After Hiroshima we decided that we would push on through to the Northern coast. The places along the way didn’t have many interesting things (at least that we wanted to see) and we were on our own schedule now, so we decided to ride, and ride we did, covering about 450km over 5 days.
After the rabbit island we ended up in Onomichi, where we rode around 82km to Okayama. That ride was fairly uneventful. Our AirBnB was on a hill and we started the day with a rather annoying climb right off the bat, but other than that it was a decently sunny, nice day and we arrived in Okayama in good time.
The following day was an 83km ride to Himeji. This one had a bit more elevation and a few tunnels that we had to go through. We also ended up riding over a few sections of sidewalk that had clearly seen some car accidents, and which were covered in glass, but fortunately made it through without any punctures. At some point during the ride I also noticed that one of my pannier covers had blown off. My panniers are water resistant, but with a decent sized opening in the top it’ll make for at least some leakage if/when we ride through the rain again.
When we got to Himeji we hopped on a train bound for the Northern coast. This was mainly to avoid huge elevations and to get up there a lot quicker. We only had one transfer, but we ended up having to change train cars before that transfer as the back of the train we were on decoupled. Let me tell you, it’s not fun to have to suddenly grab all your things (70+lbs of gear) and get to the next available train car before the train leaves while someone is telling you to get out in broken English. Even more fun was trying to find space for our bikes in the now packed remaining cars. But we managed, and made it to our destination city, Fukui. When we got to our AirBnB in Fukui, it was by far the dirtiest place we’d stayed so far. The bathroom smelled like shit, the shower was covered in black mould, the wifi didn’t work, and the whole place was just generally dirty. We stuck it out for the night since we had no other choice and were exhausted, but frankly it made me pretty miserable and put a damper on things.
The next morning we set off for Kanazawa, which was around 80km. We had expected to get rained on and we did a little bit off and on, but overall it was another fairly uneventful ride. There were a good amount of flat parts to the ride which meant we were able to keep up a really good pace, and we arrived fairly quickly. Our AirBnB was located fairly close to the city but was just secluded enough to be very peaceful. The home was older and didn’t have a lot of amenities, but it had a great little back yard and was just so serene, especially in comparison to the crap hole we were in the previous night. We explored the town a little and checked out Kanazawa Castle which was not far of a walk from our place. We went right at sunset which made for some beautiful scenery.
The next place we stayed was a small town called Namerikawa, just outside of Toyama. The ride itself wasn’t bad, around 75km and fairly flat, and we felt surprisingly good especially having ridden so much in the previous 3-4 days. As we approached the town the nearby mountain range came into view and was just beautiful, reminding me of the rocky mountains out in British Columbia with their snow-capped tips. The AirBnB that we got was also surprisingly large and modern, not like any of our previous places, likely due to the fact that it was outside of the city.
We left Namerikawa bound for Joetsu the next day, with plans to take a train to Niigata, as Joetsu’s accommodations were lacking and the weather wasn’t conducive to camping. The ride started off pretty miserably. The first 40-50km or so were flat, but we faced a near constant head wind. One thing I hate more than rain when riding is wind because you can’t see it, so it’s much harder to predict. In addition, we encountered several kilometers of tunnels which hadn’t been marked on our maps, likely because they weren’t ‘tunnels’ per se, but rather stretches of road which had concrete roofs built over them, probably to keep rocks and debris from falling on them. In any case, they were narrow, winding, and not comfortable at all to ride in, although at least there was natural light unlike all the actual tunnels we’d encountered thus far.
The ride was salvaged around 50km in though when we discovered a walking/cycling path parallel to our planned route. The moment we started riding on that we gained back a lot of confidence and our ride was so much more bearable. The bike path was along an former railway line and it was nice and paved and also included several pedestrian/cycling tunnels to avoid the mountains. The path led right into Joetsu and we managed to avoid the rain that we had been expecting by the time we got to the train station.
We packed our bikes up and took the train to Niigata. When we arrived it was raining but fairly lightly. We made the short trip to our AirBnB, unpacked, and then went out to celebrate our previous days’ accomplishments since we had the next day off. We found a nice small craft beer bar and sampled some of the local Japanese offerings. We then went back to the train station where there was another craft beer bar with a whopping 40 taps. They also used a ticket machine (much like the grocery store we visited in Yawatahama) where you bought drink tickets from that based on the size / type of beer you wanted, and then you used those to order your drinks. The downside was that it was a smoking bar, but you could also take your drinks outside if you wanted.
We retired to our AirBnB for the night and slept in the next day, basically doing nothing until we decided to venture back to the craft beer bar for some more Japanese beers. It was a nice change of pace after having ridden 5 days in a row, and it was a good way to recharge for our upcoming ride days as we get closer and closer to Sapporo.