I’ve Got You Babe

“For everything sacred has the substance of dreams and memories, and so we experience the miracle of what is separated from us by time or distance suddenly being made tangible.” Yukio Mishima

You can’t rush a story. Well, at least that’s what I tell Larry when he’s giving me wrap it up sign. I think it best to sit back and just enjoy the journey. Don’t you?

Maybe that’s why I’m the stoker and not the captain when we ride in tandem. 

Larry and I signed up for a bike cruise to Japan when retirement was only a glamorous idea, and admittedly, we were panicked about how we would spend our newly unencumbered time. 

Little did we know this would not be an issue.

When we found out about Bill and Jan McCready, who cycled the world together before starting Santana’s Cycling Cruises, we were compelled to book a cabin on a chartered ship bound for Japan. Each day the ship docks at a new port, the rides are elective, and you hop on your bike for an intimate view of the countryside. Seems ideal.

All we have to do is figure out how to ship our bike from California to Japan.

For months Larry watched youtube videos on how to prepare a tandem bike for shipping. He talked to the Santana people, watched more videos, his hair turned a lighter shade of grey, and finally, he ordered a very expensive tandem shipping box that came with an air tag for location. 

Days before we were to leave, Larry carefully disassembled our bike, we attached the frame to the cleverly designed box, secured the wheels, seats, and handlebars before taping the entire thing shut.

We felt accomplished in this one small task, but as you know, challenges are just opportunities to expand ourselves, because there is no accomplishment without sacrifice.

And if the devil is in the details, let me just say he was our stowaway, and rather obsessed with our bike box. 

The box weighs eighty-three pounds and measures over six feet tall by four feet wide. It’s cumbersome, to say the least. Larry’s biggest fear is that the airline will reject it on some technicality, and we’ll be attending a cycling event without a bike. I’ll admit, that doesn’t seem so daunting to me.

They did not reject our box. Instead, they charged us as if we were shipping a Fazioli 24K Gold Leaf Luxury Piano to a foreign country. We gladly paid the fee and handed off our burden to the airline. Or so we thought. 

The second problem is our flight changed. Instead of a direct flight into Osaka, Japan, where our pre-tour will begin, we’re landing in Yokohama and will be forced to go through customs before proceeding to our final destination. This means we have to wait in a two-hour line, prove our identity, reclaim all our baggage, including the box (this is when I want to start cussing, so I hope you appreciate my incredible restraint), and then recheck our luggage for the next flight. 

Which we missed. 

And without the benefit of a common language, we somehow manage to book another flight to Osaka, but with only forty-five minutes before takeoff, so we’ll have to hustle or miss this flight too.

They instruct us with hand signals (which is always up to interpretation) and broken English that we will have to haul our two oversized suitcases, two backpacks, and our gigantic bike box out of the terminal, load them onto a packed shuttle bus, and then figure out how to get them into the terminal located five miles away. Scramble to find the right airline in an airport devoid of English signage and beg them to take all our shit the rest of the way to Osaka. 

Can I just say, I’m so done? We just completed a ten-hour flight and made it through a daunting customs process. We’ve been awake for about twenty-four hours at this point, with little to eat, and believe me when I say, you would not be pleased with my comportment. 

I’m beyond cranky.

Somehow, with a lot of cursing, muscle, and sweat, with only minutes to spare, we made the flight. It was so turbulent they didn’t even serve coffee. 

What could be worse? You had to ask.

When we arrive in Osaka, Santana Cruises gathers up all the weary travelers, loading our boxes and luggage onto a bus, before transporting us to the hotel. Oh, and all our luggage, including the gigantic box, has to be stored with us in our very “compact” room. 

This will be fun. 

We’re warned repeatedly not to wear shoes in our room. There’s a tiny space by the door to leave your street shoes. If it’s discovered you’ve worn shoes in the room, the penalty is apparently severe, and suddenly I’m homesick. So after stashing our gear in our socks, we find out it’s too late to eat at the hotel restaurant (you have to make reservations by 4:00 pm), so we grab a glass of wine and some sort of chicken dish at this small cafe before REMOVING OUR SHOES, climbing over our box and slipping wearily into bed.

I tend to snore when I’m overtired. Did I mention Larry looked a little ragged this morning?

Our first tour starts at 9:15 am sharp. We’re spending the day at Nara National Park, enjoying the free-range deer that outnumber the tourist, touring Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, history museums, and souvenir shops. It’s a 20,000-step day, ending with dinner at the Shinsekai district, known for its vibrancy and unique character. It exceeds all expectations. We found a sushi bar, two empty stools, and we may have overstayed our welcome.

The next few days are filled with bus excursions to temples and shrines in Kyoto, treks through bamboo forests, and tours of ancient palaces. The history of Japan is fascinating indeed, filled with commanding emperors, courageous samurais, and cultured geisha girls. I’m particularly taken with the formal tea ceremony. I do much the same with coffee, except I don’t kneel at Larry’s feet, constantly refilling his cup, and gazing lovingly at his back while he sips his warm beverage and contemplates the meaning of life. We do it the other way around. Bahaha.

