Friday, Sept. 15 
Mount Tawara 

  The big climb was up Mount Tawara, starting from the town of Nishihara. We rode up and up, in our lowest gear, for about 6 miles. The mountain is about 1100 meters high. 

View from Nishihara
"Moshi moshi!"

  We were maybe 20 minutes from the top when the phone rang! Neal had lent Rick his hand phone for the week and we had been calling him nightly to report on our adventures and relay his voice-mail messages. "Moshi moshi" is what you say when you answer the phone. It was Neal and Kazuko calling from somewhere on the other side of the mountain. They had taken Kazuko's Jeep on the ferry to Kyushu that morning and were going to meet us at a hot springs resort near Aso for the weekend. 

  At the summit we took pictures and wolfed some snacks. We had climbed to maybe 3,000 feet from sea level in about 30 miles and we were pretty spent. We put on our jackets for the descent. Look at all those curves in the road! Because we had to brake so much on the downhill, we stopped to let our rims cool off. We were happily descending again when we saw Kazuko and Neal driving up toward us. They turned around at the summit and stopped to greet us on their way back down, and we followed them to Jigoku Onsen, a rustic hot springs resort. 
  Neal warned us that it would be all uphill, but we figured we had already conquered the mountain, so how hard a climb could it be? Well, it was almost 4 more miles of steep switchbacks -- basically, halfway up another mountain! We were on a narrow road lined by small farms, with corn growing, and hay bundled in pointy little stacks. By the end it was sprinkling, just about dark, with the wind picking up and birds making spooky sounds, and we had both run out of water. We guzzled a 2-liter bottle of C.C. Lemon soda from a vending machine as soon as we got to the resort. We rented two cabins.