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Continued from Part 1:

DAY 3

Day 3's weather looked pretty good from my window:



And it only got better as the sun came up and burned off the early morning mist:



Here's the Zumo track for Day 3:



I wasted about 90 minutes trying to book a ferry home for Thursday, since I heard it would be windy and even snowy across much of Japan's main island of Honshu. But no luck; there is only one company running ferries between Shikoku and Tokyo, and they were on year-end vacation. (If you're a TRAVEL company, why would you shut down when your customers are on vacation TRAVELING? :confused:)

Anyway, after riding along the coast for a while, I turned inland:



The plan was to head south over the mountains toward the southeast coastal roads. And the first mountain roads turned out to be a lot of fun, with some good turns...



...and beautiful scenery:



Now, see those rays of sunshine and sun-kissed cabbages? Keep that image in mind, because here is what the VERY NEXT mountain road looked like halfway to the top:



Um... no. I turned around, backtracked to a main road between the two mountains, and headed east to the coast in a change of plans. That delay meant it was already getting dark as I headed down the east coast, and it was totally dark out for the last 100km or so of my ride. I missed some nice photo opportunities on coastal Rt. 147 because I wanted to finish that twisty cliff road before it turned pitch black out. There was a beautiful, deep-red sunset over the cliffs that I wish I had a photo of. Ah, well. I used my Zumo to find a hotel in the seaside town of Nahari and called it a night.

DAY 4

By Day 4, I knew I had to make big changes to my planned route. It would take another 3 days or so to do at my current pace, and I needed to be back in Tokyo by the end of the following day for New Year's Eve. Even worse, the weather forecast said the clear skies were coming to an end later in the day. So my new plan was to cut diagonally northwest across Shikoku, using Rt. 194, a very scenic road with a reputation for being good for riding. That would get me near the Matsuyama ferry terminal, where I could either keep riding across a string of bridges across little islands all the way back to Japan's main island of Honshu, or hop onboard a ferry to Osaka if the weather turned foul. So here is the Zumo track from Day 4:



Route 194 was fantastic. Very scenic sweepers through the valleys and mountains, but never too tight and twisty the way some mountain roads can be. This is a major road that just happens to be a great motorcycle road:



Of course, nothing completes a beautiful scenic view like huge ugly billboards. Bonus points for the ugly sign on the left telling us to keep the area beautiful:



But not even tacky signs could ruin the beauty of the surroundings:



The ability to take a good extended-arm self portrait is a valuable photographic skill:



More scenery along Rt. 194. You can see some snow at the top of the mountain, but I wasn't cold at all while riding. In fact, sometimes I felt like I was wearing too many layers.



The roads (well, the mountain roads, anyway) were essentially deserted. It was often just me for many kilometers at a stretch:



By the way, here's how I carried my DSLR:



I stuffed a few T-shirts around it in there and it was fine. For quicker snaps, I also had a pocket camera in my, er, pocket.

After Rt. 194, I was getting close to Matsuyama. But what was this?



Toon City! I was tempted to go see Roger Rabbit and his friends, but I pressed on. (Actually, it's pronounced "Toe-Own" in Japanese, but hey, it still looks funny.)

As I got close to Matsuyama, the sky, which had been sunny only an hour or so ago, clouded over, a fierce wind started to hammer the coast, and rain began to fall. So I called it a day and holed up at the Matsuyama ferry terminal. The heavy stuff didn't come down for some time yet; by then I was safely off the road.



My bike and I were Osaka-bound:



One thing I really like about Japanese ferries is that they have ofuro (hot baths) on the boat. So I had a nice soak and a good night's sleep as the ferry carried me to Osaka for Day 5: The Journey Home.

DAY 5

The ride home from Osaka to Tokyo today was without question the WORST single stretch of motorcycling I have ever done in the 7 years since I started riding. I have ridden in rain, cold, fog, etc. but this was the worst of all: heavy WIND all the way home. The whole ride home was like going over those windy bridges to Shikoku. There were electronic signs lit up along all the expressways saying 横風-注意 (crosswinds-caution), with a cute little picture of a car being blown off the road. A CAR!

