We arrived in Joetsu in the afternoon and quickly found a grocery store to buy something to cook for dinner. We decided on tofu stir-fry. Due to a lack of imagination and energy in the evenings after long days of riding, Stir-fry was quickly becoming our steady.
We continued on towards the coast hoping to find a place to camp on the beach and as we did so, a funny thing happened. What at first appeared to be a non-desrcript, even unattractive town began to take on a certain level of quaint charm. All the buildings were cracked and weathered from the salt air. We passed empty lots of concrete rubble, the remnants of buildings that had long since succumbed to the abuse offered by decades of seasonal typhoons. The few crumbling structures that remained had become the canvas of young surfers armed with spray-cans.
We pulled into one of these lots to take in our first glimpse of the Sea of Japan. After riding through mountains for so many days it felt satisfying to finally be at the ocean. We sat there for a little while gazing out at the sun set. A friend of ours believes that people are drawn to the ocean through some sort of primordial nostalgia- A deeply rooted sense of longing to return to the place from which we came eons ago, but to which we can never go back- an evolutionary Eden of sorts. I like that idea, but I could only sit there pondering life's mysteries for so long; stir-fry was beginning to invade my thought space.
A few hundred yards down the road we found a beautiful sandy beach to call our home for the night. We cooked a hearty dinner and hit the sack.
In the morning, our beach-haven campsite was a little gloomy. Heavy rain made us reluctant to get out of the tent but we managed to do so around 7:30. We rode a wet, sloppy mile to a convenient store for coffee and we stalled there a bit for the weather to let up. When it didn't, we figured we should probably get moving anyway. We soon discovered that we had a nice bike path heading in our direction so we were happy to get off the road and away from the trucks who aren't always kean on sharing the road with cyclists. We biked at leisurely pace chatting and thoroughly enjoyed every curve and tunnel along the way. When we stopped for lunch in Itiogawa the weather had cleared and we realized we had put quite a few miles under us.
In the afternoon we were less lucky. We rode along Route 8 which followed a gorgeous stretch of coastline but the view was diminished due to the heavy, high-speed traffic that we were forced to contend with. When a tractor-trailer whizzes by at sixty miles an hour it can create disastrous effects for a cyclist. The amount of wind a truck generates is frightening and it can whip you around like a paper doll, pushing and pulling your bicyle in unexpected directions. The gear packed on our bikes act as sails magnifying the effect. The trick here is to relax, to avoid the impulse to tense up and resist what is happening. Keeping your arms loose, elbows and knees bent you have to just go with it and let the wind do with you what it will. Because as suddenly as that wall of air comes crashing into your world- its gone. In that brief moment any attempt to compensate by steering or leaning your weight one way or the other will be grossly overestimated.
Tonight we are camped on a patch of well manicured lawn in the municipal park of a fishing town called Uozu. The coast around here is quite rocky and not very good for pitching a tent so we make do with what we got. We rode 107 kilometers today and we're pretty tired and eager to get comfortable. It is a great feeling when we finally pry our swollen feet from our sneakers.
As we cook dinner on a noisy camp stove, barefoot and shirtless, sweaty clothes hanging up to dry, we are truly a site for passing locals to behold. There's a good chance the authorities will kick us out of here tonight but at this point in the day we're too exhausted to be discreet. We Americans are an obnoxious lot.