Friday, May 05, 2006

The first annual Cork Head's Run for Sanity-Cos we ain't got none!

Martin looking out from Mt. Tsukuba

About a month and a half ago, my friend Martin suggested that a bunch of us take our bikes on a ride up Mt. Tsukuba. Martin is the owner of Cork Head's, a bar that draws a large portion of the expat drinkers in Tsukuba. He's also the guy who got me hooked on motorcycles. Unfortunately, it took about another month for our schedules to converge, and for the weather to co-operate enough for us to actually go.

It was well worth the wait.

We all met at Cork Head's at about 12:30, and hit the road. It was my first time riding in a group like that, and it was quite a run. At one point, Martin and his wife Junko--both riding cruisers--pulled in front of a small red hatchback. My friend Brent and I pulled behind the same car a couple of seconds later.

The guy took one looked ahead, one look behind, and decided to beat a hasty reatreat. That was so cool!

Moments later, off in the distance we could hear the harsh strains of militaristic music drawing closer, like the headlights of a giant truck heading on a collision course. As we drew closer, we saw three busses decked out in Japanese nationalist symbols: gold chrysanthemums, sunbeam battle flags, jingoistic sloagans. And they were all blasting at a volume that could possibly challenge a Metallica concert.

Needless to say, we were not exactly eager to stick arond, so we slipped into the next lane, dropped gears, rolled the throttles of our bikes and zipped away before anyone could say Gaijin.

Not too long afterward, we made it to the foot of the mountain and began to slink our way up the mountain roads. The first road was qute a challenge. We had to drop our speed, choking off the throttle to throw the bike into a tight lean as we hugged the corners. Each straightaway was like a heavenly breath of air, as we tried to cover some distance before dropping speed again to make sure we didn't slam into the mountain wall.

The way down was really hard.

Martin took us down a road that seemed barely wide enough for one car, with more hairpins than a hair salon. My heart would jump up into my throat every time I saw a car coming up at me. And I also learned about the danger of pine needles pooled at the edge of the road: they act like ball bearings, as they roll under your tires, causing you to slip like you're on black ice.

But the scaries part had to be the idiots driving the rally-type sports cars up and down the mountain. They were going about ten times the speed that any sane person would go, and you could see the results of what some of their predecessors had done.

When I say predecessors here, I'm talking quite literally. All up the hill, the guardrails are smashed like strips of shredded paper, with the concrete in front of them streaked with tire tracks like plates of black spaghetti. Leads one to wonder how many people lost their lives on this road.

View from Mt. Tsukuba

Despite these dangers, the trip was well worth it. When we got to the top, we saw some beatiful views of Tsukuba City. It was a slightly overcast day, but still clear enough to see the nature slowly melt into urban sprawl.

An old lady working her fields near the bottom of Mt. Tsukuba

We even saw a little old lady tilling her fields, probably the same way she'd done for longer than I'd been alive.

After the trip, we stopped into a nice little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant to warm our bones with some hot ramen and to recap the day's revelry on the mountain roads.


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