Japan didn’t surprise me, it was the people, and what they made tangible was kindness. 

It doesn’t matter if you speak the same language because I learned that eye contact, smiles, and laughter are part of a universal language. Easily communicated between ethnicities. Throw in a reverent bow, and you’ve made a friend.

Japan is a world in harmony with nature. In fact, nature is where they worship and experience God most profoundly. Their temples and shrines are designed to be in communion with the landscape, as if our most intimate encounter with a creator is only palpable when we embrace the sacredness of nature. 

I think this is why Jesus always gave his sermons outside, on a mountaintop, or along the beach. It’s where the veil is most thin.

Shrines and temples are seriously everywhere in Japan, like cathedrals in Rome, or churches in Indiana. They’re tucked away in these mysterious, lush pockets of foliage, usually at the base of a mountain or hill, noted by an iconic toriis, a symbolic gateway marking the entrance to the sanctity of the land. God dwells not in shrines and temples but in the mountains themselves.  

At the conclusion of the pre-tour, we load our gear on a bus, which drops us at the dock, where we are merged with a hundred and fifty couples awaiting to board the Star Breeze. Our first task was to reassemble our bikes under the protection of a gigantic warehouse. Thank God because it was pouring rain. 

This is the most brutal form of marriage therapy imaginable, where our patience will be severely tested, but also our faculty to work together as a team. Oh, and by the way, we’re being observed by three hundred people as we engage in deep breaths, enormous restraint, and forced civility. 

At this point, Larry and I have deep reservations about our ability to put this monster back together. We remove the frame from the bedeviled box, then the tires, bike seats, handlebars, and lots of random tiny parts, all connected by a maze of wires and greasy chains. The trick is to fit them together perfectly within a narrow window of time, or we’ll miss the boat. 

What’s the word? Pandefuckinmonium? 

You could actually observe the functional state of every marriage in the room. It was glaringly obvious who had their shit together and who did not. We were in the latter category. 

To say the restoration was successful is a stretch, but the bike appears to be ridable, and we didn’t kill each other. So there’s that. 

Every night on the ship, there is a route talk. Bill hosts these talks, and the incentive to attend is a glass of wine. He goes over the bike route for the following day and emphasizes points of interest, while repeatedly reminding us when the ship will leave port. We were strictly informed the boat does not wait for anybody. At the time, this seemed insignificant, but like I said, the devil is in the details…

Larry and I are both wide awake at 5:00 am. Coffee service starts at 6:00 am, and I manage to remain civil for the entire hour without the benefit of caffeine. Sleeping on the ship is like being in a gigantic cradle where the motion of the waves gently rocks you to sleep every night. It divine. Why can’t they design a bed to do this?

The boat docks in Onomichi, Japan, after unloading the bikes onto the deck, we’re threaded through customs and released onto the streets with a map downloaded on both our phone and a Garmin, which are attached to our handlebars for easy access. 

The weather is perfect. 

I exude enormous amounts of gratitude at the beginning of each day. The cool air on my face and the warm muscles make me feel invincible for the first thirty miles. Following the intricate map for several hours, we marvel at the lush scenery, condensed housing, and narrow but charming streets. Japan reminds us of Hawaii. We weave our way through several small towns before stopping at a temple which we spend an hour touring before hopping back on the bike to catch a ferry that will transport us across the bay. 

I don’t mean to be indelicate, but it has only been one day, and my butt is in serious discomfort.

While I’m despairing about my derriere Larry notices our front tire is flat. We roll our disabled bike off the ferry, and literally, everyone takes off, even the rescue vans. Thank God we have everything we need, including an extra tube and tools (thank you, Stu). Some locals try to help us extract a thin wire that we picked up along the ride, which resulted in a flat tire. Time is ticking as I’m frantically trying to remember when the ship leaves port.

You’ll be relieved to know we may have been the last couple, but we made it back to the boat before it left port. 

Day two lands us in Shimonoseki, Japan. The first part of the ride is mostly flat, with beautiful views of the ocean and a planned lunch stop at the Spice Market. I noticed my allergies are acting up from all the gorgeous cherry blossoms, or maybe it’s the fragrant trees and lush foliage. The second part of the ride is torture, straight uphill, no break because Larry is a maniac, but we triumphed. Oh, and two miles from the ship, another flat.

By the time we return to our cabin, I’m feeling poorly. I slip into bed right after dinner with a raging migraine (my first ever), which turns into nausea, so I sleep with a wet rag on my head all night. Okay, I didn’t really sleep, just rolled around moaning all night. I’m sure Larry didn’t notice.

By morning we are docked in Busan, South Korea. It’s pouring rain, and no one is planning on riding today, but there are tours available to explore the markets and shopping areas. 

I stay in the darkened room, praying to a silent God for mercy, a wet rag languishing on my painful brow. Tomorrow we have to go through customs upon our return to Japan, which means heat detectors and customs officials specifically looking for signs of illness. If you have even the slightest temperature they will leave you and all your shit on the dock. No refund. End of trip. 

If I’m totally freaking out, Larry’s in an all-out panic.

