Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Pre-Typhoon ride in Sasebo

August 7th, 2014 by MTBBill

Earlier this week, work has taken me back to Sasebo in the southern part of Japan.  I’ll be here for about a month and change.  I had debated about shipping/bringing one of my own bikes over here for the duration but between the cost and hassle, I decided to take my chances with getting a rental.    I’m thinking I maybe should have went with shipping one of my own bikes over as the pickings were slim at the rental place.

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The steed for this trip is a total Throw “Way The Hell” Back rig complete with canti-brakes.   Brakes is a bit of an optimistic term in this case, slowers is more appropriate.  On the plus side, I’ll soon have hands that can grip like a bear trap and I should not be accused of skidding up the trails around here.

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The weather guessers were calling for a typhoon to come through the area the following day so getting a ride in before that was a priority.   The outdoor adventure center were I rented the bike is more centered on scuba and deep sea fishing than biking so I had to spend quite a bit of time get the bike setup and tuned before heading off for the late afternoon ride.   I’m fairly certain that the clipless pedal I put on the bike doubles its value.

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When I started out from my hotel room, a nearby thermometer read 90 degrees with the humidity being around 85%.  I was sweating and I was barely moving.   The climb up Mount Yumihari is on narrow paved roads.  The plan was to take the pavement up and a couple of different trails down and then back into town.

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The climb is fairly steep and it was good workout.   I have done this climb numerous times so I knew what to expect which helped with the climb but I was still getting worked. Once I got to the top I realized that all the pre-ride tinkering had eaten up my daylight margin.   I was pretty certain that taking the trails back down would end up being a night ride.   A night ride I was not really prepared for.  So I went with plan B and enjoyed the views from the top for a leisurely bit before taking the roads back down the mountain.  This should help with the jet lag.   This is not my first time MTBing in Sasebo so you can find other Sasebo related blog posts here.

 

Quick Trip to Japan

November 7th, 2013 by MTBBill

Work this past week has brought me back to Japan on a short trip.  I did bring along on my bike essentials and on Sunday I was able to take the rental bike out through some old stomping grounds on the Muira Peninsula.  It was a cloudy overcast day and while the sun seemed to threaten to make an appearance it never did.   The good news was it was not raining.

This started out with a bit of street riding from Yokosuka over to the town of Zushi.   I had forgotten to bring my GPS and maps of the area on this trip so the plan was going to be to stick to know routes.     When I first got into Zushi was when I had to make my first decision about where to ride.  I could either roll over to the “Duck Pond” area ride  that stuff and then link up with the Tennin trail system and drop down into Kamakura or I could turn south and hit the Fugato-yama area.

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I opted for the latter and after a bit of street climbing and some steep cement steps I was into the woods.  The rain from previous days made for some treacherous bike handling as the clay bases soil in the area gets a traction rating of “butter” when wet.    Slick sections of clay and wet angled roots all added to the overall excitement of being back on the trails that I have come to enjoy so much.  The loop I had planned in the Fugatoyama area included an out-and-back segment up to the peak.   On my way back from the peak I stopped at the junction of a trail I had never taken.  It drops you way down into a large basin area to the south.   Several years ago I had explored down in that basin coming in from the other end.    I was quite certain I had been at the other end of this trail down in the bottom of the basin.   Taking this trail would not only be a bit of exploration but would also mean committing to the follow the basin trail system down to the west and out on the opposite side of the peninsula from where my hotel was at.  I took the path I had never traveled.

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The trail was somewhat I expected in that it was steep and followed along a watershed.   The previous rain made part of the trail more stream than trail in spots and it was always fairly narrow.  I was digging being on some new dirt while hearing the little voice in my head fretting a little that I might be wrong about where this trail is going.

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Turns out I was right about the trail once down into the basin, I turned onto a trail that flowed a stream down to the west.   The trail was extremely small and rugged with lots of water crossings at this end.  The further west you go the more established and less rugged the trail becomes as this trail seems see more usage by hikers at that end.

After following the trails out to a trailhead I followed a series of streets out to the western shore of the peninsula.  From there I turned south and followed the roads and streets south through Hyama.  The route turned out to be a little longer than I remembered.   I was happy to recognize the turn off for the dirt road up Ogusuyama, the highest peak on the peninsula.

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I was due for a pick me up so a snack from a local store and one of favorite treats was in order.   Canned coffee served hot from vending machines that are all over the place here.

