Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wisdom gained and a week in review

Watch out, ladies and gents, knowledge bombs are coming your way. Not really, but I think I will do my best to share something I have learned and try even harder to avoid sounding like a motivational speaker. My biggest realization along this whole trip has come through a very simple change in perspective.

Understandably, when I was planning this trip, there were so many things that I was nervous about. Particularly, how I would handle disasters, big or small. Bad things happening are a guarantee on a bike tour, but you never know what those things are going to be, or when they will come up. The really tricky part, as far as life skills are concerned, isn't how you fix the problem, it's how you react when you realize there is a problem. Early on, I would be a bit cranky or frustrated at most things that came up. Flat tires, unexpected hill climbs (the worst!) and any number of small things that came up would just make me cranky for an hour or two. Quite early on, though, I had my big realization, and here it is (ready?).

Life is a lot like a bike.

How does that taste? Cheesy? Good, let's continue, then. Even though there are many things that can break, rust, wear down and fall apart on a bicycle, it actually takes very little to just keep the damn thing moving and keep on touring. Flat tire? Pump that shit up and check it with your thumb every hour! Road disappeared? Hoof it until it comes back! No use in spending a single minute being cranky about it, just laugh and move on! I have actually composed a flow chart illustrating the complex decision making process that begins each day after waking up. Please, if you hope to accomplish a bike tour successfully, follow this religiously.

For a small fee, I can provide an annotated version to further clarify the chart

But really, though, the simplicity of a bicycle is closely related to life at times. There are lots of things we encounter that are less than pleasant in everyday life, but very few of these things need to have any serious effect on how we feel. Bike touring occurs in a vacuum of travelling and fun, and there are so many positive aspects that it is quite easy to shrug off the negatives, but I will forever try and approach any of life's problems with the ease and comfort with which I have addressed most things on the road so far. Here's a picture from something that came up today. 40 km down a road and the damn thing just ends in gravel with no end in sight. I certainly wasn't back-tracking, so I just hopped off and decided to walk until things were ok again.

I guess this is the "where did the road go?" pose...

Some times you go with the bike, not on top of it.

Alright, time for a bit of recapping! We left off last time with the wonderful Mr. Yamaguchi saving me, taking me to Shizuoka in his car, and then taking me to meet his friends and eat some home cooked Sri Lankan food.

August 22: Some irony and "firsts", Numazu

Perpetually worried about my shoes becoming wet, and therefore unbearably stinky, I have recently done my best to keep them dry. However, upon coming to a road that was blocked by a truck, I decided to press on and see why the road was blocked, mostly because there was no other way around. I basically saw this, but with a bit less water.

Quite a bit less water, actually
I estimated that the water wouldn't really clear the path of my pedals, so I decided to just ride right through it. Deceptively, the water came up to my upper calves and I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that I spend the whole day trying to keep my shoes dry...and they became wetter than they have ever been.

Also, I had my first crash! It was raining all day, and while coming down a metal ramp, the front tire just slipped a different direction and everything came tumbling down. Quite anti-climactic, but I suppose that is how I would like my crashes to be.

August 24, 25: Tokyo at last!

In theory, big cities are awesome destinations to visit. There is a lot of truth to that, but I have learned that big cities suck while on a bike tour. They suck a lot. What I mean is that the riding is just awful. It is slow, filled with cars and hot. BUT, and this is a big but, they are also filled with the nicest people you'll ever meet, and some rare chances.

Three examples. First, a friend of Kawasaki san wanted to meet me, so we met up, had some awesome food and chatted about as much as we could, with whatever Japanese I could muster. The friend, Abe san, rode a train for an hour just to buy me some dinner!

Abe san on the right, and our waiter on the left.
Second, my host for the time was a man by the name of Christopher Lindstrom. This guy has got stuff figured out! An ex-peace corps man, who has been to more countries and places than I can remember and is currently on a International Rotary Club world peace scholarship to get his master's degree in Japan. How awesome is that? Furthermore, he was just the nicest and most generous host in the world. Having only been in Japan for 2 weeks prior to my coming, his kindness among the stress of moving to a new country was truly inspiring.

Me and my homie Chris

Also, of my friends from America that I have met in Japan, I am surprised that 40% of them have been named Matt. So, if there are any other Matt's that are looking to reconnect with me, apparently now is the time to do it. Anyways, the Matt that I met in Tokyo I knew from high school and, even though we hadn't seen each other in 6 years, the chance to meet up was too rare to pass up. Apparently a little Japanese goes a long way, because we ended up having a great time after wandering into a random Izakaya (Japanese style bar) and eating some raw horse and Japanese desserts!

