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 abilities. 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 day “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 up 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|
“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|
- 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 the day before, administered to relive her six days of constipation, finally hit pay dirt. Trapped in the traffic more than 20 kilometers from the next service area/rest stop, and she 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|
- Where do these jams come from? No off ramps or merges with another highway…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 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 point his arm-mounted crossbow at me before speeding away.
|The pinnacle of driving in Japan: cherry trees and Mt. Fuji!|
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.