Coming back to the US after 3 years in Japan has been a much bigger adjustment than I'd expected. Japan is a very different country and I didn't realize how adapted I'd become and how many things about that culture I was taking for granted. Of course some are good, some are maybe not so good.
In Japan, people are generally quiet and polite, which is a pretty nice thing. But at the same time, this politeness goes along with a confounding indirectness-- it's often hard to get a straight answer, especially if the answer is "no".
On the other hand, America is infamous for its excessive volume and rudeness. But the flip side of that is the direct honesty most people will treat you to. I definitely missed that while I was in Japan. At the same time, it's pretty damn loud, dirty and stinky over here! I completely forgot what an experience a trip on a SF Muni bus was...
Putting all that aside, the tracks are very different between the two counties as well, and I've found that I'm spoiled rotten by the lovingly maintained Japanese tracks. Hellyer is an entirely different beast: Bumpy and narrow, with banking that is too shallow in the corners and seems unnecessarily steep on the straights, I could barely get out of my own way on this track at first.
And no disrespect to the track, I'm glad to have it. After a few times around it, I came to a stunning realization: I'm not a very good track rider! The velvety Japanese tracks did not prepare me for this. As a result my pedal stroke is too jerky, therefore I lose traction in the corners. When I'm standing, I'm wild all over the bumps because I'm not centered enough. I'm taking these as lessons Hellyer is teaching me about riding.
I've attended a couple of Sunday advanced training sessions, which are mostly geared for sprinters. Thanks to the Hellyer folks for allowing me to join them. This led to realizing another track-related difference between Americans and the Japanese: Americans are BIG. I was used to often being the tallest guy around, if not the most burly, at the track in Japan. At about 5'10" and 175 pounds, I seem more like an enduro over here! This Sunday group includes some of Hellyer's heavy hitters- Pete Billington, Sam Milroy, Allen Vugrincic, Carlos Johnson. These guys are big, football player big! I feel small...
The big guy on the front here is Carlos Johnson, who's been giving me some great coaching on how to tackle Hellyer.