Breaking up is hard to do, as Mr. Sedaka knows, but when Andrew told the two of us that he was planning to go solo straight to Kitakyushu, we saw that his mind was made up. There was no choice but to help him plan his route, wish him luck, and see him off. That left me and Scott with two relatively gentle 80km days to do on our own. So we set off, with the destination being my old host-mother’s house on the outskirts of Fukuoka city.
We made good time, and reached the coast and the city of Karatsu before long. It was there, however, after a instant-noodle lunch, that we hit a small delay, literally. I rolled over a small catseye reflector on the road, which caused not one but two pinch flats in my rear tube. After trying, unsuccessfully, to patch the tube (pinch flats can be tricky), I ended up swapping out the whole tube for Scott’s spare. However, changing that tube left me with a bit of a valve problem; I now had a Schrader valve on the front and a Presta on the back, neither of which are very popular on bicycles in Japan. They instead generally use a French-style valve, which we didn’t have any adapters for. I didn’t relish the idea of pumping my tube up all the way with my small hand pump, so I thought I would try the gas stands and bike stores we had just passed. But the valve issue meant that, although they had pumps that they were perfectly willing to let me use, they had no way of actually getting the air into my tires. So I was stuck grunting and straining with my little pump, until the wheel was at a decent enough pressure to ride on.
The rest of the ride went by smoothly. We made it to my old host-mother, Aoki-san’s house by late afternoon. She set us up in a free room, gave us some bananas, and made us feel at home. Then we all piled into her tiny Japanese kei-car, and went and had a very relaxing soak and some dinner at a nearby Japanese bathhouse. From there it was on to some sleepy socializing with her friend Yuko-san and another homestay language student from the Netherlands named Vincent. After that, it was off to bed for a solid eight hours of baby-like sleep.
The next morning, after a filling breakfast and quick photo-op, we set off amidst a steady drizzle. The forecast called for some heavy rain, but in the end we managed to reach the leading edge of that storm and ride it all the way to Kitakyushu. While passing through Fukuoka city, I took the opportunity to visit my old language school, GenkiJACS, and say hi to the teachers and receptionists, some of whom even remembered me from my short course in summer ’09. Also in Fukuoka city, we stopped at Raumen Stadium in Canal City, which is a collection of some seven ramen restaurants tucked away in the fifth floor of a shopping center, with different varieties of ramen from across Japan. Scott went for a spicy Kansai ramen, and I (foolishly) took on a ridiculously massive bowl of Tokyo ramen called Ramen-dai, literally Ramen-big. After barely defeating that, we were back on the road, sloshing away.
We made Kitakyushu by 5, and got to Lori’s house, only to find out that Andrew had gone to the ER to get his hand checked out, which was now throwing faint red lines up his arm to his chest. As it turned out, the 7-11 bandage job on the savaged hand had caused a mild blood infection! Now, upon hearing this, our first thought was that the words “mild” and “blood infection” did not really fit together, but apparently it’s easily manageable. However, after a follow-up visit this morning, the doctor’s orders are to rest for a couple days, and let the hand heal to avoid a re-infection. This means we are waylaid in Kitakyushu for a couple of days, which, of all the places on our trip to get delayed, is definitely the most convenient. So that brings us up to now, thoroughly relaxing and enjoying Lori’s hospitality. I might not even get on my bike tomorrow.