SS1600k Yokohama to Soyamasaki 2008

I hadn’t had a decent adventure in while and neither had I ventured far north. So north I went with all the touring gear and a couple of ferry tickets to get over to Hokkaido and back. The FZ1 had new rubber, oil and coolant change, a couple of extra gadgets and I even went to work on the chain.

The Ironbutt

At the last minute a highspeed ferry ticket from Aomori to Hakodate became available reducing the crossing time to under 2hrs from the usual 4. With the time saving another Ironbutt was in the cards so jumped on the computer and figured a route via Nigatta to Aomori, on the ferry to Hakodate and then North to Soyamisaki that came to @ 1620km. Perfect! No complications or so I thought. That was Saturday afternoon and I had planned to leave straight after work and tour a little on the way up for a Monday ferry but the new plan delayed the launch till 3am for a decent kip and to hook up with the ferry scheduled to leave at 1.45pm Sunday instead of Monday afternoon. Worked out 950km/10hrs Then across on the ferry and roll on from Hakodate to Soyamisaki 670km/11hrs.
So went home after Saturday work, loaded up the bike, climbed into bed at 8pm and out again at 2am fresh as a new born zombie ready for a solo trans-archipelago marathon.
The start was sweet, hitting the road at 3am with very little traffic slowing me down. Drifted up the DaisanKeihin onto Kampachi dori to the Kanetsu expressway and glided outa town. The weather was warm and perfect for riding with falling temps climbing into Gunma’s foothills as the sun was tinging the sky over my right shoulder. Basically, took the Kanetsu Expr out to the Hokuriku Expr and then swung around onto the Banetsu Expr at Nigatta before shooting north on the Tohoko Expr for Aomori. Only a few problems worth noting. 1st being fuel. Didn’t plan out fuel stops and almost ran out a couple of times on the northern Kanetsu and Banetsu legs. 2 quick off expressway excursions had me getting fuel and losing the night discount. Damn! Then had an unmarked car pacing me for about 40km keeping me more than honest while everyone else crept on by. Guess they realized I wasn’t gonna willingly make their ticket book any thinner and finally exited to head back the other way and try and give out some tickets there. Which left me to soldier on.
Was actually making damn good pace and keeping stops to a sip/splash, fuel up and dash. Became a little worried about time constraints with the off expressway dawdling before the Tohoku. But by Sugo all looked to be back on track. And it continued that way to Aomori, arriving 10 minutes ahead of schedule at 12.45pm. Then about an hour wait to board.

Left the bike for the guys to lock in down below and headed for my seat upstairs and a handy kip. Managed to sleep, legs sprawled out in the aisle, for about an hour before some old fart gave me a swift kick that woke me with a start. So I was awake and watched a little SouthParkish vid on the monitor about the escape routes -!disturbing!- and then a cool informercial about the wavepiercer catameran under foot. Pretty cool engineering there.

Ferry docked at 3.45 in Hakodate and I was on the road again by 4.30pm. Right, 670km in 10.5hrs. Easy I thought. And it was, until around I fuelled up the 1st time on the Hokkaido expressway and quized the bowserboy about further gas stands. Now usually I plan out fuel stop strategy before hand but this was an impromptu ass haul and adversity was to be expected without prep. He informed me most places shut around 6pm with some staying open till 9pm. So I decided to conserve fuel and get off when necessary. Worse comes to worse, I can always camp. So, north I went for a highway oasis up the Hokkaido expressway a bit. Doing calcs to keep the brain ticking, I soon realized I was in a pickle for fuel versus distance. Even from the highway oasis, which was the last 24hr gas stand the computer had shown, it was around 270km to Soya. My bike had never gone further than 265km on a tank. Mmmm sure could’ve done with that long range tank Fastbike and I had been yarning about. Reaching the highway oasis and finding it closed was a set back. So I got off at the next exit, 200km into the tank and 25km into the fuel trip, and asked the toll booth attendant about gas stands. He informed me that there were various Shell affiliated SE-RU-FU serve gas stands open over 24hr Obon and the highway oasis was only 24 in winter for snow stranded locals. That was a relief, so fuelled up and hit the expressway again before doing the same at the end of the expressway in preparation for the final 190km leg to Soyamisaki.
The final leg was an adventure as rt275 climbed up into fog and had to use the very handy overhead road reflectors as a guide through the fog at regular road speeds. Here’s where I met up with more than few of Hokkaido’s nocturnal fauna, out to keep me awake. Thru the fog their eyes shone bright while ghostly silhouettes darted into bushes on my approach. This kept me peering into the pea soup until I finally started to glimpse a tail here a or snout there and then one just sat there as I sailed by. Foxes. Glad those pranksters were there to keep me alert as fatigue was starting to set in. Must’ve been seeing 1 every 5 km or so.
On hitting the coast, the Goal was within reach and I started to think about accommodations for the night. 40km to go and I passed the last campsite. Decided to press on and think about sleeping when I got to Soya. The coast was a fog free open road cruise without a car in sight. It was gonna be close time-wise and I just kept the throttle steady, watched the km markers tick down and scanned the verges for those foxy pranksters.
2.50am I rolled into the Soya carpark and pulled up in front of the toilets to relieve a swollen bladder. When I came out, a local fox befriended me, most likely in the hope of a feed, tagging along a couple of metres back as I took snaps of the odometer and the chronometer/coordinate building to prove I’d made it.
Then I noticed a tent and Baja camped out behind a sign board(in the vid link above) in the park and thought that’s the ticket, camp right here! I found a secluded spot on the west side of the park and after shooing away a grazing deer, set the tent and crawled in for a few hours of much needed shut-eye.
24hrs/1635km and day 1 of the northern adventure complete.

Not a good photo but you can see the Soyamisaki monument in the background under a brightening north-east sky

To read the rest of the ride’s adventure check out this link

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