The spoiled commodity that gets us into trouble - or how I ran out of fuel on a hill
Japan's centuries-long independent direction makes unique in many ways, but there’s one exceptional thing that anyone gets used to immediately: The convenience.
Locals and foreigners alike have a common worry when moving out of Japan. Humans can get used to anything, but how is it possible to overcome the lack of convenience after enjoying Japanese city life?! As a start, the lack of 24/7 convenience stores at every corner, offering much more than essential shopping experience. Warm food, new clothes, clean toilets, postal service, ATM, ticket purchasing machines and free map look-ups only to name a few… We get spoiled here. We don’t stock-pile food and amenities like it’s done in other places in the world. We don’t need to look up next train arrivals for the daily commute, as we know the next one will be there in about 2 minutes. We don’t hold pee for hours in search of an appropriate toilette, and we don’t hold grudges either, as it’s not convenient.
But getting used to commodities can get us in trouble even here. Like it got me in trouble last Saturday on the way to Izu.
One of the rare inconvenient things in Japan is the weekend road traffic. Around Odawara, an important strategic spot for travelers going to Hakone, Izu, Tokyo, and getting on/off the highway, the streets are always crowded. Frustrated drivers have no choice but stand in a queue for hours, watching their ETA on navigation system change. For every minute of waiting, you add about 4+ mins to your ETA. It took us 1 hour to pass 1km distance right by the Odawara Castle. I enjoyed the view, even though I have to agree with Kazuto - that place does start feeling like a shit-hole after a while. People lose patience and stop paying attention to details, many accidents occur, and your mental state changes. Your vehicle gets grumpy as well.
After we got back on the regular track, we happily crossed the Beach Line around Atami. Wonderful riding time, complete zen moment. And then up to the scenic curves of the peninsula hills, riding into and out of sections of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Somewhere around those hills I realized that my gas suddenly ran low. We refueled right before Odawara, but stop-and-go situation made my Ninja hungrier than ever. I told Kazuto it’s not urgent, but I’ll need to refuel soon. At that moment we were passing by a small gas station. Expensive gas, let’s not go to this ripoff place. Next one came in less than a KM. Full-service, we don’t need that, we want to fill up the bikes on our own. Another one - wrong side of the road. A few meters down the street - a real busy gas station. Let’s take next one, along with a short break. It’s sunny and the nature is beautiful.
At that time, I realized that the gas indicator started blinking. No reason to stress out. By car, you can drive on reserve fuel for a long time. Must be the same. In any case, there are gas stations everywhere… unless you really need one?!
Congested traffic, curvy road, many tunnels - and no fuel
Passing the 3rd uphill curvy tunnel and already running on fumes. Kazuto drove behind me, as I was expecting my Ninja to stop any second and hoped no one would crash into me. Luckily we made it through and just at the peak of the hill, my Kawasaki gave up and went to rest.
No gas - no problem (when you're riding with a hero)
I waited on top of the hill and enjoyed the sunset while Kazuto drove about a kilometer further, where the next inconveniently convenient gas station was located. The guy working at that Eneos didn't seem to friendly at first glance, and to prevent a lecture on what's not allowed at the station, Kazuto quickly fueled up a vinyl bag and hurried back on his Hayabusa.
Here's a closeup of the vinyl pack refueling method, a perfectly executed bike-hack that will hopefully never have to be practiced again:
Never rely on assumptions of convenience, but you can count on your riding partner at all times.