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Great Escapes Cyclo Camping
(Entered Jun. 30, 2008)
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Most people automatically assume that to go camping you need access to a car. However in a country like Japan where there are like, a billion or so cars and only about three roads, it can be useful to have an alternate method of transportation. For those of you who don't have access to helicopters, and are tired of the endless traffic jams out to the countryside, I recommend taking your next camping trip on a good road bike.

Cyclo Camping

That's exactly what UK Mike, Jason and I did last weekend. It was a new experience for me, but Mike and Jason are vetrans, having already taken two cyclo camping trips. Check out their reviews if you're interested. (Mike: trip 1, trip 2 -- Jason: trip 1)
You might think that biking out of a city the size of Tokyo would be a logistical nightmare, and you'd probably be right, but we were helped out immensely by the Arakawa Bike Path, which stretches practically uninterrupted from Tokyo Bay to somewhere deep in Saitama. We traveled for almost 80 kilometers in one direction without managing to reach the end! The path itself is amazing actually. Not only is it long, and adjacent to a river, but much of it is wider than most regular 'car' roads in Tokyo.
Here I am on Saturday morning, all fresh and ready to go. Everything I need is on my back and in my nice new saddlebags.

Cyclo Camping Trek 7.3

I met up with Mike and Jason about 20 minutes down the Arakawa bike path where I received a free pair of toe clips courtesy of Mike via Jason. Mike recently bought new clipless pedals and shoes, so he gave me his old toe clips which he had previously inherited from Jason. They made a big difference in performance and speed actually. Here's Mike installing them for me.

Cyclo Camping

Then a bit farther down the road we found this guy crossing the path. It's hard to get an idea of his size, but he was about as big as a football. After some some good photo ops., we picked him up and put him in the grass for his own safety. Doesn't look too impressed does he?

Turtle on the Bike Path

I managed to keep up with the guys for about 40 km before my endurance started to flag. Around the 50 km mark I eventually fell behind and had to go at a more lesiurely pace. Here I am deep in the Saitama countryside surrounded by nature and rice fields. The weather was a bit hazy and not too hot. Perfect riding weather maybe?

Cyclo Camping

This structure looks like a bridge, but is actually just a bunch of pipes with arches above them. Not sure what it was for, but it seemed to stretch on forever. Unknown to me at the time, we were only about 5 km away from the campsite. A relief because I was getting pretty tired.

Cyclo Camping

We managed to get the girls to come out and meet us at the designated camping spot, an added bonus! Here they are preparing a feast for us tired men.

Cyclo Camping - Japanese girls

And here are us men manning the barbeque, vegetarian on one half, meat on the other.
Mike bought ground beef at the store hoping to make hamburgers but I told him it couldn't be done because you need breadcrumbs, eggs, etc. to hold the meat together. However the girls somehow managed to make them stay using just onions. Way to go girls! They were awesome actually.

After dinner we chilled outside for a while, then headed to a jazz cafe that happened to be near the campsite, about a 20 minute walk. You might wonder what kind of campsite has a jazz cafe nearby... I wondered too. It was a bit weird to find this place out in the middle of nowhere, but the place was fairly packed. We headed back to the campsite around 11pm, set up the tents in the dark, and right on cue, it started pouring rain.


It rained all night non stop. We were prepared for rain but hoped, in vain, that it would hold off until later the next day. Here we are under a small shelter having a subdued breakfast. Our bikes were soaked, and taking down the tents was a messy business indeed. Without much fanfare, we began the long trek home, the girls going one way, us guys the other.

Cyclo Camping

Biking in the rain was fun only for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately for me the ride home was about 4+ hours. I thought I was tired yesterday, but the trip home was really rough. This time my energy was only good for about the first 10 km. The next 50 I was just concentrating on keeping the pedals moving, and the last 10 went by in a haze of pain. My knees, lower back, wrists, feet and my butt were all killing me and there was no longer any comfortable position to ride in. Nevertheless I managed to make it back in one piece.
Now, sitting here writing this, all I can think of is how I can't wait to get out there and do it again!



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