Yesterday started out so promising. We woke up warm and dry, cooked breakfast on our couchsurfing host’s stove, and set off in beautiful sunny weather, bound for Hiroshima some 120km away. That warm, optimistic feeling lasted about 5km, until we stopped to check a noise in Andrew’s rear wheel. A broken spoke. Wait, two broken spokes. Suddenly, facing our longest mileage day yet, we had hit a depressingly familiar roadblock.
Now, you can still ride on a wheel with a broken spoke or two. It isn’t as stong, and it doesn’t quite roll straight, but it’s still workable. So we decided to ride on, to the nearest reasonablly-sized city, Shunan, another 20km down the road. However, this city wasn’t going to give up it’s bike shops so easily. After getting directions four times for a bike shop that, I’m increasingly sure, doesn’t exist, we looked up the nearest place on the iPhone. That store didn’t have the right parts, but sent us further on to another bike store that would. As luck would have it, the mechanic at that store was currently out on a errand, and wouldn’t be back soon. The cashier did point us down the road once again, for a yet further bike shop that would, for sure, be able to do it. Long story short, we did manage to get it fixed, although the place we ended up was about 20km out of our way, and by the time we got back to our highway we had lost about 5 hours to the delay.
The optimism was now thoroughly gone, replaced by a grim determination to reach Hiroshima tonight, no matter what. We slogged on like that through dusk and into the night, only to run into another problem after a quick dinner of conveyor-belt sushi. Actually, it was more of the same problem, another broken spoke. We were now within spitting distance of Hiroshima, a tantalizing 25km away, it was 10 o’clock at night, and Andrew’s wheel was looking more like a mobius strip with every passing moment. As it deteriorated, we first loosened, then completely opened the rear brakes to let the wheel drift from side to side without rubbing. We also redistributed Andrew’s gear and panniers between the two healthy bikes to lower the strain. Finally, we made it to our park camping destination near Hiroshima castle around 1:30am, with the trip odometer reading around 135km, a record-breaking day. Exhausted, we sleepily set up our tents and tumbled into them for a short night’s rest.
We woke, ate, and packed up early the next morning, and set out looking for a bike shop that could repair, or preferably replace, Andrew’s wheel. After a couple understocked and closed bike shops, we found a store that could do the repairs. Since they would take a little while, we left that in their hands, and decided to make our way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. And then the skies opened, and we barely found an awning to shelter under before a torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning, drowned the city. The rain kept us pinned down for the better part of an hour, but when the weather cleared, we made it the rest of the way to the museum.
Now, I generally don’t like hurrying through museums. I prefer to take my time, read the plaques, and absorb as much information as I can. But with the somber memory of the Nagasaki museum barely a week behind us, I hoped that the tighter time frame would force me to not take in the horror quite so deeply. And, to some degree, it worked. The tone of the Hiroshima museum seemed markedly different to me, more optimistic and less political, and I’m sure that helped, but after sinking into the facts and figures in Nagasaki (200 meters from the hypocentre, 2000 degrees Celsius, 90% reduced to rubble) it was a bit of a relief to skim lightly, and try to take in a more holistic impression of the world’s first atomic bombing. Of course, with this relief came a bit of guilt, because I believe there is a responsibility, as unaffected outsiders, to unflinchingly observe, and try in some small part to understand. However, I also believe that it is the set of the hearts and minds of people that will help keep anything like this from happening again, and I was grateful that I could experience the museum and memorial, and have it impact me, without being despondent for the rest of the day.
The rest of the evening went by without much event. We went back and picked up Andrew’s bike, which had been fixed in a slightly different way than we thought we had agreed, but the mechanic, pointing to himself and carefully pronouncing “pu-ro-fe-su-yo-na-lu”, fervently swore that our problems were behind us. We can only hope. After that, we devoured a delicious dinner of okonomiyaki, a massive Japanese pancake/omlette packed with delicious things and covered in sauce. We sat at the bar and ate ours right off the big iron-plate grill it was prepared on, which kept it wonderfully piping hot to the last bite. Now, we are holed up in a McDonalds, waiting for the on-again off-again rain to be off again, and discussing our near-future route, timing, islands and deadlines. We will probably try to get a little ways out of town before camping, both to make the coming days easier and to hopefully find a dry, out of the way place to set up. Looking out the window at the dark, rainy streets, try as I might I can’t work up the optimism that came so easily the morning before last. Oh well, it’s an adventure, right?
Calves: net cafe …