For the past few years, I’ve been very fortunate to live adjacent to (and, more recently, nearby) a satoyama, a little strip of near-wilderness amid the hustle and bustle of suburban and metropolitan areas.
Tokyo is the world’s largest city and it is densely populated.
Much of the city is industrialized, but frequently there are little havens of almost untamed natural woodland or small-lot farms.
I used to go for walks in the farmland near our previous home and loved the serenity. I could walk through pristine forests just a couple of minutes’ drive from bustling highways and densely packed residential or industrial areas that you would have no idea even existed.
Now living in a residential estate, I’m a little further away from the satoyama, but there are still plenty of parks nearby.
This morning, though, I got to ride through the satoyama and to love it all over again.
This area is connected to the wonderful Tama Yokoyama no Michi, which is now a hiking trail. Part of this is an ancient track, sections of which were used during World War II to move tanks from what was then the Imperial Japanese Army‘s Sagami arsenal (now the U.S. Army‘s Sagami General Depot) to the arsenal that is now Tama Hills Recreation Area. Although hundreds of U.S. aircraft were flying over the area on almost daily bombing runs, they never found the track under the canopy, much of what remains today.
Writing this post, I learned about the UN’s Satoyama Initiative, which takes from the satoyama tradition in Japan and aims to encourage biodiversity and conservation.
After yesterday’s spectacular start and the promise of a 20-degree day, I woke with great expectations of another brilliant beginning.
Anticipations of even greater things arose with the warmth being decent enough to enable the year’s first early morning ride in shorts and short-sleeves (albeit with a heattech T-shirt).
Wanting to get higher quality shots of the expected glorious sunrise, I loaded up with the heavy DSLR camera.
And it was with great delight that I headed up the Tamagawa Cycling Road and noticed a bit of patchy cloud cover.
This was delightful as the presence of clouds creates greater visual appeal with sunrises.
And….the clouds ended up taking over.
Approaching the point where yesterday I noticed the sunrise was going to be something special, I was disappointed to see that the morning was still bleak and dark.
And it stayed that way pretty much the whole time for the rest of the ride.
Eventually, despite carrying the camera for the entire ride, I got home without taking a single shot.
At least it was light by the time I got home and I could see the growing number of blossoms starting to flower, including the wattle in the garden.
In keeping with the outcomes of the day, I’d been able to gather considerable video footage of what was frankly an unremarkable ride….but yesterday I got almost no images even though I had thought I was recording most of the trip.
But now, a couple of hours later, it’s shaping up to what looks like a lovely, sunny day! And I am here in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt (more heattech underneath, though!)
Mother Nature turned on an absolute bloody ripper of a morning with the sunrise of the year so far, at least as far as I am concerned.
The skies were simply glorious as light broke through, blended with the clouds and created a mix of vibrant colors crossing the spectrum.
And the clouds played their part, too, creating swirls in the skies that shaped an otherworldly ambience.
It’s the second consecutive fantastic sunrise I’ve seen and was simply breathtaking.
I spent a lot of the ride voicing my thanks to Mother Nature for such a stunning start to the day.
The sunrise was uplifting, but not quite powerful enough to lift my spirits.
Last night I found out for sure that I had missed out on getting a job I was pretty keen on trying.
Another avenue also appears to have shut off.
Professionally, it feels like yet another low point with little way out.
Ah, well, that has often proved to be a learning opportunity in the past.
Poor little Dino remains compelled to mother, and she is doing brilliantly, laying and warming her eggs being punctuated only by ripping shreds into any paper she can find to use as a nest even though she rarely makes it back to the cage after stuffing strips under her wings. Her relentless efforts are admirable, though.
Otherwise, I’ve been experiencing a series of uncanny coincidences.
Last week, I had been wondering about the fate of a once-close but now distant former colleague who had suffered from grueling headaches. I received a message a couple of days later from another former colleague to tell me that she had collapsed with a brain hemorrhage and been hospitalized. I can only pray for her recovery. She had been a dear friend and an erstwhile ally on the job, so I am concerned.
Then, just moments after learning I’d missed out on the job the guy who found my current position for me got in touch to ask how I had gone.
