Last week I was in Japan. This week I am in Arkansas. I do not know if there is a larger difference in cultures that a person can experience in the period of 2 weeks. I mean, let's think about it for a minute:
Japan = lots of bowing, soft voices, more bowing...
Arkansas = jacked up pickup trucks, both country and western music...
Last week started out with a Sunday 24 hour journey to get to Osaka. I got the the Madison airport at 5am for a 6am flight, and was informed that my flight had been cancelled. Not a great sign, but you learn to go with the flow. I suppose there are people that fly through Madison even more than I do, but they know me by name there. (which is kinda embarrassing)
Since I was on Delta, and I have exactly 4,564,791miles flown on that airline, they will take care of me when something like a missed/canceled flight happens. Delta rerouted me and got me to Osaka at the same time that I was meant to get there in the first place. Funny, when you are making the arrangements before hand there is nothing available except the flight that goes through Capetown South Africa. But when stuff hits the fan they can get you on the one that makes up the 2 hours of lost time in the original schedule. Funny.
In Japan I attended our Asian country manager meetings and spent a day at Shimano. Of course there were a few good dinners. I kinda like Japanese food, so it is pretty cool to be there and get it from the source.
1st day - meeting at our office is Osaka. Lots of reviews with various country managers and great discussions about opportunities in each market for product development and marketing stuff. I kinda like that sort of stuff, as that is what I am meant to do in my job. I like it when my business card actually matches what I am doing on a given day.
That evening, we had dinner with a few different people from Shimano Japan. It was fun to see and to talk to a bunch of people from Shimano that I have known for 20 years. It is really amazing that some of the same people who were once our account representative or something like that are now directors of global functions at Shimano. Pretty cool.
We did have a great meeting at Shimano. We talked about a bunch of future developments and efforts together. But, I cannot show you or tell you those. Just know that it is going to be some pretty cool stuff. Stay tuned.
The meal with Shimano did have about 97.6 courses in it. Here is the list I took down. Of course I gained at least 17 lbs eating that meal. Off season is great.
Dinner in Osaka
- kelp tea
- sea urchin and tofu skin
- cod fish, shrimp, sea weed
- more beer
- sashimi, halibut, tuna, squid
- long slim Snapper, called sweet face Snapper
- more beer
- shrimp tempura, dipped in sauce
- sand fish tempura, dipped in sauce
- potato tempura, dipped in salt
- more sake
- mushroom tempura, dipped in sauce
- squid tempura, dipped in lemon and salt
- more sake
- lotus root tempura, dipped in sauce
- swordfish tempura, dipped in salt
- more beer
- corn tempura dipped in salt
- ginkgo nuts tempura dipped in salt
- potato with sweet bean tempura not dipped
- gluten tempura dipped in sauce
- sea eel tempura dipped in sauce
- onion tempura dipped in salt
- kakiage tempura (shrimp and veggie cake - sweet potato mushroom lotus roots spinach/green something or other) served on rice with seaweed + mushroom miso soup. This was desert.
- finisher = fruit plate. (stuffed to gills)
The next day, we took the bullet train to one of the south Islands of Japan, and went to a factory that makes internal gear hubs and cranks. Really precision stuff with lasers and robots going at full steam. Felt a little like a scene from the Terminator. Kinda creepy, but man is it cool stuff. I was asked not to take photo's in the factory, so trust me it was cool. I did snap some photo's of some of the cool stuff there though.
The next day we went for a great road ride in the mountains on Japan island. I can describe the ride in a few words: steep, narrow, wrong side of the road (for me), sweet.
We rode for 2 hours and it was great fun. Saw monkeys, stopped at a waterfall, raced a climb with Sitoshi and lost, tore down the other side on the opposite side of the road which felt weird and then finished in a little village. Crazy cool.
The week ended with another ride, some quality time spent in a Japanese Starbucks, listening to christmas music already. Basking in the glow of espresso and weird little fish snacks.
If you know me, you know that I regularly say "The rednecks have inherited the best parts of the USA." I actually mean that in a really good way. Deep down, I am a redneck as all of us mountain bikers really are. The woods is where we feel best and the best woods are in the non populated parts of the country. People refer to the locals there as rednecks. I suspect that is ok with them, as they truly have inherited the best parts of the country.
Arkansas is one of those places. If you haven't been there, you need to go. My brother and I have been going there and enjoying the riding for years. Now that his kids are grown, as are mine, it is a great time of doing some multi-generational family mountain biking.
I arrived home on Friday night from Japan. We got ourselves loaded up on Saturday and left to make the 14 hour drive during the middle of the night early Sunday morning. Drove all day, and arrived during the storm of the century. 8.5" of rain in 24 hours. Yes, it was a spectacular flood. Kind of a build the ark and gather the animals type of feeling.
So here I find myself in the land of jacked up pick ups, Walmart and both country AND western music. (Neither of which are my style, as you would it is hard to find that on a Pearl Jam album). But, we are doing some sweet riding, in the mud and after it dried out in the perfect tacky traction that is always those first couple of days after a huge storm. Sweet.
Here is a 5 minute video of me following my nephew and brother with the helmet cam. It is XC, so not as exciting as a DH film but it is riding and it is always fun.