I went from coast to coast, inland over mountains, along streams and rivers, around lakes, and up and over the Alps. And so, my first thought when I stopped in the water side park that I would camp in that night in Osaka was, “ Thanks god I don’t have to pack up my tent one more time”. The routine, the rout aspects of touring, and I suppose of any long endeavor, were wearing me a little thin. Striking the tent each morning only to pitch it later that night, over and over again. Taking everything off my bike only to reload it the next morning. These daily occurrences, while part of the overall touring experience, had lost their excitement after doing it for two months.
What hadn’t lost its charm however, was pedaling for hours upon hours upon hours each day. From before even coming to Japan, I had been biking for nearly a month in parts of Europe and Ireland. I had been sitting on a saddle, churning my legs, finding the hand position that kept my pinky fingers from going numb, non-stop. And it never once wore thin. Sitting at this computer, there are daily things I do that aren’t exciting, but are part and parcel of my life. What keeps me going, what keeps those routines from taking over and dulling me, is that each and every day I get on my bike. It might not be for many miles, but not a day goes by that I don’t crank it out a little.
Every time I hit the jagged coastlines of Japan, I was overwhelmed by their beauty, by their cutting grace. Every river I pedaled alongside gurgled and flowed within me. Every mountain pass I struggled to overtake, every downhill that I swore I was going to crash, pulsed through my veins. Every cookie cutter clogged city I sped to get through, every small fishing village I slowed to enjoy were roadside attractions enticing my along my way.
Throughout my time in Japan, I was being spoken to by more than one language I didn’t understand. Each pedal stroke though helped me decipher what was being said, and as I appreciated each day and each offering that was given, I slowly became more fluent (my Japanese remained shitty). Getting bummed early on in Hokkaido, getting soaked and distressed in Kamikochi, being nearly blown off the map by a typhoon; were all just not-so-gentle conversations. They, along with all that I saw and experienced, were really saying the same thing over and over: Smile.
So I smile. I get on my bike and I smile because I love to bike. I close my eyes and dream of Japan, and I smile. I plan future bike tours, and I smile. I brush my teeth, cook my food, go to work and do all the other things needed to be done, and I smile. I see others on bikes and I smile. Its hard work to be grumpy on a bike, and for that I smile too.
The final part of my three part series of my Japan bike ride featured on Fietspad