The roads from Sado – Day 11

Even after leaving Nikko I was still going downhill, and the road to Utsunomiya was an unexpected treat. Route 119 is known as Nikko Suginamiki (日光杉並木 / Nikko Cedar Avenue), and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest tree-lined thoroughfare in the world. Way back in 1625, a local bigwig called Masatsuna Matsudaira began planting cedar here, and there are now more than 12,000 over the course of thirty-five kilometres.

The only downside to its 400-year heritage is that Route 119 is no wider than it was in the early 1600s, and with no pavement and a steady stream of rush-hour traffic, I had to be careful not get barged off the road and straight into the trunk of the nearest cedar.

As I was pondering the best way to get to the other side of Utsunomiya, a middle-aged man in a baseball cap and tracksuit ambled up and asked me where I was going.
‘Ibaraki,’ I said.
‘Ibaraki? You should take the bypass, then.’ He pointed towards a busy dual carriageway that appeared to be a lot more dangerous than Cedar Avenue, and as he spoke there was a whiff of cheap shochu in the air – either he was on his way home from a big night out, or he had started drinking very early in the day (it was about 8am).
‘I’m not sure. I might head towards the city centre instead.’
‘Oh well, suit yourself,’ he said, before ambling off again in a not entirely straight line.

I made it back to our apartment just as Mrs M was about to leave for work at one o’clock, and waiting for me in the fridge was one of two homemade fruit cakes I had posted to the in-laws from a gift shop in Sawata. I cut a generous slice for myself, made an extra-strong, extra-large mug of tea, and sat down with the Rock Spring’s Cat Eye trip computer to collate my stats:

Total distance: 847km
Average distance per day (not including the two rest days on Sado): 90km
Shortest distance in a day: 55km (Mikawa to Sawata)
Longest distance in a day: 116km (Sanjoh to Shiozawa)
Top speed: 56kmh
Average speed: 14kmh

Quite frankly, Sado Island was further away than I had envisaged, and this, along with the enforced detour through Nikko, had turned the trip into something of an epic. The next day, Otoh-san described me as looking gessori, which means ‘gaunt’ or ‘disheartened’, and implies that one’s face has taken on the appearance of geso (squid tentacles), although bizarrely, I had actually managed to put on weight since 21st August. This could have been an improvement in my body’s muscle-to-fat ratio due to strenuous physical exercise, although I get the feeling it was more to do with the large amount of stodgy convenience store food and sugary convenience store drinks I had consumed along the way…

0 thoughts on “The roads from Sado – Day 11”

  1. Hi Muzuhashi-san, I came across your blog recently and have enjoyed reading it, especially the Sado bike trip. A few years ago, I covered part of your route on a short bike holiday.
    Konsei Pass was a killer! But beautiful (autumn). My one piece of advice would be to save up and get a Brooks leather saddle. Worth the relatively high price.

    1. Hi Ian – glad you like the blog and it’s good to know that somebody else out there feels my pain! (The Canadian guy I bumped into on the way to the Konsei Pass had spread the climb over two days, which is definitely the more sensible thing to do…)

  2. Epic journey Muzuhashi, and I’ve just realised because I Google mapped it, it’s right across Japan, a coast to coast. A belated Happy Christmas and premature New Year’s wishes to you and Mrs M.

    1. For some reason, writing about a ten-day holiday over the course of about four months seems to have emphasised its epic-ness. Anyway, I’ve promised Mrs M that my next tour will be a gentle pootle around Ibaraki and that I will nojuku every night to save money. Thanks for reading and season’s greetings to you too!

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