If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you’ll have noticed that one recurring theme happens to be doughnuts. I’m not entirely sure how doughnuts came to be such a driving force in my day-to-day decisions, but there they are, and I just have to accept that I enjoy them immensely. So, having seen a post on the Misawa Cycling Community Facebook page about a weekend ride from Misawa to an acclaimed doughnut shop up north, I immediately took interest. Now typically, I don’t participate in group rides—whether this is because I’m disinclined to socialize with other bicyclists or just prefer to ride alone, I can’t say for sure. The deciding factor in this ride though, was that it was going to be 120km-- well over what is referred to as a “metric century”. In this bike blogging business, you can’t be taken seriously until you have a least one century under your belt, so I kind of had to do this one.* I was a little concerned with the 20+ mph wind we’ve been having here, but I messaged the ride organizer, Teiichi, and he reassured me that it would be fine.
The morning of the ride was slightly chilly, but not too bad. We gathered in the parking lot just outside of the base, and everyone adjusted their riding apparel, (or “kit” as many say, though I dislike that term for no specific reason). This is was my chance to take stock of the people I was going to be riding with, and they were outfitted very well: carbon fiber frames, aero-spoked wheels, cyclo-computers, the whole package. I looked at my Soma in comparison, with its lowly downtube shifters and comparatively heavy steel frame and began to doubt if I’d be able to keep up with these guys, but at this point it was too late—I was already committed. Speaking of the Soma, let me talk about that for a moment:
Typically, I have a Wald Twin Rear basket installed on the Soma for running errands and general usefulness, along with platform pedals for sake of ease, and a Stanley flask cage for sake of… impromptu toasting. All of those had to get removed for this ride, where I needed every ounce of weight shed in order to make it. The only additions were a hand pump on the seat tube and a handlebar bag for some snacks:
If the handlebar bag looks sort of like an L.L. Bean lunch pail zip-tied to the handlebars, that is because it is an L.L. Bean lunch pail zip-tied to the handlebars. I had to make due with what I had, and frankly I was kind of impressed with my ingenuity, so it stayed. Later, it would come in handy for transporting delicious doughnuts back home, but I didn’t actually think that far ahead when I was installing it.
A quick pre-ride photo of the rest of us, and we were off on our adventure. The initial pace was nice, but that was mostly due to riding through town and having to stop every so often at traffic lights. As soon as we got outside of the residential areas, the pace accelerated, although at this point I still had no problems keeping up. Little did I know these guys were sandbagging me for most of the way there- they were maybe 15 years my senior and infinitely faster than me.
After 20km or so, there was a little moment of reprieve when we got split up at an intersection, and Teiichi doubled back to find the other two. I took that opportunity to take a picture by the Takasegawa River, which runs from Lake Ogawara to the Pacific Ocean:
We all met back up and continued north, on the neck of the Shimokita peninsula. The wind was more pronounced at this point, either because of the open water on both sides of the road, the change in elevation, or just that it was getting later and the wind speeds were increasing. In spite of the wind, the sun was shining and the scenery was very beautiful.
At this part of our journey, we turned off of highway 338 and started into some of the more hilly terrain. This provided many fun descents, but knowing that those would turn into steep climbs on the return trip made them sort of bittersweet. Before one particular descent, we posed for a photo in front of one of the many wind turbines that punctuate the landscape in this part of the country.
There were many more turbines:
And many more descents:
Finally, we arrived at Yusuitei in the town of Yokohama. They make their doughnuts with tofu, and it gives them an incredibly soft and slightly chewy texture. And like a lot of Japanese baked goods they’re not too sweet, so you can appreciate some of the more subtle flavors of the doughnut. I ate two, and ended up buying a box to take home with me. Good thing I had an L.L. Bean lunch pail on my bicycle!
After some much needed rest and a refill of the water bottle, we were back on the road.
Teiichi took my photo one last time before he kicked things into overdrive and then I only saw him as a speck on the horizon.
Knowing that there was no way I was going to catch up with the rest of the group, I took the liberty of taking a few photos of the towns we passed through. It also allowed me to stretch my arms and shoulders, which at this point were getting pretty sore.
In all honesty, the ride back was rough. The winds were really strong now with gusts up to 20 miles per hour, and my stamina was pretty much depleted. I stopped at a vending machine and paid 120 yen for a drink that looked like it had a lot of caffeine, hoping to gain any sort of edge I could to push through the wind and over the hills. My mind went to far away places. I began to sing Bob Seger. Then, before I knew it, the surroundings began to look familiar and I was back in Misawa.
I stopped at my barber shop to give mama-san a doughnut, and she marveled at my having brought it all the way from Yokohama. Then, I came home to message Teiichi and let him know I didn’t die somewhere out there. All in all, it was a really fun ride, but I think that if I truly knew how difficult it would be, I wouldn’t have decided to do it in the first place. Good thing I had no idea what to expect, because I would have missed out on my first and final Japanese century.
- Bicyclist Abroad
*This is probably not true.