It’s with mixed emotions – and very sore quads – that I write this blog post.
TheTouringTandem is winding down. We’re getting old. Our days of international bike touring are over. (At least until we gather up a couple of children and come back out in ten years or so.) It’s sad, and it happened unexpectedly.
The other day we checked into our hotel room at 8:15am. After my cold shower, I got in my two hour nap. Katy fuddled around on her Kindle. Then we got to thinking. What are we doing? It’s too hot out there. I’m sweating out of my shins. (The other day I took off my spandex with a spatula.)
In the words of Hamilton – the Ham – Porter: This pop isn’t workin’, Benny! I’m bakin’ like a toasted cheese-it! It’s so hot here!
Or if you prefer Dr. Evil: It’s like sharks with frickin laser beams attached to their heads.
So we decided to change things up. After a scurry of online planning, we got in bed at 7:50pm. But as is never the case, neither of us could sleep. I laid in bed and lived through the memories of the road. They are good memories. Ones we will relive again and again. Often we will turn to each other and say, “Remember that ice cream shop in Ljulbljana? Remember the tea in Ayder? Remember Dartmoor? Or the Po? Wadi Rum? The sunset in the Kackars? Swimming north of Vang Vieng? The balkava? The prune crumble? Remember the guy with his sheep in the hills above Srebrenica? The furniture stores in Tirana? Remember that slice of pepperoni on our way out of Udine? The Indians who bought our dinner on Thanksgiving? My barber? Rebuilding our wheel in Kathmandu?
I tried to sleep, but my mind raced.
At 1am my alarm went off. I shot out of bed. The sun would be up in five and a half hours, and that meant heat. Lots of it. Gotta get a head start. We raced off to the twenty four hour 7-11 to stock up on water and sugar, but found the morning market just starting to set up. Who sets up a market at 2am? We found our favorite, khao lam, and grabbed four, jammed then in our panniers (panniers I will miss packing each day) and got on the road.
As we rolled out of the parking lot a lady waved and said, “Goodbye.” How did she know? How does she know we are leaving?
At the first intersection, three minutes down the road, we had to choose. Stick to our new plan or continue with the original plan. I wanted to stay on our bike and enjoy three more weeks cycling through Thailand and Myanmar. But, more than I wanted to stay, I wanted to leave. The heat is dreadful. No point finishing a great trip hiding inside under the air-con. We decided against enduring three weeks of stifling heat. I turned left.
We rode from 2:30am until 11:30am. It was a solid 9 hours in the saddle, 182km. Our longest day of the trip. Katy is tough. When I wanted to quit, I just thought to myself, if she is still out here, surely I can toughen up.
We hit a steep climb early, and my quads ached. Very, very sore quads. Then it was a gradual roll until 8am when the headwind picked up. It was a hot, muggy, hazy, ride-through-campfire-smoke, munch on Khao Lam kind of day. At 9am, when the sun was raging and our butts were sore, we turned to each, smiled, and said “Enjoy it, it’s our final kilometers in Asia.” We rode the last 20km slow. The heat felt great.
Katy is – as you might already know – tough. She’s strong – I don’t know many others who can jump on a bike at 2am and ride hard for 9 hours. She’s optimistic – when the sweat was flowing off of us, and I pulled off the road into the shade cause I wanted to die, I would turn around and it looked like Katy and got just got of a swimming pool, but she had a big smile on her face. When I came close to just hailing down a truck and hitching into town I thought, if my wife can do this, surely I can as well. Katy is tougher than nails. How she’s endured nine months on the back of a tandem, without any say in direction, speed, shifting, gears or brakes, I am speechless. I don’t know anyone else who’s done what she has done.
But this trip isn’t over, yet.
Our new plan: go to the beach. This morning we sat through an eight hour train ride (but only cost $2.25 each so it was worth it. Great discomfort to dollar ratio) to get back to Bangkok and in two hours we fly to Krabi. Beach time. Run around on some scooters. Eat, eat, and eat. Swim, swim, swim.
Then, after we’ve cooled off, we will reach our 10,000km goal. We have 587km (365 miles) left. On March 16th we will get to St. George, Utah and spend three or four weeks cycling through Zions, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. If anyone wants to come down for some hiking, biking, eating, or campfire-lighting mallow-roasting let us know. We would love to have you.