While Larry tours South Korea by himself, he stops by a pharmacy, points to his nose, and buys the box of pills they present to him. Great. Now I’m a human Guinea pig. 

I took two, along with two Advils, to relieve the headache, and broke out in the worst case of hives you’ve ever seen. 

Somehow Larry convinces me to get out of bed and make an appearance for dinner. I feel like shit. No appetite, slightly unstable, and mildly nauseous. We sit at a table for two. My lips are so puffy I look like Kim Kardashian. I order French onion soup and tried to sip it through my swollen lips. Later that night, when I asked Larry to rub some ointment on my rash he gasped in horror. I’m not kidding. The ointment worked, and I was able to sleep. 

And guess what? 

I felt completely normal the next morning. The headache was gone, my nasal passages were clear, even the rash subsided, although my lips are still swollen. I’m calling it a bonafide miracle. I can not believe the difference in my salubrity. After dressing in our biking gear, we get off the ship and stand in line with everyone else before going through customs. It’s freezing, but I leave my jacket in my backpack, hoping the cool air will camouflage any fluctuation in my interior temperature. 

I pass through the gauntlet of heat sensors and custom guards without setting off a single alarm. It felt a little like winning the lottery. Larry looks like he just robbed a bank, sweating profusely, biting his nails, and cussing under his breath. I thought they might haul him away instead. 

Larry and I are so relieved we explore Karatsu’s lush landscape with big smiles plastered across our faces. I wave at everyone I pass. How could I be feeling so good after a day like yesterday? I praise God, Buddha, and the sacred mountains. Our energy might be unstoppable, but my rear is toast!  

And it gets better. 

Apparently, Randy and Patti, a couple we briefly chatted with a few times aboard ship, noticed we ate alone last night and invited Larry and me to join their group for dinner after the route talk tonight. We were thrilled. 

We were introduced to a gauntlet of interesting people, all tandem bikers, all retired, and this was not their first rodeo. They’ve known each other years and years, done countless rides together, and their friendship was palpable. We thoroughly enjoy their delightful stories, helpful advice (especially about the most comfortable bike seats for women), along with their warm and generous company.

I have to say this group made the trip so much more enjoyable and fun. I hope to join up with them on future rides. 

On day four, we are back in Karatsu but traveling a different path. We’ve noticed that the Japanese excel in cultivating nature. Almost every house, no matter the simplicity or elegance, has a perfectly sculpted tree in the yard. Most of the temples and shrines have what I call a dry-landscape garden. They use stones and pebbles to create a minimalist space for contemplation. Sometimes you find a pool of carp, mossy trails, and small bridges that link them together. All these spaces are created to draw you into a deeply spiritual encounter with God. 

We spend day five exploring Beppu, riding our bikes up to an ancient castle where Larry dresses as a samurai and poses for the camera. I came across one of those vending machines that you only find in Japan. I love the unexpected items sold in these contraptions. There’s junk food, lemonade, beer cans, whisky bottles, and packages of underwear. I know. What the hell? I was tempted to buy one as a souvenir.

On day six, we land in Kochi, where we are mesmerized by tiered rice fields tucked along the rolling hills and coastline. Rice paddies climb the hillsides in wet, lush staircases, and over time the dense woodlands have become farmland. Shinto shrines dot the landscape as if dandelions, which carry our wishes onto fertile ground, and the abundance of possibility.

And I should mention there has never been a sorer butt in all the world. 

While visiting one of the shrines to give ourselves a break from the rock-hard seats, a little old man watches me get off the bike and sort of limp towards the thousand steps leading to the temple. I hesitate. He is coming down the steps and says to me, “You must climb all the way to the top for the blessings,” and he points upward. 

I smile and bow indulgently, which is a common greeting. Then I struggle one step at a time until I reach the top. Let’s hope my prayers are answered, but I already know they were, or I would not be standing here today. After the thousand steps, we enjoyed gliding by several small villages wedged into gently sloping valleys, perched on the pinnacle of rolling hills, or strung along the coastline. The air is fresh and appealing, salty and sweet, with a hint of moist decay. It’s as if Japan engages all your senses at once, and the effect is enchanting. 

On day seven, we experience the most beautiful ride of the trip, cycling for miles along a meandering turquoise river in Shingu, under a canopy of trees, coming upon an extraordinary waterfall, charming villages, and more tiered rice paddies. It’s absolutely exquisite, aside from an extremely sore butt (I don’t mean to be repetitive, but damn), I was completely taken by the landscape. 

We took Anthony Bourdain’s advice, and ate lunch at a Family Mart, with chopsticks, and plastic boxes filled with mysterious food which we inhaled. 

Exploring the temples has been illuminating. The process is always the same. After purifying our hands in the fountain, you walk through a small red gate to the shrine, drop a few coins into the wooden collection box as an offering, bow, clap to get the attention of the Gods, pray, and bow some more. I observe the incredible patience of people waiting in long lines to approach their favorite shrine. 

They’re not annoyed by the length of your prayers, or impressed by your piety, they wait, quietly, respectfully, and reverently. 

