Sometimes it’s the unplanned stuff that makes a ride great.
Last week I headed toward Nagano for what I thought would be a short solo touring trip before meeting up with friends for drinks, but on my way to the expressway, my friend Go suddenly pulled up next to me at a stoplight. He was also headed toward Nagano, and mentioned that he was thinking of riding along the Venus Line, one of my favorite roads. I had originally planned a pretty straightforward route to my destination, without much non-expressway riding, but at the mention of the Venus Line, I just had to change my plans.
It took me many miles and several hours out of my way, but those few hours made the difference between a very good day and a glorious day.
Now that I’m obsessed with photography, I think maybe it’s a little annoying to ride behind me. Go put together an amusing video of me location scouting—slowing down and/or pulling off at every single overlook trying to find good spots for photos.
But I think all that reconnaissance paid off: this shot↑ was taken one minute into that video , while the one below↓ was at around four minutes in.
Another unplanned benefit of the timing of this trip was that Vibes Meeting (one of Japan’s largest biker rallies) was being held that weekend along that route, so we were constantly passing and being passed by other Harleys. One of my favorite bits of footage from Go’s fork-mounted action cam was when we passed by hundreds of bikers lined up to get into the campground (at 2:10 in the video). I’ve mostly stopped going to rallies these days, preferring to camp with friends, but Vibes was always one of my favorites, and I still love the feeling of converging on the site along with legions of other bikers.
With no real planning, I got to feast my soul on gorgeous early autumn weather, the feeling of biker community, photo geekery, and one of the most beautiful winding roads on the planet, with one of my best friends.
I split up with Go at Kirigamine, and he headed back toward Fuji to find a campsite (and it turns out he then ran into our friend Shu-chan and rode with him for a while as well).
I continued along the Venus Line to Mitsumine overlook, and looked back to admire the beautiful winding road I had just enjoyed.
After a spectacular day like that, the wine that night tasted even better than usual.
The next morning, I decided to drop by to see Chris, since I was in the neighborhood (for a very broad definition of “neighborhood”), and we rode together for a bit for the first time in decades.
After a brutal week at work, that weekend was exactly what I needed.