Day 4 –Dead Ends, Earning Turns, Burning Roads
We had our work cut out for us that afternoon, sitting at the bottom of that mountain pass. We had no idea what the road would be like; would the corners be steep? Would the pavement be skate-able? But being the skaters we are, we hauled our 40 pound bags up that mountain to find what was waiting for us on the other side of that gate. It was an hour of climbing mellow, super wide sharp turns (hairpins) until we reached the aggressive squiggles on the map that we were looking for. The road was much steeper here; the pavement was good for skating, the corners interesting. Each hairpin seemed to be different! We set up camp on one of the hairpins; the spot was near a creek where I put up my hammock.
We had a few hours of sunlight left so we hiked up a few corners to a super steep right hairpin to skate, shoot photos, and film the daylight away. We skated for those few hours, and slid to a stop near our tents to get ready for bed. We built a fire in the middle of the road! It was almost like the whole mountain pass was ours; an odd but fun experience for sure. Days 5-6
The morning was serene! The air was crisp and slightly humid. After a morning fire and breakfast, we started up the mountain for a full run. The walk was terrible; the 13 tight hairpins took us an hour and a half to hike. After our morning descent, we grabbed the film gear for another brutal hike up, just to film the best corners. We were tempted to film the interesting bends a bit longer, but we were tired and we were out of food.
The real challenge was getting all the way down. The road was so long, the only productive way to get down was to skate down the bottom 10 hairpins with all our gear on our backs! And oh boy, it was gnarly. The extra weight made it impossible to stay slow, and sliding with 40 pounds on your back is as scary as it sounds. My sleeping bag would drag on the ground every time I went around a corner! After an early morning, it was only 1PM by the time we packed all our gear and left to the Bandai-Azuma skyline. It was a long drive, but we arrived with enough sunlight to see that the better part of the road was closed off as a one-way uphill because of volcanic activity! We were bummed about this; the uphill had 6 awesome hairpins on it. Was there a way to skate it? We thought so!
We made a plan for a one-and-done raw run of the road. The next day, we arrived at the bottom before 7am, and a guy in a Porsche at the bottom told us that the police don’t show up until 9am, so the road is a popular race track. Not great news! But we let him go first and that was that. We made a plan. We organized a system of spotters and radio confirmation to make sure there weren’t any cars coming up. At the top, we got ready to drop in; I’d never been so nervous. Even though we had constant radio contact confirming a clear road, I checked the mirrors in the corners carefully. By a stroke of luck though, we hit a good window and we made it down safely. High fives were given, and we left the scene, heading to the volcano at the top for views and hot coffee.
We had worked hard all day, so when we drove by an Onsen with a restaurant attached in Mishima, we were happy to stop by. We had just received our ramen when a troop of 10 or so loud firefighters walked in. Oh, they were rowdy alright, and we were eager to socialize! When they came over to our table, we had a good time introducing ourselves; they ordered us beer after beer, gorging on grilled lamb. At the end of it, they paid for everything, our ramen and all! Japanese people are super friendly! I remember the eager “ANOTHER ONE, OKAY? OKAY!” every time one of us would finish a beer. Afterwards, we headed into firefighter Wesu’s house and passed out like rocks. A great memory to end a great day.