The trouble factor

Some days, everything is just a little bit harder. It's only natural. Not every day can be like yesterday with perfectly flat roads, perfect weather and a camp site right when you need it.

Camping is a lot of fun. Un-camping is not. It takes me between 30 minutes and an hour to pack up all my crap and get the bike ready to leave. It's energy and time that's essentially lost, and could have been used cycling. Then again, the evenings of camping usually more than make up for it, especially the sunset views. Still, every time I camp it feels like I'm building up a 'take proper care of yourself' debt. I'm not entirely sure it's a rational feeling given that usually when I camp there's an onsen nearby or at least a shower. I just feel comfortable being at a cheap hotel/hostel every few days. But the ratio could definitely use some tuning, in favour of camping.

Today cost even more energy though, because the tire I had pumped up yesterday was flat again in the morning. Not a great start. Replacing the inner tube is usually not too difficult, except for when you're in a hurry to get going and you find out too late that the spare tube your friend gave you actually has a puncture in it. FUUUUUU. That meant that I had to use my last spare tube for today's fix, making it highly necessary for me to find a bike shop to get some new spares. More delays..

I rode about 15km north to a place called Sakata. I was about to ask someone where to find a bicycle shop when I saw one on a side street. It was run by an old(er) man and features mostly mama chari's, the ones with the basket in front, so I wasn't sure if he would have the right tubes for me. Turns out he had two left that fit my tire width exactly, whereas I had been stuffing slightly wider ones in there because I simply couldn't find the right width anywhere in the UK. Just as I was about to leave the man told me to wait and started tinkering with my brake levers. He then told me that the cables were all wrong and that he could fix it, so I let him have a go at it, and asked him to have a look at the gears as well.

Watching this guy work was amazing. He knew exactly what he was doing and what was wrong with my bicycle. I knew the London shop that I bought it from didn't do a perfect job, but damn, they just outright sucked compared to this guy. He set up the brake lever positions properly, fixed the cable length, adjusted and cut the gear cables, and even taught me how to do some of the simpler gear tuning myself while I'm on the road. He never once commented on my Japanese and just treated me like a normal person. That's actually kinda nice, cause it's been a while. Also, as far as I can recall, this is the only time where I've been 100% happy with the way my gear shifts work. Brilliant man!

The bicycle master also recommended me a road, which was beautiful and devoid of cars. As I was heading north the sky started getting darker and darker. During my lunch break I checked the weather and noticed a very big rainy area coming my way .I cycled on for another hour or so and then started considering roadside hotels. The first one I tried turned out to be 6800 yen, fairly steep. When I mentioned that to the receptionist he told me there was a cheaper hotel about 15 km's north. So I headed there instead, only to find that it was 7600 yen! So much for cheapness.. Then I turned to the internet, which told me of the whereabouts of another hotel in the center of the town I was at. I Skyped them up and their rate was 5600 yen. Still not brilliant, but I don't have a lot of choice here. As I headed there I passed another hotel, but it turned out to be more expensive, so I moved on. I cycled around town once, then headed to the hotel. Just as I pulled in at started to rain.

The weather report says there will be showers throughout the day tomorrow, but based on satellite imagery it looks like it'll pass sooner than that. Hopefully I can cycle in the dry tomorrow, or at least for the latter part of tomorrow. If it really does look like it'll rain all day then maybe I'll take a break day and do some laundry. Random towns always have some odd sights to see as well, so I can keep myself busy either way.

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Posted in Spirit of Japan 2