Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 34: Mountain Climbing

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rode 70km (43 miles) from Arai to Nagano. The day started off sunny and in the mid-80's: pleasant for a relaxed stroll, but a bit hot for a full day of cycling uphill. We covered the 70km from Arai to Nagano in about 5 1/2 hours, most of which was a steady climb. Our combined weight and heavy panniers kept us chugging along at a slow pace, but we were able to ride steadily. We had to rest frequently, because of the heat and humidity, drinking often to ward off dehydration. Sho and I dubbed the infrequent flat sections "gifts" from the mountain. Whenever the steady climb flattened out slightly, Sho yelled out, "Thank you, Mr. Mountain!"

We ate cold zaru soba noodles at a rest stop and took a break from riding for while by throwing a hacky sack we'd brought along. Sho came up with a series of games for us to play, borrowing terminology from baseball, but taking massive liberties with the rules.

The final 15km (9 miles) of today's ride into Nagano was a steep downhill on Highway 18, and my fingers went numb as I held onto the brakes tightly. I couldn't decide which was more uncomfortable: lugging our heavy load up a long, steep climb for several hours, or trying to maintain a grip on the brakes on a steep mountain descent, as my forearms burned and my fingers went numb. Every 10 minutes or so, I had to stop in the middle of the downhill to shake out my arms until feeling returned to my finger tips.

As we rode along a busy route into the outskirts of Nagano's urban sprawl, Sho spotted a large game room with a batting cage. We spent an hour there, Sho playing games, while I tried to figure out where we would sleep for the night. It had started to rain, so I decided to stay in a hotel I found nearby. We washed our grimy, soaked clothes in the hotel's coin laundry and enjoyed an excellent sushi dinner.

I read Rudyard Kipling's "How the Camel Got His Hump" to Sho before we both drifted off, relieved that the first day in the mountains had been manageable.

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