Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chitose to Sapporo



Between jet-lag and the time it took to put together our bikes, it wasn't until about 11:00am that we had checked out of our hotel and taken the lift down to the surface street. It was drizzling, so I put on my rain cape and everyone else put on their rain gear.

We left the airport in the drizzle, riding across 4 lanes of traffic to get to the exit lane leaving the airport and marked for Sapporo. Within about 10 minutes, the heavy traffic convinced me to ride on the sidewalk that was marked as a bike path, especially since the road went almost immediately under a long tunnel. Fortunately, the rain was relatively warm, so I did not regret leaving my Skoody behind.

As I rode over an overhead bridge, I spotted the Sapporo highway (Number 36) below me. That convinced me to turn everyone around and ride towards the highway on the surface bike path which from the bridge looked like it led directly to Highway 36 rather than the bridge. A couple of false starts later, that bike path dead-ended right into a wire fence. Since it wasn't very tall, I proposed that we lifted our bikes over and climb over the fence:

"We're not even 20 minutes into the tour yet! The airport's still in sight and Piaw's already found something to climb over. We better document this!"

Brooks had his speedplay shoes, which were decidedly unsuitable for such adventure, and decided to take the long way around, meeting us on the other side of the fence. This gave us time to get all three of us over, and for Mark to adjust his brakes and for me to doff my rain cape (since it really was pretty warm) while waiting for him. (The detour around the fence turned out to be incredibly long, as I would discover later)

Riding towards Sapporo, we rode past a Nissin Ramen factory and a Sapporo beer factory before the the traffic got annoying enough to force us to ride on the side walk here and there. I pulled into a mall that had a sports shop, and for 1000 yen, bought an LED light that happened to fit onto my light mount in substitute for my Joystick Maxx which I had left in the charger hanging in my garage. I would discover later that the light was inadequate for any purpose except for being a placebo.

As the rain got heavier, I started getting hungry --- all I had was a Nutrition Bar this morning, and it was inadequate. At the next road side cafe, I looked at the picture menu --- it looked really great, so we went in. It was good to get out of the rain, and I ordered the biggest dish they had and was surprised to find that it came with both noodles and Katsu:
From Hokkaido

I ate quickly and with relish---everyone had told me how expensive Japan was, but this meal blew me away, not only with how tasty and yummy it was (the flavors were extremely delicate, while still being very rich), it was less than $9!

City riding in Sapporo was boring. Not only was the road busy, the rain kept coming on, though never very heavily. Once in Sapporo proper, I saw a sign for a youth hostel. Following it took us to the Sapporo International Youth Hostel, where not only did the staff spoke English, they put us in 2 Japanese style rooms since they weren't busy (they would usually put 4 people in one room).

We took Japanese style baths in the hostel's huge bath --- a Japanese bath is shared --- you take your shower and scrub outside the bath, and only get into the bath to relax, as in a hot tub. Then we went out in search of dinner, though first stopping at the 100 yen store to pick up that most essential of touring gear, the nail clipper. We also got side tracked by Nakajima park right as we crossed the bridge over into Sapporo downtown.

I'm told that Sapporo at night is a pale reflection of nightlife at a major Japanese city, but I definitely suffered a major case of sensory overload by the bright lights, crowds, and smells. In addition, since election day was just a couple of days away, vans with loudspeakers cruised the streets, providing a cacophony of competing political advertising.
From Hokkaido


We never did find Ramen Alley, but we found the new Ramen Alley, and after a bit of browsing, settled at one and had a delicious meal. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by a convenience store to try out some Japanese snacks, including chocolate crusted potato chips.

Brooks had brought his netbook, and took advantage of the free Wifi at the hostel to read e-mail. We didn't know it at the time, but it was the last time we would see internet access on the trip that wasn't tied to my rental phone.

Tatami mats and bedrolls are comfortable if you like sleeping on hard surfaces. Even though our ride wasn't too substantial (45.2km, 121m of climb), we slept early and well.
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