Today is a break day. After cycling with the old man yesterday I realized I don't need a break day. I need it to feel optimal, but even if I don't have one I can still continue cycling, just at a suboptimal level. I'll be more tired, more hurt, but that doesn't mean that I'll enjoy it less. I've no doubt that the old man has gotten further, with less break days, than I have. That really puts things into perspective.
I've gotten so good at / used to cycling trips that I manage to stay in the optimal 'zone' almost all the time. No pesky human interaction because I pre-book hotels, no getting lost because I have offline maps, no camping in random places because I know exactly where the hotels and camp sites are. 'Optimal'.
It doesn't have to be this way, of course. I could just throw my phone away, but a map book and start asking people the way, cycling until it hurts and camping wherever is convenient. But that just doesn't feel right. That is, at least by my standards, a worse situation than now. I have it easier thanks to technology. Pretending that technology doesn't exist is just denying reality and making things artificially harder on yourself. You can never go back. Progress must be made.
So I made progress. Today I entered the locations of camp sites, hotels, scenic roads and places to avoid into my offline maps. I made a plan to do certain distances every day, and I think I've fleshed out how to get back to the Tokyo area. I can take break days for rain, but my general start and end points of each day are pretty much decided. There's some tough days ahead, but nothing much tougher than what I've done already. And even if it was tougher, if the old man can do it, then so can I. He inspires me. Thanks to him I have no excuse to feel like shit at the end of the day.
I'm going to head north-east tomorrow, starting to make my way towards Kanazawa. It may rain tomorrow and the day after, but the weather predicts that it'll be sunny and hot after that for quite some time. The first stage of the trip is over. Now I'm in the heart of it.