Selfie of cyclist in helmet, sunglasses and black mask, mostly in silhouette, with a Japanese traditional white warehouse and wooden bell tower in the background.

Grasshoppers and Snakes

I woke up thinking I’d just have an easy-going day and then ride tomorrow. But when Nana got up and we started talking about the weekend, I realized we’d made plans for tomorrow. So I decided to get in a ride today, while the weather is so nice, even given a late start.

There was a lot of construction along Yamate Dori. It seemed like every second traffic light had a construction crane immediately after the intersection, blocking off the near lane. I was following a city bus for a good portion of this, so I would wait for the bus to merge into the next lane and then give a hand signal and follow it.

There was a woman on a mamachari on the sidewalk, and she kept up with me for several kilometers as I waited at the lights. I don’t know in the end if she turned off or I finally got ahead of her at one of the signals.

Bicycle leaning against a blue sign with a white border in an irregular shape.
Into the wind again

Nana hadn’t made any of her world-famous onigiri, so I stopped at a convenience store just before reaching the Arakawa to pick up an early snack. I soon joined the cycling course along the river. The route was dry, for a change, but I was riding into a headwind. It wasn’t overpowering, but it was enough to make me scale back my pace and hold my energy in reserve. At the first rest stop I ate the snack before continuing on.

Selfie of cyclist in helmet, sunglasses and black mask, mostly in silhouette, with a Japanese traditional white warehouse and wooden bell tower in the background.
Mystery Racer X

I made good time despite the wind. Kawagoe was absolutely packed, as might be expected given the good weather and the three-day weekend and the fact I’d arrived just at noon. I got my photo and got out, but not before hearing the bell sound the hour.

On the way out of town I stopped at another convenience store and loaded up on lunch goodies. From there it was another kilometer or so to the sports park where I sat and enjoyed my lunch on a tree-shaded bench.

OK, only one snake really

On the way back, the wind was with me for the most part. I encountered countless grasshoppers on the cycling course, some of whom were engaged in the *ahem* Happy Grasshopper Dance. I don’t know why they preferred the cycling course for this, where they might easily be run over by passing cyclists, when the grass at the side of the path rose over my head.

I also came across a snake on the course, wriggling in the warmth of the sun. I didn’t run over it this time, mostly because it was on the other side of the path.

I was keeping an eye on the clock on the return, thinking about my late start and wanting to get home well before the sun set. I’d finished lunch before 1 p.m. and messaged Nana that I would be home about 4. With the help of the wind, I reached the beginning of the Arakawa river course (the point where I join it, that is) about 2 p.m. After taking a picture and a short break, I messaged Nana that I would be home about 3:30.

I meant to turn on my taillights before joining the urban traffic, but of course I forgot about it. I turned the lights on (headlight too) when I reached a stop light after passing under the shadow of the highway.

Bicycle leaning against a blue sign with a white border in an irregular shape.
Back here again

Racing the sunlight

Once I rejoined the traffic, I was worried about running out of sunlight. The sun was still well above the horizon, but the shadows were lengthening. I was doing my best to make time, while conserving my energy for the remaining ripples in the pavement (slight climbs on the route). Each time I started on an incline I thought I’d be all out of steam, but I was pleasantly surprised to find my thighs had something in reserve.

I’d had a headache upon reaching Koedo in Kawagoe, and through the lunch break. On the way back down the river, I had a cramp coming and going in one thigh. Now that I was in the thick of traffic, both issues had disappeared. There was nothing holding me back except the usual stupid drivers.

And the traffic lights. Now that I was racing the clock, the lights seemed to conspire against me. I’d get through one only to find the next one turning red as I reached it. I was glad to hit a green at the bottom of the climb up to Nakano Sakaue, and I puffed up to the top to find the next light changing green as well.

I raced down the opposite side of Nakano Sakaue, turned down a side street, and then battled with a couple of cars at an intersection over the right of way. Finally I turned towards our tower and cut the Garmie: I’d completed the ride in 5 hours 25 minutes, and got home before 3 p.m.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Grasshoppers and Snakes

On a moving time of 3:58:09, I’d averaged 21.1km/h. I’m focused more on distance ridden than pace these days, but I am gratified with anything north of 20. I clocked a personal best over one segment on the river on the way home, but I suspect it’s because I took a shorter break than usual.

More significantly for this ride, given the lackadaisical start, was the elapsed time of 5 hours 25 minutes. Was this a record for this route? I had a look through my history and discovered I’d previously done the ride in 5 hours 8 minutes — on only my second ride on the route and on a very windy day, as it happens. My pace on that occasion was nearly identical — with a strong tailwind on the way back home making up for the struggle upwind on the way out — and I can only assume I took less time for lunch and had better luck with the lights.

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