Like so much of Japan, behind the bright red shrines lay another view. There are several paths you can take deep into the woods, maybe cross a quaint bridge, before you stumble into a pristine patch of purple flowers. The trees are perfectly groomed, surrounded by plush gardens, along gently curving stone paths. When it begins to rain, the colors are magnified, and the leaves cup the water as if small hands. It’s almost indescribable.

On our way back to the ship, we come upon two fellow passengers, one has just taken a bad fall, and he’s not only disoriented but bleeding profusely from his head and arm. Larry and I hop off our bike, lay it aside, and try to assist. Several other bikers stop, and all of us quickly alert the SOS van, dropping our location and describing the scene to the drivers. It’s decided that Steve should be checked out at the hospital, and they drive him to the nearest facility. Larry and I ride back to the ship with a little more restraint and care. 

And by the hair of our chinny, chin, chin, we are the last couple to board.

Our final day is spent in the city of Fuji, with incredible views of the mountain, which you have to appreciate when it appears because the clouds periodically surround the mountain as if a warm cap on a bald head and it’s suddenly gone. Japan is dressed to delight today, sunny and breezy, fluffy clouds meandering across the sky. 

It must be laundry day, as garments are blowing in the gentle breeze from almost every porch. Our ride today is along an elevated storm wall that follows the coastline for miles and miles. We vear off the wall to travel to the emperor’s house tucked away in a pocket of pine trees and sand dunes. Very Carmelish.  

On the journey home, Larry and I stop for a moment to give my butt a rest. I seriously don’t think I could ride another day. When I struggle to get back on the bike, a modestly dressed man approaches us with outreached hand. He wants me to take his juice box, he thinks I might be thirsty, it’s his only box, but he wants me to have it because only a person who has known thirst can see it in another. This is how kindness is made tangible by the people of Japan. 

When we return to the ship, we have to also return our tandem bike to the shipping box, and all that implies. But I have to say, doing it in reverse was much easier on the marriage. When the bike is safely tucked away in the now ragged box, we give each other a little high five before heading back to the ship for a congratulatory cocktail. 

Back in our room, we do the same with our clothes, suitcases have to be left in the hall before bed tonight. It is also our final dinner with our new friends, and I am ever so cognizant of their generosity. Larry offers a toast at the beginning of the meal, thanking them for including us at their table, and allowing us to sit beside their endearing friendships during our journey through Japan.  

What I learned? Health is everything, and I suppose our time is just as valuable, but it is how we spend it that will define this stage of life. As I endeavor to understand where we have been and where we are going I realize for the first time we are not borrowing our time from anyone, from our jobs, our obligations, and all the pressing issues of the middle years. We’re in a new stage of life, most of our precious burdens have moved out of the house, and the possibilities seem endless.

I guess the goal of any adventure is to stay long enough to learn to see life from a different vantage point. After first observing the shiny facade of a place, you learn to look below the surface, to see the essence of not only a foreign country but its people. What I saw was a gentle spirituality, an unwavering devotion to simplicity, and a glimpse of the human potential made tangible through endless acts of kindness. Oh, and together, I discovered there ain’t no mountain Larry, and I can’t climb.

PS. We ordered a new bike seat for Cheryl’s birthday.

PSS Larry ordered a shock absorber for my seat for Mother’s Day

PSSS Does this feel a little like getting a blender?

I’m Living in the Gap, butt sore, but recovering, looking forward to engaging with you in the comment.

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Leave a Comment

  1. I have always wanted to see Japan, so should be envious. Truthfully, I am not. Not in the least. I cannot imagine anything worse than having to bike that holiday. But kudos to you both, for determination, and endurance. A trip you will never forget, even once your bum heals over.
    One thing though.
    Shouldn’t people organising a cruise involving tandem cycling also organise supplying the bikes? Having to box up and ship your own one is the epitome of madness, as far as I am concerned.
    Well done, Cheryl.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was an unforgettable adventure Pete! Seeing the country from the back of a bike might be hard on the bum but the views are extraordinary, being able to stop anywhere you want, and traveling through the small villages and towns up close was priceless. We’re both really active so moving is fun for us and when I get my new seat, I’ll be ready for the next one. And to answer your question about the availability of bikes for a trip like this, you can rent, but, because Larry and I are generously sized people, we need a large frame to accommodate our height and weight. Taking your own bike means you’re familiar with the gears, brakes, and the frame is strong enough to carry you for hundreds of miles. This was our first time shipping a bike, we learned a lot, and next time I think it will be much less challenging. All and all we had a wonderful time, saw things I’ve only dreamed about, and came away with a heart full of kind memories of people who not only welcomed us but tried to engage and care for us while we visited their country. Thanks for taking the time to ride along with me so to speak! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing all the fabulous details, Cheryl! What an adventure! I’m impressed by your stamina and patience — and your ability to observe nuances. So lovely to hear about the kindness you encountered throughout and I chuckled about your ability to assess the state of the “coupledoms” around you as the arduous task of putting the bikes together unfolded. Wow! 😉😉😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Victoria, I should thank you for taking the time to read through all those gory details! This turned out to be a longer post than I expected. You are right about the stamina. Larry and I have never ridden such long distances day after day and it was harder than I thought it would be. Although by day three or four your legs feel like pistons. Seeing a country from the exposure of a bike really allows you to enter into the culture, the communities, the shrines, temples, and historical attractions up close and personal. You can get off the bike at any moment and just explore on foot. It was fabulous. I was particularly taken by the kindness of the people we encountered, so engaging, gentle and reserved. Tandem riding takes two people who are used to working together, communication is key, and the rides are challenging. You almost have to be married to make it work! I so appreciate you traveling with us through Japan, taking the time to comment, and share your observations! Means the world to me. Thank you. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Goodness! My pleasure. I loved every detail…it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be that adventurous so your trip with Larry was fabulous, vicarious fun! And… I loved your ability to soak up local culture throughout. Xo! 🥰

