Cycling Kyushu: Done! / by Ryan Mundt

GOING HOME THE SLOW, FAST WAY

I got a good night sleep and am up by 9am. Today will be a full day on the train back to Tokyo, covering all the ground I just spent 8 days cycling. My goal is to get on the train around 10 or 11am so I can get back into the city at a decent hour.

When we go outside we see that our bikes have a layer of ash on them from sitting out. The weather is great today in Kagoshima. Blue skies. We sit around for a bit and chat and have coffee and chocolate before it’s time to go.

At Kagoshima Station, packed and ready to roll back to the neons of Tokyo.

We go outside and get a group photo. I wish them luck on the rest of their trip and I hop on the bike for my last ride…15 minutes to the station. First I stop off to write and send a few postcards.

When I get to the station there is the biggest group of school girls I’ve ever seen. They all notice me and I’m hit with a barrage of “hellos!” and smiles. I can’t help but have a huge smile on my face!

I get to the ticket counter and find out that the next Tokyo-bound train leaves in 5 minutes and I still need to pack down my bike. Looks like I’ll have to wait till the next one at 11:30am. Oh well, still before noon.

I cruise the souvenir shop and pick out some goodies to take home and to the office. Kagoshima is known for their sweet potatoes, so most of the snacks are sweet potato based. All Japanese people must study this kind of trivia when they are little!

Finally I get on the train. It’s the start of the line so it’s completely empty. I stash my bagged bike behind my seat at the back of the carriage and now it’s time to sit back and ride!

Wow, it’s all over! I now have the next 6 and a half hours plus to reflect on the entire journey. And what a journey it has been! Started off absolutely horribly and quickly turned epic when I hit Kyushu.

Next stop, T-town!

Bad luck aside, I realize if I had it to do over I would actually skip the Hiroshima to Shimonoseki bit. There really wasn’t anything redeeming about the area, no offense to the people that live there. Plus it would’ve been two or three extra days of being able to tour Kyushu, which impressed me beyond belief!

Since I’ve returned from the trip, I can’t stop thinking of what will be my next challenge! I’ve wanted to cycle America for a long time and now I can really imagine doing it! As long as I can get rid of this terrible knee pain and poor circulation.

The best thing about these tours is the solitude and focus. When you’re out there on the bike, nothing else matters. All you think and care about is the road. All the worries you had back home don’t matter. I set out with some things on my mind and thought as always, that this will be a good opportunity to figure things out. But the truth is, I didn’t think about any of the stresses back in Tokyo…which was awesome! The only things I had to worry about where things I encountered on the road (and there were many) flats, food, where to camp and charging my damn phone.

I transfer at Shin-Osaka to another train. The weather in Tokyo calls for rain, but I’m really hoping it’s just a sprinkle so I can ride home rather than take the trains during rush hour.

Once I get past Nagoya the skies gradually get darker and darker. When I get to Shin-Yokohama my hopes of peddling home are crushed by the nearly black sky. Damnit!

I roll into Shinagawa. I can’t believe I’m back in Tokyo. I haven’t thought of this place for over a week!

It’s pissing down rain and I have to make my way out of the shinkansen and to the Yamanote Line carrying my bike, two bags and a bag of souvenirs through the crowded concourse. Did I mention that my knees are in serious pain, I’m wearing flip-flops and the floor is slippery?

But the worst would be getting onto the always crowded Inokashira Line at Shibuya. The poor girl next to me kept getting pushed further and further into my bike.

FINALLY I arrive at my station, completely over this. I put the tire back on and cycle in the rain to my apartment.

Home, sweet home!