Tales Of The Vohemian: 900 Miles Through Japan With Jake Bleggi & Crew

    Jake, Fish, Kyle, and Jackson, a group of Vohemians who aren’t afraid to send a gutsy adventure, had been itching to plan a trip somewhere that pushed their limits. With Japan at the top of all their travel lists, the decision was a no-brainer. The crew took off to Japan with not much more than a bike, and some Voltage socks, to bikepack over 700 miles across the country.

    They made it back all in one piece, and brought back some legendary stories. From karaoke bars to abandoned campgrounds, here’s a glimpse into their epic Japan bikepack adventure.

    Letting Spontaneity Guide

    Leading up to the trip, the boy’s preparation was intentionally sparse since they wanted to let the journey naturally unfold. The only set blueprint was to start in Kagoshima, a city located at the very bottom of Japan, and end in Tokyo. In total, they would travel 900 miles, in which 750 of those were on bike. At first, they loosely drew lines on a map to guide their trip. But after three days of bikepacking, this itinerary was thrown out the window. They decided to embrace the chaos and let the people they met, along with the places that interested them, determine where they would go next.

    This spontaneous approach led to some of the most memorable experiences of the trip. Finding new places to sleep and cities to explore each day required some creativity and luck -- but left them with great stories.

    A Typical Morning In Japan – Jake's Point of View

    It’s 7 a.m. and the sun has been up since 4:30 because we are in Japan. The sun comes up early here—too early. I roll over in the baseball dugout we called home last night to a bunch of old men in the opposing dugout heckling and laughing at us. How did we find ourselves sleeping in a baseball dugout in Japan? Well, when you’re bikepacking across the country with no plan whatsoever and you stay out till 2 a.m. singing karaoke, you’ll sleep just about anywhere you can lay your head.

    Once I shook the sleep from my eyes, I had to go see what all the heckling was about. I looked at Kyle and Fish and said, ‘I bet I can talk them into throwing me a pitch.’ I hopped on my bike and headed towards the dugout. Once I got there, I realized the men were older than I had thought. They were more interested in making fun of my glasses and the hair on my legs than playing baseball.

    After they were done giving me a hard time, we got to talking, and they informed me that the youngest member of the team was 71 and they got together every morning to play. I made friends with one of the men in particular, and after a little convincing, I got him to rally the troops and let me jump into a game of sandlot ball.

    Standing over the plate, looking at an 81-year-old eyeing me down from the mound, I was ready to smack a ball so far over their heads (I had to; they made fun of my glasses). He wound up and tossed the first pitch. STRIKE. ‘Shit!’ One strike wasn’t the end of the world, and it had been a minute since I had swung a bat. But it wasn’t going to happen again. He wound up again. STRIKE two. ‘Shit!’

    Okay, now it’s on. I can’t get struck out by an 81-year-old, and the chuckles from my 87-year-old catcher wasn’t making the situation any better. He wound up to toss the third pitch. I felt like I was in the bottom of the 9th in the World Series. I saw the ball flying towards me, closed my eyes, and swung with everything I had. BOOM—the ball flew clear over all of their heads and they watched in amazement! Just kidding, that old man struck me out…the dugout erupted in laughter.

    This was just one of 17 mornings we spent in Japan.

    It's All Fun and Games Till Someone Gets Hit By A Car

    Overall, these Vohemians had an outstanding and memorable time on their bikepacking travels. They made endless amounts of friends and would do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, Jake says that if he were to go on another bikpacking trip, he would love to go back to Japan. After his recent trip, he’s interested in doing it again from a different approach, revisiting friends he met along the way, and spending more time in areas he didn’t have that much time in. However, Canada is also on the list of next bikepacking destinations for Jake.

    Things panned out in their favor while they biked. They were equipped with nice, light bikes and carbon wheels, which helped them ride fast. And of course, they had Magic Merino Voltage Socks to keep their dogs nice and fresh throughout the trip. During the day, they would put their next city into Google Maps, and ride. Each person usually biked at a different pace, but always met up in the new destination. Taking things at an individual pace worked well for the group, except for one time. On day five, everyone was on a mission. They separated into two groups, with Jake and Fish taking the lead and Jake and Kyle in the second heat. To conserve phone battery, everyone put their phones on airplane mode so they wouldn’t need to stop for a charge. After around 40 minutes of straight biking, Jake took his phone off airplane mode, and immediately got hit with a text that said, “Jackson got hit by a car.” He called Kyle right away to see if Jackson was okay, in which Kyle told him to just keep riding and that they would catch up later. At this point, Jake and Fish assumed that Jackson was okay. But, when the adrenaline wore off and the pain set in, Jackson realized he was not at all okay. Unfortunately, Jackson was not able to continue the rest of the trip on bike. Jake and Fish were 20 miles ahead at this point, and on a route that let them to an abandoned campground fille with all sorts of adventures. Since they didn’t have service, they stayed at the campground all night and explored, meanwhile Kyle and Jackson figured out how to get his biked shipped back to the US without knowing Japanese.

    This was the only hiccup of the trip, but they ended up making light of the situation. Jackson traveled on train to meet them at each city and was able to still experience Japan and all of their group memories.

    Ditch the Over Planning & Make it Happen

    For those wanting to get out there and plan a cool trip like this, JUST GO DO IT! Don’t be scared to figure things out as you go, and welcome whatever comes up as you travel.

    Jake encourages everyone to send it, rather than be scared of the details. “Everyone gets caught up on the little things. Everyone talks themselves out of big and little adventures due to the overwhelming stress of planning the unknown. Spend the time and figure out the parts of the trip you can control and the rest will work its self out.”

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