Home > Pre-Japan > 2010 Oita JET charity bike ride!

2010 Oita JET charity bike ride!

やれやれ。。。it’s been a while since I’ve posted, sorry about that guys! Been a hectic couple of weeks. Without further ado, here is my account of the charity bike ride two weekends ago!

Three days. 252 kilometers. What else can I say? It was pain, anguish, anger, joy, elation and pain, all in one. Did I mention pain? I came into the bike ride slightly worried. I had been training for it, yes, but it had been 60-70km of quite flat biking. Japan being 70% mountains, the chances of these three days being totally flat were laughable at best. The one time I had tried to climb a mountain I barely got to 100 meters before I felt so bad I thought I would throw up. Here was the lineup: Saturday – 66 km from Saka no ichi (Oita city) to Ume town. Some slight uphills but mostly flat. Sunday – 88 kilometers from Ume town down to Nobeoka in Miyazaki prefecture, then back up to Kamae, along the ocean. Four challenging mountains. Monday – 98 kilometers from Kamae back to Saka no ichi (Oita city.) Originally the lineup was meant to be reversed, but due to some lodging issues they had to do it this way. In the long run, it was probably the best thing to happen to us the whole trip.

After accepting the hospitality of Nick and Rhea who live near the starting point, Kate and I gathered with the rest of the riders (25 of us or so!!) at the Saka no Ichi Max Value store at 8:30am. We put our bikes together, received our 2010 Oita charity bicycle ride T-shirts, and were briefed on the day’s ride. 66k, didn’t sound too bad. We set off around 9:45am and for the first 30 kilometers or so I was doing fine! I was keeping up with the back of the front group (if that makes any sense! There were about four riders ahead of us going extremely fast, then four of us going around 20-25km an hour.) Then, I began hearing an inauspicious sound coming from my chain. I wasn’t able to signal the others in my group to slow down but there were more behind me so that was not an issue. I stopped and found out that somehow my chain had gotten on the outside of a protective piece of metal it was supposed to be inside of. We called our bike repair guy and with pliers he was able to put the chain back into place. By this time, 15-20 minutes had elapsed and I had lost my group! Finding this group turned out to be the second best thing to happen to me all weekend (apart from the course reversal, which will be explained later.)

I think subconsciously I knew early on that I would not be able to keep up with the pace of the initial group I ended up in. Having trained with Kate a few months in advance, I knew that I could hold a 20-25km pace for about 30 km before losing all of my momentum while she was perfectly fine to continue on. That’s exactly what happened on the first day. I started out too fast and crashed right when we got to the hard part! Luckily at that point I had switched groups to one a bit better paced, but still the first day turned out to be the most difficult one, even if it was “only” 66 kilometers long. The winds that day were severe, and after stopping for a quick bite to eat in Mie, we encountered the longest steady climb in the history of the world! I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this climb went on for at least 8 kilometers. Needless to say I spent the majority of it on my feet. Getting up that hill was maybe the most taxing physical exercise I have done in my life. I hated every second of that damn hill, and all those bloody tunnels through the mountain. To compound our pain, we did not see a volunteer support car the entire way. It wasn’t that we needed water, or were in such bad straits as to need assistance, but during such a physically enduring climb it’s so nice to just have other people around you, letting you know how far to go, telling you you’re doing a great job. We finally reached the top and took a well deserved break. The wonder of climbing mountains is that after an hour and a half of struggling, you get to simply coast back down to the bottom! We flew down the mountain in a matter of minutes and into Ume town, where our lodging for the night was. Before reaching our destination on the recommendation of one of our fellow riders who lived in the area we took a short detour (about 1km) to see the actual bus station from the anime “My Neighbor Totoro.” We also had a chance to take a picture in the cat bus! There was also a quick stop to sample some delicious ice cream! I had sakura (cherry blossom) soft cream, which was absolutely delicious. We finally arrived at our cabin around 5, entirely exhausted but feeling quite accomplished!

