I woke up later than I had hoped on the third morning of my big bike trip across Japan. Like the previous day in Kobe, the ride’s tolls on my body were more than apparent. Only this time, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue. When I got out of bed my left knee immediately collapsed, and I almost smashed my head on the bunk across the room. I had a huge rash on my upper thigh from the seat that made it painful even to sit in a chair. A few minutes of playing with Google Earth showed that I had covered roughly 220km in the last two days, many of them through some very steep mountains. I think the riding portion of my trip has to come to an end.
I took a few minutes to compose myself and looked around the room; the first thing I noticed, to be honest, were the electrical outlets. I love staying in hostels – aside from the low price tag, they’re great for making friends and exchanging stories with other experienced travelers. But several problems plague me time and time again. One of them is electrical sockets. Hostel rooms usually have four or more beds, but only one or two outlets. Having just come off of the road, everyone has a camera, cell phone or laptop that they need charged. It quickly turns into a fight for socket time. But not here! This four-bed room had eighteen outlets. It’s a winner in my book.
Then I drew open the shades. I was right on the beach! The room had a fantastic ocean view, and the front door opened directly onto the sand; I somehow didn’t quite notice how close I was when I came in the night before. Yup, a winner in my book alright. Too bad it’s so far out of town and separated from everything by yet another large mountain.
I think I’ve had quite enough mountains for this lifetime.
I checked out and unlocked my bike, dreading the feeling that the seat would bring. I found that by positioning myself farther back than usual I was able to make it tolerable. I rode back towards the city of Tokushima, stopping briefly at a Manga Kissaten for some internet time along the way. A manga kissaten is a place where you pay – usually 100yen for 15 minutes – to be inside a sort of “amusement park for nerds”-type building. They have comics, internet, TV, movies, video games, computer games, arcade games, everything you could ever want. You just pay for as long as you’re in the building. There are some pretty interesting folks inside that place, let me tell ya.
By the time I got back to Tokushima it was nearly 10am. I knew I I had no chance of riding all the way back to Kyoto in time for New Year’s, especially in my present condition, so I decided that the best thing to do would be to give my bike to a homeless person and catch a highway bus home. But in Japan the homeless are often much more difficult to identify than in the US – they generally look like everyone else, wearing clean clothes and bathing regularly. I didn’t want to insult anyone by giving it to the wrong person.
While standing in front of the station and pondering my little dilemma, two women approached me asking for donations for some “save-the-children” fund. Instead of spare change, I offered them a bicycle. You should’ve seen the looks on their faces. But after explaining my situation, they told me that they’d be happy to give it to the homeless on my behalf. I left it with them and went inside to look into the bus schedules.
Then it hit me. I was back on Shikoku! Shikoku, the island containing Dogo Onsen, the one place that I really wanted to visit but ran out of time for during my Mega Trip. I had left Kyoto over three days ago with one change of clothes, intending only on a day trip to Kobe. But I went ahead and bought a bus ticket in the opposite direction.
The adventure continues.