Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Sasebo Catchup

October 10th, 2014 by MTBBill

I have been back from Sasebo for a couple of weeks now.   The last few weeks that I was in Japan was pretty hectic.   I did have time to ride but little time to do much posting.  Here are some pictures.

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From the north slope of Mt Yumihari.   I come to loath the rental wreak that I had.   Cantilever rim brakes!   I now that the hand shake strength of a pair vise grips.

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Views found in a break in the foliage.

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There was plenty of rain which kept most the trails soggy for way too much of the time I was there.  I often did the road climb up to the top of the Mt Yumihari after work.   It was almost always a chasing the sun kind of ride.  While I typically beat the sun, the rain got me on more than a few occasions.

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Views from a park at near the top of Mt Eboshi east of town.

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Sasebo as seen from Mt Eboshi

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More of Mt Eboshi

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More views from the chasing the sun series

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I lost the race against the sun on this ride

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Intentionally enjoyed losing the race on this evening.

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Views from south of town.

Sunshine Ride in Sasebo

September 7th, 2014 by MTBBill

Over the last month that I have been working over here there has been about four individual days that it has not rained for some portion of the day.   The soil composition in this area is typically clay based which holds up to the rain well but becomes treacherously slick.    The cantilever rim brakes coupled with the 1.75 tires on my rent-a-wreck hard-tail makes riding of this stuff with an moisture on them at all downright sporty.   

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 It rained early Saturday and had been sunny ever since so I decided to test the waters on one of the prominent mountains in the area, Akasaki.   The trail has seen some maintenance earlier in the year so the tread was in good condition and the trail was well brushed. I could tell during the climb that traction could be a problem on the descent as plenty of finesse was required on the climb to keep from breaking the rear wheel loose.   The views from top were exceptional.

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  The descent of this trail was however still pretty slick and made for a squirrely descent, particularly in the turns.   Notice in the photo above there is some four fingered braking going on.  If I would have known my work project was going to be extended by nearly a month, I would have brought my bike over.   On the plus side this rental is completely unforgiving so it forces you to handle the bike precisely.

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After way too much fun on the “easy” descent, I passed on this trail under the guise of discretion is the better part of valor.   I opted to spend the rest of the ride scoping out trailheads and crossings off the back roads of the area for future exploration when the trails are drier.

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This sign unfortunately does not say “Hiro-San’s Texas Style BBQ 100 meters ahead”.   There are lots of wild boar in this area and I believe the signs either says beware of boars or indicates a typical boar crossing.   Ummmm Bacon!

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Shirahama Beach was the apex point of this ride.    A snack and a little bit of chilling was in order before it was time to start a good bit of climbing on the return leg.

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I have come across about half a dozen of these land crabs here in Japan.   I was a good half a mile from the ocean and at least 100 feet plus in elevation.   These are the basically the same kinds of crabs you see around the rocks in most stateside beaches but these guys have adapted to thrive away from the shorelines here.  Mr. Crabs here was pissed.

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A view of Kujyukushima from Tenkaiho Park.   I have ridden on all of these peaks at one time or another with the exception of the volcano looking peak to the left, Mt Atago.   It is still on the list.

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This is literally the lawn mowing crew at this park.   The grounds keepers stake out the goats and once they eat down their circle they move the stakes.  Pretty cool.

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Got Grass Will Mow!  (Will through in fertilizing your lawn for free)

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By the time I made my way “home” I had covered 22 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing.  A yummy Nippon microbrew was definitely earned.

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.