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been waiting for this update and it did not disappoint! Thank you for keeping track of all these details and for being willing to share them with us. What an adventure! 🌸 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It tickles me pink that you were looking forward to an update! That’s always my hope. It really was a crazy adventure. A few minutes ago Larry and I struggled to put that darn bike back together. We avoided the box for two days. It’s one of those things were practice helps. We’re practically pros but we argue as if amateurs! Thank you Mama for joining us as we experienced Japan and it’s beautiful people for the first time. It’s strange, but when you write about an experience, it’s like you get to relive all the rich details again. I suppose writing also allows us to process what we just encountered. A gentle pause in the flow of life. Thanks again Mama, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so impressed with your adventure and both of you handling such fitness challenges. You survived the hard parts with valor. The migraine, rash and swollen lips sound so painful! Your photos and details about the beauty and kindness of Japan was lovely and heartwarming. “Oh, and together, I discovered there ain’t no mountain Larry, and I can’t climb.” That’s an awesome way to begin your retirement years together! FYI, a cousin of mine lived in Japan and wrote a book called “Moon Over Tokyo.” She writes Christian romance and her name is Siri Mitchell if you want to check out her experiences in Japan. It may not be your genre, but perhaps the Japan highlights would interest you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Elizabeth, thank you for joining the adventure, and taking the time to comment on one of the most pleasurable and difficult experiences I’ve ever encountered. It ended up being much more challenging than I expected. I thought after a few days I would adjust to the rigors of riding forty miles a day but my bum was a sore spot if you will. We ordered a new seat that came highly recommended by several of the experienced women (as in riding a tandem) on the cruise. I have to say I will never forget how kind and generous the people were, it was “heartwarming,” as you say. And the country is stunningly beautiful. I will definitely check out your cousins work, Siri Mitchell, that will be such a treat especially after being there. It seems that writing is a family trait! I’m still waiting for you to publish your book! I love the way you write! Where are you in the process? Hugs, C


      1. I told my hubby about your Japan tandem adventure and he is jealous. He’s still working and wants to experience your adventures — or at least something maybe a bit less difficult.
        My great-grandfather was a publisher of newspapers. My great-grandmother published a series of cook-booklets and sold them throughout the nation in the late 1890s and early 1990s. Writing is in our blood. I usually have two or three writing projects going on at once. I want to bring the cook booklets back to life. I’m working on revising my NaNoWriMo project currently. Thanks for asking!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Tell your hubby to add Japan to the list. It was such an interesting place to visit. I think I could have stayed a month and I would still be fascinated by their culture, customs, and history. I’m excited to hear your revising your work. I’d love to hear what’s it’s about. Wishing you the best of luck while you edit and revise! That’s hard work. xxoo

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes, when he retires we want to travel. Japan will go on the list. Thank you for the good wishes on my revisions. It’s hard. I’m good at line by line edits and grammar — but it’s the big picture that boggles me.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Gorgeous country! And a very impressive ‘feat’ that you and your hubby accomplished, though at the expense of your ‘seat.’ 😉 When my husband retired years ago (before me), our first major adventure was a cross-country road trip that I’ll never forget. It’s so fun when you enjoy the same things and key to a successful retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susanne, you are right, Japan is gorgeous country. I was mesmerized by all the temples and shrines, tierred rice fields, endless coastline, and lush gardens. What a place. Larry has been talking about doing a cross-country road trip forever. He loves to drive and I love the view from the window. I’d love to know where you went, favorite stops, etc. Did you write about it? if so, drop a link. It is fun when you love to do and see the same things. Larry and I are both active people, we love to hike, ride, whatever requires some movement. Tandem biking sort of fits the bill. Thanks so much for reading and joining me in the comments! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dorothy, I was thinking of you today as the cookbook you recommended, Moosewood, came in the mail today. I just remembered I have to find and print your peanut sauce recipe and stick it in the book. Anyhoo…it was a glorious adventure and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to see Japan up close and personal. I was charmed by the people and delighted by the beauty of the country. The sore derrière was annoying to say the least but I have a new seat coming in a few days, the word gel was part of the description, so I’m hopeful. We’re off to Barcelona in September, the cycle cruise ends in Lisbon, where we’ll stay and spend some time with our son Tony. Thanks so much for your comment, much love and hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a wild ride (no pun intended). I wonder if it would be possible to rent a tandem bike once there, but since I’ve only ridden one a couple of times before, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Perhaps they’re very size specific, and I’m guessing it was important to Larry that you two rode a bike you knew would fit. I smiled at the term “forced civility.” Been there, done that. 🤣

