IN MANY WAYS, biking Japan has been like playing a video game. Our pre-trip Yakushima excursion was the tutorial level that explained the basic controls and gave us a glimpse of what the real ride would be like. Kyushu was the introductory level of the main game where we got used to riding, camping, and generally learning the ropes. Then came the real levels in Honshu. From the sprawling metropolis of Kansai to the heart of the Alps to the rural northern countryside, we pedaled through all sorts of environments in a wide variety of conditions. Progressively we’ve become more capable riders and have successfully risen to overcome challenges. Having now finished Honshu Island completely, it is time to face the last stage of this adventure.
In video game vernacular, Hokkaido is the final boss level. I am both excited and nervous for this final island. If Japan by Bicycle holds to the pattern of most games, this final segment will be an intense cumulative test of all the skills and fitness we’ve acquired thus far. However, not all games are designed the same. For example, Mario Galaxy 2 had several tough bosses along the way to a lack-luster skirmish with Bowser (if I do say so myself). Although I am up for a hard-fought push to Cape Soya, I would much prefer these last 630km to be a flat, smooth, victory lap. Regardless, come Godzilla or high water, the three of us are solidly determined to finish our epic journey. First, however, our ferry must dock at Hokkaido.
Last night, in the most literal way, Dylan made chili in the bathroom. With less wind, it was the ideal location on the gusty look-out shelter jutting into the sea. After we all gratefully consumed his perfectly seasoned creation, the team opted to sleep there at the rest stop viewpoint.
Six o’clock this morning was our target departure time. In keeping with our usual fashion, we departed promptly at six fifteen. It was still raining, chilly, and generally uncomfortable weather. Nonetheless, 140 km away was a ferry we needed to catch. On and off throughout the day, the rain subsided and returned in varying degrees of heaviness as we pedaled through progressively more picturesque rural fishing villages of Aomori Prefecture. After I was warmed up from cycling, today turned into a good ride.
Continuing with the gamer lingo, by arriving at the Aomori Ferry Terminal and completing today’s route, our team has earned the achievement “Cycled all of Honshu.” Approximately 2200 km of effort went into traversing this beast. Along the way, we’ve hurdled huge obstacles and made wonderful memories. We’re glad we’ve made the journey, and we are also glad it is behind us so we can now adjust our focus to the trip’s overarching finish line.
Due to our early start, we pulled into the ferry terminal with enough time to have a small toast to the slain mammoth Honshu and even to make an earlier ferry than anticipated. With plenty of cushy chairs, easily located power outlets, and a Cup Noodle vending machine, it’s one of the nicer ferries we’ve ridden. Upon disembarking, we will be on our last island and prefecture with game faces equipped. I know we’re ready to pwn.
BRING IT HOKKAIDO!!!1!
Spock: Unconscious Japanese mumbles