At the debriefing that night we were given this wonderful bit of information: “Tomorrow is the hardest day. If you thought today was hard, get ready.” I think I may have been too tired to really process this information, but waking up in the morning with my legs burning I certainly felt some apprehension for our task ahead. As it turned out though, the second was was not nearly as challenging as the first, at least for me. I believe this was a combination of starting off with a better paced group, (Kelsey, Nick, Rhea and Al) weaker wind, and gorgeous views. Also, although the first day really tired me out, it prepared me well for the rest of the bike ride. The second day was our ride into and back out of Miyazaki, and the difference is stunning! From the people (way friendlier!) to the sea (stunningly gorgeous!) everything about Miyazaki prefecture made me want to go back and enjoy the views more. Some highlights of the day were the first half of the journey, which was entirely downhill, (we definitely did 35km in about an hour and twenty minutes) two little Japanese kids chasing us on their bikes yelling encouragement, the tea bush mountain, and the cherry blossoms, which had begun to bloom before our eyes. It was certainly challenging, don’t get me wrong, but compared to the first day it was a cake walk! I walked about half of one mountain, but for the rest I was on my saddle the entire way, something I was quite proud of. Beginning something of a pattern, we arrived at 5pm. We stayed at the Marine Culture Center in Kamae, which as a hostel had lots of silly rules like you couldn’t have boys and girls in the same room, terrible food, and light’s out at 10. No matter, we were all so tired from the day’s riding we crashed right around that time anyway.

Day three, the final and longest of the three days, was actually the easiest. It was about 90% flat, so even though the 98km was daunting, compared to the second day where there were far more inclines this one was physically less demanding. There were a few things to look out for, however. First and foremost, there was TOD. (Depending on who you ask it is written either TOD or TODD.) TOD was a tunnel. The Tunnel Of Death, in fact. (Or the Tunnel of Deathly Doom. Or the Tunnel of Douchy Drivers.) This name is not a lie. People have died in this tunnel. Students are not allowed to walk through it at all because more than one of them has died by being pulled into the slipstream of trucks who zoom past you with centimeters to spare. It’s 2 km of pure darkness and terror. Furthermore, getting to TOD required a decent climb along traffic, with no bike path in sight. At the briefing the night before we decided that it would be best to go in as large a group as possible with a support car behind us, flashing lights on, and signs all over the car warning them of bikers in the tunnel. We also had one person stationed outside each end of the tunnel with a sign warning them to be aware of bikers. Thankfully we had no major problems, though even with all the signs and caution, cars (and a crane!) still passed our support car and attempted to get ahead of us INSIDE the tunnel. Most of us made it through quite fast with no incident, but when we had all come through, instead of the last biker exiting the tunnel, it was a massive construction crane, an SUV, THEN our biker and the support car. This re-enforces my belief that Japanese drivers are, without a doubt, the rudest drivers in the world. Crazy, considering they are such polite people when you see them face to face, but it’s true. They pay NO attention to anyone but themselves, and endanger the lives of pedestrians and bicyclists alike constantly without even a thought. If you live in Japan for more than a few months, the chances of you getting hit by a car are about 85%. Both Kate and Candice, third year JETs, have been hit. Nothing serious thankfully, but still. That was not an enjoyable period in our bike ride. Never the less, the rest of the day was uneventful. We saw some gorgeous sights and yet again arrived back at Saka no Ichi around 5pm, aching, but finished.

The entire weekend was totally worth it, and although it was tough going, I’m extremely proud of myself for finishing the whole thing, and am super glad I was able to spend the weekend with some great people, doing some wonderful exercise. We managed to raise an absurd amount of money (More than 415,000 yen, around $4200, which considering the charity culture in Japan, aka none, is quite impressive and puts us well on our way to building a new library in Shri Lanka.) I’m going to do my best to continue to bike after this, though perhaps I’ll take a few weeks off to give me knees some time to regain any semblance of cartilage. I took tons of pictures on the trip (129 to be exact) which I have put up on my picasa site. I’ve linked a number of them here, but if you want to see the whole album you’ll have to click here to see them all!



The Totoro bus stop!

The guy who took this picture just miraculously popped out of the woods speaking fluent English!

My day two biking buddies: left to right: Cloe, Erika, Thayne, Kelsey, Rhea, Nick (Dash and Al in front)

Gorgeous Miyazaki!

Cherry Blossoms

We started our climb down there!

Tea!

We're in another prefecture!!

Just look at that...

Just look at that water!

There are so many more pictures, please take a look at my whole album on picasa, it’s definitely worth it!!

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Categories: Pre-Japan
  1. Stu
    April 1, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    I had no idea you guys were raising money for a library. Congrats on completing the ride, and double props for raising all that dough.

    • Dash
      April 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm

      The updated fundraising figure is: 650,000 yen…apparently with all the other events we’ve done that puts us at enough to build it! woo

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