While riding along, I would feel big blasts of wind trying to push me off the road. The wind came from both sides, and on my tall and light SM-T, I was like a big top-heavy sailboat. Moreover, the flickability of the SM-T made it respond to those wind blasts as if they were steering inputs; I was constantly trying just to hold the bike on course. My good ol' unturnable, low-to-the-ground, overweight X4 would have been the better choice for this ride, but really the best choice would have been not to ride at all. But I told my wife I'd be home for New Year's Eve, so I pressed on. (Several times I thought I would be blown into a crash and die, which would have ruined New Year's Eve for her anyway...)

The wind seemed to lighten up for a stretch at about the halfway point, but soon afterward it came back even stronger. It was so bad, I got off the expressway around 60 miles from home, planning to ride the rest of the way back on local roads. I figured what the hell, it will take a long time but at least I'll survive. But the local roads route was almost as bad in most places! I never rode it that far out from Tokyo, so I imagined it would be like it is in Tokyo; streets lined with shops and with traffic lights every few blocks. But out there it's basically the same as an expressway, just with fewer lanes and a lower speed limit. So I was still getting hit by winds while going across open fields and around mountains and I just had to fight my way through. Leaves and crap were getting blown all over the road and right at my helmet, too. And the wind seemed to get stronger the closer I got to Tokyo. The overpass about 10 miles from my house was almost as windy as the expressways.

All told, what should have been a 5-6 hour ride home took 9 hours and was the most terrifying thing I can remember doing. I never want to be in that position again. I won't ride a tall light bike in windy conditions, and I plan to avoid riding in strong wind all together.

Here's the Zumo track for Day 5:



You can see I tried an "inland" route through Nagoya (the middle area with lots of roads) instead of the coastal route, but it didn't help much with the wind. The way the blue track diverges from the orange line toward the right-hand side shows how I tried taking the local roads route instead of the expressway after a certain point to minimize winds. Again, not much of a help. It was really just a terrible day to be riding. And here's what made it even worse for me:



Just look how much taller my SM-T is compared to this Yamaha FJR parked at a rest stop! I was basically inviting the wind to blow me over.

Aside from the ride home, though, it was a great trip, and proof that there is good touring to be had in Japan in the winter. :cool:
 

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Impressive journey - how many km did you cover?

The rural roads look empty, is the traffic less out of the cities?

Anyway it all looks good, but a bit of a trip to get there from the UK:) - & shipping a bike there to do it:eek:.

Do they hire bikes out there:confused:
 

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mucho jealousy, one of my dreams is to visit old japan on a bike ride. staying outa the main cities and visiting the old little temples and villages. We have family in niigata (mitsuke) aswell.
 

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looks like you had fun even in the guise of billy no mates. lol
 

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looks like you had fun even in the guise of billy no mates. lol
My mates were too busy whinging about how it would be too cold, too expensive (gas, tolls, lodging), their wives needed them to do stuff around the house, etc... :burnout:
 

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Impressive journey - how many km did you cover?

The rural roads look empty, is the traffic less out of the cities?

Anyway it all looks good, but a bit of a trip to get there from the UK:) - & shipping a bike there to do it:eek:.

Do they hire bikes out there:confused:
Need to check the Zumo data for mileage... will report back.

The roads were pretty empty in the rural areas because I was on the less-used scenic and twisty roads, as opposed to the straight and boring roads

You can hire bikes here, but only a few places do it and I don't know them offhand because I've always had my own bike. :D But if you are heading out here, PM me and I will find out a few contacts for you. If you are going to be here any serious length of time (like, more than a few days), it might make more sense to buy a used bike cheap and sell it when you leave. Not hard to do, a good deal financially, and there is a British bloke here who runs his own used-bike sales business who I am sure will be happy to guide you through the whole process.
 

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My mates were too busy whinging about how it would be too cold, too expensive (gas, tolls, lodging), their wives needed them to do stuff around the house, etc... :burnout:

lol thats funny :D
 
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