    Incidentally, I just finished your book and left a review. Quite entertaining and relatable, Cheryl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete, I found your wonderful review when we returned home, and it was the best homecoming gift ever! Thank you for taking the time to read my book and write a review. I know that takes a lot of time and effort and I’m so appreciative. But especially that you enjoyed the stories and found them relatable. My heart is so pleased. Now about that “wild ride,” yes indeed, but what an adventure. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting Japan, the people were so kind and welcoming, the landscape breathtaking, and of course spending that much time only twelve inches apart was definitely a relationship builder despite the “forced civility,” at times. You can rent tandems from the cruise line but Larry and I require a large frame, I’m 5’9 and he’s 6’2, and we’re of sturdy builds! In addition, Larry is familiar with the brakes and gears, which is vital, especially in unfamiliar terrain. It was a hassle shipping the monster but we’re getting better at it and the airline decided they overcharged us (really?) and they’re sending us a refund! Whoot! Hoot! Thanks again for the fabulous review Pete! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rebecca! Oh my, you are so sweet, reading that rather long post, and joining me in the comments. I think you’re a trooper! It was a challenging adventure but it was so worth it. Japan is a wonderful place to visit. I found the culture very intriguing but extremely difficult to fully grasp. It is never easy to comprehend the early influences a culture has on its people. Even in the United States, depending on where you’re raised, you could have a completely different perspective on life. I guess that’s why we travel, to open our eyes, expand our views. I do love being home sweet home, we’re reacclimatizing, healing, and preparing to care for our three grandchildren for the next three weeks as my daughter and her husband trade places with us and are headed to Italy! Pray for us! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know you understand the impetus to write about experiences that change you, traveling of course, is one of them. When I finally sat down with my beloved computer in my lap and let my fingers have their way with the keys, the words just flowed. It’s as if I wanted to live it all again but from the comfort of my writing chair instead of a bike seat. It looks different when you look back on an experience, like looking through a rearview mirror, the images are enlarged and you see it all from a new angle. I sort of love that about writing. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read all those words, and cheering me on in the comments. Much love and hugs to you, C

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    1. Hi Fraggle, I love how you put this, “a grand journey,” along with lots of laughter, gratitude, and awe (except when my head exploded and I felt as if I was possessed by the devil himself). We did feel quite accomplished, especially after all was said and done, the bodies still intact, and we didn’t lose the damn bike or miss the ship! Bravo. It might take a month to recover but I have a lifetime of memories to paste into a scrapbook! Thanks so much for joining me in the comments. Much love and hugs to you, C

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  7. What an adventure! You did it, and you were smiling at the end despite the challenges along the way. My butt suffers too from biking, so excellent ideas to improve your ride for your next trip. Thanks for the laughs and the tour through Japan, Cheryl. Hugs.

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    1. You know, Diana, it was a high octane adventure, especially since I did not know if we had the strength to ride so many days in a row! Clearly my butt rebelled, and rightly so, but I found out that was a common issue for women especially, and this new seat (Selle Anatomica X series) should make the next one more comfortable. I’ll keep you posted. This was my first trip to Japan and I came with few expectations. I was so charmed by the people, their beautiful way of worshiping, and the lushness of the landscape. It’s so clean. I never saw garbage along the streets, or homeless encampments, but I was surprised by how condensed the housing was, all clustered together like legos. I like space to spread out my life, my ideas, my patio furniture! One thing we have in America is land. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read and join me in the comments. I’m ever so grateful. Much love and hugs, C

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  8. Wow! I admire your adventurous spirit, Cheryl! In spite of the discomfort you had experienced at certain points, you had persevered and made the most out of your tour! This is simply awesome! I love reading about Japan, and I mostly know about it from Haruki Murakami books and Japanese poetry.😊 Thank you for sharing your marvelous adventure with us. You bring us along through your eloquent and engaging words! 💖😊

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    1. Thank you Aaysid, it was an unusual journey, from start to finish, especially since this was our first cycling trip! And we loved it even with the sore bottom and flat tires! We found out we could ride 40 plus miles, day after day, and that was a revelation for us. I was so charmed with the people of Japan, such generosity and kindness. It was heartwarming. The landscape was lush and beautiful, the stuff people write about in books and poems. I’ll have to check out Haruki Murakami books. I’m sort of obsessed by Japan right now and would love to read more about the history and culture. Thank you for reading my very long post and taking the time to share you thoughts. It means a lot to me. Much love and hugs to you, C

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  9. I’m sure it’s no surprise that I love this post because I love the way you write and look at the world. Loved “And if the devil is in the details, let me just say he was our stowaway, and rather obsessed with our bike box. ”

    And I love that you climbed 1,000 steps for the blessings after being on a bike all day. Wow – you are amazing!

