Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Suzuka, 2004

Having spent the previous days traveling about the Japanese countryside with our esteemed tour guide Steve, Tanja, Alvin and I have all turned in for the evening at Steve’s rental flat in Fukuoka...
Thursday, 10/07After our morning coffee, we set off for Steve’s workplace. The walk was quite pleasant as we passed through the nearby park. The park’s lake is surrounded by a 2K padded jogging trail. There’s also room for walking/bicycling with several workout stations. Steve pointed out that the large tent/awning structures were for the homeless.

After passing a remnant of an old castle wall, we past an ancient moat now filled with plant life. Nearing the busy city, I rejoined my friend’s. (The bumps) Steve left us for breakfast at an all you can eat buffet while he ran errands with the van. As we finished breakfast seated outside, Steve pulled up. He took us to a Japanese garden. A traditional style house overlooking a small lake and nearby waterfall nestled on an isolated hectare in the center of Fukuoka. Tanya fed the multitude of quite large carp as we walked through the open-air house. After passing the waterfall, crossing the small stone footbridge we stopped to view a couple having wedding pictures taken inside the house. Dressed in traditional white kimono & black tux, our viewing was cut short by an invasion of mosquitoes. Sitting in the parking lot waiting for Steve to return, Tanya made the comment of how funny their visa’s are. We’re called Aliens… This launched Alvin am me into a “Deep” discussion about Aliens, Roswell, Area 51 and UFO’s.

Steve drove us back to get our belongings from his flat before we said our goodbyes. Giving us directions out of the city, we set off for Sasebo. After driving along the coast past Karatsu with the castle in the distance, we stopped for petrol. Later we stopped at a convenience store for drinks and make change in case we spotted the Hamburger bus.
Standing outside the store we noticed a strange smell. The pungent odor came from a man standing in front of a large metal bucket belching black smoke, as the man was busily burning the store’s gomi. Japan burns all “recyclables.” (i.e.; plastic, paper, cardboard, etc) Never finding our lunch stop we continued non-stop to Sasebo, arriving around 4PM. Tanya & Alvin walked back to Hausten-Bausch, while I prepared for the next leg of my journey. As Clyde, Nellie & I were supposedly departing for Suzuka early that evening!

Clyde & Nellie arrived at 5PM. Nellie made me lunch while Clyde drove the van to Fukuda’s to pick up a motorcycle. Clyde had promised to transport the “Monkey-Davidson” to Suzuka for Mrs. Fukuda’s son. The “Monkey-Davidson” is a Honda trail 90 with police style windshield & saddle bags making the scooter appear to be a miniature Harley.

Returning home Clyde continued loading the van for our trip, including seven 5 gallon plastic jerry cans full of petrol. While Nellie added the final provisions into the van, Clyde & I drove up to his classroom at Darby School (USN) to use the “confUZer” at 9:30PM. We finally departed for Suzuka at 11PM…

Riding shotgun I managed to stay awake for the first 2+ hours of the trip. Driving towards Fukuoka with Stevie “geetarr” Miller cranked, Clyde mentioned how he should probably move over to the right side (left lane) of the road as an oncoming car raced towards us!

After reaching Fukuoka at 12:45AM, (Can you say Groundhog Day?) Clyde ordered Nellie to take over the driving. With Clyde comatose in the rear of the van, I finally fell asleep in the front seat around 1:45AM…

Friday, 10/08
As the van came to a complete stop I awoke to the sound of rain at 4:30AM. As the overwhelming stench of gasoline permeated the inside of the van Clyde awoke, asking Nellie why she’d stopped. Because we need petrol Clyde!

Leaving Sasebo with a full tank, these fuel only fill-up’s certainly lacked the speedy precision of a RASSCAR pit stop. Opening the trunk, Clyde dragged the metal folding chair out along with two 5 gallon jerry cans. Placing 1 can on the chair alongside the gas cap, a siphon was attached and the refueling process started. This method of replenishing the thirsty Toyota Ace van enabled us to reach Suzuka…
Nellie proceeded driving until 6AM after she’d also tried driving on the wrong side of traffic in the rain. We slept for two hours before Clyde resumed his position behind the wheel.

We ran into heavy gridlock in Hiroshima. We managed to crawl a measly 3K in 40 minutes during morning rush hour traffic in the persistent rain. Tired of the melee, Clyde turned onto a relatively non traveled side road meandering up winding hills away from traffic. We slogged along the hillside roads snaking through many tunnels while searching for an entrance to an expressway.

After another rainy refueling stop it was Nellie’s turn to drive again. Driving on the expressway Nellie commented how she could barely see the vehicles in front of her as the spray from slow moving trucks was massive. The further north we drove, the more the rain intensified!

With Clyde driving as we approached our exit for Suzuka, was I supposed to turn there Nellie? Missing the exit which was at a complete stand still we preceded north. Nearing Kyoto we began talking about the numerous temples. Driving through the city passing a temple Clyde said you’d better go see a temple ASSHOLE as he pulled a U-Turn. Nellie & I hopped out and crossed the street to walk up a flight of stairs leading towards the temple.

A long corridor filled with vendors on both sides led to the entrance of the temple’s open structure. I felt slightly out of place walking around in shorts in the rain. (Must be tourists, eh?) As we quickly looked at the many adjoining portions of the temple before dashing back to the van…

Slogging our way towards Noritz we arrive at dusk. Driving through the dimly lit streets profiles of even larger temples are faintly visible. Vainly searching for roads leading to Suzuka, Clyde makes another U-Turn in front of oncoming traffic to enter an overhead causeway. Sensing that we’re going the wrong direction Clyde abandons the road and turns into a giant parking lot of a massive temple, its roof looming towards the sky.

Closed for the evening Clyde pulls alongside another building that turns out to be restrooms. Parking the van underneath the covered entryway Clyde finds a bus driver from a waiting tour bus. Asking for directions she volunteers to draw us a map while telling us you’re a long ways away…

After a final refueling in the parking lot we venture off in search of Kysu, With Clyde threatening to kick me in the “Key-Zoo!” Passing Kysu we’re now approaching the outskirts of Suzuka…Hurray, we’ve almost made it upon finding the sign for Suzuka city! Arriving at 8:30PM we drive around in the dark searching for Bronco Billie’s restaurant.

Now the tricky part! Finishing dinner we’ll need to find Yasushi’s apartment. (Mrs. Fukuda’s son) Of course Clyde doesn’t have directions for finding it. Instead we’ll just simply drive around at night searching the surrounding neighborhoods.

While the first two gas stands are of little assistance, a third gas stand attendant gives us directions towards the cho we’re looking for, as we’ve been racing up & down streets searching for Yasushi’s building.

Driving down a dark unlit road there’s a sudden “BOOM-SMASH-CLUNK!!!” As Clyde proceeds to drive the van over a concrete parking divider…
About 10 minutes later Clyde finds the apartment building! Entering! Yasushi’s 2nd floor apartment around 10PM we wearily lie down on the Spartan floor. Yasushi tells us to please make ourselves comfortable,

Clyde asks what time does Suzuka open in the morning. Yasushi replies, Suzuka Circuit is NO go, Typhoon! While in mild disbelief, Yasushi calls somebody on his cell phone for information. Circuit closed Saturday due to typhoon, Sunday only: Qualifying 0900-0950, 1000-1100. Race at 1430. (JDT) This would be the very first time in Formula 1 history that the qualifying and race would be held on a single day as we drift to sleep with the sound of steady rainfall around 10:30PM…

To continue reading, see: Suzuka, 2004 (Part 2)