The homecoming

Things don't always go the way you expect them to go.

Cycling photos!

Yesterday morning I was actually relieved to find my bicycle intact at the hotel parking lot. After yesterday's tampering I had notified the hotel of the attempt and asked if there was any security footage. They said there wasn't any and were completely indifferent about the whole thing. Not very nice. I loaded up the bike and set out for Narita Airport Terminal 2.

A short and uneventful ride later I arrived at the terminal. I had to pass a security/passport check to cycle in to the airport, which was kind of funny because right after the check I took a wrong turn and ended up on a private parking spot somewhere without anyone coming after me or telling me off. I soon found the right way, and even managed to find a bigger elevator than last time so I could just take the bike up to the departures level without incident.

I managed to bag the bike without any problems and finished about half an hour before the check-in counter opened. I had been a bit worried that, because my spare bike tool was a lot smaller than my primary one, it wouldn't have enough leverage to loosen some of the bolts, but everything turned out ok. Everything fit fine, and I added some soft light-weight pieces of luggage to the bike bag in strategic places for padding. After a short wait the check-in counter opened and I checked in the bike and the dry bag containing three of my panniers, taking one of them with me as carry-on. Apparently my frequent flyer status is starting to pay off as my changed ticket is one level up from the lowest economy class. Unfortunately that did mean that there were only a limited number of seats and I had to settle for a center seat, for which the BA employee apologized profusely.

The slightly-better-than-economy-class seats were quite nice, but a fat Australian was sitting next to me and taking up more space than I felt comfortable with. On my other side was a middle-aged Japanese man who decided that I would be the perfect English conversation partner to practice his (excellent) English on. We talked a bit about traveling, and for some reason he kept asking me the price of everything I mentioned. I've noticed many Chinese people doing that right off the bat, but Japanese tend to be too polite to ask.

The Heathrow arrival started out alright, with me flashing through immigration and almost immediately getting my luggage back, but soon turned to disaster. After some tedious fiddling to get the loops out of the chain and the derailleur in the right position, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get my rear wheel to fit in the frame! Serious problems! In my mind I was already cycling back to my girlfriend's place for a glorious homecoming, but that's a bit difficult to do without a rear wheel.

I tried for maybe 10-20 minutes to put various amounts of force into trying to bend the frame a bit to get the wheel in, but decided that it was too risky and too hassleous to continue, so I headed over to the taxi stand to find a taxi. 95 FUCKING POUNDS!? No fucking way. That's typical of Heathrow I guess, you're going to be ripped off on transport no matter which way you travel. I told the driver fuck you ("No, thank you") and went online to find some cheaper services. The second company I called could do it for 25GBP in a small car, but I chose the MPV for 45GBP just in case my luggage would be too big to fit. I feel sorry for all the helpless tourists overpaying for those expensive taxis. That said, I'm sure I could've found a cheaper way to travel had I spent more time, but my patience was running thin.

The taxi was supposed to arrive after an hour but the guy showed after 20 minutes, having swapped jobs with someone else. The ride home was of course cluttered with traffic, and it took over an hour to get back. Cycling would not actually have been much slower, which is saying a lot given the long distance between my place and the airport. The driver was an interesting Afghan dude who had moved to London a few years ago. He had some good stories to tell, and of course some racist remarks about various ethnicities as we passed through said ethnicities' areas of London. It's good to get a different perspective on a place, though. The areas I considered below average are the ones he considered nice. A healthy reminder that I've had quite a privileged life and shouldn't complain so much.

Back home I scattered my luggage around the room and spent some time with my girlfriend before finally shutting down from jet lag. Silly organic body not being able to change sleeping rhythms on-the-fly..

Today I re-normalized myself. I did shopping, banking, taxes, laundry and got a haircut. I also sorted out the trip photos and selected some for a public album. Yes, the album is hosted on Facebook, which annoys me, but it annoys me even more to host photos on multiple places at once. I predict that the link to the album will probably stop working in 5 years or so, let's see how that will turn out.

I also unpacked my poorly re-packed bike again and gave the rear wheel another try. This time, putting a lot more force into it, I managed to get it in! (huehue) The gears are working fine on the rear sprocket, but the front one is broken somehow, and the front derailleur physically hits the sprocket and gets bent when shifting gears. It's going to need some serious bike shop attention, I'm afraid. But at least the frame wasn't bent out of shape too much. Although I should get a professional opinion on that too.

Closing thoughts:

  • The best days really were the days of the most suffering.
  • I feel more at home in business hotels than in my own room. I need to work on improving this situation by slapping some money at it.
  • There's a million things I need to do now that I'm back. I'm trying to avoid rushing through all of them and tiring myself out, because I know there will always be more things to do. New things always pop up after you've finished the old ones, so better to take your time and enjoy.
  • Must keep this momentum and improve my life.
Posted in Spirit of Japan 2