By J. Dunn
Revisiting rides is fun and worth it. In the last couple weeks explorations into the lost photos of Eastern Oregon and Colorado was great (for me anyway) so I figured it couldn't hurt continuing to *unearth some of these forgotten ride gems. This one, as it turns out, also has a long forgotten film with it as well. Well, Colorado does too, but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to go posting things just because I possess them.
Brian Vernor and I went to Japan to tackle the Mt. Fuji Ekiden (sweet tan-lines). A radical running race that had captured Brian's attention a year or so earlier when he went there to make a short film about it. I saw that short film and immediately turned to Brian and said: "we need to go do this race." The tides were in our favor so to speak and later that year we packed our short shorts and booked flights. Well, as it turns out we couldn't just do one crazy adventure when we were there, and as we were already relying heavily on our friend Daisuke to set up the running race, why not something else as well?
That something else turned out to be a ride on the Izu Peninsula with the Rapha Continental Japan (remember when they were called Yonretto?). I was still working at Rapha at the time so it seemed like a good idea to meet up with the Japanese branch of this prolific ride squad. And also how cool is it to get to ride with these characters? To be honest, this was the fun part to me, as something that we helped create, and shape in the states, to travel across the globe and get to see another version, or vision, of the same thing is thriling to say the least. Not to mention that each and every person on their crew was fantastically cool.
We let our running legs chill out for a couple days in and around Daisuke's home post-Fuji — this is the spot where the fabled Nobeyama CX happens each year, and the general riding in the area is just as dreamlike. It's a very simple and easy lifestyle out there and one that often involves riding through the farmlands surrounding the home he shares with his family. Just be aware that you will ride through fields of celery. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to you. For me, it brought back memories of Dr. Brown's Cel Ray Soda and that stuff is good.
The plan was to head to Izu and drop into an idyllic little surfer hangout that Daisuke had secured. Ok, I'm digging back through four years of memories, so some of this stuff might be hazy. All I know is that we twisted and turned and bumped our way up the steep cliffs that were separated from the beach by one long narrow highway road. We jostled and pumped around corners (maybe someone got carsick?) and when we rolled into a clearing in the woods we were greeted by a small collection of buildings, chickens and a beautiful view of the dense woodlands lining the beachfront.
As with every Continental trip that I've ever done, this was a family affair. Daisuke's wife Mari and his two children were there with Brian and Hiro and I and a whole mess of bikes. So many bikes.
We spent the evening getting the bicycles dialed in, and frankly, marveling over them. There is a Nagasawa Rapha Continental Bike. It just makes sense to stand around looking at bikes in the dead of night in a small garage in the mountains, that, somehow is how it's supposed to start. The darkness adds a bit of mystery. Plus, when you do not have a lay of the land or any idea what anyone is saying, you're sort of forced to just go along with the action.
"Where are we riding tomorrow?"
"Out there, in these hills. Lots of climbing and lots of descending."
Seems fine with me.
The morning was early. Too early for me. Everyone rose and dressed silently. So silently that I cannot even remember it happening. I may have awoken to everyone clicking into their pedals. There's video proof that it did happen, but I was barely aware of it. I sort of came to when we hit that ocean road. The sun was blazing and the remnents of that beach party lifestyle was just starting to open one hungover eye as we blasted out of the tree cover.
There were people getting ready to surf the small waves that were lapping the shore, but nothing like the massive throngs of beachgoers we had seen the day before. Anyway, they paid us no heed, their eyes focused on the future sets that may or may not be on their way.
You're riding on the opposite side of the road. Try not to forget that. Even though, when you're blasting down a mountain and you know that feeling of sort of giving in to the turns, you need to keep reminding yourself not to drift back into oncoming traffic.
There was a section that was inaccessible to vehicles, so we waved goodbye to Brian, Motoji & Hiro and continued on up, and up. It's the photo from the top of the post where we let them go and were off on our merry way. I'm of the mind that the forest, whichever forest it may be, takes on a mystical quality when it is not your own forest. You give in easier to thoughts that you would normally push back against. Ghosts and spirits and in this case - Tengu - tend to come easier away from home. Plus, when you've got a band of merry pranksters like Daisuke, they're more than happy to fill your head with legends of the ogres of the mountains.
And these mountains in Izu did not disappoint. (Tengu generally live elsewhere I'm told).
