I have believed for many years that the world would be a better place if everyone traveled more. Seeing new places and new cultures unlocks new ways to see the world. It expands your mind, opens your view of your place in the grand scheme of things, and it simultaneously makes you appreciate what you have at home. From the subtle differences of one American town to another, to the outright culture shock I felt when dropped jet-lagged and confused into the middle of downtown Tokyo I find I always learn new things while traveling. On this trip I started with a solo ride across part of Japan. I found myself pedaling along trying to wrap my head around many of the differences that I saw everywhere. Little things would take up hours of my thoughts as I tried to rationalize why this culture had developed the way it had. For instance I found myself asking why is there not one piece of broken glass on the ground in all of Japan? Unlike the USA where I’m trained to constantly watch for tire-popping glass-shards, I never saw even a hint of glass on my entire ride. Surely people in Japan must occasionally drop things? Is there just some social obligation to clean up after yourself that American’s often don’t have? Or are the street cleaners there just better then ours? The things that are different then home (good and bad) are the things that really stand out. Even with many hours of solo pedaling I’m not sure if I really worked out or made sense of a lot of things I saw in Japan, but that’s not really the point. All that time spent reasoning and trying to understand the new things you see is like a mental exercise in opening your mind. Unlike learning about cultures from a book or the internet actually immersing yourself in them effortlessly engages your mind and puts it to work. I really believe traveling is the ultimate educator. It shows you different ways of life and increases your compassion for other people.
Travel Log [ Expand All ]
It had been a busy month leading up to this trip. Fairdale displayed it’s 2015 bikes at the Interbike Tradeshow just days before I left on my Japan trip. I had been so busy getting ready for and working at the tradeshow that I had done almost no riding to prepare myself. I hadn’t even planned out what bike I would ride or gotten gear together for myself. This all kind of hit me as I flew back from Las Vegas realizing I was heading to Japan in only 2 days. Typically I also had managed to get very sick at the tradeshow and was feeling like hustling to get myself ready for a big trip was going to be a huge pain. I borrowed some Blackburn bags and a front rack from Fairdale team rider (and neighbor) Leif. He also helped me set up a Weekender Archer bar bike for the trip. It was a sample bike we made in the Electro-Silver color and happened to be a large (which was my size). With only a short around-the-block test ride I packed up the bike into a cardboard bike box along with all my bags and gear. The $200 bike fee United charges each way was painful but at least I had a direct flight from Denver straight to Tokyo.
Wide awake at 4am I spent a while stretching and catching up on emails on my tablet. At 7am breakfast started and I was first in line. I started with the “Traditional Western” buffet and had a completely non-traditional western breakfast consisting of french fries, miso soup, iceberg lettuce and white rice. Being vegetarian in Japan can be challenging for sure! I felt a million times better then I did the day before and was excited to get out on my bike. My plan was to ride from Tokyo along the coast to my destination in Nagoya. The company that imports Fairdale into Japan was having their 35th anniversary and they had brought me over to be part of the celebration. Rather than flying over for just the few days of the event I flew in a bit early so I’d have time to do the ride. I had planned absolutely nothing for my trip and barely even looked at a map. Over planning can kill a trip. Instead I was just going to work it out on the fly.
I checked my map and saw that there was a castle near my hotel. Out pedaling by 6am I rode up to the Odawara castle. It was really amazing. Not like a stone castle you’d find in Europe, but a big beautiful and ornate temple looking place. Huge walls and gates and a feeling of oldness that made it seem almost holy. Perhaps it was, but the spacious and tranquil grounds sure were a nice change from the traffic. My route had me cutting across a peninsula today and I really didn’t know what to expect. It appeared I would be going over a mountain range but I had no idea how big or how far it was. I mapped out some back roads to cut down on traffic and headed inland. Immediately I started climbing and the little roads I was on were so steep! Honestly they were the steepest roads I have ever seen. I think you could probably fall down these roads they were so steep. Every pedal took a stand-up, gut-busting effort. I climbed something like 1400 feet in less than a mile. When I finally reached the top I felt like a super hero and encountered a confusing sign with highway 11 shooting off in 3 different directions. I rested there for a while and spent some time figuring out which of the “11’s” I should take. Luckily choosing correctly I was rewarded with a long decent where I was able to cruise at about 30 mph sitting completely upright letting the wind cool me down. I stayed at the speed of traffic and had a wonderful coasting cruise for a few miles.
My morning ride put me right into the middle of the school run. I rode with packs of kids pedaling to school. It was fun and a few of them wanted to race me. We rode together for probably 4 miles before they turned off towards their school. I gotta say it seems like a better life with kids riding bikes to school. My route jumped around a bit but I finally got myself back to the coast.
Along the ride there was a lot of small road construction zones. There was always a flagger directing traffic and often helping me find where the bike path might pick up again. The flagger guys were always stoked and waving their flag like crazy. Today I found a gravel bike path that wound its way far off the busy highway I was following. I was in the middle of a farmers field with no one around when I came across one guy running a weed whacker and a flagger dude. It seemed so comical to me because we were so far from anyone. The flag guy took it very seriously and waved furiously to have me ride on the far edge of the trail as far as possible from the lonely weed whacker. I laughed for a while about that moment.
I won’t spend a ton of time going over the events but they are certainly worth mentioning. 35 years is a pretty big milestone for any business and it was quite an honor to be invited over for the celebration. MX brought over people from all the brands they distribute. I got to catch up with old friends Steve Crandall from FBM and Mat Hoffman from Hoffman Bikes. I also got to meet a lot of younger riders and Thor from Surly Bikes (a design engineer there). It ended up being a really cool group. We did some light street riding in the morning and seeing all the different riding styles together was really cool. Everyone was really mellow and clicked together well.
We all took a train together back into Tokyo in the evening after the last event. I felt like every rider who was on the trip had become a friend. Pretty awesome group! I had a little time the next day before my flight to wander around and shop a bit for my petsitters. You could easily spend weeks exploring Tokyo, but even the little bit I did see was entertaining. Great people watching and interesting shops everywhere. A quick train ride to the airport and I was headed back home.