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After the caffeine hit I started the grunting up to the peak.   I made my way up to the an observatory at the top.   From there I took a trail my friends here have simply referred to as “Trail 2″ that will take you into the Kinugasa area.

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This may be the first time I have stopped to take a picture of this section.   Its mighty zippy through here.

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Another fine section of trail.  Not too far beyond this point I was back on streets and roads and headed back to my Yokosuka hotel.  My legs were fairly cooked and mud splattered grin from ear to ear.

 

There is no MTBing in Bahrain!

September 8th, 2013 by MTBBill

I spent the tail end of July and most of August working in Bahrain.   For those who have never heard of the place it is an island in the Persian Gulf east of Saudi Arabia.    The maximum elevation is maybe 100 feet and pretty much everything is sand so the mountain biking opportunities are mighty freaking limited.    Of course a Surly Moonlander would help a little in that department.   Hmmm I wonder if I could get one with some S&S couplings on the frame?

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Even with a bike, I would have a hard time getting motivated to get out in the heat and ride.  Everyday it was over 100 by 10AM.   Several days in particular it was 108 with 74% humidity.

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I did manage to get out and grab some sights while I was over there including the Grand Mosque

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I took a tour of the Al-Fateh Grand Mosque on one of their “open houses” for non-Muslims. [aka Infidel Outreach Day :-)]   Work involved a lot going back and forth between an office and the outside.  After a few weeks of the cycling in and out of the heat and AC I came down with some chest and sinus crud that required some antibiotics to knock down.      The project I’m working has several phases to it so I was able to come home for a couple of weeks in between one of the phases.

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I was still not completely over the crud when I got home so I refrained getting back on the bike and potentially backsliding with the crud.     My girlfriend and I did make a trip up to Palomar mountain for a bit of mild hiking.   It was really nice to see some greenery in mild temps.

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One of the locals we saw along the trail.

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By this past Friday I was feeling well again so a dawn patrol ride out at Mission Trail Regional Park was in order.   There was some weather moving through the area which made some cool rainbows.  I had ridden on the west side of the park in quite sometime.   So I hit up the Jackson, the Rim trail, S-turns and the Soycott trails.    I had not checked out North Fortuna from the north slope so I looped back around and when up North Fortuna from the north slope.  I had my long-legged bike so it was overwhelming a hike-a-bike in that direction but would be a very techy ride on the descent.

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After getting up to the North Fortuna peak, I descended the south slope to the saddle and then continued on up to South Fortuna.    It had also been a long time since I had taken the South Fortuna staircase.  I knew there were many spots were you had to pick and choose your battles but there were quite a few more than I remembered from my last go at this trail.  I want to say that the techy sections were in worse shape than before, but it is more likely that my skills and/or nerves have slackened up some.

Either way it was great to be back on the bike and again.   I’m heading back to Bahrain tomorrow and I’m not looking forward to another stint of being off the bike.   Work can be so pesky sometimes!

Killer Weekend in Hurricane Utah

April 5th, 2013 by MTBBill

I have a mountain of pictures to sort through from this past weekend of camping and riding near Hurricane Utah. Here are a few I’m working on.

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Friday we drove from Socal to Gooseberry Mesa where we setup camp and got in an near sunset ride out on the North Rim Trail.

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Saturday we did the Hurricane Cliffs Trail System Loop of Goulds Rim, JEM and the Huricane Rim Trail

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It was a great loop of about 21.5 miles in length and with a surprisingly sizable amount of climbing.   We had plans for a late afteroon ride on Gooseberry as well but ending up enjoying tasty beers at camp instead.

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Sunday we went over to Little Creek Mesa.   I had only ridden the Main Loop on a previous trip so we had plans to hit up some of the other goods out there.   We ended up doing the main loop and then getting out ot the North Point.

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After the North Point we worked our way over to the Magic Carpet Ride trail to get back to the trailhead.   We had plans to hit up a bit of Gooseberry before sunset but tasty beverages and semi-done legs dicated chilling at camp.

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Monday morning we got fairly early, grabbed some breakfast and headed out from camp.

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We hit up the South Rim trail

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As well as the Hidden Canyon trail in both directions.   I finished up the ride with nothing left in the tank and the legs completely shot.    A great way to finish off a long weekend of riding.   We soon had packed up camp and were making our way back to SoCal.    More to follow….

