The last remaining mission has been successfully accomplished. I test-rode Kawasaki's legendary urban cruiser, the Vulcan S 650. I actually paid to rent the bike from SCS Ueno in Tokyo, but it was worth the money. A young pretty female receptionist from Tohgane, Chiba helped me with all the paper work. Once it was done, a mechanic took over and briefed on the bike. He started the engine, and that familiar engine sound reached my ears that I had heard so many times while watching its reviews on You Tube. Once the briefing was over, the mechanic said, "Have a safe ride," and I was on my own.
In the first couple of minutes I was as nervous as hell. I didn't sign up for optional damage insurance. Should the bike be damaged in any way, no matter how minor it may be, I have to pay everything from my pocket.
But once I passed that initial anxiety phase, I felt as comfortable as if I had owned the bike for years. I sped through the urban roads far less crowded than usual because it was a national holiday, and there were fewer commercial vehicles.
I turned right from Route 4 into a street leading to Kudanshita. The famous torii gate to the Yasukuni Shrine was in sight much sooner than I thought. I took a left as I left behind the gate, the Imperial Palace appeared up ahead. I took a right into the circular road around the Palace and enjoyed cruising around it a couple of times. So many people were jogging around it. There are a bunch of foreign tourists also. And every now and then I saw cyclists passing the runners and tourists. I was overtaken by many other motor cyclists who seemed far more experienced and comfortable with their own vehicles. But I didn't care. I simply respect their experience and skills. I am just a novice.
After going around the Palace a couple of times I got bored, so I took a right at an intersection into a street leading to the area where my office was. It was a familiar area, but going through it on a fast, powerful vehicle was a whole new experience. Originally I was thinking of going across my office area toward Aoyama, but I was too nervous to change the lanes into an over-bridge, so I stayed on the left-most lane and turn left into Akasakamitsuke. I felt relieved as I saw the familiar neighborhood around my office building.
I thought of keeping straight into Uchisaiwaicho and turn left to go back to the Imperial Palace, but at the last minute thought that there was no challenge to it. So I took a right at an intersection in Tameikesanno, and headed toward Roppongi. Seeing holiday goers from a car lane was refreshing. It's like watching a Tokyo version of "Fellini's Rome".
Once I passed Roppongi, I came to another intersection. If you went straight, you'd get to the Tokyo Tower. If you turned left, you'd get back to the Imperial Palace. I didn't want to get too far away, so I decided to turn left.
When I finally got back to the Palace, I was so relieved and filled with a sense of peace. And somehow I felt like I could be a bit more adventurous this time. So this time around I went through that over-bridge I had missed before, and headed toward Shibuya. Once I was on Aoyama Dori Street I found myself surrounded with expensive sports cars and convertibles. I guess the street was popular among those who wanted to show off their gorgeous vehicles.
I almost went as far as Shibuya, but imagined how crowded and messy all the roads might get, and decided to turn left into a road leading to Roppongi again. But this time I decided to reach the Tokyo Tower. And reach the Tokyo Tower I did! There were so many people at the foot of the tower and so many carp banners were hung above them. The area was filled with a holiday atmosphere and people all looked happy.
I headed toward the Imperial Palace, but instead of going around it again, took a right at the Peninsula Hotel toward Ginza. After that I kept straight until I hit Route 4. And once I took a left into it, I just kept straight north-bound to get back to where I started off. I filled it up, of course, before returning the bike. It's part of the deal.
Once I got back, I showed the clerk my gasoline receipt, and returned the registration form for the bike.
I shared my impression while the clerk checked my gasoline bill and and my gas mileage. He said, "You stepped on the gas, didn't you?" I didn't know what he meant by that at first. Did I do something wrong? Or was I not supposed to go fast? I don't remember going too fast though every now and then I turned the throttle to accelerate just to enjoy the power of the vehicle. So I said, "Oh, is there anything wrong? Like the tank was not full, or anything like that? I don't mind going to the service station again to put more if that's necessary. I didn't do the work, you know. I just asked the guy to fill it up and paid, you know." He said, "No, no, no, no. Your gas mileage is quite common. It's not like cruising along the highway for hundreds of miles." I was like, "What do you expect, pal? I rented the bike only for four hours. How far do you think I can get? In Central Tokyo you get stopped at every few hundred meters by traffic lights. Of course, gas mileage won't be that good!" But I didn't mention it, of course.
I asked for an estimate for the bike. It was surprisingly less expensive than I thought, and fairly affordable even for a man of modest means such as myself. The only downside is the color. Pearl white is not my most favorite color. There are two more bikes of the same kind, but in a different color. One is in Kanagawa. It's more expensive, but comes with more accessories. The other is in Adachi City, Tokyo. It's as inexpensive as the one I rode today. But it doesn't come with any accessories. Both are in my favorite color: metallic black. I will probably go to see both before I make my final decision.