Thursday, 5 May 2011

And still they came

It takes more than mere disaster to keep Arai racing club away from Aizu.

Many people have cancelled their bookings for this area, and businesses in Oku Aizu are really struggling by association with the rest of Fukushimna, even though levels here are relatively low, similar to natural background radiation in many parts of the world. I wondered therefore, whether Arai racing club would make one of their regular trips up from Saitama this Golden Week. They could be forgiven for staying at home.

Four of them came anyway. Hoshi-san (giving the thumbs up above) said that he sees this as a safe zone, and anyway, he doesn't like to necessarily do what everyone else does. "I do things at my pace," he said. He recently suffered a bereavement - he crashed his lovely new full carbon Giant in a tragic blossom-gazing incident and snapped the frame. Ouch, expensive. Get a steel bike. Now he is working overtime to save up for a replacement.

Yoshida-san on 401, Showa-mura

He works in ICT in the middle of Tokyo. Now he is listening to birdsong

Yoshida-san likes his sweet bread...a lot

After a sociable ride up 400 to Showa-mura, and the beautiful snaking slopes up 401 to a pit stop in Minamiaizu, we chain-ganged along 289 to Tadami, where we stopped at the nice little restaurant that does my favourite risotto. It's cheesy, very cheesy, and you can't say that for much food in Japan, delicious though the diet is.

Too classy for a bunch of scruffy sweaty cyclists? Not at all sir.
Ahhh, risotto! Good value at ¥850 for this plus tea or coffee

Hilariously, though the guys were happy to brave a radiation scare, they were horrified by the heavy rain that started falling while we were eating. They always hate rain, and avoid it whenever possible, as they are made out of tissue paper and would obviously melt into a soggy pulp at the merest drop. I had been waiting for this moment, as they were all riding stripped down carbon race style bikes, as is the dodgy fashion. I ride a training bike with mudguards, something that is seen as quaintly old fashioned, but I see as a no-brainer for anyone who wants to ride in comfort in all seasons, especially in the mountains. I laughed. A lot.  I asked them how the road tasted? Were they nice and warm with great splatters of dirty water up their arses? Apparently not. That'll teach 'em. Their enthusiasm and speed was thoroughly dampened, with Hoshi-san in particular frozen to the bone. To be fair, it was 7c, and they are used to Saitama, where it is currently a whopping twenty degrees warmer.

Hoshi-san cooking up a storm

Still, it was nothing that a soak in Nakagawa onsen couldn't put right. Hoshi-san bore me no ill-will despite my churlish dry-posterior-based gloating, and cooked a massive multi-course meal for us all, including vegetarian specialities for me like tofu fritters.  We finished the day satisfyingly bloated and snoozy round Shigemura-san's wood burner.

As is becoming traditional, they refused to ride the next day. I think the club needs a new name: Arai Dry Eating and Onsen Club. It was good to see them though. Although we are not out of the woods yet with the power station, and it doesn't change that, it makes all of us who live in Fukushima feel a whole lot better that people still want to come. Thanks Arai.

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