Tuesday, 8 June 2010

These are the days

Arai Racing Club members having a Van Halen Moment

There are days of such radiant perfection that everything beats as one: your heart, the light on the mountains, the rhythm of the pedals, the swish of rubber on tarmac and the flash of sunshine on emerald water, and clich├ęs seem, if not expensive, just that little bit less cheap. Eee, but it's grand as they used to say in Lancashire. If Rose, who my daughter is named after, the old lady eking out her last days in a Rochdale nursing home , was here, she would sing. But then, she always sang.

It was a day when bursts of speed were interspersed with stops for laugh out loud wonderment. But then it is murder getting Japanese people past blossom trees at the best of times. You know you are in the grip of a cultural institution when a racing club stops in its tracks as one man.

I took them over one of my favourite mountain roads from Nishi Aizu to Yanaizu, which was just barely passable over the top, with some snow left and the winter's tree debris carpeting the road. And then on the way down, a landslide had inundated the road, and rocks and sticks made even the rest a little more sporting than usual. Though we stopped for the blossom, we didn't stop for that.

Or this...

Heading back in the lengthening light we split into two groups, and as usual I opted for the traffic free and beautiful option over the easier one, receiving a battering at the hands of the small chain gang that developed as we chased to catch back up, re-united over ice cream at our local visitor's centre that also does wonderful soba....

That night, over a great communal meal, with everyone tired and staisfied, I was handed a club jersey by Takeda-san, the club captain. There is no membership fee or paperwork in becoming an Arai member, but I had wanted one of those for a while to show solidarity with a group that had welcomed me so kindly.

And then, when I returned to pick something up, another two unexpected windfalls. Takeda-san had left his full suspension mountain bike for me to borrow, on the condition that I seek out some good routes for the club, and for good measure, Shigemura-san gave me a new short-sleeved jersey too. It was all nearly, but not quite, too much. That, as they say everywhere, was a good day.


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