Snow Peak, the outdoor products company based in Niigata, has excellent camping facilities (see Don's write-up on the camping page) at its corporate headquarters in Sanjo. I cycled over after work in neighboring Tsubame on Friday of last week for the first overnighter of the year. Some campgrounds charge as little as 500 yen/ night. At 1,500 yen Snow Peak is at the upper end of the scale. However, the facilities are well-maintained, and it's hard to beat a hot shower at the end of a day of cycling (not all cheaper campgrounds have showers, and none are likely to have ones as nice as those at Snow Peak). Off the scale is the price of a can of beer in the camp shop; if you are going to imbibe, definitely stock up at the supermarket in town, which you'll probably be patronizing anyway for your edibles. I loaded up on fried pork cutlets, or tonkatsu, to add to my keema curry.
Here in Niigata one of the most famous roads for cycling is a straight road that runs parallel to the sea which is known as the seaside line, one of the main reasons this stretch of road is so popular is that it gives road cyclists out training quick access to Yahiko village and beyond and there are almost no traffic lights. The bad point of this road is that there is often too much traffic, its windy and the sand from the beach covers the edge of the road in some places it totally covers the white line at the side and the road markers. Not to mention that sand and bicycle gearing do not mix well, nothing like an oily chain covered in sand to completely cover your gears with grit - thank God I ride a single speed !.
First stop before departing the city was a popular place called Popolo where the shop owner went to Italy many years ago to study the art of making gelato , this shop is popular all year long for their freshly made gelato with the menu changing daily. After that we hit the seaside road for a spin out to kakuda beach were I wanted to take a look at a camp site , it was poorly maintained with old toilets and not very clean. The campsite rates were 1000 per person 1 night and if you decide not to pay the 1000 yen and are caught camping for free there is a fine of 10000 yen !. I certainly will not be staying there anytime as compared with other local campsites its a rip off .
After inspecting the campsite we headed back up the hill to Cave Docci a local winery complex that has grown over the years to include a bakery, wine shop, gelato , a health spa and a boutique brewery. We decided to have lunch at Maki Goya the brewery restaurant, the beer was the standard 3 German styles of beer but a bit too watery for our taste but their home made sausages and the pork dish was pretty good. After buying a few more sausages and souvenirs we headed back along the sea side line back into the city. In all it was only a short trip of 50 km or so but the strong wind on the way back made it feel much further. . Next long ride will be well away from the sea into the mountains were there is no sand or cold sea breezes.
A new brevet, the Coast to Coast, is taking shape, a 300 km event featuring stunning scenery, Kitakata ramen, and quite a bit of climbing as riders cycle from the Sea of Japan coast in Niigata to the Pacific coast in Fukushima. No dates as of yet. Stay tuned.
Proposed route: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=281241
The 2014 edition of this gruelling bikepacking event got underway April 11. All eyes are on legendary Salsa-sponsored rider Jay P. as he attempts to break the record of just over a week in the 750 mile version of the race. It's going to come down to the wire in the next 24 or so hours. Follow the race here: http://bikepackersmagazine.com/2014-arizona-trail-race/.
Banners like these announcing Japan's annual road safety campaign pop up all over the country in early April. They say the roads are least safe in spring. Don't know if there's statistical evidence of that, but... A week ago a pedestrian was struck by a car and killed near my house.
And then yesterday, on the way home, there was this.
Nick Lemmel of Epiccyclist kindly commented on our post at bikepacking.net and mentioned us on his bikepacking site. Check it out. Thanks, Nick. http://www.epiccyclist.com/