    Beautiful descriptions, wonderful spirit (you, Larry, and the fantastic people you encountered). Love that you saw the “how kindness is made tangible by the people of Japan.” No doubt in part because that’s what you have to offer in spades!!

    Thank you for sharing your great adventure with us. ❤ ❤ ❤

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    1. Awe, thank you Wynne, what a delightful compliment. It’s interesting to me that just about every time I sit down to write there is a tiny voice in the back of my head that tells me I can’t do this, the well has gone dry, and the stories yet to be told are sure to be real yawners. At some point in the writing process I get lost in the words and practically forget where I am. Oh yeah, Japan. It was a difficult learning curve for both of us, a test of endurance, but also a chance to see something we’ve never seen before, and meet new people, aside from our pesky stowaway! By the end of our time in Japan I knew I would miss both the people and this beautiful country. I suppose that is the definition of a good vacation. Thanks for taking the time to read such a long post, and joining me in the comments with your observations. That’s what I enjoy the most. Much love and hugs to you, C

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  10. The definition of a good vacation – perfect, Cheryl! Isn’t it hard to get over that little bump that keeps us from sitting down to write? I love that you get lost in the words and stories and pass them on to us! 🙂 ❤

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    1. Sorry for the delayed response, I’ve been overwhelmed, taking care of my grandkids is kicking my butt. I thought it was sore before! My energy is not what it used to be. I haven’t written a single word for several days, I’m constipated with the all the things left unwritten, all the words stacking up in my gut! How do you do it with two kids, two blogs, a podcast and a job? I’m in awe of you. Hugs, C

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      1. All the words stacking up in your gut — what a resonant image, Cheryl! How wonderful you are taking care of your grandkids but I think you have earned being tired at the end of the day! It’s harder to step into a role like that than do it every day — as you well know. I have no idea how you did it with FOUR!! I’d send energy but I don’t have any extra so I’ll just send love… 🙂 ❤

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  11. I was excited to read about your travels and this post didn’t disappoint. So many incredible experiences and have you thought about selling whatever medication made your lips swell as an alternative to lip fillers? You’d make millions lol 😅 And hope Larry’s hair is back to its usual shade now haha.

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    1. Hi Pooja, sorry for the delayed response, I’m watching my grandkids for the next few weeks and I can’t seem to find time to read, write, or engage! You crack me up, I have no idea what the hell was in that medication but my lips looked very plump! If only I kept the box. Larry is supposed to be helping me with the kids but his hair has returned to normal, along with his routines, whereas mine is continuing to grey! More stories to come…Thanks so much for reading such a long blog and taking the time to join me in the comments. Much love and hugs to you, C

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    1. I love your response to our vacation ParentingIsFunny! You nailed it. Sorry it took me so long to respond, I’m watching my three grandkids for the next few weeks, and if I thought that vacation was challenging, I was terribly mistaken. Parenting is exhausting, funny as you claim, and when they’re all slumbering safely in their beds each night, I thank God for another successful day and pray for the strength to accomplish the next. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. Much love and hugs to you, C

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      1. “and when they’re all slumbering safely in their beds each night, I thank God for another successful day and pray for the strength to accomplish the next.” Yesssss!!!! I remember that feeling when my girls were all little. I added to it my husband being asleep next to me. Those moments when I was the only one still awake in a house full of those I must care for–those were magical moments of peace and gratitude. I still feel it on occasion now, but to a lesser degree. Most of my people can fend for themselves and are no longer dependent upon me for their survival! 😛

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        1. As a young parent, I felt most accomplished when everyone was asleep, and I tip toed around the house in my bare feet, absorbing the quiet as if a sponge. It changes as they become independent but the memory clings. xxoo

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  12. Wow!
    That is all I can say. When I grow up, I want to be like you. Reading your adventures just makes me want to join in (except for the nightmare of schlepping your tandem bike through the airport to catch a flight that was missed, or the horrible migraine/febrile illness.)

    I loved your description of the tea drinking (and I bet Larry agrees with your Americanized coffee tradition, especially the part where he waits on you while your write about the meaning of life.) I found myself laughing many times throughout your adventure. Bottom line, it looked like a great time was had, and you were able to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture.
    Hearing of how your fellow rider was injured reminded me of how tenuous life is (hope he is okay.) You need to have a spirit of adventure to fully enjoy life, but that comes with risk. Glad you made it back safely. Thanks for brightening my day.

    PS Nothing says true love more than a new bike seat for your birthday.
    PPS If there is anything left in your travel budget, we are game (though there appears to be zero chance I can talk Gail into a long hike, a Portuguese river cruise would be an entirely different story or even a rafting adventure on the Salmon River or anything else for that matter.)
    See you soon.