A big, happy family

August 28: Long rides and funny things, Koriyama

I am not sure if this day's ride just had me feeling slap happy, or Japan is just a funny place when you're looking for laughs, but this day's story is best told through pictures.

What a strange and wonderful place this must be

Only one preposition away from making me giggle to death

No big deal it's just Ronald McDon...oh my god is that a butcher's knife?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Halfway There?

There a few thing one can do in a bathroom. There's number 1. Then there's number 2. I am not sure how the numbering works after that, nor am I sure that writing a blog is even enumerated, but here I am anyways, writing to my adoring fan(s) from my accomodations for the night.

You can't beat the price, or the bank vault of a door!
I stated from the very outset that I wanted anyone reading this to really get a sense of my experience, and I must say this is a pretty interesting experience. However, I have had the good fortune to stay with kind friends, and in warm beds for 15 of the last 17 days (thanks to my amazing sister and couch surfing), so one night in the loo isn't going to ruffle my feathers too much. 

In other news, it looks like I actually AM riding across this country. I still find it hard to believe, but the halfway point has already come and gone, just a bit before Tokyo. Furthermore, of the $2,050 I would like to raise, we have already reached $960! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated already, and I assure you that proper thank you's are coming when I am off the bike and have a bit more time on my hands.

Lastly (for now), I have recently noticed that 40 and 50 mile days are beginning to feel like pushovers, so I have decided to try and average about 80 km (60 miles?) for the rest of the trip. At that rate, with only a few rest days, I can reach my goal in a little over 20 days. How nuts is that?! My next post will be some more daily recaps, I just wanted to take a moment to connect from the bathroom :)
Just brushing my teeth, in a bathroom, no big deal

Sunday, August 21, 2011

All this luck is makin' me nervous

So I will start this off by saying that the past few days have just been absolutely...rainy. I actually don't mind the rain that much, because really it is just like taking a shower all day. However, in this shower the water has dirt in it. Also, there are a lot of cars driving through the shower, quickly, and very close to your body. Other than that, basically the same experience.

Seriously, though, my only real concern with the rain is that it is hard to dry my shoes out quickly enough to ride again the next day, and I would like to avoid becoming a human stink-bomb at least for another few weeks. If anyone has any suggestions/tricks to prevent shoe problems, lay 'em on me in the comments section!

Onto the real meat of the story. I think that the overall tone of this trip so far has been one of unbelievable luck. I would like to think that I am just really good at being optimistic and finding the silver lining...but I just don't think that is the case. Here are two of the most recent examples:

From where we left off last, I was on my way to Nagoya. Before I get into that, though, I must tell everyone about my "coach" for this trip. Since I had no idea what I was doing when I started, through the power of the internet I sought out those who could enlighten me. Among those I found was a complete badass of a Canadian, Corey, who did a monster bike ride through Japan in 2009. Since contacting him, we have emailed frequently and he has given me countless bits of advice and routing help that have saved me time, energy and have helped make my travels even more wonderful!

At his recommendation, I stopped at a bike shop in Gifu that he had touted as one of the best in Japan. As it turns out, the bike shop IS the best in Japan, as far as I am concerned. I have been riding on crappy tires since starting the trip, and I was looking for some good replacements. Not only did I get replacements, but I also got half-dozen small adjustments on the bike, some tea and an awesome T-shirt...all for free. Maybe, as a reader, you can understand why all this luck is making me nervous.

Me and Ken from Kurosawa Bikes in Gifu!

Following in the footsteps of giants. The same Ken, but picture taken from Corey's blog .

The next two days went by pretty quickly. I stayed in Nagoya with David Fox, another native of Colorado, which obviously means he was a cool guy to hang out with. I also decided to take an impromptu rest day, so I could do absolutley nothing in the hopes that my knee, which has been bothering me, would feel better. Best decision ever, I felt like a rock star the next day as I set off for Hamamatsu, the longest ride of the trip at 126 km.

The morning after arriving in Hamamatsu began wonderfully, with a delicious, authentic Hong Kong breakfast. I was couch surfing with a girl from Hong Kong in Hamamatsu, which was already pretty rare because single girls living in apartments hardly ever accept requests from single travelling guys. However, it turns out that Nikita (my host) was a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and probably could have broken my arms and legs without much trouble, if a problem should arise. The day was cloudy, and rain was sure to come, but I certainly wont be able to get to the north of Japan by not riding my bike, so I set off with 60 miles to cover.

