Monday, September 12, 2011

4 Days To Go...

I set off today from Sapporo feeling weary, nervous but unbelievably excited. I was so close to my final goal that I knew that nothing would stop me from reaching it, even if that meant commandeering the nearest child's bike and riding off into the sunset on my way. However, I still have about 150 miles to go and the weather is noticeably colder this far north. I begin my ride cautiously, knowing that a lot can happen in 4 days...and it's supposed to rain ALL day today.

My goal for today's ride is to make it to Rumoi, which as far as my topographical expertise leads me to believe, is truly the last stop before I am on the home stretch, cruising along 100 miles of FLAT, western Hokkaido coastline.

Most of the day is spent riding along the last truly industrial highway of Japan's north country, so it is remarkable only because the trucks here are actually larger than the trucks on the mainland. In retrospect this makes sense because Hokkaido is much more open compared to the mainland, and has room for larger roads, and thus larger trucks, but in my dreams I imagined the north country as a pleasant and persistent meadow, constantly peaceful and devoid of all vehicles which ran on gas. Some call me a dreamer.

The day was pleasantly interrupted by two nice occurrences, however. The first of which was receiving a call from my family on my cell phone. Knowing I couldn't answer whilst riding (on a highway, no less) I began looking for a quiet place to chat. To my surprise, I found the most quaintly furnished bus stop that I have ever seen in my life. The inside was carpeted and the walls were adorned with 1980's posters of the New York skyline. Furthermore, there was a potted plant and an old timey wicker broom hanging on the wall. Whether it was for cleaning or further austerity, I will never know. Had I ridden more than 40 miles already, I would've laid out my sleeping bag and called that place home for the night in a heartbeat.

Having concluded the conversation with the 'rents, I figured I might as well check my email and, to my surprise again, I found a message from a Mr. Fabio Barbieri, the other man my age riding a bike across Japan for charity. Since I had started in the south and headed north and he had taken the converse route, he suggested we meet up somewhere in the middle. It turns out the "middle" was going to be the small town of Takikawa, where we planned to meet up and exchange stories of the road.

So my plans were changed a bit, but it was for the better as I would be able to relate with one of the few other people who will soon understand exactly what it's like to try and ride a bike across a country. I begin my search now for a reasonable place to stay in Takikawa. I have recently abandoned the search for free accommodations, as a freezing cold night in a covered bathroom has taught me that the weather is no longer nice enough to offset the miserable conditions of sleeping near toilets.

After a bit of riding around and calling, I settle on a large business hotel just outside of town. As it turns out, this business hotel was essentially a large tumor that had grown on top of an extremely cozy mom and pop hotel that had once been here many years earlier. The new owners have kept all the cozy, log-cabin themed rooms tucked away in a wing, while building all of the other business-y rooms on top of them. The extremely kind girls at the counter, as well as the extremely empty hotel meant that I could have my pick of the litter when it came to room choices. I was so exhausted that I only managed to wander around the creepily empty halls and take in the atmosphere for about 30 minutes before I returned to my room and fell asleep to some Sumo in my "hometown" of Fukuoka.

I wonder if the Japanese here says "Pinnochio's Revenge"

Some old fishing implements used for cutting up fish. Saw this in a roadside museum and thought it looked neat

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