Back in Japan – Yoko Dirt Time

November 11th, 2012 by MTBBill

Due to my last work project running long in Sasebo, my time back at home was just a week long before I headed back to Japan for some work in Yokosuka.   I flew back into Japan on a Saturday evening and decided to try and shake off some jet lag with ride on Sunday.

After grabbing a rental bike and setting it up with my pedals and some sizing tweaks I was through on the bike garb and on the road.   Today was not an exploration ride but a return to the Fugato-yama area which is one of my regular stomping grounds when I am in this neck of the woods.

It was a beautiful sunny day with a touch fall briskness in the air.  Despite only having about 6 hours of sleep after being up for 26 hours I felt really good on the street riding out to the trails.   I think this was a combination of being a bit fitter than I have been in the last six months coupled with still be ing a bit on Japan time with only having a week on US time.  Whatever the reason, I was digging having some energy in the tank and some iron in the legs while out in some nice nature.

The trails were in exceptionally good condition.   Obviously it had not rained heavy for maybe a week as some of the sections that are hellishly slippery when moist were fairly managable which was another bonus. 

It was a substantual act of being unselfish that I stopped to take this photo.  This is a long section of awesome flowing gravity feed goodness that just makes you smile.  Most times of the year the steep hillside is somewhat hidden by the vegitation.  With winter on its way the mixed forest flora is thinning out some to reveal more of its often “stealth” exposure.

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I did not have a huge route planned out here on this day as I had plans for the evening.   I had a handful of street miles to ride back to my hotel after popping out of the woods.  So there I was “just riding along” on the sidewalk along highway 16.  I managd to clip a sign like the one above while going about 20mph that jerked my handlebar pretty hard.  I was able to correct enough to keep from going full on body surfing on the concrete but the bike went way off line and Iended checking a concrete wall with my shoulder.    My head also smacked the wall, but my helmet completely earned its keep so the melon was no worse for wear.

For those who have been wondering, my test reveal that roadside Japanese concrete seems to have an average grit fact of somewhere between 30 and 45.   

After a very stingy shower, I hopped back on the bike and rode a did a few more miles of street riding over to friends Ken and Emi house.   We had nice evening of catching up things over tasty Japanese microbrews and a yummy homemade dinner.   It was a mighty fine opening day back in the land of the rising sun!

Playtime on Mount Eboshi, Japan

October 12th, 2012 by MTBBill

Last weekend I was able to squeeze some time off from my work here in Japan to get in some mountain biking on Mount Eboshi near the city of Sasebo in the southern part of Japan.   The weather was pretty freaking awesome.

Nearly all of the climb was done on narrow mountain pavement roads which had some pretty steep bits.   There was some mighty pretty roadside views along the way to the top.

Once I got up to the peak of Eboshi I was treated to nice views of the Sasebo City below.  

I went down the backside of Eboshi and linked up with a network of trails that are typically fun and often challenging.   The crappy rental bike I had made some of the technical bits even more sporty.   The clunk-a-clunk fork mades some sections downright scary.  (Clunk a clunk is the sound it make everytime you go over a rock of any size)

I had forgotten just how many bannana spiders were out and about on these trails.   I can not fully express the invigoration that occurs when you go through one of thier webs and the spider plants squarely in the middle of your face.   There are harmless but I find that my mind fails to properly communicate that to my body as I seem to be incapable of not wigging out when one of these spiders takes and unplanned ride on my nose while I’m cruising down the trail.

 

I came around a bend in the trail and thought I was witnessing the start of the Zombie Apocalypse!   That is one crazy looking root.

This is part of the trail.  Actually I’m standing at a trail junction.   The trail I was on actually goes off to the right (not shown here).   It is not until you goe about 40-50 yards down this rock/creek bed until the other  “trail” gets back onto dirt again. 

Once you get back on the dirt you are treated to a narrow singletrack craved into the side of the very steep hillside that goes on for about a mile.   Above is one of the few spots where the thick foilage opens up to show civilization below.   After this trail I hit up another handful of trails before zipping back down the mountain and calling it a day.    A mighty fine way to spend an afternoon on a bike.

Yumihari Sunset

October 3rd, 2012 by MTBBill

I finished up work yesterday with a couple of hours of daylight left so I decided to make get in some two-wheeled excercise by way of climbing Mount Yumihari.  It was cloudy misty rainy a couple of days ago when I first when up to the top so the prospects of taking in a sunny day’s sunset seemed pretty interesting. 

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 I made okay time up the mountain and had some nice light left in the day.   Here is looking to the east at the center of the city.

