Leaving the Karakuwa Peninsula just to the north of Kesennuma, I jumped on HWY 45 and continued my ride up the coast.
As the number and height of hills started to increase, I decided to break my ride down into 15KM portions and to take a short rest after each one. The first 15KM into Rikuzentakata was pretty much the same type of riding as the previous day, narrow roads, lots of truck, but now with the rain making it hard to see the road ahead and surrounding scenery.
There really weren’t many options for rest areas as most of the areas had been wiped out by the tsunami. There was a local convenience store and even a winery (it was too early for me to do a tasting.) So, I grabbed a couple onigiri, a can coffee, and down the road I went.
And again, more of the same. I was starting to wonder, why I was doing this ride. The roads weren’t particularly suited for cycling and with all the truck traffic, it seemed pretty dangerous.
But, as usual in Japan, or maybe that’s just life, things change. A few kilometers out of town most of the traffic jumped on the Sanriku expressway (not allowed for cyclists) and I had the road pretty much to myself for the next couple of hours.
That was the good news. The bad news was that from this point on the hills get higher and higher, and there are more and more of them. But that really didn’t bother me too much. The climbing kept me warm, the views were grand, there were no trucks.
This lasted until I got through the town of Ofunato (which really is pretty little town) and into Sanriku. Then the Sanriku expressway ends and all that traffic comes back on to HWY 45. Yuck!
From that point, I had the hills, the rain, and the traffic. But something was missing. What was it? Oh yeah, tunnels!
The first two were o.k., as they were relatively short. However, on the run up to the third, I had a couple of close calls with trucks. If I would have reached two feet to my right, I could have had my arm mounted as a grill ornament.
The third tunnel is at least 2KM long, with very little shoulder space. Since I had just had two close calls, I lost my nerve, or maybe I got my sense, and balked at the entrance.
I walked my bike back down the road a ways and waited for pickups or flatbed trucks to drive by. The third one stopped and let me throw my bike in the back. I’m glad I did as the tunnel was no joke, very long and very narrow.
He insisted that I let him drive me a little farther as there were two more tunnels just ahead. He also asked if we could snap a photo together as his friends wouldn’t believe that he gave a ride to foreigner. I was very grateful, and of course, agreed to pay for my ride with a roadside photo.
A short time after getting back on my bike I rolled into Kamaishi City.
Kamaishi is another town that got partially destroyed in the tsunami.
There are five hotels in the “downtown” area near to the new AEON shopping center. They all happened to be full the day I arrived. So I went to a minshuku near to the train station.
It turned out to be one of the best places I’ve stayed at in terms of comfort, hospitality, and value for money. Additionally, the building has an interesting interior maze-like design and, while being over 70-years old and still having much of original wood work and floors, has been given a make over. So, it’s kind of like a cleaned up and refurbished antique, that, by the way, is the only minshuku that I’ve seen that offers Wi-Fi!
For anyone wanting to make a reservation please call: 090-2993-4027 (English), 0193-22-4559 (Japanese).
On my first night in town I found a decent izakaya for some beer and deep fried dishes. Afterwards, on the way back to the minshuku I wandered into a nice little family run (mother and son) bar-snack called “Su-na-ku Rei.” No minimum charges, free snacks, and JPY 700 for large bottle of Asahi. Nice!
Since there was a big typhoon passing through the area, I decided to spend an extra day in Kamaishi. The second floor food court at Aeon shopping is a comfortable place to hang up, catch on emails, and get some cheap food.
On my second morning, there was a good-sized earthquake at about 4:20am. Immediately after that the tsunami warnings started blasting through the town. I was like up, out of bed, and half dressed before I realized the announcements were actually just telling everyone to be aware, not to run out into the street half naked in search of the tsunami escape route.
The best thing about riding along this course is the mountain and ocean views. The worst thing is the tunnels and trucks which get really bad from about 20KM before Kamaishi. I would like to ride this area again when it’s not raining and when there aren’t so many trucks on the road.