choice but to pack the bikes up and go.
Rolling out of town, my knee immediately began to protest. We decided to bypass Shirokawa-go and head for Takayama. That way, we would be able to take a rest day and still maintain schedule, but it would make the current day’s riding steeper and longer. The initial kilometers were flat but we were plagued by strong headwinds until we could turn east into the mountains. For the most part, we could stick to the smaller roads without traffic.
I don’t really remember too much of the ride….basically I spent the whole day with tunnel vision on Angelo’s rear wheel trying to focus out the pain in my leg. I’m told we climbed multiple passes, the highest being 1085m. Whenever we stopped or descended, my leg would seize up. The second pedal stroke would have me gasping in pain. If not for the threat of being stranded in no man’s land between towns, if I were home in Seattle, I would not have been walking, let alone propelling a 56 lbs bike up mountains.
A quarter of the way into the ride, we stopped to rest after a particularly nasty section. To our left, an elderly couple was playing croquet. It seems to be the equivalent to shuffleboard in Florida. I lowered my saddle by 6mm, hoping that might counter the wider stance of the triple crank. This would place more strain on the patellar tendon, but more importantly the side of my knee did not get any worse after that. It did not magically heal itself though.
About 15-20K out of Takayama, we were passed by a huge logging truck on the last major climb. We would catch the truck on the descent. With the truck being just a little faster than us in the short straightaways, we closed the gap in the turns. Thus we used the truck to pace us almost all the way into town. In the shadow of the truck, we could use the whole lane without trailing cars trying to pass us (they had no hope of passing the truck anyways so they just stayed behind us).
In Takayama, the train station tourist center directed us to the Zenkoji Inn, which was actually in a Buddhist temple. This was another stroke of luck for us, because the place turned out to be the perfect place to kick back (and cheap!). The innkeeper had been a concierge in California before he retired and took over the temple after his brother, the previous monk, had passed away. Unlike most Japanese, he was quite adept at communicating in sarcasm, and I mean that in a good way. He was funny. The inn was cool too: paper screen doors, tatami matt rooms, a koi pond, and a real temple. The place had obviously had rooms added on several times over the years, so it seemed like there were all these random doors of different sizes that opened up to unseen rooms just as easily as they revealed broom closets.
There were also other Westerner guests staying there: a French family with incessantly screaming preadolescent boys, a guy from Canada by way of California, and a girl from Germany named Nele. Nele was in this odd homestay program where she stayed a few weeks at a time in different homes, working for those families. Her itinerary had her starting out months before in Hokkaido and then moving south and west, eventually destined for Okinawa.
Takayama is sometimes known as “Little Kyoto” because of all the temples in the area. Angelo and I toured most of them on the rest day and had some awesome lunch. I love sukiyaki. Later that night, we went out with Josh the Cali-Canadian, and Nele…we were going to out to a bar to drink, but we ended up drinking beer and sake-coolers the Circle K parking lot until the cops came and chased us off.
Yes, we are high-class.
Walking back to the inn at 2AM, the others kept telling me that I was too loud. I told them that we were outside and that I don’t have an “inside voice”. They said that we were in Japan, so I said “I don’t have a Japan-voice, either.” I had no intention of riding the next day.