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 To the west is the 99 Islands National Park.   

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The sun about to set.    I forgot to bring along the dinky little light that came with my rent-a-wreck so I opted to not take one of the trails back down the mountain and instead took the skinny mountain road back down into town.    Not long after I was enjoying some mighty tasty sushi for dinner that cost just a small fraction of what I would pay for that kind of quality back in the states.   Not a bad way to spend a few hours after work.

Opening Spin on Mount Yumihari

September 30th, 2012 by MTBBill

I have a work project in Sasebo Japan for the next few weeks.   I arrived on Thursday night and was able to get my hands on a grade A piece-o-crap rental MTB complete with a 7-speed drivetrain, reflectors and a swanky kickstand.  Unfortunately my luggage (that contained my bike stuff) did not arrive until Saturday.   So despite the threat of a typhoon tracking through the region so I decided to get out while I could.   So after ditching the kickstand and throwing on my pedals the bike was at its portly climbing weight and I was off up the mountain.   Here are a few of the limited pictures I took while out and about on and around Mount Yumihari. 

The view from the lookout on Ymihari.

In Japan the word for “locally sourced organics” is “food”

Two years ago this statue was hidden back in the woods and looked a little neglected.   The area around this has been cut back and it is now easily visible from the road.  It has also been painted to really show it off.  It was nice to see that this has been pulled “out” of the woods.   

Mount Eboshi in the distance before I head down off of Yumihari.   I’ll be up onto of that mountain in the near future.

Lagging at La Costa

July 23rd, 2012 by MTBBill

So I spent last week working in Southern Japan.   I was hoping to squeak in a bike ride but the rental place was out of mountain bikes.  The weather was pretty freaking rough as well as I don’t think the humidity every dropped below 95%.  I think that even if I would have had a bike I would have had to muster up some serious motivation to get out in the woods when it is 99 degrees out with 99% humidity.   So I took in a bit of traditional and limited sight seeing during this visit.   I will be back for a longer period in the fall so I will get my time on the trails.JA-Sasebo-JUL12-04

Yesterday was my travel day back to the San Deigo.  With the International Date Line in the mix, I did Sunday twice in the course of my 27 hours of planes, trains and automobiles.   I was pretty freaking toast by the time my head hit the pillow yesterday.    I did sleep well last night but was still dragging a bit today.   I decided that a lunchtime ride would help to snap the body back onto my timezone.    I decided to ride Rancho La Costa a few miles away from Casa Del Bill.  I also decided to ride my bike to the trailhead as I could use the extra excercise on the several intervening hills along the way.

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I was meeting Michael (aka YetiRider) that works near the trail system and routinely knocks out a lunchtime loop out there.   I knew I was going to feel a little tired but was quite surprised just how freaking tired I felt about five minutes into the commute to the trailhead.   My body was quite certain it was a little before 2AM its time.   I made it to  Michaels work shortly before his lunch break and we were soon hitting up the last bit of asphalt to get to the trailhead.    I was feeling a bit better in that I did not feel so fatigued by the time we got to the trailhead.

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I climbed alright on the way up but I certainly felt off in the way of not firing on all cylinders.   On the way down I realized my reflexs were more than a little off and I found myself dabbing in spots I would not normally dab in.  It was good to be out on the bike but it was a little disconcerting to be all out of wack.

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The pavement return back to my place drained the rest of my energy so I don’t think I really helped out the jet lag out at all today because after a shower and snack I knapped away the rest of the day.   It was still a good experiment.

A Nippon Weekend In Review

February 1st, 2012 by MTBBill

So I’m back in Japan for a couple of weeks of work.    This marks the first time I have been here in the late January, early February timeframe.    With the highs in the low 40′s and the night time temps below freezing it is downright cold for this San Diego Weather Weenie!   Wednesday was spent playing planes, trains and automobiles but with the international date line thing after getting some sleep in the hotel I woke up to Friday morning.   Friday was spent setting up for work that was start to start on Monday, give a presentation and make rounds of gripping and grinning.     In the middle of all that I picked up a mountain bike rental that not only would be my primary means of transportation while here in Japan, it was also be my recreational vehicle.    Friday evening was marked by the full blown onset of  Jet Laaaaaag!   

I have found that nothing helps to beat your body clock into a new time zone like some exercise.    After some early morning work preps it was time to set off on the bike.     Cold is cold, but the breeze was just downright biting so there was plenty of layering when donning my MTB apparel.   As in all of it!   I was pretty stoked with the hardtail rental I got.   I was the first person to rent one of the newest members of their rental fleet, a well equipped (for a rental) Jamis Durango 1 hardtail. 

