Thursday, September 10, 2009

Teshikaga to Ashoro


We woke up to a partly cloudy day and a Western style breakfast.
I had originally planned for today to be the day we'd climbed Lake Mashu and then just move down the road a little bit to Lake Akan. But looking at the cloudy skies, it was just as well that we grabbed the opportunity to visit Mashu yesterday.

The ride over the Lake Akan turned out to be quite a climb, however, going up to about 700m before descending 200m to Akan itself proper. During the descent, there was some construction, and this stood out because the construction crew rather than employing people, decided to employ a robot to signal drivers to slow down for the construction work! It was the funniest thing I had ever seen. Lake Akan itself wasn't visible from the road, but I got a glimpse every so often. Once into the resort, we found the bus depot and there found an information center where the lady told us where to eat.

We rode into the resort proper, and saw the lake proper. It was very pretty, but the entire shore-front had been commercialized, with high rise hotels practically crowding all the available frontage. We found the lunch place and ate well, fortifying ourselves for the actual pass of the day, Ashoro Pass at 645m.

Ashoro pass, however, turned out not to be terribly fearsome, since we had done most of our climbing by getting to Lake Akan at 400m. If not for the sign at the top, I would have missed it and kept going, since the descent, such as it was, was very very gentle. In fact, it was so gentle that by the time it petered out, we were almost 30km down Highway 241. You could probably do this descent without brakes and without your hands on the bars if there wasn't any traffic to create turbulence.

Ashoro, however, turned out to be an expansive town. Most of it is farmland, so every 10km, you'd pass some sort of boundary, and you'd see signs saying, "Upper Ashoro", then "Middle Ashoro". The road undulated a bit, but not enough to change the scenery very much. By the time we got to Ashoro proper, we were quite demotivated and bored. The touring map had recommended lodging about 22km (and a short climb) away, but when I asked Mark and Yana, it became clear they did not feel like riding further.

We rode into the train station, where we got a list of lodging in Japanese. Showing them to Yana, she picked the cheapest lodging available, which turned out to be one we passed by on the way into town. Upon arriving, we would discover this to be a mistake. Our bikes were parked in the garage, which was very nice, but that was the extent to which our Ryokan was nice. The rooms smelled funny, and there was no flush toilet. Fortunately, we had picked the no dinner option, choosing to eat out. We went to eat at the local sushi and sashimi place which was excellent, but still left me hungry.
So we walked around some more and I found a tempura place which left me feeling satiated.

Regardless of the condition and the smells, we ended up sleeping well, having gone 96.3km and climbing 1128m.
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