Thursday, 29 August 2013

The long drive home

Monday 26th August 2013

Weather: Beautiful in Sado; the clouds were creating some excellent shapes within a bright blue sky.

MP3 track of the day: Suite 2 – Band of Brothers

 I lay wide awake within my futon at 6:30am. Sadly the woman with the hot pants hadn't entered my hotel room last night (no one did) but that wasn't why I couldn't sleep. Even though my ferry didn't depart for another three hours (and I was a ten minute drive away) I was still worried about missing it. Knowing that I wouldn't get any more sleep I decided it was better to wait at the ferry terminal (and not worry) than wait here. I therefore got ready, checked-out and had a quick look around the hotels souvenir shop where I saw a lovely model made of reeds (at only £6 I bought it). I then went to my car and paused. Now would be the start of my epic journey across Northern-Honshu; was I ready? With a confirmed nod I started the car, drove ten minutes and then turned the engine off again as I waited for the ferry. I had arrived two hours early.

Even though it was hot I stayed within the car and ate my breakfast. I then planned my route home (I'm going to head all the way up Northern-Honshu's western coast until I hit Akita. I shall then swing east past Kakunodate – where my summer holiday for this year, and last year, began – until I reach Miyako. A more simple but longer route than Thursday). Once done I looked at the model I'd just bought before I started work on my blog.

Once again I hadn't finished my blog when the call to embark the ferry was given. Once embarked I was glad to see that it as the same ferry as three days ago. It even had the same staff and so, once again, I inquired into when I had to be back at my car before taking my usual seat, outside, on the 4th floor. I sat their writing my blog, taking photos and drinking and eating. For the most part I was the only one outside. I couldn't understand why all the Japanese were inside sleeping; sure the trip seemed a little more 'choppy' than the trip to Sado (I was feeling a little rough), but the view was superb. The water was so blue and the sky was just a shade or two lighter. The clouds were the best bit; hovering above the island of Sado they created such powerful shapes that I just had to photograph them every-so-often throughout my trip. As I sat their, on my own, with such a wonderful view passing me by I felt very fortunate; what a weekend.

To reach my car I had to pass all of the 'foot passengers' waiting to disembark. It was here where I met the Jehovah's Witness again; she remembered my name but I had no idea what her's was. After giving the minimum amount of pleasantries possible (and still looking polite) I made my excuses and dived into the stairwell which led to my car. Once at my car I made sure that I had everything and re-checked my map. Luckily for me, the ferry terminals exit led straight onto the road which I wanted to take (route '135'). My map indicated that, at first, it would bend this 'way and that' through the suburbs of Niigata before hugging the coast and heading north. Suddenly the doors of the ferry opened, the time was 11:45am and, due to being one of the first cars on, I was almost the first car off. I produced an 'F1' style start, made my way through the outskirts of Niigata before pitting for fuel. Once my car was full (I have no idea what they filled my car with however, it took over three hours of driving to loose a single bar from my 'petrol o meter') I set off along the open road.

At first trees blocked my view of the sea. This didn't matter as I had a beautiful mountain range to my right and the odd industrial building to entertain me. Niigata is a big port therefore there were a lot of industrial sites producing raw materials to be shipped all over Japan. As soon as the industrial units disappeared so too did the traffic. It was at this point that the trees died away and the road ran along the waterfront. The road was open and so I knew that I had to take this opportunity and go as quickly as my conscience allowed. In three hours the 'school run' would start therefore I knew, later on, my pace would be slowed.

This was the best part of my trip home. It seemed that I was the only one on the road. I had a stunning view to my left consisting of white sanded beaches and a fantastic light-blue sea. To my right beautiful rocky cliffs flowed along the coastline broken up by the odd Japanese sea-side town. The weather too had followed me off the boat and with the air-con on, plenty of food (and drink) plus my sun glasses, life couldn't get any better.

