Thursday, September 15, 2011

The End

 Today I wake up around 8 to the sunlight pouring through my window. I slowly pack my things, leaving behind those items which I wont need for a relatively short ride like today's. I begin riding with a surreal feeling that I have a hunch will be with me for the entire day. This is it. No matter what happens, I am on the home stretch. Even if my bike spontaneously explodes, I am within a days walk of my goal.

Again I am blessed with an astounding tailwind that carries me effortlessly on my way. I eat some breakfast with some fellow bike tourists that are just starting a little vacation around Hokkaido. They are amazed when I tell them where I have come from and inform me that they will be waiting for me at the Cape. I do not want or expect great praise for my accomplishment, and something about people who know nothing about me waiting for me to celebrate with me makes me uncomfortable. I would rather accept the end of this journey as I have lived it, with just me and my bike.

At any rate, the day is gorgeous and the riding is easy. So easy that there is really nothing interesting to report, except for the last kilometer or so.

I had a general sense of the distance to the cape, as well as the layout of the land. I knew that Cape Soya was around a bend and (obviously) the furthest point north. Each time I came to a curve in the road where I couldn't see anything further north beyond it, my heart would skip a beat. To this day I still can't quite pinpoint what emotion(s) that amounts to, but it seemed like I was feeling every emotion at once.

Then it came, the last bend in the road. I knew this was it. At this point something strange happened, though I guess I could've seen it coming. I began resenting this glorious tailwind, pushing me on and almost forcing me to finish. Honestly I didn't even have to pedal and I would still be moving forward, such was the strength of the wind.

Throughout my ride, I would often be frustrated at my bike's gear ratio. Since it was more of a road bike than a touring bike, it's lowest (easiest to pedal) gear wasn't quite as low as it should be. This meant that on grueling uphill climbs, even the most 'laid-back' gear would still have me huffing and puffing in no time. More than any other day, though, I wanted more than ever to have that lower gear. I wanted to inch my way as slowly as possible to the finish line. I could see my goal before me stretching out into eternity, basking in every feeling, thought and emotion the experience had to offer. I knew right then and there that this feeling, whatever it was, could never be replicated, even if I took another bike tour that was exponentially longer and harder.

So there I was, pedaling as slowly as my ability to balance would allow, making my way to Cape Soya, 2,000 miles from where I had begun. My mind was racing with what I can only describe as everything. All at once I felt happy, sad, angry, calm, nervous, confident. Furthermore, my desires were equally out of whack. I felt like boarding the next plane to America and going home while also wanting to buy land in Japan and live there forever. It was messy...but in a good way. All this time I was thinking about what it would be like to dismount from my steed and meditate on Japan's northernmost point. I would've never guessed that the most meaningful part of my trip would actually be the 0.5 km before I finished it.

Having spent the last 53 days pedaling along, always in motion, it felt somehow unnatural to enjoy Soya while standing or sitting. It was still a powerful experience, but riding a bike every day instills in oneself a restlessness that cannot be appeased easily.

I spend a few hours there, taking pictures, making calls and eating a bowl of Ramen at one of the little touristy restaurants they have there, but after that I figured it was time to move on. For the first time in 53 days, I begin to ride south.

As another first, I decide to listen to my iPod while on the ride back. I am categorically against such reckless behavior, but ever since my ride into Haboro, I have learned that the sound of the wind blowing against you is much, much worse than music in terms of robbing your sense of hearing/sanity. I am immediately shocked and endeared by the song that begins playing first as I start my ride, Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind. Needless to say, I ride with a big smile on my face.

Though it takes about 3 times longer to return to Wakkanai than it did to get there (it turns out tailwinds only help you in one direction at a time), I didn't mind at all, because it was a great opportunity to reflect and enjoy the end of the ride.

The rest of the day continues in a blur. It becomes miserably rainy, so the party that Miki-san had planned at his restaurant was attended by me and about 4 other people. This was actually much better because whenever more people are around it is harder for me to enjoy myself as I am so conscious of trying to speak good Japanese and put forth my best face. I can be much more myself in a more intimate setting, so in a way it was the perfect party to end my trip. Tomorrow, Miki-san has offered to give me a ride to the airport in Wakkanai, where I will take a few connecting flights before I reach home back in Fukuoka.

Now that it is all said and done, I have wracked my brains with exactly what I wanted to say to “cap it all off.” To that effect I have not fared very well. To me, accomplishing his has taught me so unbelievably much about people, success, failure, the world and countless other things that I cant imaging saying anything that speaks to it specifically. On the other hand, any general words of wisdom I can give have been said and written a thousand times before in motivational books. I suppose the difference between the specific and the general is in the middle, where the life is. I can't tell you something that you don't already know (unless it is a question about bike touring in Japan), so all that's left to do is to get out there, make some mistakes and spend entirely too much of your savings chasing something that is important to you.

It brought a tear to my eye to see the name of my goal, printed in real life!

In the flesh, at the end

My wonderful host, serenading his guests

Before going to the airport

Learning to cook Japanese style

Miki-san's hilarious wife

My final picture, a simple thanks


  1. Yay Dylan!!! I'm so very proud of you for finishing :)

  2. Congrats Dylan, thanks for the write-ups!