CIMG0139I commute by bike the 13 miles from Bellingham to Ferndale and on the way home one evening I spotted a guy pulled off on a side street with an unfolded map and a confused look on his face. I almost didn’t stop but then I noticed he was touring with a loaded bike and was obviously not from around here. Not even close.

I’ve ridden across the U.S., Indonesia, and Australia with countless people in all three countries doing ridiculously nice things for me along the way (like that one time, in Indonesia, when the volcano erupted…) so I figured this may be my chance to pay back a small portion of all those kind deeds.

Masayuki Ikeo (goes by Masa), is a Japanese college student from Kobe who had just finished a 6 month English speaking course in Vancouver. He was on day 2 of a west coast bike tour that would eventually take him to San Diego, CA.

The first day of his journey was rough as he got a couple flats (that he didn’t know how to repair-luckily he was near a bike shop) and had some navigational issues. He didn’t know where he was going to sleep that night so I told him he could spend the night at our house.

Riding home with him I noted his rig, a 1970s vintage “Chi-Mo” branded 10-speed that was loaded down like a Nepalese porter. It probably wouldn’t make it to San Diego even if the 50cm frame had come close to fitting his 6’2″ body. So I thought I better “trade” him my 58cm Jake the Snake commuter bike if he had any hope of finishing his journey.

Masa’s one night at our house turned into three by the time I fixed up my commuter, gave him some flat changing lessons, took him to a party to watch my hockey game, to a BBQ, out to eat, shopping, etc. My wife and I went through all his gear and picked out 1/3 of it that would be left behind as he was way too heavy. Laptop, 2 walkmans, full size shampoo & conditioner, had to go. We even gave him a few pieces of more appropriate Kona gear to complete his kit.

Thus went his first few days in the U.S. after being warned that most of “us” were gun totin’ rednecks drivin’ big trucks with confederate flags lookin’ for cyclists to run off the road after bouncing a beer bottle off their heads. I think he rode away on my/his bike in a state of shock.

He completed his trip down the coast with some good tales then came back to Vancouver where his mom met him from Japan to travel around the area for a few weeks. They took us out to dinner, gave us presents from Japan, and spent the night at our house. It was the first time his mother had slept in someone’s house outside of Japan which was a big thrill for her. Masa took the Jake back to Japan to use as his campus bike so it’s fun to know my trusty old steed that I raced ‘cross on for a couple years before turning it into a commuter is on to another fun chapter in its life.

Not that I totally paid my past debts, but I feel as though I made a good dent in the imbalance I have felt in my traveling fortunes over the years.

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