Biking in Nagano
(click on images for a larger version, or downlaod the kmz file.)
Google earth almost ruined my Golden Week (a national week-long holiday here in Japan).
Tomoe and I have been planning to make another one of our usual epic bike tours this week. I use the word planning loosely because, until today, we had really only "planned" that we will do it somewhere in Nagano, and a few key places we want to stop at for some research purposes.
Looking at my mapple books, I decided that we should start in Chichibu and head over the mountains for two days toward Chino, where I want to check out a down-hill bike touring company.
All was going well. As I described the course with mapple in hand, Tomoe nodded in agreement, only half-listening.
Then I decided to get fancy and plot the trip on Google earth so we can review it in 3D. Bad idea.
The more excited Tomoe saw me getting, the more worried Tomoe got, causing her to take a closer look, at which point she realized that I had us riding over the "rooftop of Japan". One of the passes would be at 2,127 meters, which is higher than any of the mountains we have crossed in the past. The hight isn't the problem though. The problem was when we decided to look up the road conditions and found that it had only opened a few days ago, and that there were still avalanches in the area.
While that just made me all the more excited, it pretty much guaranteed that Tomoe would not be joining me there.
So, after much plotting and checking of road conditions, I had come up with another plan that would have been great if I had never seen the Rooftop route. I envisioned myself riding by fresh spring growth and old-fashioned farm houses, but unable to enjoy their beauty as I stare into the horizon at the mountains we should have been crossing.
As luck would have it though, the change in plans meant that we also had to change our reservation with the downhill-touring company to avoid having to hang around the area (which we have visited several times in the past). This is lucky because they were all booked up and could not change - forcing us to rethink our plans yet again.
This time, after seeing the virtual run-through of us safely making our way of mountain passes only a little lower. Tomoe must have either forgotten about the avalanche, or built up her confidence through mental visualization. By simply changing the starting point of the trip, I was somehow able to sneak in a crossing of "The Roof Top of Japan". Although it won't sound as impressive, when people we meet along the way ask us where we have come from, to say "Kobuchizawa - but we took the 'long way'" (there is a much more direct path from Kobuchizawa to Chino that does not require any ups and downs, as seen in the images above) as it would to casually reply "Chichibu" (image below), at least we still get to cross the rooftop of Japan.
I wish I could somehow show my mom how to download and install Google Earth, because I think she would enjoy being able to zoom in and out and change the perspective and angle of our planned trip, but I'm pretty sure it would be impossible for her to figure out.
For anyone else who may like to see, you can downlaod the kmz file. (the notes are not very descriptive, but I plan to make a much more impressive one when we get back, with photos and what-not).
Now, just for mom, here are the images in order:
Overview of entire trip, starting at the bottom left placemark, following them up to the top right corner placemark. We expect it to take about 6 mostly easy days, with many less kilmeters to cover than the last trip in Kyushyu. The third day will be spent riding off-road trails in the same spot.
Originally Planned Day 1
It was supposed to be from Chichibu to Matsubarako. It would have been great.
Currently Planned Day 1
Leaving from Kobuchizawa at 9:30. Spend some time hanging around there, check out a building Tomoe's dad has been offered free use of for summers (i.e. see if Tomoe and I can use it)
Head up to Matsubarako, which is at the base of the "Roof of Japan". The same place we would have ended up after the first day of the original plan as well.
Heading over the "Roof of japan". Atover 2,100 meters it will be the biggest mountaing we have ridden over so far. The really cool part though is that it is still winter up there.
The other cool part will be the long cruise down to our destination in Chino.
Riding in Chino and checking out a few "eco" type places.
Moving on from chino (bottom right) we head up to Azumino (top left). There we will check out an organic farm that does some presentations and what not, keeping an eye out for anything else of interest.
Heading over the mountains to Ueno. Don't know what to expect there, but pretty sure it will be nice.
The final leg is a short jog over the mountains to Nagano city (where the Olympics were a few years ago). From there we will catch a bus home and I begin working on all the photos.