Thursday, May 11, 2006

Golden Week Day 1

Okay, I've put this off long enough. I need to start writing things down or I'll start forgetting.

Pictures can be added later when I get them all together.

Golden Week Trip Day 1 - Monday, May 1, 2006

The 4:30 bell rang at work. "Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu!" This is what you say at the office when you leave before other people. You know, like when you clock out when the shift bell rings and your work shift is, um, over. And you aren't required to work anymore. Something that is completely natural to do if you're a Yank, but somehow is considered rude and something you must apologize for over here. "I apologize for leaving before the rest of you!" I'm surprised people ever go home, what with all this pressure to not leave before everyone else.

Did I care? Nope. 4:30. Shift's done. Time to hit the road. I had been smart and packed everything in my car the night before, so everything was ready to go.

I felt very good about this trip, for a couple of reasons. One was that I was heading out on my first road trip since the previous summer and was looking forward to the thrill of exploration. Another was that my odometer hit this number as I pulled into the parking lot.

Three thousand kilometers. Nice round number. And a good number to start a road trip from.

4:30. 3000. And away we go.

A quick stop by the apartment to check the mail, a quick stop for gas, a quick stop for coffee, off through Tomakomai, down the coast until Monbetsu, up through Biratori and Hidaka, over the Nissho Pass and down into Obihiro. Besides those first three stops, and a bit of dropping the speed down while heading over the pass because of the SHEER AMOUNT OF DEER on both sides of the road, I drove straight on to Obihiro. I got into town a little bit after nine and made a rush for the east side of town, praying, "PLEASE be open. PLEASE be open." all the while.

Why the rush? Why the prayer? Because I wanted to go here.

Marumatsu Shokudo, the home of the best damn butadon I've ever eaten.

I saw it off to the left in the distance, and the lights...

...WERE ON! I yelled out, "YES!!!!!!!" Butadon time!

I parked my car and walked on in.

The lady that ran the shop saw me and said, "Hey! You're back!" After which I said, "One butadon, please."

I talked a bit with some of the other customers there, and after they left, I asked to use the restroom. The restroom was inside her house, which the restaurant happened to be attached to. I walked through the swinging door into her living room and said hello to her husband, who was lounging in front of the TV munching on some snacks and drinking a beer. It was slightly bizarre, but added to the ambiance of the experience of eating there.

The lady that runs this place is such a cool person. I told her I was heading over to Ikeda Station and planning on sleeping in my car there, and she made me a bowl of egg flower soup for free. "It's cold tonight. This'll keep you warm." What an awesome person.

After eating a delicious butadon and downing that egg flower soup, and a bit more conversation, I headed back into central Obihiro for a quick bath at a sento (translation: public bath), got cleaned up, brushed my teeth, changed into my pjs, and took off for Ikeda Town. There's a big parking lot next to the station that is free, and with the plan I had for the next day, it was the best place to spend the night.

But before I got out there, I had to make a quick stop to get a photo.

Of this.

This billboard just cracks me up. I know I posted the picture of the bus before, but seeing this billboard come up on the roadway with what's written on it standing out in these huge letters, followed by the "Nice" showing up as you get closer, is too funny for words. And yes, I have a dirty mind.

Then it was on over to Ikeda Station, where I parked my car and got everything ready for the night's sleep. First, I took the neck rest off my seat. Then I pushed it all the way forward. Then I tipped the seat all the way back until it was flat up against the rear seat. Viola! One EK Wagon bed.

Then I rolled out my sleeping bag, put a couple of blankets over it, and crawled into bed. My first thought? "Man, this car is spacious!" Then it was off to dreamland.


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