Hong Kong toast! Hmmm...toast, peanut butter and I'll let you decide the rest
Me and Nikita. Sorry for the angling, picture was taken from the seat of a vespa.

The rest of the day was nothing but rain and headwinds, which would be pretty depressing for some. However, I tried my best to cope by improvising songs to capture my mood, plan my future and think about what to write about in the blog. Unfortunately, I must have been terribly good at the first part, because I had my own damn songs stuck in my head for most of the day and couldn't think about very much else.

Chugging through the day, the hours passing, legs pedaling, it was a gloomy, rainy day but at least I had a rhythm going. I began seeing 2 things that are good to note for cycle tourists. The first thing was a series of enormous mountains between me and my goal. The second thing was a series of signs indicating an upcoming tunnel. I thought to myself "Man, I hate tunnels...but at this point in the day, I probably hate climbing mountains even more, so I'll take the tunnel." Unfortunately, sometimes these choices aren't left to us, and as I approached the monster, 3.2 km tunnel I saw a big sign saying bikes were not allowed. Dejected, soaking wet, I pulled off to the side of the road at 5:15 p.m. and surveyed my options.

Not yesterdays tunnel...but maybe you can get a feel for it
Basically, back tracking 5 kilometers and then taking a mountain road over the previously mentioned peaks was my only entrance into Shizuoka, my goal for the day. However, since it was too late for such an endeavor, I decided to find a different place to sleep and call my host for the day and tell him that I couldn't make it. I made my call to Mr. Eva Yamaguchi and told him that I foolishly came to a tunnel that I couldn't use and that I wouldn't make it into Shizuoka that day. To my surprise, he insisted on driving all the way from Shizuoka to pick up myself and my bike and take the sodden pair into the city. Entirely too tired and surprised to refuse, I agreed and he came to pick the bike and I up!

The story doesn't stop there, though. Mr. Yamaguchi had planned for my coming by talking to a few of his friends, a Sri Lankan guy named Namal and his Chinese girlfriend Yanan. Namal thought it would be great to cook some Sri Lankan food for everyone and eat it over at his apartment, so that was what we did. What followed was one of the most delicious meals with some of the nicest people I have met on my trip. Sadly, in my tired haze, I forgot to bring a camera to Namal's, so we must stay friends only on Facebook and in memory (until I visit Sri Lanka, of course!).

My expectation for Sunday, August 21st: sleeping somewhere random, in the rain, waiting anxiously to climb a mountain in the morning. Reality: warm shower, dinner with friends and an unforgettable night.

Me and the man himself, Eva Yamaguchi!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anecdotes and Aphorisms, the Trip Thus Far

Holy cow, it has been WAY to long since my last post. Rather than spend a lot of time apologizing, I will instead opt for a really kickass post (hopefully).

Quite uncharacteristically, I have actually been sticking to a sort of journal while on this trip. I've never been one for writing a journal at length so I keep it simple by writing only 3 or 4 memories, events, thoughts from every single day of my trip. Whatever I feel was most important from the day, I'll jot down a quick note to remember it by.

In one of the other posts, I followed a sort of anecdotal or aphoristic template for writing and I quite liked it, so I believe I will take that method for a spin once more! What follows will be short stories or thoughts that I think were the most pertinent.

August 3: Mini Celebrity in Asa
Always the life-saver, Kawasaki-san has the occasional friend that lives along my route. Such was the case in the small town of Asa, where I was to meet Mr. Sogawa, the head honcho of the area newspaper. As I came riding up to the station, a few men in white shirts wielding big cameras started taking pictures down the street in my general direction. Of course, I looked behind me to find out what in the world was so interesting, but as I rode closer, I found out that apparently I was the subject! The photographers worked for the Yamaguchi prefecture's Yomiuri Shinbun and were there with Mr. Sogawa. They took some pictures, we had some drinks and then conducted my 2nd interview with a national newspaper (the same one, and of course)!

August 4: Meet and Greet in Shunan
As I headed to Shunan city, apparently still within reach of Kawasaki-san's never ending network of friends, I was told this time to meet a Mr. Tsukimoto, again the head honcho of the area newspaper distribution. Finding the place to meet him was easy...since it was a bright green building with Tsukimoto written on it. I feel like it is a rare opportunity to meet someone with their own building, so of course I forced him to take an awkwardly angled picture with me!