I was hoping this might turn out to be serendipitous, but then realized there had been a whole series of events I interpreted as being fortuitous omens in the lead-up to applying for the position.
They didn’t turn out to be too accurate in the end!
Better to believe in realities, perhaps?
Still, there’s some good happening.
I got an email from a long-time mutual Strava follower and a few of us will finally meet in person later this month. Can’t wait!
I was already getting into cycling and when I moved to a job downtown the following year, was greatly encouraged by Kiwi John.
I was riding a Dahon Route folding bike at the time, but Kiwi John had a bad back and rode a recumbent.
He was super cool and his bike was even more impressive, giving me even greater cravings to get a lie-down bike.
Upon checking out catalogs and prices, though, the recumbent dream pretty much vanished.
Sports bikes aren’t cheap, and recumbents are at the pricier end of the sports bike range. Most were close to 300,000 yen at the entry level and well past 500,000 yen when considering a carbon frame. Even secondhand, a recumbent generally commanded a price over 200,000 yen.
And so the years passed.
Then, a couple of years ago, I saw a bike posted on Facebook for 50,000 yen. It was in Nagoya. Didn’t matter, I promised to pay immediately, booked a bus for that night (a Friday) and planned to ride it home to Tokyo when I picked it up the following morning.
I got less than 50 meters. I would topple over and fall with every few strokes. It was clear that I wouldn’t be riding back home. I wouldn’t even make it to the nearest station a few hundred meters away.
I eventually got the bike home (wrapped in garbage bags because I didn’t have a rinko bag needed to carry it on the train). And I destroyed the bloody chain in the process of carrying the bike back to Tokyo.
Almost destroyed my marriage when I eventually did get home.
Even the endlessly patient Mrs. Kangaeroo was peeved at my latest waste of money. And doubly so when I immediately needed to put it in for repairs and upgrading of parts that cost as much as the bike had.
It took a while to track down the maker, which used to have a branch office in Yamanashi Prefecture, but now how only its home base in Taiwan. George from Performer was fantastic, providing advice on the bike, the necessary new derailleur and videos on how to ride it.
Still, all the advice in the world and watching videos was not really a great help in learning to ride the bike. I repeatedly crashed and struggled to get a feel for riding it….hence the Death Machine moniker.
It took literally months to learn how to ride. I didn’t help myself by riding narrow tracks with climbs and turns, all of which are not friends of the recumbent bicycle in general.
Eventually, though, I got to feel at ease….well, maybe not that far. I felt that I could get around on the bike.
Rumor has it that recumbents ride faster on flats than road bikes. That hasn’t been my experience. I can get a decent speed out of the Death Machine, but well short of what I can get on La Cangura, my road bike.
I guess the recumbent is a little more comfortable than a road bike on long, straight roads. But only in the sense of being less strenuous while being in a lying position.
What’s more, recumbents seem to annoy drivers even more than a regular bicycle, if that’s possible, and also seem to bring out the most competitive side of every other cyclist, who wants to outpace the weird contraption that may have overtaken them.
So, they can’t turn, can’t climb, aren’t fast, inspire nearly everybody to want to throttle you and are truly dangerous. Why the fuck do I ride it? I guess it’s some fatal attraction. The recumbent attracts attention, and doubly so because I have decked it out in tiger stripes and ride with tiger-themed attire, so I am feeding my constantly craving ego. And the thrill of truly feeling at death’s door. It’s an deniable feeling. I wonder whether it stems from addiction issues?
Lots of addicts I know have an affinity for cycling. I guess it’s the repetitive nature of the rotating pedals and quick fix of endorphins from the exercise? I’m sure there are definitive studies somewhere, but my own hearsay affirms this. The late Robin Williams, a famous addict was also an avid cyclist.
Who knows? One thing for sure is that I enjoy riding the Death Machine, especially if I can overtake a roadie, which I can sometimes do with the aid of gravity. And I even bear riding with a knee brace to placate Mrs. Kangaeroo and the doctor.
So, when I die on the Death Machine, bring up this blog post and know that there were some fond memories.