  Of course this magical world of perfection couldn't last forever. Traffic started to increase as I was getting closer to the next big urban area north of Niigata. Still it mattered not; I would only follow the traffic for a short period before they would head inland. I, on the other hand, would by-pass the city still clinging to the cost. At this point I was very hungry; it was close to 3pm and I hadn't eaten since 8am. I was tempted to go into the town however I stuck on course; Sakata city was only another 30kms north and, this time, I couldn't avoid it. Here was were I would make a short stop for food.

Fortunately I didn't have to deviate to find what I was looking for. I pulled into the car park of a McDonald's and proceeded to eat with lighting speed. The time was 3:20pm and, luckily, high school students had finished for the day. Just like in Miyako (as there is no where else to go) McDonald's was plagued by students, most of which ate the cheapest thing on the menu whilst occasionally staring at me. This actually helped as it made me eat faster and, by 3:45pm, I was back in my car heading north once more.

All too soon I crossed the boarder into the prefecture of Akita. Still with quite a way until I reached the city of Akita I clung to the coastline like an infant clings to their mother. The view had changed but was still beautiful; the sun had lowered therefore the sea glistened from it's late-afternoon rays. Due to being higher above sea level than earlier, the beaches had being substituted by grassy cliff faces which went out to sea, from the road, for about 200 yards before plummeting towards the ocean. It was within this scene that a woman, driving her daughter somewhere, decided to pull out in front of me and proceed at 45KM PER HOUR! At first, as her daughter was clearly of school age, this didn't both me as I guessed that they must be local and that she would be turning off soon; she did not. What made it worse was that the Japanese had apparently run out of white paint when they got to this part of the road (I had a road marking which equates to double-yellows in the UK) and I was confronted by a continuing orange line. Pointing out of the window and talking to her daughter seemed to take priority over driving therefore her speed changed every few seconds however, never going above 50KMS PER HOUR (30 MILES AN HOUR). I was behind her for forty minutes until a white dashed line appeared. Within this time I had vented a lot of anger towards the female gender; by the time I passed her, in my world, women were no longer allowed to drive, hold key positions in multinational corporations or vote. Due to her continual speed changing she had destroyed my 'coast viewing' and had driven me up the wall. Once the white line came up I screamed past her, not caring what was coming the other way, and swerved in front of her to make a point (though I turned the wheel a little too hard and the car reacted in a different way to what I expected. It felt as though it was going to tip over). All of my earlier work was ruined and I was cursing myself for getting hungry, and THAT WOMAN for driving slowly. The time was around 5:30pm when I entered Akita.

The 'great push north' was over. With reaching Akita I'd viewed the entire northern coast from Niigata to Akita. Content I swung east and, due to being within the city of Akita, I prepared myself for more traffic jams and traffic lights. After one, fairly light, traffic jam the road became a dual carriage way and I, quite surprisingly, was able to drive through Akita at a good pace. Once on it's eastern boarder the road became one lane and things started to slow however, it wouldn't be long before the road I was on went south and I would turn off and continue east. The sun was now setting and with that, the traffic seemed to die down. Once more, after getting past two lorries on a 'over-taking lane', I had a clear road in front of me and I was able to pick up my speed.

Due to it now being dark, the next part of the trip was uneventful and I arrived in Morioka (capital of the prefecture which I live in) at around 7:30pm. I had enough petrol to get me home however, with petrol being significantly cheaper in Morioka than in my seaside town, I filled up before leaving. As the attendant was filling up my car I thought about just how much driving I'd done this August. After working it out at home I reckon I've done around 3,011kms (1,870 miles) and spent 36,285 yen (£239.03) on fuel. This would be my last big car journey until next summer (I plan to fly to Okinawa during the winter break) and I was a little sad. Once the car was full I started the last leg of my trip down the, now very familiar, route '106'. The main road between Morioka and my town.

With it being late at night I managed to get home much earlier than I expected. With work tomorrow I had planned on looking at tomorrow's lesson schedule (plus preparing anything which I would need) before going to bed however, as the time was 9:20pm, I unpacked all of my stuff, sorted and cleaned all of my rubbish, got everything ready for work tomorrow and then went to bed. I finally fell asleep around 11:30pm.

So this marks the end of my summer holiday. The next blog update is going to be a while so, until then, have fun!

Toodle Pip!

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