Sitting outside a 7-11 near Kashiwazaki this evening, trying not to throw up, I reflected on the day, wondering if things could have gone any worse. All kinds of things had gone wrong, but we still had to find a place to camp, make dinner, and sleep. The sun was setting, we were all a bit tired, and we had only managed 75 km in the last 10 hours. I thought back to the start of the day and how promising everything had looked.
We left our comfortable park campsite by 9 am, and it was already plenty hot from the morning sun. As we rolled along the coast, a tailwind picked up, gently pushing us along. After finding a relaxing, separated bike path that followed the highway, we gazed out at the beautiful ocean view, all thinking that today would be a wonderful day. That feeling lasted exactly until the first flat.
Coming out of one of the converted railroad tunnels along the cycle path, I heard a loud hiss, followed by a rumbling in my rear wheel and a sinking feeling in my gut. Upon inspection, I found a large metal staple driven through the tire and both walls of my tube. Unfortunate as it was, I tried to stay in good spirits. I still had a spare tube, and the tools to change it. And indeed, it was quickly fixed, and we were back on the road, still making great time despite the delay. No, what really got me down was the second flat.
Coming into Joetsu around noon, I spotted an electronics store off the road about a kilometre. I had been on the lookout for one because I wanted to buy the things necessary to listening to music on my Canadian cell phone, since my iPod had been unfortunately murdered by biking in the typhoon. The store was a bit far, but we decided that it wouldn’t take very long. We were wrong.
We left Joetsu four hours later, discouraged. First, I had gotten another flat on the way to the electronics store and had to remove my rear wheel and carry it to the nearest bike store. Next, I found out my Japanese cell phone was no longer working when I went to call the guys. Finally, when I took out my Canadian cell phone to look up the word “warranty”, I discovered that the touchscreen had cracked, and I could only use the keyboard, sometimes. I ran around town for an hour or so trying to get either of my phones fixed, to no avail. Finally, discouraged, I met up with the guys, and we set off in the afternoon sun.
Perhaps in response to my mood, clouds rolled over the sun, darkening the day. A brisk headwind picked up, slowing us down. As we entered the hills before Kashiwazaki, my stomach started to churn for no apparent reason. Before long, I was taking deep breaths and drinks of water, trying desperately not to vomit while on my bike. The next 10 km were a haze of nausea and pain. Finally, we made it to the 7-11, tired and fading as fast as the sun was.
It was there that our luck finally turned around. After I let my stomach settle, we decided we would camp near the convenience store,rather than push on into the night. We took a ride around the neighbourhood, past a startling barking dog and owner, looking for a place to camp. Finding nothing, we decided to go ask the dog owner if he knew any good spots around here. This was the right choice as the owner, Watanabe Seiya, and his wife Yoshiko-san, completely changed the course of our night for the better.
It turns out the best spot around here is the Watanabe’s front yard. The two of them fed us a delicious dinner, let us use their shower, and altogether made up for the disappointment and tribulations of earlier. They even have a cool dog blog about their beloved Afghan hound. We are now settled down in their yard, ready to turn in. I can’t help but look back on the day now and appreciate that such a truly fortunate show of hospitality was made possible only by our mishaps and delays. If I could go back and write a script for the day, I don’t think I’d write it this way, but I really don’t mind how it turned out.
Calves: Pleasantly Plump