Mr. Tsukimoto...and his building!

August 5: Hard work pays off in Miyajima
Japan is absolutely full of mountains. The damn things are honestly and unavoidably everywhere. However, once you reach the top of them, there are always surprises to be had. Sometimes you get a rip-roaring 60 km/hr (almost 40 mph) downhill sprint. Sometimes you get a harrowing ride through a tunnel with semi trucks driving close enough to flick your the dark.

Other times you find an ancient hideout for Japanese pirates, complete with a beautiful garden, temple and waterfalls. Awesome.

Lantern art at the Pirate's roost
Sorry for the blur...but a really cool restaurant (in an old Pirate's den!)

August 6: Eerie timing, Hiroshima Bound
I'll be completely honest, until arriving in Miyajima I was not aware of the exact date of the bombing of Hiroshima (or Nagasaki). When I was told the night before about the ceremony to be held in the morning, I made it my goal to wake up early and bust out the 25 km to Hiroshima as fast as possible to make in in time.

The bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945. I arrived to the Hiroshima Peace Park at 8:12 a.m. on August 6, 2011, minutes before one of the more surreal moments of my life. Breathing heavy and looking for a place to park my bike, some awfully loud Japanese comes out of the speakers, accompanied by an even louder, single bell toll. Everyone, everywhere around me freezes. I quickly realize this is a moment of silence and do the same. For a solid minute, I am almost certain that everyone in the city didn't move a muscle or make a sound, save for the ringing of the bell in the middle of the park, the Peace Bell. Words cant describe the reverential and respectful aura that everyone had during those moments, and I will certainly never forget it.

Perhaps not the most appropriate picture, but it is important to get a sense of location! My bike in front of the Atomic Dome.

The only real remnant of a terrible explosion...and my bike

August 7: Soul crushing ride to Mihara
A product of my poor planning and the general difficulty to predict Japanese terrain, this was far and away the toughest physical activity of my life. I was left only with a few words of advice to give:
  • In high school geometry, you deal with angles of all sizes, but no one ever tells you that the difference between a 9 degree slope and a 10 degree slope is similar to the difference between stubbing your toe and getting kicked in the face by a Muy Thai fighter...and then spit on.
Silver lining? I found a bus stop with some comfortable, though dusty seats on the top of the mountain.
Probably seen better days.

August 8: Soul healing ride and a soothing 0 hours of sleep, Omishima
Japan can really beat you down, but then you get the chance to ride across the Seto Inland sea, a solid 75 km ride with paths designated ONLY for cyclists. I couldn't imagine a better recovery to the previous day's misery. 

Really big bridge, and the man that will cross it.
As the night fell, I cleaned off the days grime at a public bath and then went to a roadside station to stake my claim on a park bench that would be my bed for the night. After some slight preparation (lying down on the park bench), I closed my eyes to sleep. I was charmed almost to tears when an instrumental rendition of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star played over the station's loudspeakers at 10 p.m. The heat and mosquitoes made it hard to sleep, so I welcomed the song warmly as it crooned above my head again at 11 p.m. As the clock struck 12 a.m. I awoke to the song playing once more, and fell asleep, glad that the final encore had finished. At 1,2,3,4 and 5 a.m. I was ready and willing to wish every single star out of the sky because of their cursed song inspiring sparkles. I hardly slept and woke up early...but waking at dawn does have it's rewards.

August 9: Quaint towns and kind teachers found in Saijo
Honshu, with it's tall mountains and thousands of semi trucks was dust in the wind, as I crossed the final bridge and made my way across Shikoku, the big island just below the eastern tip of Honshu. Quiet roads and rice paddies abound as I took my favorite "Hey! Look where my bike is!" picture:

I am sure this looked better in real life...but hopefully some beauty comes across
After arriving in town, I saw a few foreigners talking in a parking lot. Since I knew absolutely nothing about the nice little town I had found myself in, I decided to approach them to ask for sightseeing and restaurant suggestions. Caleb, one of the men, had lived in the town for 4 years and was working for the JET Program. He pointed me to an onsen (public bath/hot spring) and told me to give him a call afterwards, where he would show me a great place to eat. Whilst eating and conversing, the ever interesting question of "Where do you sleep?" came up. I had staked out a wonderful bench in a nearby park, and freely told them about it. However, Caleb instead just suggested I take a night tour of the town with him and his friend, play some super Nintendo games and just sleep at his place. I can't say I hesitated, but I can say that I have nothing but the fondest memories of Saijo, Japan!