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    1. Hi Mike! Sorry for the delayed response, we’re watching the grandkids while Julie and Nic celebrate their 10th anniversary in Italy. And can I just say thank God I had kids when I was young. They are kicking my butt and the solution is not a new seat! It was one of those unforgettable experiences, even without the migraine and box trauma, and one that I would highly recommend for people that love cycling. You can always rent a bike and they’ll have it ready for you when you board the ship. I saw a lot of bikes with motors so those challenging hills are much less challenging. Larry and I like our large framed bike, hopefully the new seat, and the gear set up. When you rent a tandem who knows what you might get? I’m really curious about your reemployment? I was all ready to welcome you to the membership of the retirees. It’s a wild group and I think you would fit right in. We’re still playing with our travel ideas for next year. We want to do one of the Camino’s and a river cruise might be a lovely idea. We’ll have much to discuss in August. We’re all looking forward to seeing you and Gail again. Miss you two. Much love and hugs, Cheryl

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    1. Hi LaDonna, sorry for the delayed response, I’m watching my grandkids for a few weeks, and I believe I’m a tad overwhelmed. And here I thought Japan was an adventure. It was absolutely glorious and yet survivable, just like parenting! I realize it was a long read and I’m grateful for your kind observations, and sweet engagement. Much appreciated, and I pass on my love and hugs to you, C

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  13. This sounds like…a lot lol but it sounds like you had an amazing time. Kyoto was my fav Japanese city, and it was cool seeing a few familiar photos here (those stairs included).

    Thanks for sharing your experience. You and Larry look like you’re having a retirement for the books ❤

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    1. Hi Kathy, I think you are still celebrating your birthday in Aruba! Happy Birthday to the both of us! You’re vacation looks fabulous! We had a wonderful time, we like active vacations, but this one kicked my butt! Literally. We’re trying to do all the active things now, while we still can. Thanks for joining us! Hugs, C

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      1. We’re back! We had an amazing time! And I totally understand. I tell people often they shouldn’t wait until they’re too old to vacay, because you gotta be able to do all of the things while there 😉

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  14. I’m late to the party but thanking you just the same for taking me along on this rich, challenging, captivating trip, Cheryl. The tranquility and kindness you describe so vividly has forever been my sense of Japan and though I’ve never been there, your post absolutely has me wanting to book the trip. BTW, your birthday and Mother’s Day gifts are nothing like a blender…not even close. I’m happy for you for the butt-comfort that awaits you! And, speaking of pain relief, how about you withstanding that migraine so far from home, and then getting right back on that horse!! Does it get any better than this? Face it–you’re completely, remarkably unstoppable!!

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    1. Hi Mary Ellen, I’m really late in responding, and I might never catch up. My daughter and husband return tomorrow, and then Larry and I are slipping off to the lake to repair and restore. We’re a little giddy! I hardly had time to process the Japan trip as we jumped right into watching the grandkids. Looking back over the pictures brings it all back. It was quite the journey. I missed you all this week, but I’ll be back with our beloved Geckos next Wednesday! Thank you Mary Ellen for taking the time to read this very long post, to leave such a endearing comment, and response. Much love and hugs to you, C


  15. Just wow. What an adventure! You two are certainly living la vita loca. We have to really want to travel these days knowing all the crap it involves. So glad for you guys. ❤

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    1. Debby, it was a wonderful adventure, full of all the crazy pitfalls that entails! You know, I’ve seen your posts on Puerto Vallarta! But it’s all worth it in the end. Hope the new seat works as we’re off to a similar trip in September but cycling through Spain! Hugs my friend, C

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    1. Hi Diane, sorry for the late response, I’m still managing my grand kids for two more days. I know you had your grand kids for a long period of time during COVID. I don’t know how you did it all and kept up with your blog. I’m struggling. It was a trip of a lifetime and it came with all the craziness of travel but we loved Japan and the experience of seeing it from a bicycle. Thank you for taking the time to read this really long post and sharing your thoughts. Much love and hugs, C


  16. C, you and Larry climb unbelievable mountains together! I have this saved! Like many of yours! You both amaze me. One line…”It’s as if Japan engages all your senses at once, and the effect is enchanting”….shows evidence of how YOU embrace every place and experience you’re gifted with! The way you describe the experience is enchanting! I’m cracking up at the “eyes” on the strength of the marital status with the cumbersome task of putting bike together, I felt sad reading how sick you were, relieved you got better,…bad butt and all! I’m so peanut butter and jealous of your adventures! I love how you take us along! Your words make me FEEL as though I experienced the sights, smells (great descriptions!), and even sounds (if the people. I love how you share that the kindness of the people is the gift 💕I’m so proud of you both for conquering these mountains! You are blessed indeed! I love you, C. Thank you for inspiring us with your acts of courage and never-give-up spirit! Your grit keeps you growing! 💛💕🥰🤗

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    1. Oh my, here you are again my little sis! You must have spent all day reading and writing comments! Japan was amazing. It was my first time in the country and I was truly enchanted by the people and the land. What a beautiful place. We had some challenges but we persevered and maybe we’re all the stronger for it. I can’t think you enough for taking the time to read this excessively long post, to share your thoughts, and insights with me and somehow make me feel so good in the process. You are such a gift to me. I love you so very much and I appreciate our unique connection. Much love and hugs to you my friend, C

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      1. I loveeee you! 💛💕 yes, I was waiting on my little grands to arrive (and big kids of course!) and wanted to spend time reading YOUR life! It was amazing and fun! I love our connection too! 💕

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