I've been referring to it as the Epic Trip and it certainly started off that way. The first day actually covers almost two whole days, but this all happened on Wednesday. A long Wednesday. More on that later.
First off, I had gambled on catching the "rotator" flight on a Tuesday, which would have allowed me to fly directly from Misawa to Seattle, space available, for about $30.
That gamble did not pay off, they only had a few seats available, as compared to almost 80 seats the week before. Ah, life. So it was on to plan B, a commercial flight out of Tokyo the next day, but first I had to get down to Tokyo.
Early in the morning, Jeff drove me to Hachinohe, a nearby city and the closest Shinkansen (bullet train) station.
I had my ticket in hand, ready to go to Tokyo.
In the Hachinohe station, we found two huge Hachinohe horses!
Then we said our goodbyes and I was off on my big adventure, all by myself this time.
I had gotten there early, not fully realizing the efficiency of the Japanese public transit systems (very efficient and punctual) A couple of Shinkansen trains came and went before mine arrived.
Waiting for my train, looking around.
I had time to get a couple of drinks from the vending machines. Vending machines are everywhere here, even in the middle of nowhere. They offer hot and cold beverages, with quite a variety. Always coffees and teas, plus a selection of sodas and juice.
I pondered my luggage. There were a ton of plastic ponies crammed in here. Would they survive what we were all about to do?? Would I be able to lug all of this around?
The red suitcases had been bought for this trip and they have wheels that spin in any direction. That. Was. Awesome. I pushed and spun them back to back like this, one-handed, through every train/plane/bus station along the way with no trouble at all. The whole trip would have been much harder with bags that only rolled one way.
Here comes my train!
The inside of the Shinkansen. They are very nice and more spacious than a plane. I kept all of my bags on the floor in front of me.
We passed a lot of snowy scenery, something I hadn't seen last August when we went to Tokyo.
I decided to pull up the speedometer app we'd used on that last trip. (It's called DigiHUD if you are interested) This was the highest speed I took a screenshot of:
Although later I saw that it had recorded a higher max speed. I think the highest on our Tokyo trip was 201mph. So I made sure I told Jeff that "my" train went faster. Ha!
The averages were skewed a bit, because I had also used the app, as a joke, on the ferry that we rode to Sapporo back in February. It's speed was 19mph.
Arriving at Tokyo station, I had the first minor meltdown of the trip.. I couldn't figure out how to get OUT of the station. It is HUGE inside and very confusing, particularly when you have no idea what exit you are looking for.
I finally found a map that showed the bus station (I was to take a bus to the airport) and headed for the exit indicated.
It turned out to be the same exit we had come out of back in August.
The trees up on the building again.
However, it was on the complete opposite side of the building from the bus station. I still don't know how that happened. I thought I would be able to cut back through the building, but without my ticket (which I had to feed into the turnstyle to exit), I couldn't go back in. So I found myself stuck. I tried to hide in a corner and had myself a quick little cry, yes... Then, decided there was nothing for it; I had to walk all the way around the station to the other side.
On the way, I was able to admire the Tokyo Station building again. It really is beautiful. It was a nice day and the walk was far, but not impossible.
Once I made it to the bus station, I feared that trouble would strike again when I saw a sign indicating that only one checked bag per passenger was allowed under the bus. However, when I asked the baggage handler about this, he smiled and said, "OK!". Whew!
On the "airport limousine" (the bus that goes back and forth from the airport).
There are two airports in Tokyo: Haneda and Narita. As I understand it, Narita is the International airport, Haneda is domestic. However, we flew into Haneda on our way back, so I don't know if that's accurate.
I had budgeted myself HOURS of time between each mode of transport, not knowing what to expect and not wanting to add the stress of having to run to get on a plane or train or... So I had a few hours at Narita. I checked my red bags way early and sent all of the ponies off to be at the mercy of the baggage handlers *gulp*. Then I found Lawson's, a chain of convenience stores here, inside the airport and got my last bit of yummy Japan food for a while. Lawson's (and the other convenience stores) actually have really good food! We seek them out when we are on trips here - they are everywhere, so usually not hard to find. We usually get sandwiches, rice triangles, or chicken nuggets.
Another concern (there are many on such a trip I suppose) was keeping my devices charged for the trip, particularly the marathon flight, followed by a long train ride, and unknown time before I'd get settled somewhere. Arriving at my gate, still at least two hours early, I found this!
|Charge ALL the things!|
I plugged in everything: Japanese cell phone, American cell phone, bluetooth headset, portable battery pack, and even my laptop. Ugh, the gadgets that come with living in the modern age. I figured if I was going to be lugging my heavy laptop around for the whole trip, I might as well use it. I ended up playing a bit of Minecraft, just because I could.
