Shirakabako and Tateshinasan

Early autumn touring

Shirakabako and TateshinasanSometimes 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.

Go's bike and mine in front of Shirakabako

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. Kirigamine-Fujimidai

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).

Mitsumine

I continued along the Venus Line to Mitsumine overlook, and looked back to admire the beautiful winding road I had just enjoyed.

moss

After a spectacular day like that, the wine that night tasted even better than usual.

ready to roll

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.

A quick ride with ChrisAfter a brutal week at work, that weekend was exactly what I needed.

P1090990-Edit

Wabi-Sabi made in USA

P1090804

These old bikes may be originally from America, but I think they actually evoke an aesthetic similar to the imperfection and asymmetry found in traditional Japanese art. Truly moving works of art (when you can get them to actually move).

P1090802

P1090803

P1090805

P1090842

P1090905

Also, although we didn’t plan it this way or anything, the five Harleys that got together for camping this weekend covered the entire history of Harley Davidson engines since the 1940s, turning our campsite into a temporary motorcycle museum.
20140601Engines
From the top: a 1946 Knucklehead, a 1957 Panhead, a Shovelhead, my 1993 Evolution, and a Twincam, with a Kawasaki W1s thrown in for good measure.

P1090990-Edit

P1080072

That’s my girl!

P1080072
Last Saturday, I had to drop my youngest, Mai, off at her swimming class, but my wife somehow managed to lose the car keys, so I had to take her there on the back of my bike.

Apparently, she had fun even just riding through the neighborhood, because she insisted that we take a real ride on Sunday. It’s still a little cold, but I can’t refuse a request like that.
P1080066
Mai has never shown any interest in bikes until now, even when her older sister Lin and I come back from a ride with happy stories. Now they’ll have to argue over who gets to go.
面白い石をずっと探してた。
Thanks for losing the keys, Yuri!
Father and daughter on a bike jaunt

cropped-P10505072.jpg

Cold morning ride with Fujisan

P1050507
This has not been much of a year for motorcycling for me, for a number of reasons–some good, like a trip to Taiwan and a long stay in Yellowstone and Tetons, and some bad, like my father-in-law’s funeral and my own bout of cancer (I’m fully cured, but recovery from the surgery took a while)–and I’ve really missed the mountain roads. I finally got a free morning last week and took a spin on some of my favorite roads in Hakone for a photo session with my ride and the mountain.

P1050467

P1050493

P1050497

P1050510

P1050513-Edit

P1050516

P1050529

Bike and Ocean

The ride can’t always be great


I realize that nearly all my touring reports start and end with something along the lines of “that was an amazing ride!” And I pretty much always feel that way when I get back from touring, because even when we have nasty weather or mechanical trouble, the positive stuff and great times always outweigh any negatives.

But it can’t always be that good.

Today, for instance. I woke up bright and early ready to conquer the roads and go visit the mighty Pacific, but cloudy weather and other stuff delayed my departure. Then once I got out of the tunnel on the Aqualine across Tokyo Bay, the wind was gusting so strong I had to slow down to a crawl and was still getting blown around to the point where I couldn’t ride in a straight line. On top of that, the air was filled with cedar pollen, particulate pollution, and yellow sand from China, and the haze kept visibility to a minimum. Even when I did finally make it to the ocean, blowing salt and sand and haze made for a much closer and less impressive horizon than I had been hoping for.

I think I got ten or fifteen minutes in the twisties where the mountains blocked the wind enough that I could enjoy the winding roads, but I spent pretty much the entire ride battling wind and grit.

But the thing is: I somehow enjoyed myself anyway, and I still can’t wait to get back out on the road the next chance I get. Because these unpleasant ones really are the exception, not the rule. We just have to keep riding.

04-20121209_GH2_P1190761

Kanagawa Toy Run

This will be the final post in my “get the 2012 stuff out the door before the end of January 2013″ series!


Every year, riders from Gaijin Riders, Japan Riders, and SBK (all active sites with real communities—far more useful and informative than this fossilized site) dress up as Santas and reindeer to bring presents to children at orphanages in Kanagawa Prefecture.

For privacy reasons, I can’t upload the pictures of the huge smiles on the kids’ faces, but we had a great time playing, eating pizza, and joking around with the kids, and their smiles were a better present for us than anything we could give to them.


This giant reindeer’s going to have to make time to visit them next year too.

The continuing adventures of a couple of American bikers in the Land of the Rising Sun