April 30, 2015

The Long Road

[Preface: this is a combination story that describes our numerous road trips to Hiroshima and back to visit the Rising Sofubo™ (meaning grandparents, i.e. Naomi’s folks). The fecal explosion© episode happened three years ago, but it is still fresh in my memory.] 

January 2012
Just back from a trip to Hiroshima. Usually the return to Yokohama is an 800+ kilometer espresso-fueled crazy overnight drive for yours truly. Having read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in my youth, I reckon I have a bit of organic gonzo because of my self-professed endurance during ability. Nonetheless, driving non-stop overnight avoids the 30 km-long traffic jams which choke the Tokyo area highways during Japan’s vacation periods. I grew up contending with long distances between cities in Canada. Road trips were a fixture in my teens and twenties. I thought: 800 clicks—psshaw!

Naomi’s parents are always concerned about my night driving proclivities. They convinced me once to try driving during the daylight hours “for safety”, especially because it was wintertime. So, I caved one time, and we left Hiroshima about mid-day. A colossal mistake. 

The first couple of hundred clicks went by quickly and easily. Driving between Hiroshima and Kobe was a snap. Once we reached Kobe, though, the population density inexorably constricted the expressway with more traffic and we were snagged in a jam at Nichinomiya (around the 1700 rush hour) which quickly became bumper-to-bumper.
After Osaka it's just a crapshoot

Between Kobe and Nagoya we entered the Maddeningly Slow Zone that sucked dry my enthusiasm for driving and many hours.

Plus, Naomi and the Rising Daughters were awake in the car the whole time, meaning I could never listen to any music I like.
SpongeBob DVDs save the day & night
So, to sum up:
“Snared by Kobe; feeling harassed by Osaka; despondent/without hope by Nagoya.”
- Motorcyclists passing us on the side and in between the middle lanes dressed in snowsuits
As we came down out of the mountains, some notes I took:
- Marina’s constipation mysteriously ends during our trip back. She triumphantly announces: “I got poo-poo,” and she did. I found out later that two doses of laxative, administered the day before to relive her of six days of constipation, had finally hit pay dirt. We were marooned in the traffic more than 20 kilometers from the next service area/rest stop and she triumphantly delivered a diaper full of runny ka-ka that had already leaked into her baby seat and all through her clothes. Nasty stuff. We were all trapped in a moving biohazard until we reached the Valhalla of rest areas to clean up, reload, and relaunch for home.
Lies, damned lies, and highway traffic estimates
- 15 minutes to travel 2 kms at one point near Yokkaichi. Stuck for an hour nearly going nowhere.

- Where do these jams come from? No offramps or merge lanes to other highways…arggh.

- Bizarrely festive air to the frenzy of relieving bladders and bowels, buying crap food, and jostling for parking spots at the ubiquitous service areas which are still packed at midnight with bleary-eyed drivers seeking caffeine for the next leg of the journey.

Solo Trip Home (March 2013)
Instead of being stopped dead in a three-hour traffic jam near Nagoya amid the infamous “U-turn” rush, I breezed through it all, and motorvating solo to boot. Only slight lane weaving on the expressway due to fatigue, and virtually no Mad Max truckers. Although I believe I saw one tattoo-faced fellow lean out of his truck cab and, with a grin, point his arm-mounted crossbow at me before speeding away.
The pinnacle of driving in Japan: cherry trees and Mt. Fuji!
Terrific shots of Mt. Fuji which I could take because the Voice of Reason was not in the passenger seat beside me.

Having made in back in one piece in the early morn, I saw how filthy our car was, inside and out. Without kids on board, though, all I had to do was roll down the windows and go through the local car wash and-- voila! – pristine. Shorn of its dirt and accumulated trash, with the toys populating the back seats washed away, I found I had a brand-new-looking car.

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