The fog moved in rather quickly as if it had a mind of its own. As if it felt our pressence and wanted to quickly push us back out. Or keep us there forever, I'm not one to differentiate on these feelings. Any way you slice it, this front side of the mountain, or hills had a distinctly dark and insidious feeling to it as we made our way through the tall straight trees.
The moisture in the air also had the added effect of making sure that no picture from my little point and shoot was in focus.
There were jokes as we picked our way through the forest. Maybe everyone else was just as nervous? But the terrain is what it was insured that no one was speeding out of that place. So, we had to be content enough to just bump along, navigating our Pre-Gravel bikes over roads that it could barely handle. (That's a joke by the way.)
I marveled, yes, I simply marveled at the way these Japanese Continental riders mirrored their American counterparts. Daigoro was my Ben, there is more wiley-ness in these two than all the others combined. Yufta our Ira. Was he ever not off the front? Either of them I mean. I could sort of see the impatience of PVB coming through a couple times in others, but not a bad impatience just a "you guys, we made a plan and now we're not sticking to it impatience." They were all there, all my old riding crew and I was content enough to just take it in. Had I known that there probably wouldn't be another Rapha Continental trip in the future I maybe would have taken this one a little more seriously. Though probably not.
At this point in the story is it ok to mention that I was way too focused on snacks to really pay attention to the landscape? I did hear Daisuke tell me something about the shiitake mushrooms that the area is famous for. The logs that were lining the sides of the path - these roads were possibly the pathways to hidden shiitake farms - are the perfect spot to help the mushrooms mature. And their crosshatched pattern makes for a strange, almost Blair Witch looking feature. Except for the fact that they're only used to help cultivate delicious fungi.
I'm getting off track. Snacks.
Yokan is the bean paste that fits perfectly in your jersey pocket. The portions are great, manageable, and the thick, sweet treat is nutritious enough to make for the ride snack you need on the go. So, I had about ten of them in my jersey at all times.
But it was in these hills. On these mountains, that I learned two other snack facts. One - that wasabi is classically made by grating the root on shark skin. Didn't know that until we saw a little display of it at a roadside market. Two, cherry blossom ice cream is THE most delicious ice cream. I will not debate it with you. But, I guarantee that you won't argue after you do the climb that we had to do to get to it. You could have handed me shiitake ice cream and I would be saying the same thing right now. However, the cherry blossoms, they were the thing that I needed to keep going. And keep going we did.
Looking back on the Continental as a whole, you could really break it down into two types of rides. The ones that felt like they were never going to end, and the ones that you really wanted to never end. This ride was the perfect mixture of the two.
Every time we would nose our bikes down towards the water I had the impending feeling that it was going to be the last time, that we would soon spot the touristic area of the road and I would know that the ride had come to an end. However, nearly every time I was fooled and just as soon as we hit the valley floor were we headed back up into those mist covered hills - at which point I wanted it to be over - and soon enough we would be speeding back downhill and Brian would be shouting at Hiro "faster, faaaster, they're catching us" and the little minivan would chug along just in front of us.
Then the ride really was over and not only were we wet from diving into the ocean (seriously, you can see it below) but we were oh so thankful that we could pile all those bikes into the van for the trip back over the ocean highway and up, bumping and bouncing along to our little surf shack.
It is a little sad at the end of something like that. Like a ride I mean. Not like the end of the Continental altogether, that will never die. But the ride, it is sad when that's over. You've just put in all this work to plan the route and make the hours drive and set up the bikes and picked out your kit and aired up your tires. Traversed the mountains and hi-fived your compatriots and sprinted your guts out over nothing at all. And then it's over.
Thankfully we've all still got each other and this rad little film to commemorate the fact that one time in August we got to hang out in the Izu Peninsula together.
Thanks to the Yano Family and Vernor and Hiro for finding me WasaBEEF chips when I needed them. Thanks to the Rapha Continental Japan for taking in this little lost boy and showing him around your beautiful country.
Rapha Izu from (((vernor))) on Vimeo.
*Let's be honest here, I'm laid up and realized that going back and revisiting all these rides, pouring over photos (literally the reason that I take so many - to remember) is good for me. It's helping me focus on the future rides by remembering the past. // Double side note: I'm laid up because I had a gnarly knee surgery to fix an old injury. I'm not looking for sympathy, just a way to deal with the downtime. So, if you've got a way that you were dealt a heavy blow to your physicality (an injury) send it through, I'm looking for stories about comebacks at this point: email@example.com