I just rode to Kawagoe a couple of weeks ago, but when the weather turned unexpectedly sunny today, I couldn’t resist going again.
I’m getting quite familiar with the ride out Yamate Dori and Nakasendo to Arakawa. The signpost at the top of the levee is a regular landmark for me.
The course was flooded in places from yesterday’s rain. I started the ride at the mid-level all-weather landing (the red course) to avoid the water, but it was quite broken up. Even with my fat tires, some of the seams and gaps were a bit jarring.
By the time I ran out of red all-weather pavement and descended to the regular course, I was past most of the deep puddles. Even so, I took a moment to message Nana to apologize in advance for the wet, muddy laundry I’d be handing her when I got home.
The clear skies and stiff breeze following yesterday’s rain left some grand vistas for today’s ride.
The closer I got to Kawagoe, the stronger the headwind became. I’d dropped to my smaller chainring, into my climbing gears even though the going was flat. The headwind was strong enough it was pulling my mask down from my nose. Despite this, I felt stronger than I did two weeks ago and I continued pressing forward. I was also more confident of the route this time, having experienced it once already.
Pressing onwards against the wind, I made good time into Kawagoe. I didn’t walk around Koedo (except to get this photo), but just cycled up and down the length of it before heading for a convenience store and then a park for lunch. (Because we’d been expecting rain, Nana didn’t make any onigiri.) In the park I lucked out and got a picnic table all to myself. I felt the sun beating on my cheeks as I lowered my mask to eat a couple of tortillas. I watched a child playing with a kite as I ate. Other children sat nearby with their families on plastic tarps on the tree-shaded grass.
I washed down my lunch with some convenience store espresso, gathered up my rubbish and set off for home.
Wind at my back
On the way downriver, the wind was (mostly) at my back. I was amused to notch up a 12-minute 5km segment — implying an average of 25km/h — despite having stopped for traffic a couple of times and a photo once. The next 5km segment might have been 10 minutes (30km/h), but I had to wait more than a minute at a traffic light. I didn’t mind: I was making good time and having fun, and it was more pleasant to ride with a tailwind on the way home than to fight into a stiff breeze as I had on the way up.
I stopped where the course passed over a flood gate and ate a Snickers bar. Energy for the upcoming fight through traffic.
Fighting my way back to you
When I left the river course behind I headed back into traffic and also back into the wind. I’d given Nana an estimate of an hour to an hour and a half for my return, because I didn’t know how much wind I’d be facing. At times it was quite stiff! I had to be careful I wasn’t blown into the path of the fast-moving traffic just centimeters from my right elbow. (Shout out to the taxi driver and the driver of the red Volvo who didn’t make use of the entire open extra lane when passing me!)
The wind wasn’t constant: it was coming and going, and blowing in gusts. At times I was struggling to get to the top of the next climb, and at other times I was keeping up a very good pace. At traffic lights I had to sit up and stretch my shoulders, relaxing the muscles that were hunched against the headwind while I was riding.
I had no idea what kind of time I was making in the 13km from the river back to home. I’d hoped to improve on my time from two weeks ago (feeling quite a bit stronger overall), but with the wind in this final leg I thought I might be falling behind.
At the crossing for Shin Mejiro I checked the GPS: I had another 6km to go. Even fighting with the wind in the few remaining uphill sections, I’d be home soon. At the next light I caught up with a younger, more fit rider on an orange classic steel racing bike who’d passed me earlier. I kept up with him on the next rise as we both fought against the wind. And then we were at Nakano Sakue! From there it was downhill before turning off Yamate Dori onto a flat kilometer to the goal. As we descended, the other rider was content just to coast. I thought about passing him but finally just shrugged. I’d be home soon enough. I made my turn — at the wrong place. No worries, as I was already in my neighborhood. I ignored the GPS beeping and just followed the familiar streets. I checked the time as I stopped the GPS: a good 15 minutes earlier than the lower bound of the estimate I’d given Nana, and an improvement of 20 minutes over my previous ride on the same route.