 The plan for Saturday was not to do any exploring, just stick to a series of trails that I know and love in the  Fugatoyama area.   It is a rather large chunk of mountainous open space that is for the most part quite rugged.   It has been the source of many memorable head scratching intersections and brutal hike-a-bikes.

One nice change about riding here in the winter time is that you can see a lot more stuff as some of the trees have shed their leaves.    The picture above would be of mostly a veggie tunnel in the summer.   I had a good time out on the trails but was fairly skimpy on taking pictures. 

The final segement of trail along this route dropped me out into an area called ghost-town for the number of old vine entwined buildings that are rusting back to mother nature.    The little paths and streets quickly takes you back down into civlization where one can obtain tasty hot coffee out of a can.   This is straight up yummy caffiene crack in a can!  A nice warm can of coffee in the middle of a cold ride.    Good Stuff!   After the caffiene recharge there was a series of street riding back to my hotel.    I caught up with old friends over a home made dinner that night.   A mighty nice start to trip.

 

I did not get an early start on Sunday so as to let mother nature warm things up a bit before I went out.    I had been wondering about a different route into the Fugatoyama area that in theory would cut out a bunch of the street riding.    There is a foot bridge over the Yokosuka-Yokohama Expressway that seems to go from nothing but woods on one side of the expressway to nothing but woods on the other side of the expressway.    There has got to be a trail there.   I had never been able to figure out how to get down off the Fugatoyama ridgelines to this footbridge.   I was going to figure this out from the opposited direction on this outing.  The plan was to start from town and get up to the footbridge and then get up onto the ridgelines, where I should know where I am at at that point (That was the theory).   So after some Google Earthing, some exporting and file conversions I had my GPS uploaded with with some waypoints and tracks to investigate.    While not the most direct route to where I wanted to go the route took me through a pedistration tunnel.  Pretty cool. 

After a bit of here, there and to and fro I ended up at my first objective, an entrance into the Taura Plum Grove.  Just after the spot pictured above I got in some stairway to heaven action. 

The Taura Plum Grove is a park and while for the most part it is a rock sidewalk affair it was pretty cool looking.   Springtime here when the plum trees are blooming must be a really awesome sight.   Things are not flat here and my route was taking me to the upper west end of th park so it was a climbing affair. 

Up near the top of the park the views open up.   Tokyo Bay is in the distance and the large building in the distance on the left-hand side of the pictures is the Landmark Tower in Yokohama.

 At the top of the park is a viewing tower where even better views of the area can be taken in.

I was more interested in what was just beyond the tower.  Finally some dirt and the trail that would take me into the Fugatoyama/Muira Alps area.   The trail became a skinny singletrack as soon as it left the park and before long I was across the footbridge and headed west towards the ridgelines.

I had a stupid grin on my face at this point. 

 Some nice little technical rooty bits to contend with.   Big smile on my face here as well.

 Okay, the smile on the face was about 50 feet back behind me at this point.  The trail turnned sharply up a mega-steep ridge side.   The picture does not do the steepness of this section justice.   The good news was I was gaining elevation quickly even if I was not riding the bike.   I was thinking that if this gets me up on the ridgeline where I think it might I will have lots of mostly downhill goodness to ease the kinks out of my hike-a-bike calves.

 I did recognize the trail when I finally did make it up on the ridge.   It was promptly followed by a big “Oh Shit”!  I was much further to the south than I thought I would be and I was exactly at my most southern point of exploration along this particular ridgeline.    The Oh-Shit was because I knew that I had three technical hella-steep hike-a-bike sections between me and the full-time ridable “money dirt” to the north.    My GPS said I had one hour and 23 minutes before sunset.  Farting around was no longer an option.

There were some exposure bits that are hidden very well by the flora, but wintertime has allowed them to me a bit more revealed.   I had only ridden the section above only during the summer months before and I while I knew there was a bit of drop of here I had not idea just how freaking far one could tumble from here until today. 

I made good time through the hike-a-bike bits and was soon back on the money dirt.   I took the shot above and put away the camera and enjoyed some sweet flowing trails that was nearly all downhill to the north.   I popped out of the woods just before sunset and enjoyed an extremely brisk street ride back to my hotel.    A mighty fine way to get primed for a week of work ahead.