|Oita International Charity Bike Ride 2007|
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Written by Andrew Hancock, 2007 co-organiser.
The powers that be were clearly smiling on our selfless money-raising efforts and afforded us glorious clear skies and spring sunshine as the motley crew of bikers assembled at Beppu Park on the Saturday morning of the 10th annual Oita Charity Bike Ride. The excitement and nervous anticipation in the air was almost tangible. After a mad flurry of paper, money, bright yellow (sorry, ‘Gold’) T-shirts and hurried announcements everyone was off! Everyone, that is, except our fearless leader Kiyoko who had already contrived to get a puncture. Sterling work.
Biking north out of Beppu to Hiji and beyond, the course hugged the coastline giving beautiful views across the bay back towards Beppu and Oita. After passing Kitsuki’s pretty castle, we joined the pine tree lined Kunisaki Hanto Cycling Road all the way to our destination – Kunimi Youth Hostel. As expected, the pace of the riders differed greatly, with the Super-Keen arriving at 2:30 which was about the time that myself and other Super-Relaxed riders were tucking into a curry at Oita Airport (comforting each other with phrases such as “slow and steady wins the race” and “it’s the taking part that counts”). At the youth hostel it was possible to wander down to the ocean and let the gentle lapping of the waves soothe our tired feet while glimpsing Shikoku in the distance.
Once everyone had arrived and bathed, we had a hearty dinner, a few beers and a round or two of super competitive charades. At the late hour of 10:30pm we retired to our slumber pits. Just as well, as Sunday morning promised to be hilly.
After easing our tender rumps into the saddle once more we set off. 2km in, I dared to tempt fate and say to Kiyoko that everything was going swimmingly so far. Fate took exception at my arrogance and about 5 seconds after the words left my smiling mouth, I was in the world of pain that my complacency deserved. I had hit and embarrassingly small pot hole and flown over my handlebars into the road. Here our team of super volunteers came into their own. Karl and Kana happened to be just behind and immediately sprang to the rescue. Kana, a nurse who’d just finished nightshift to join us without any sleep (good effort!), bandaged me up and after a 10km lift in the support van with Jeffrey, I was back on the road. I had, in fact, rejoined just in time to receive some ‘constructive criticism’ on my route planning as the bikers finally managed to haul themselves to the top of another mighty hill.
23km later we reached Usa Jingu (if you have never visited, you’re missing out – it is set in the most beautiful gardens and when we were there we were lucky enough to see some priests performing a ceremony involving fruit). We stopped here for a photo and some soft cream. Leaving Usa (with a belly full of udon after a stop at a little restaurant where the staff had never seen so many dirty, sweaty foreigners – way to internationalise!) the sun shone brightly and after the final, twisting hill of the day, we had a fantastic long downhill to Aonodomon, south of Nakatsu city. This tunnel (built right into the cliff face) was dug by hand with only a hammer and chisel in the Edo era by a Buddhist monk with little better to do; there being no YouTube in those days. Suitably impressed, we moved on and joined the Yabakei Maple Cycling Road which wound its way through scenic valleys to our destination of Yabakei Cycling Terminal.
That evening at our enkai-style dinner in a local restaurant we were treated to a series of hilarious (?) Emilio Estevez jokes by Patrick, who had traveled all the way from Shikoku just to find a captive audience (Why did Emilio Estevez have to come to Oita to tell his jokes? ‘Cause the folk on Shikoku were no longer Emilio Impressed-evez…)
Early the next morning we said goodbye to the bikers and volunteers who weren’t able to do the third day and got ready for what I had promised the riders to be an easy road home. The riders all started in high spirits, minds filled with images of free-wheeling down gently sloping hills, surrounded by meadows and small children with flowers in their hair…Unfortunately, the promise I had made was based on the fact that nobody had test ridden the course for the final day and I had miscalculated the distance by 30km. Whoops! This mistake, coupled with the fact that I was driving the last day in the support van, meant that I was the target of some good-natured (?) jibes throughout the day.
This was due, in part, to the number of hills. One of which involved an incredibly steep climb on the Yabakei Maple Farm Road (sorry guys!!). At the top everyone stopped for some much needed snacks and drinks before enjoying a narrow, twisty downhill section bringing us out near Shin Yabakei. Here we headed east towards Ajimu. What had seemed ever so flat in my car when planning the route turned out to be a long, slow climb to another breathtaking (for oh so many reasons) summit just before Innai. Staying inside the van for my own safety, I dished out more snacks and drinks to try to appease the cursing, sweaty masses.
We reached our lunch stop at Ajimu at about 3pm, where Kiyoko and I encouraged the riders to ‘think of the children!’ and make the final push towards the finish line at Beppu. We succeeded and everyone headed off on a hair-raising 6km downhill section to the coast before cruising south and finally making our weary way back to Beppu Park. The closing ceremony saw fantastic 100 yen store prizes dished out to overwhelmed riders and volunteers - pats on the back and high fives all-around. More than well deserved.
So concludes my breakdown. Kiyoko and I would like to thank all the volunteers and riders who took part in this year’s ride. Without your titanic efforts we couldn’t have raised so much for charity and without your genki spirit, we wouldn’t have so much darn fun! And thanks to Tamara for helping me write this article!
Distance Travelled: 261.8km
Beautiful Sunny Days: 2
Cloudy Cold Days: 1
Prefectures Represented: 4 – Oita, Fukuoka, Kochi and Ibaraki
Curses Aimed at the Route Planner: Still counting
Money Raised for Room to Read: Over 260,000 yen!