As in previous years, I went for a ride in Chichibu in early November for an autumn leaves viewing ride (see last year's report).
The last two years I had done it as a Half-Fast ride, but this year I wanted to keep the pace slower so I only announced it to a few friends. As it turned out, my friend Warren of Half-Fast Cycling put on a Culture Day foliage ride anyway, starting at the same time and the same course. Consequently we met a large group at Seibu-Chichibu station and at the nearby convenience store, but from there, Toru, Andrew, Pieter and I rode separately at our own pace.
The weather was absolutely perfect and the temperature ideal. The clear skies really made the autumn colours come out.
My favourite part of the route is in the Nakatsugawa area after the lake, when Rt210 passes through two tunnels along a river. Avoiding the tunnels and following the river takes you through an area of stunning beauty, with vertical cliffs between which the river is cutting its path through the rocks.
The detour around the second tunnel was officially closed due to a rock slide, but it's actually the most scenic part of the ride.
After stopping for many pictures, we climbed our way up into the valley of the ghost town, past two still operating limestone quarries. We passed the many deserted buildings and ruins.
This is a view of the old communal bath house (sento):
After several km of climbing we made it to the long tunnel at the top, at almost 1300 m. Here I changed into my warm gloves and put on extra layers for the descent.
The Japanese maple trees (momiji) along this road are particularly nice.
Before we got back to Rt299, Toru and I had to wait for a while for Pieter and Andrew, as Pieter suffered his second puncture on this ride (first the rear, then the front).
Back on the main road I tried to make up time for us to still catch the 17:25 express train back to Tokyo, but when I realized we wouldn't be able to make it we instead took a convenience store break with coffee and food. We made it back to Seibu-Chichibu before 18:00 with everyone motivated by the prospect of a beer on the train home.
I dropped off my friends at the station and then headed on to Rt299 east, climbing towards Yamabushi toge in the dark. Having done a 180+ km ride in Miura two days earlier, I had already completed one century ride for the month, which is one of my cycling goals. But I didn't feel too exhausted or cold and decided to go for it. It was fairly chilly after I descended from Yamabushi toge towards Naguri on the way to Oume, but the full fingered gloves and my ear covers made it bearable. Once I reached Oume it became milder again. After a coffee stop (the 05:00 start time caught up with me), I navigated across western Tokyo, not following the Tamagawa river route, arriving in Setagaya after midnight with 188 km on the GPS.
The Chichibu area is always worth a ride during the autumn leaves season and I am sure I will be back next year.