The first ride of the New Year is always something of a landmark event. In the past I’ve typically done my quick jaunt down the Tama river to Haneda, because I can have it done in four or five hours and so not be out in the cold so long. So that’s been something of a tradition.
This year, the Halfakid was eager to try out his new bike, and I was also thinking that to mark the New Year a visit to the Tokyo Landmarks might be appropriate. So we arranged to set off at 9 this morning. The forecast was for a not-unreasonable 8C and sunny, with a bit of wind, so I thought we’d have time to stop and photograph some of the landmarks along the way, a few of the sights we usually pass on the trot.
Akasaka Palace is one such place. It’s a fairly brisk climb up from Gaien and then there it is, all by itself, set far back from the street behind a wrought-iron gate. We stopped at the sidewalk in front of the gate and leaned our bikes against the wall. As I was preparing to take the photo, though, a guard informed me that we were not permitted to lean out bikes against the wall. Sure, dude. I asked the Kid to hold my bike and his while I grabbed the shot.
From there it’s a very fast downhill to Akasaka Mitsuke, followed by a steep climb up towards the Imperial Palace and Nagatacho. For once, we hit the light at the bottom of the hill green and so had a good head start on the climb that followed. We took this as an auspicious sign.
Next comes another attraction I usually speed by: the National Diet Building. The traffic around the entrance is usually fast and thick, and the edifice marks the beginning of the short, steep climbs of Nagatacho. We were curious to see how the Halfakid would handle the climbs on his new bike, as the gearing is much steeper than he’d become used to on Ol’ Paint. As it happens, though, the bike’s performance more than made up for this and he had no difficulty keeping pace with me through the climbs.
We stopped not much further on for a water break, and then again when we reached Hibiya Park to eat some of Nana’s famous onigiri and have something warm to drink. I had resolved to save one of the rice balls for later in the ride, but the mentaiko was too delicious and we finished them all on the spot.
By the time we’d finished eating, the sky had completely clouded over. We proceeded to the Imperial Palace under completely cloudy skies, and with the wind starting to pick up a bit. After stopping for a quick photo, we set our sights through the financial district to Toyosu and Tokyo Big Site, where we planned to stop for lunch.
The forecast was sunny
The gloom continued to gather as we raced eastwards towards the Sumida river. We were making good time, but we’d put away our sunglasses and were bracing for wind and possible cold weather.
We continued onwards to Tokyo Big Sight, where we locked up the bikes and took a break to enjoy hamburgers, fried chicken and fried potatoes. The fast food shop where we stopped had implemented self-service registers, and I’m glad to report I’m not the only one who took more than one try to complete the transaction. Fortunately the staffer waiting on me was very polite and patient.
After lunch our next destination was Tomioka Hachimangu. This is another landmark I typically pass on the fly, but I decided to stop today for a brief visit and photo. The shrine is famed as the birthplace of sumo. I decided that I would visit again soon, when I had time to devote to seeing all that was to be seen here.
From Tomioka we turned north and fought the traffic lights until we met up with the Sumida river again, and then Tokyo Skytree. At this point I was starting to wonder if we’d used up most of our spare time for photo taking, but we always stop for one of Skytree.
Our next stop was the famous Sensoji at Asakusa. Again, this is one I usually pass by, but I was aware it was just a few paces off the course. This time we flew past and I hastily signaled a turn and then climbed up on the sidewalk and reversed course. As I did so I heard the Halfakid calling for me. I stopped to see what he wanted. “I think I have a flat.”
We dismounted and confirmed the tire was flat. The Halfakid wanted to find someplace less crowded than Sensoji, so he looked up a nearby park on his phone. There I coached him through the process of removing the holed inner tube, inspecting the tire for foreign objects (none found) and inserting the new inner tube: real father-son bonding stuff. The whole process took us about half an hour, or around 45 minutes when combined with washing hands, eating Snickers bars and having a warm drink from the vending machine.
With that delay, we were really racing the encroaching clouds and setting sun. We passed by Ueno Park, Tokyo University and Tokyo Dome without stopping. Our last rest stop was one I never miss: Budokan and Chidorigafuchi (plus it’s at the top of a climb so I need to catch my breath). This is old stomping grounds for the Halfakid, who has actually competed in karate tournaments at Budokan.
From here it’s just a couple of hills and then flat all the way back to Shinjuku and home. We’d determined to stop at the bike shop there, to see if they would replace the flat inner tube under warranty. The Halfakid had purchased several additional warranties on the bike, and I recalled that one covered up to three flats per year. I handed him my point card and waited outside with Kuroko while he took his bike down the stairs into the shop to negotiate.
I didn’t have to wait long: he returned in less than 10 minutes. The verdict? The warranty covers the labor cost of fixing a flat, not the cost of the flat inner tube. We joked for a moment about being reimbursed for his labor, and then we turned towards home. At this point we were really fighting the winds, but they didn’t stop the Halfakid racing ahead of me when the traffic was clear to stretch his legs. Now that he has a smooth, lightweight ride, he’s going to need to get out without his father to see what he’s capable of.
It was just 4 p.m. when we got back to my tower condo, and the Halfakid took a moment to switch on his headlight before continuing on the remaining 8km to his apartment. By the time he reached home, I was relaxing in the tub with a beer.
The Garmin’s battery died just before we reached Budokan. It’s just over 7km from there to home, so call it an even 60km for me, 76km for the Halfakid.