August 10: So much luck makes me nervous. Kanonji
For those that haven't heard of Couch Surfing, go check it out right NOW! It has it's occasional mishaps, but when it's good, it is unbelievable.

Speaking of the mishaps, though, at 8 p.m. the night I arrived in Kanonji I was told that my host for the night would not be able to host me. Unshowered, covered in mosquito bites, I tried to stay positive as I rode aimlessly around town looking for a park to sleep in. What I found happened to be the most populated date spot in all of Kanonji after 11 p.m.! Unfortunately, it was still too hot to sleep, so I made my way to a 24 hr. convenience store to buy some food and bask in the AC. As I was locking up my bike outside the store, another car pulled up, and a few foreigners and a Japanese woman hopped out. Equally surprised to see one another at 12:30 a.m. we made some short conversation and almost immediately after knowing only my name, I was invited into the home of Brent and Maki Betters (wonderful newlywed couple) for a warm shower and comfortable couch to sleep on. Heartbreaking kindness and trust, if you ask me. Unfortunately, due to my foolishness I wasn't able to snag a picture with here are some weird scarecrows I saw on my way out of town.

They certainly scared me away.

August 11: Like strangers, passing in the dark. Takamatsu
I have quickly learned that it is an unspoken code to stop and chat with any other cycling tourists you see while on the road. Conversation comes easily and the camaraderie is instantaneous. It is a really wonderful feeling. However, the likelihood of meeting other tourists can be quite low during the hottest time of the year, especially considering the hundreds of different paths one might choose while on their tour.

It is painful sometimes to understand so well the struggles of others who are alone on the road, but not tell them so!

Unspoken Code #2: sleep is tough to come by, never interrupt it.

August 12: The invisible beauty of Himeji Castle in Himeji
Perhaps because this was meant to be a short day, I felt especially exhausted while doing it. Knowing that I only had 40 km to ride when normally that number is 70 or so made it much harder to ride through the heat and mountains to reach my goal. That being said, on the toughest days of this trip, there are always great things to look forward to. In this case I was meeting an old high school friend, Matt Davis (some of you might know him, even!). It is an extremely rare and interesting experience to do something so normal, like hang out with old friends, while doing something much less normal, like teaching in Japan or riding a bike across it!

Also, Himeji's claim to fame in Japan is the castle by the same name. However, in some poorly planned act of restoration, the castle is currently covered by what looks like a makeshift office building, complete with a faint image of the castle which it conceals. What would be a wonderful sight is somewhat lackluster in this presentation, I couldn't even bring myself to get a good picture of it.

If you look closely, you can see the picture of the castle on that office building

August 13th: Kobe with Shinpei
Sometimes having an experience that feels completely non-foreign is exactly what you need when staying in a foreign country for so long. I must say I never expected to have this experience with a Japanese person, until I met Shinpei. This guy studied in Lawrence, Kansas for a year and learned enough college "dude" English that I actually didn't think he was Japanese, and I told him so. 

His family has owned and operated an Izakaya (Japanese-style bar) forever, and he offered to let me eat there for free. Taking the kindness in stride, I agreed, and the feast that followed was a sight to behold! Raw fish that I'd never seen before, my first experience of raw, Kobe beef and even some fried whale. I know there are many that disagree with the hunting, killing and eating of whales, and I count myself among them. However, when something is offered to you out of kindness and as a genuine part of another culture, I can say right now that I will never turn that opportunity down. Anyways, here was the food:

The whale is on the right in the middle. The beef hadn't come out yet. So  tasty!

August 14th, 15th and 16th: Less than restful rest days, Kyoto
Before I say anything else, I will say that Kyoto was an amazing place to visit, and I don't regret a moment that I spent there. However, I learned from a somewhat stressful "rest" day in Hiroshima that, in the future, I must be smarter about when and where I rest, and most importantly that I am actually able to rest! Instead, for the three nights I was in Kyoto, I stayed up late and got up early, then went sightseeing for 6 hours each day. Not so hot on the legs and knees!

Enough complaining, though, because this was one of the most amazing times of the year to be in Kyoto. During this season, one of the most important holidays in Japan is happening, the Obon festival. Obon generally revolves around one's ancestry and paying respects as such, and it is filled with some of the oldest and strongest traditions in Japan. For example, each year temples around Japan collect thin wooden boards, on which are written wishes, hopes, dreams and the like. During the Obon festival, the largest temples of each region will make an enormous, smoky bonfire and burn them. Everything is always in Japanese, so my understanding of the event is somewhat thin, but it was certainly a sight to see!

