Adventure cycling in late autumn. We spent a few days exploring the hills and mountains surrounding Kyoto. Early in the morning, narrow urban streets led us out of the bustling city into the surrounding olive drab hills mottled with a smattering of yellows, oranges, and reds. Riding to catch the last vestiges of the autumn leaves before winter set in, we whiled away our days on two-lane roads along the edges of the Yamashiro Basin. We pedaled our way through thick pines, stands of bamboo, and groves of maple.
We were just two strangers wandering through a strange, wonderful land. The waning days of mild fall weather made for good riding. I could feel the earth beneath my tires as we trundled along carpeted forest paths. Leaves fluttered to the ground in the calm air as we stopped to rest under a grove of trees. Thin yellow rays of the sun pierced the trees overhead with a tinge of a cool blue. Colder days were not far ahead.
Deep autumn colors painted the landscape. Thickets of Japanese maple burned with a deep ochre fire. I thought of autumn in New England. Many of leaves had already fallen and carpeted the forest floor. Along the ridges above, rich yellow hues caught the eye. Bands of sparrows perched on bare branches. Occasionally, blue skies splashed across the horizon. Other times, transient clouds grayed the azure skies. Raindrops spattered on a still pond. At the water’s edge, I wondered why I left my rain jacket packed on my bike. Being an optimist, I’m always counting on better weather. Often, it never comes.
Our time wandering the hills and mountains surrounding Kyoto, the once capital of feudal Japan, was well-spent. Even in late fall, Kyoto’s mountain scenery never disappointed. This morning as I put the finishing touches on this post, I paused to sip an espresso and gaze out the window of our apartment across Shanghai. Winter had come to the city. Memories of our Kyoto adventure played across the back of mind. It’s the golden horizons about which we always dream. On the short list containing a few names of the places I’d like one day to return, Kyoto is now one of them.