From Japan (Part 11): the Kanbe Ryokan

Mark says: this dates from the 15th

yesterday the monsoon rains arrived. we woke up and mounted our bikes for a long slog in a constant drizzle. homeboy had grown weary of the truck traffic breathing down our necks, so he plotted a course on a parallel road. basically, there are three roads following the river north from Gifu: a highway that the government had shot through mountain tunnels and high bridges, a prefectural road 156 which much of the trucks use, and a series of often single lane roads hopping the riverbanks. the small roads took us through dozens of little neighborhoods…modest houses almost always with a rice paddy alongside.

the incessant rain wasn’t so bad, but an hour or two into the ride my right knee developed a pain where i have never had pain before. i’m not sure what’s causing it…i think it might be the wider stance of the touring crank. whatever the cause, an hour or two further on and i was gasping in agony. this was and continues to be a major problem…

eventually we made it to a town where the little road and 156 met up again, with a view of the amazing infrastructure of the big highway spanning tunnels set high into the mountain. we found a town info center, and i negotiated for the very helpful woman there to set us up in a ryokan (traditional inn).

this ryokan was like f%&#ing shangra la to us. we were filthy and just knackered. The Kanbe ryokan didn’t have a view, but it had clean tatami mat rooms (without centipedes) and served dinner with the room. after an induglent japanese bath, we got this huge spread of food. so many courses of japanese cuisine….shabu-shabu, pickled vegetables, potatoe soup, sashimi, seafood custard, and more. the room, all that, and breakfast for 6500 yen each. well spent.

however my knee is definitely not good. we are going to have to shorten our route because i can’t make a good pace. we’ll probably make a shortcut to Takayama rather than go to Shirokawa-go. At least the sun is out, but all roads forward go up into the mountains….



Just another reason to ride

Splash News Online | Angelina Jolie and the Hitcher

So James Ambler has been following Angelina Jolie around New York on a Trek mountain bike, taking her picture as she makes appearances to promote her new movie A Mighty Heart. He’s become such a fixture that Jolie and her kids have nicknamed him “Lance.”

On Thursday, Ambler hit a nail and flatted. Rather than leave him behind, Jolie gave the punctured papparazzo a lift to their next destination in her SUV.

I know some of you are saying he should have turned it down, rather than riding in a gas-guzzling SUV, but Ambler happily accepted a hitch from one of the world’s most beautiful women, and spent about 30 minutes in her company. Ambler said Jolie was “really down to earth, really lovely.” Splash News has photos and video of Ambler describing the encounter.



Team Bike Hugger: Methow Valley Tour

Pam and I are at the Methow Valley Tour and blogging about it on Team Bike Hugger. Late summer last year Pam and I rode Mazama and the valley on a relaxed tour where we saw lots of yellow trucks and smoke.



Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France

Floyd Landis book, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France, is on sale and he’s embarking on a book tour to promote it. The book and tour are making some news and the blogs are posting – no word if the WADA will test him during this tour.



From Japan (Part 10): Gifu Gangsta

Mark backdates this entry from the 14th

after waking up from the spooky inn, we packed our stuff and made way to the kombini (convenience store). angelo wasn’t doing too well with the japanese food, but i like to pack it down before riding. especially since it’s still flat, and thus unlikely that i’ll redline my engine too soon and throw up. it would be a long day in the saddle. i don’t remember too much about that ride…it wasn’t terribly scenic…in fact it could have been anywhere florida, germany (the boring parts), what have you.

we get to gifu, go to the train station info center, and we manage to find a hotel called Monthly Sho. it’s a kind of business hotel, ie tiny rooms. one thing that sticks out is the tiny bathroom. it looks like it could have been popped out of a single fibre-glass mold…like the toilet seems molded into the wall. and they have a high-efficiency flush that sounds like an airplane toilet. evrything seems to be built light and cheap.

we went to get dinner and find an internet cafe, which had a keyboard that utterly confounded me. the restaurant and internet cafe were located in a large shopping corridor that you don’t really see in states. it’s hard to explain without pictures (for now at least), but imagine a shopping mall that was covered but open at the ends. bikes and even cars can drive through, but otherwise it feels a lot like a mall through, but without any large department stores.

one section has a ceiling of arrayed coloured light strips that sequentially illuminate to create waves of traveling colour. this was the section that contains all the hostess bars and other seedy establishments. i told angelo in no uncertain terms that now would be an inappropriate time to use the japanese word for “mafia”. it’s ” yakuza”, shhhhhhhhh

we made it back to the hotel wothout being fleeced of our yen by hookers or gangsters. but the next day the rains arrived…..



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