An action shot. A bundle of dreams, tossed to the flames
Apparently not enough smoke :) 

Ceremonial tapping of the smoky pines
I also had the opportunity to visit the Fushimi Inari shrine, home to about 6 million Torii, or Japanese sacred gates. I promise you'll recognize it when you see it.

So there were these, and about 100 other "hallways" scattered about the mountain. Literally thousands of Torii

Lastly, and the most fun event of Kyoto, was "Geisha hunting" with my German buddy, Fenja! The Geisha of Kyoto, who are NOT prostitutes, are Japanese hostesses trained in just about every form of Japanese traditional culture. They can conduct tea ceremonies, play instruments, dance, sing, tell jokes and cook a mean dinner all to the tune of about $4,000 for 2 hours...depending on the Geisha. If you find the right place in Kyoto, you can occasionally find them as they hurry to their evening appointments. Like so (all credit goes to Fenja:

Super, super young (not officially a Geisha, yet)

Awesome shot

Very graceful, right?
For the sake of familiarity, here's a shot of me and Fenja. She was a couch surfer at the same place as me, and since she actually knew what she was doing in Kyoto, I tagged along and did quite a bit of sightseeing with her.

The thing we're holding says: Amerika and Deutschland. We didn't put it there and thought it was too funny to pass up
Whew! It feels good to be caught up to the present moment. As I type this, my time at an internet cafe is quickly running out, and I must soon depart after 2 hours of sleep and make my way to Nagoya, Japan! It's 4:30 a.m. and I have no idea what the weather looks like outside...but I hope it's nice, or at least that the sun is up :)

New donation goal: $2,050. At the suggestion of my best bud Marty Pool, I hope to raise at least a dollar for every mile that I ride. Ideally I would like to get a dollar for each kilometer, but I would rather have a goal that I might reach :)

Now available: I have made an updated route map that includes everywhere I have been and slept, as well as where I will be going (as of tomorrow, at least), check it out at the top by clicking on the Where in the World is Dylan page. Furthermore, I give you, my reader, my solemn word that I will never have another absence like this one. It's time to put my big boy pants on and make some money for the Red Cross.

Lastly, DONATE PLEASE if you haven't already. I know this blog has been just about my experiences and my story, but to an extent that is the purpose. Later, when I am actually closer to the affected areas of Japan, I will be able to prove more conclusively the need for further donations in the relief effort. Head to the top of the page and click the yellow button, it's just that easy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Time for an Earnest Beginning

Perhaps I am jumping the gun here, but so far I am disappointed by the fact that I have yet to wax poetic in the face of my travels. Like so many other seem to, I was assuming the the uniqueness of the nomadic life would automatically coax the Kerouac out of me, allow the dormant Mark Twain to erupt in an eloquent fury...

Alas, I have thus far confirmed that I am just as much of a doofus on the road as I am off of it. If I am not singing The Beatles' "Let it Be" loudly enough for every farmer in the area to hear me, then I am pondering the legitimacy of the breakfast bar I had eaten earlier in the morning. Specifically, while eating a "Mixed Berry" breakfast tart, I stumbled across a few raisins. I was struck by the question: IS a raisin berry, or WAS a raisin a berry? These, ladies and gentlemen, are the questions that haunt me on the road. 

In all honesty, though, my ride has been an excellent dip-of-the-toe into the ocean of the rest of this trip. Since beginning my ride across Kyushu (though southern, large island of Japan), I have stayed with friends and in free hotel rooms for 4 of the 5 nights. This is something that is unlikely to happen again, so it is time for me to really learn the true grit of bike touring!

After tomorrow, I will be leaving Kyushu and beginning the trip more earnestly (and completely alone), left only to my own devices to overcome whatever obstacles await me. I have many things to look forward to, as well as many more things to be prepared for, both good and bad. With the support of those reading this, and just the right amount of luck, I am beginning to think that riding across this country might just be possible...

Additionally, I have set a goal for the fundraiser. In my opinion it is a bit high...considering I don't have the time or know-how to attract donors that aren't friends or family, but anything is possible, right?

The fundraising goal is $2,500 which roughly corresponds to a bit more money than this whole crazy trip is costing me, which would be a great goal to reach. Also, check out the donation tracker, because we're almost a 3rd of the way there!!

Lastly, 350 / 3,300 km ridden