Okinawa tour becomes rite of passage
NAHA, Okinawa — Carl Gettinger and his son, Daniel, knew a bicycle tour of Okinawa would be challenging: The father, 48, and son, 13, were facing roughly 200 miles in five days.
High winds and torrential downpours made the going tougher, but the two persevered and are expected to complete the trek on Monday.
While it was an exciting way to ring in the new year, the venture was more a journey of discovery.
“It’s an important age for him,” Gettinger said, referring to his son. “It’s important for boys and girls at this age to do something physically or mentally challenging that they couldn’t do as a child.”
The father pointed out that many cultures have rituals signifying a child’s passage into adulthood. “We don’t have anything in our culture that represents a clear dividing line between childhood and adulthood,” he added.
The bicycle trip was an improvisation of that “ritual,” said Gettinger, noting he hoped the experience would instill the “old-fashioned” virtues of hard work, determination and persistence. “When you come to those moments in life when you think, ‘Wow, I’m not sure I can do this,’ you need to put your mind over matter to reach the goal. I hope this adventure will instill those things into Daniel.”
Another aspect of the trip, said Gettinger, a U.S. State Department official in Tokyo, was to get reacquainted with places and friends he knew when he was the political-military officer at Okinawa’s consulate from 1989 to 1992.
Thursday found the Gettingers mounting their bikes at the foot of Shuri Castle, one of Okinawa’s prime tourist attractions, where they rendezvoused with old friends. Although chilly by Okinawa standards, with the morning temperature in the mid-50s, the two were basking in the day’s relative warmth and beauty. It was snowing when they boarded the plane in Tokyo on New Year’s Day, said Daniel, who was wearing a short-sleeve biking shirt.
While a little apprehensive about the distance he and his dad would have to cover, Daniel said he was “excited” and “confident” they would make it.
The two took a “nice, leisurely” pace the first day, steering clear of buses and traffic, as they meandered through the city and rode less than 20 miles to Kadena Air Base. Along the way, they visited their old home, took in familiar sites and filled their tanks at a Mr. Doughnut.
On Friday, bad weather set in as they pedaled more than 40 miles past Nago, northern Okinawa’s largest city.
“We got pretty soaked,” Daniel said after he and his father arrived bedraggled at a small inn in Vise near the Motobu Peninsula’s western tip. The two rode the last three hours in the rain.
“The hardest part was riding through the wind. It pushed you back. It was very hard,” the boy added.
Although chilled from the wind and rain, Daniel said the constant pedaling warmed his body, and he got through the ordeal with the “promise of a nice sushi dinner” at the inn.
Gettinger said he was proud of his son, who battled 50 mph winds and seemed to take the adversity in stride.
“At one point, I heard him humming ‘Moon River’ as he was cycling,” said the father.
“I was just keeping my spirits up,” said Daniel. “I’ve got a personal commitment to see this through. I gotta finish this trip. I’m not a quitter.
“Besides,” he added, “I think it’s fun … spending time with my dad.”