I’m going for a ride on the Shimanami Kaido bridges again tomorrow, so I figured I should at least post about my last trip first, to avoid any confusion. Serena, May, and I rode northbound from Imabari (Sunrise Itoyama, specifically) in the middle of Typhoon #6 a few months ago. (Japan numbers their large meteorological events instead of naming them. I guess it’s to keep them at arm’s length in case they don’t call in the morning.)

Sunrise Itoyama is a bicycle rental place in northern Imabari, very close to the start of the bridge system spanning the Seto Inland Sea. (I rented a bicycle instead of trying to ride my craptastic mama-chari one speed Japanese clunker of a city bike across sixty kilometers of sparsely populated islands and bridges.) It’s a beautiful ride, with bridges hopping across a series of islands that peek like giant stepping stones out of the water.

The weather forecast for the day said that the typhoon might be right where we were, but we were hoping it would just graze us. Regardless of the weather, we couldn’t change the details of the ride, as it had been organized as part of Bicycle for Everyone’s Earth (BEE), a group here in Japan that promotes environmentally conscious living through eco-friendly education and consumption. Each year they organize a two-month, 3000 kilometer ride from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido to the southernmost island of Kyushu, and the three of us joined them for the day they planned to ride north across the Seto Inland Sea.

So we all brought our rain gear, and it’s a good thing we did. It was just lightly sprinkling rain when we set out, but by the time we made it onto the first bridge, we were in the middle of a deluge. We turned around when we didn’t see the BEE team in the first bridge, as the rain just kept getting heavier and heavier. By the time we got back ten minutes after starting out, the water was deep enough on the street in front of the bike rental place that you couldn’t pedal- the water was above the pedals’ lowest point.

When we got back inside, we found the BEE team regrouping; they had set off just after us and come back just before us, and were already hard at work drying off their clothes. We talked to them about their travels while waiting for the rain to slack off a bit then and set back out on our grand adventure.

The day quickly turned into a series of fiascoes, though. The BEE team suffered through a number of flat tires, two broken spokes, and a broken rear pannier rack, and eventually told us three interlopers to go on ahead of them. That was the last we ever saw of the team…

We got a late start and were riding slow because of the rain, and as a result May was running short on time and had to bail in Omishima, just shy of the halfway point. Serena and I pressed on, actually making a wrong turn at one point that ended up being a “shortcut” through a rural area instead of following the major highway on the other side of the island.

It rained on and off the whole day, but luckily it was never as heavy as it was in the first ten minutes. It also got dark surprisingly quickly. Fortunately, a couple of the bridges had separate, well-lit decks for bicycles. It was totally dark by the time we arrived in Omishima, which was an unanticipated problem. The rental place had ostensibly closed an hour before we arrived, but there was still an old man sitting in a shack on their lot, whom we convinced to take out bikes off our hands. Then we had to figure out how to get back to Matsuyama. “The guy” at Sunrise Itoyama said there was a late southbound bus back across the bridge system, but it wasn’t running that Sunday. By the time we realized the late bus didn’t exist, the last actual bus had, in fact, just left the bus depot.

One of the waiting bus drivers took pity on our plight once we managed to explain it, and he got a waiting taxi driver to take us through some super-secret door on the highway overpass to a pickup point just ahead of that last bus we needed, where he personally waited with us and made sure we got on the bus. I tell you, between learning that the depot had no more buses home, figuring out how to get help in Japanese, and waiting for the bus on the bridge, that was a seriously stressful hour or so, and I am still amazed at the generosity of the Japanese people.

The bus ride back to Imabari was uneventful, Serena and I just unwinding from the day. Then it was an easy train ride back into Matsuyama and blissful recuperative sleep.

Wow! Now I’m ready to go do it again! ๐Ÿ˜€

3 Responses to “Shimanami Kaido, Episode I”
  1. I hope todays adventure is a bit less eventful!

  2. WOW! What a day! post details of your second trip asap.

  3. […] the city usually diffuses any strong weather before it hits Matsuyama. (Unless of course, I’m riding a bicycle across a series of bridges that day. Then it will undoubtedly rain cats and […]

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