Here is the delayed day four report:
Snow!? It’s May. It’s meant to be less than a month away from summer. It’s an outrage and what’s more, it flew under the weather forecasters’ radar, so to speak. When I checked yesterday, they were insisting today would hold a good chance of rain between 9am and 3pm. They got that wrong.
We started bright and early because the 120km ride from Erimo to Obihiro would be the longest of our trip. My worst case scenario calculation of an average speed of 15kmh into a headwind would give us eight hours riding time plus another couple of hours’ worth of stops along the way meant we had to push on all day to get to Obihiro in daylight.
As we left the campsite, it was cloudy and just starting to spit a little. Before long, this had turned to icy sleet and the going was fairly unpleasant. Our speed was pretty slow but I had to get to Obihiro that day to meet Mr Kon and ride the Obihiro brevet the next day. Damian has always been insisting that we ride ahead so he wouldn’t hold us up so, in these worst of conditions, I finally took him up on it. I suggested he probably wouldn’t get as far as Obihiro if the sleet and wind stayed as they were but we could keep in touch by phone during the day and Kaz and I could help him find somewhere to stay wherever he ended up. He would also have the next day to be able to ride to Obihiro. With more than a little guilt, I wished him the best of British and took off up the road with Kazuko.
Before long, the sleet turned to snow, which the wind blew straight into our eyes, so we only managed to catch glimpses of the scenery around us. We were riding along a coastal ride with mountains on our left meeting the ocean on our right. One advantage of this was the large number of tunnels we went through which kept us out of the elements. The roads weren’t busy, so the tunnels were a pleasure to ride through. One of them was four and a half kilometres long and, at that point in time, we’d have been happy if it took us all the way to Obihiro.
In the gaps between tunnels, the wind had at least dropped out although the snow was getting heavier. The falling snow, together with the mountains and coastline made for a beautiful view although Kazuko claims she never looked up to see it. I wasn’t game to stop and take a photo, so they view will just have to live on in my memory.
Eventually we made it to Hiroo, the first town after Erimo, and we stopped at the first convenience store we came to, a Seven-11. The ladies in the store were very kind and made us come into the warmth of the store and were very friendly to us. I put on more clothes and Kazuko bought some dish-washing gloves to stop the wind cutting through her gloves while she was riding. She had been harbouring hopes of getting Mr Kon to drive down and pick her up in his car but these were dashed when she checked her phone and there was a message from him saying he would be taking the bus.
We continued up the road to the next town, Taiki, which is about the mid-point of the trip. By the time we got there, we were starting to rediscover feeling in our toes and fingers and were setting a pace that should get us to Obihiro in good time. I had a chat with Damian on the phone. He had just arrived at Hiroo and was receiving the friendly treatment at the Hiroo Seven-11. He sounded optimistic about getting as far as Taiki and asked whether there was a hotel in town. It wasn’t until I got to Obihiro and checked my phone messages that I heard one from him 10 minutes earlier that sounded very pessimistic. They have a magic touch, those ladies at the Hiroo Seven-11.
Not long after leaving Taiki, the snow started to ease and we made good progress. I found myself enjoying the scenery all the more for the snow on the ground making it prettier although I didn’t manage to get much of a response from Kazuko whenever I suggested this.
Eventually we arrived in Obihiro, found our hotel and had a nice hot bath. The Brompton may not be the fastest of bicycles but its foldability meant Damian was able to pack it up at Taiki and get on the bus to Obihiro. He arrived at the hotel at the same time as Mr Kon. We went out for a quick dinner and it was straight to bed after that for me and Kazuko. We were both exhausted (and I assume Damian was as well) and I had to get up early and ride the 200km Obihiro brevet with Mr Kon.