2008 May 18 Sunday.

Today was the first day of this year, that felt like an early summer's day.

Warm and sunny, with very little wind.

At about 12:00, I called Charlie Hamel, to see if he was up for a bicycle ride.

He said he was ready to go, so I packed my mountain bike into my Toyota Noah, and drove from Asahikawa up to Shibinai, using the back roads as much as possible.

The way I always go there is as follows; First I get onto Route 237 and drive towards Biei.

After driving for 19.5 kilometers and just before the hill known as 美瑛坂, there is a sharp turnoff to the left which says 志比内 旭岳温泉 天人峡.

I turn left there and get onto Route 213, which will take me right to the intersection nearest the Shibinai Elementary School, after driving for another 14 kilometers.

The nice thing about taking this route, is that there are no traffic lights anywhere along route 213.

It is also a very scenic drive that I enjoy every time.

I arrived at Charlie's house and was greeted by some of the kids who were playing outside.

When Charlie came out of his house, he told me that he had a present for me.

I went inside to take a look, and was pleasantly surprised to see a hot-air-popcorn-popper, and several kilograms of raw popcorn!

Before the Hamel Family left Texas for Hokkaido, they sent me an email and asked me if I wanted them to buy me anything in the USA that I can't easily get in Asahikawa.

I thought about it for a few days, and then realized that I have been eating pre-popped popcorn, that I buy for about 100 yen per bag, at the local supermarket.

I love popcorn, but nothing tastes better than fresh popped popcorn, that is warm and fragrant, and full of life.

Therefore, I asked them to get me the above mentioned products.

Thank you!!! I really appreciate it!

Charlie and I saddled up, and got onto the road at about 13:30.

We rode on Route 213 which leads up to the ChuBetsu Dam, ChuBetsu Lake and then on to the Y in the road, where you can take a right towards TenNinKyo, OR take a left towards AsahiDake OnSen.

We didn't ride that far.

We turned off of the main road, and drifted on down into the base of the very large, ChuBetsu Dam.

See the photo above/left for details.

While we were there, we got rained on a bit.

Then, we got back on the main road, and back towards ShiBiNai, but this time along the gravel-lined elevated river embankments, that are everywhere, on this island.

A slightly bumpy, but very scenic way to ride.

We continued along the scenic route until we got back on the main road, for the remaining short ride to the 第一遊水地.

This has recently become a public park, with a very nice park golf course, right next door.

Also in this area, are some really nice looking private homes, newly built and mostly in a Northern European style.

Some of the places also have, huge beautiful gardens.

A very nice place to live, for a very long time.

After looking around that area in a somewhat casual manner, Charlie and I rode back over to his house, about 4 kilometers away.

We were both slightly afflicted with either leg pain, or butt pain.

I was the one with the butt pain.

After sitting on Charlie's flat porch in the late afternoon sun, while having water-blaster gun-fights with the local kids, for about 20 minutes, I drove back home along the same route that I had come.

Along the way, I got rained on, but only for a few moments.

The brief rain storm both felt good, and smelled fresh.

After I arrived back home at about 16:20, I immediately started a beer and BBQ party for Ikuko and myself.

Today's menu; Indian Curry Marinated Chicken Breast with Giant Green Onion blocks.

Slowly roasted over a charcoal grill, with Yebisu Gold All Malt Beer.

While we were lounging around on the second floor balcony and watching all the people and cars go by, the head chef of the soba noodle restaurant came outside from the main entrance and walked along the front of the building and then around the side and into the back door.

While he was doing so, I looked up at us and said; KONNICHIWA!
I held up the big tall cold boy in my right hand salute fashion, and returned the greeting.

Then he said; "That food you're cooking smells good."

I said; "Thank you. I won't steal any of your customers!"

We both laughed and went about our business.

It's great to have friendly neighbors.