Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - rode 85km (53 miles) from Iwaki to Sakata
At 6am, I slipped quietly out of the tent and stretched on the sidewalk, while enjoying the gentle rhythm of the ocean waves sliding back and forth over the wide, sandy beach below. Our tent was next to an empty common room for visitors to the michi no eki rest stop, and I charged various electronic devices there while writing in my journal. I sat next to a large window overlooking the ocean with a clear view of our tent.
Sho emerged an hour later and came over to tell me about the insanely cool bugs crawling just outside our tent. We took pictures of some of them and ate a few crunchy ones for breakfast (just checking to see if you're paying attention :-)). Actually, our breakfast came from a nearby Sunkus convenience store. Sho asked if he could walk there by himself and buy our breakfast, which I agreed to. He has been experimenting with a budding sense of independence and looking for opportunities to accomplish tasks on his own, something I've encouraged. As we've ridden past school children walking home in various towns throughout Japan, Sho has commented longingly that he would like to be able to commute to school unaccompanied by an adult. Our apartment in NYC is immediately next door to his school, and walking such a short distance by himself "doesn't count. Daddy, can we move farther away from my school, so that I can walk there by myself?"
"Interesting proposal, Sho. I'll ask Mommy what she thinks."
The rain started to fall around 9am, as we were breaking down the tent, and we hastily moved our belongings under a nearby alcove. We took our time loading our bikes with gear, not looking forward to another day of soggy socks and smelly clothes. We finally rolled out into the thumping rain at 10:30am and spent the next 7 hours riding 85km up and down the rolling coastal highway.
We stopped for lunch at a rest stop, where I ate a delicious unadon (rice bowl with eel) and threw the hacky sack with Sho during a lull in the rainstorm. Later in the afternoon, I heard a grating sound coming from my front wheel and saw that the top screw on the rack holding the front left pannier had snapped off. The pannier was leaning out, its bottom side knocking against the tire spokes. I immediately stopped, removed the bag and put it on my back, using the pannier's convenient backpack straps. I rolled my eyes, not looking forward to the heavy load cutting into my shoulders, as it had for a couple of days in Hokkaido. Then, looking up, I saw a Bridgestone car repair center across the street. No longer in the sparsely populated wilds of Hokkaido, where finding a screw required a multi-day search, help was now easily accessible. We crossed the street, and 20 minutes later, the rack was re-attached with a spare screw scrounged up by one of the Bridgestone mechanics.
Today's destination was Sakata, a pleasant town of around 100,000 inhabitants on Japan's western coast. Our cycling buddy from Hokkaido, Saito-san, told us about a sushi restaurant in Sakata run by an old classmate of his. When we met at the ferry terminal in Hakodate, Saito-san wrote a note for me to give to his friend, asking him to serve us "some delicious sushi." Sho and I talked about our destination all day, dubbing today "the delicious sushi ride." We got lost in downtown Sakata, but got help from a friendly stranger riding a bike who deviated from his route to guide us to the restaurant. It was 5:30pm as we rolled up, hungry, tired and ready for an awesome meal.
The sign on the shuttered building read, "Closed today." Sho and I looked at each other, disappointed. We grabbed dinner at a random restaurant nearby and made our way to the main train station -- always a good starting point when visiting a new town in Japan -- and found a hotel room for $50. We took advantage of a coin laundry to clean our damp, smelly clothes, and enjoyed the free massage chair in our room. Sho and I took turns in the chair, laughing as we talked in staccato with the chair beating against our necks.