May 18, 2003
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We got some bikes today. One is a dohokan community bike, which is essentially my bike, because I don't think anyone except me and Patrick know it exists. I would not deny it, but I'm not going to point it out for anyone until I get one to replace it. The other bike we pulled out of a pile of bikes sitting beside the dohokan. It goes very well and has a comfortable seat, but the brakes don't work. At all. Patrick is using that one.

We borrowed an air pump from the neighbors (he gave us oil, too), and fixed up the bikes up, then biked to Cafe Peace. Patrick plans to go there a lot, and it would cost around five dollars round trip to take the train. He expects to go at least three or four times a week, it sounds like, so bicycles are much more reasonable.

We studied our maps and planned out a route. It looked like around three miles. On bikes, it should take about twenty minutes, we figured. It took us more than forty with the train, because we had to wait for it to come, then wait at every stop, and still walk a distance to the Cafe. Bikes would be very reasonable.

There were no problems getting there. It took about twenty-five minutes. They were closed, but we expected that. They are opening a gallery or something, and close on Sundays to prepare. The point, of course, was to see if we could get there. Another important part was to see if we could get back. That did not go so well.

We started on a small street, it met up with a big street, and we followed big streets the whole way there. On the way back, we handled the big streets well, but we somehow missed the small street, or maybe turned too early, or something. We found a good food store though, and bought some groceries. Then we went off on our way. Eventually, we decided that we might be lost, and asked for directions. We had to do that a few times. Maybe six or seven. It didn't help that we usually couldn't comprehend any instructions past the first one.

The last person we asked for instructions was a middle aged man, dressed like he was coming home from work. "Kyoto Seika!?" he asked, surprised, when we told him was we were looking for. He motioned for us to follow and took us over to anther man and a woman, and asked them how to get to Kyoto Seika. They were equally surprised. They talked about it, and every few seconds one or the other would say "Chari? Honto ni?" "On bikes? Really?" They could not belive that we came so far. They drew us a map, which we tried to follow, but we messed that up too.

They must have suspected, just a little, that we did not know our way around, because shortly they came up beside us in their car. They just wanted to make sure we were doing well. "Keep going this way" they told us. We kept going for a while, but then decided we were supposed to turn by that point. The people must have circled around, saw that we were not on the street anymore, and then followed the streets we might have been on, because they found us again, and got us to hold on so they could get out and show us the map again. We had taken the wrong street, they said, but it would still be okay. We could just follow this street until it ends, then turn and follow that one until we get back. It was incredible how commited they were to helping us out. We thanked them as politely and profusely as we could, I think.

The full route we travelled back to Kyoto took us over two hours. We guessed that we went at least twenty-five miles total. Drawing a map of it would give a straight vertical line, showing aproximately our path from Seika to Cafe Peace, then after that, a cartoonish curvy line taking us too far west then much too far east before coming back to Kyoto. There might have been loops in there, too, for all I know. We came back hot, sweaty and hungry, and decided that we hadn't bought enough food for immediate consumption. Oh well.

We rested up a little, ate some peanuts, then headed back out. The community bike had a terribly uncomfortable seat, so we were going to look for a better one on some other abandoned bike. We were heading out towards the train station, where we had seen quite a row of bicycles, many of which were potentially unwanted. Riding through them, though, what did we see but the one we lost the day before, when someone rode off on it! It was surprising, to say the least. We figured it would be gone forever.

There were also a lot of bikes. Patrick and I estimate fifteen to twenty percent of the bikes there might be abandoned. That was a lot. Quite a lot. Patrick decided that the only sensible thing to do is to keep a list of them and check back every day to see which ones are not gone or in different places, or otherwise seem to be in use. So we grabbed a notebook and started a list. While we were at it, we left a note (in hiragana) for the person who was using Patrick's bike. We had agreed that they were very cool for doing the same thing we were, but we also decided that we had better get a lock.

We figured we could get a lock off an abandoned bike also. There was one at the dohokan that we had in mind. It was missing a front tire, so we figured we were safe to take the lock. It wouldn't be going anywhere anyway. So we drug it halfway up the stairs, so we could sit down in the light (it was well into evening at this point), and started in on it. We turned it upside down so it wouldn't roll around. There were six digits and four cylinders (or whatever they're called). Patrick was trying to do the math to estimate how long that would take us, and eventually decided that we could potentially be there for well over a hundred minutes, and that was if we tried one combination a second.

It did not seem encouraging, but, just as he announced it, the lock broke open. We had the combination. Already. Maybe ninety seconds in. It was 3311. I had been holding the lock upside down, but started, naturally, from the right, which means the last digit, not the first. I only had to get the 33, because I started at 1111. Converted from base six to our decimal system, this was only fifteen tries. Fifteen out of twelve hundred ninety six combinations. That means we tried just over one percent of all the combinations. Very convenient. Now we have a lock.