Finally on the big plane, to cross the ocean again. This time, by myself. *gulp*
Takeoff was rough, which didn't help my anxiety. I snuck a peek out my window as we left Tokyo behind and climbed and climbed.
It was cloudy most of the way and not much to see.
It was dark for a bit, but it was a short "night". The sun set behind us and rose in front of us a few hours or so later.
I tried sleeping a bit, but usually can't sleep on a plane. I was thankful for the ability to watch movies and I watched a couple, including Jurassic World. I've seen it a few times, but I'm a huge Jurassic Park fan and LOVED this movie too.
My favorite scene:
After what seemed like forever, Seattle!
On the ground, hit the brakes! I like having a window seat on or behind the wing. Watching the parts of the wing move around distracts me from my anxiety about flying.
Well, that's kind of weird...
I was not prepared for the odd emotions I would have about being "back" in the U.S. but it hit me shortly after arriving in Seattle. I didn't feel like I was "home" at all, as far as in my country. About an hour after arriving, I'd sent Jeff a message, asking if I could come back.
I went through Customs for the first time (when we moved to Japan we flew right onto the base, so we had an abbreviated experience). It was easy, much to my relief.
One perk was the lack of language barrier. Instead of getting lost inside SeaTac, I was able to ask a couple of people how to get out and find the light rail, my next mode of transport.
Riding the light rail furthered my feeling of not wanting to be there, it was... gross. A big thing about Japanese public transportation is that it is CLEAN. Their cities are also clean. Everything might not be shiny and new, but there is no trash on the streets or food ground into the sidewalks (things I saw). I'm not a germaphobe, but I did not even want to sit down on the light rail, so I didn't. I stood on a mostly empty train for the 40 minute ride. I'm not trying to pick on Seattle, it was just my introduction to a reverse culture shock that I was not expecting.
My next destination, after getting off of the light rail was the AmTrak station, which was in the International District of Seattle. This amused me.
My next ride:
I had not ridden on AmTrak since riding it with my Granddad, to go visit my Great-Grandmother in Southern California, from Colorado. I was very small, maybe 7 or 8 years old.
This ride was an interesting experience. I had a window seat all to myself, but sadly my window was dirty or oxidized, I'm not sure. I couldn't see out of it very well at all. I did go into the cafe car and chat with a nice guy who was manning the cafe. Then I cross stitched for a while.
I also did some math, curious about the fact that is was "still Wednesday". I came up with this: my Wednesday would be 41 hours long by the time it was done. This was due to Japan being a day ahead and me flying "back in time". I left Japan on a Wednesday evening, but arrived in Seattle Wednesday morning and started the day over.
At some point on the train, I also realized that I'd forgotten one piece of this puzzle - that was how to get from the train station to my hotel. On Maps it looked like it might be walkable, but I sent Erin (the BreyerWest organizer) a message, asking if there was a taxi service in Albany. Next I knew she'd arranged with Cheryl, a local hobbyist, to come and pick me up! That was so nice of them.
At the AmTrak station in Albany, I found Cheryl, holding up a handwritten sign that said "BreyerWest!!" I should have gotten a picture, but by that point I was pretty much brain fried.
Red bags, back with me and in the hotel room in Albany, Oregon!
Because I had not known I'd be going to BreyerWest until just a couple of weeks out, by the time I tried to book a room at the host hotel, The Phoenix Inn, they were full. I ended up finding someone who wanted to share a room there for Friday and Saturday nights, but I was arriving on Wednesday, so I booked two nights at the Rodeway Inn, which ended up being across the street from The Phoenix. I could see it from my room!
Also of note in the parking lot was a "Chinese and American" restaurant. I ended up ordering a salad and grilled chicken dinner, only to find out that was a TON of food!
"That there'll feed us for a bloomin' month." - Little John, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
My room at Rodeway:
Despite having been traveling for over 30 hours and being exhausted, I did stay up that first night and unpack every. single, horse. to see how they fared after (another) ocean crossing.
|Some of my OF Minis. I had twice this many with me, plus a PAM, customs, |
and a pile of stuff for the Swap Meet and room sales.
Everyone was fine!
|The custom herd, including Reckless!|
I had arrived at the town where BreyerWest would be happening, in just a couple of days!
Finally, I slept.