Nothing much to report from today. Some highlights: a relaxed morning that I didn’t feel guilty about, slow and repetitive pedal strokes, dodging some surprise raindrops by pulling into the living room of two nice Vietnamese men and munching on some Creamos sitting on a plastic stool watching raindrops fall, and starting to come to terms with being so close to the end.
Certainly this meditation did not all come about today, but rather in bits and spurts throughout the whole trip. But, now is as good of a time to write about it as ever. Simply put, this trip has been awesome. My bike ride through Vietnam has taken the better part of a year to plan - from logistics to safety and contingency plans to everything in between. There was a lot of buildup, but the payout is worth it. I’m out here, maneuvering my bike and very few possessions through Vietnam: new, old, urban, rural, rich, poor, hot, cold, steep and flat, tired and awake, but always excited, always with eyes wide open, and always with an understanding of just how lucky I am.
Now, the trip is not quite over yet. I still have a sizable amount of time left here and a couple of other adventures up my sleeve - but with every pedal stroke the biggest, most important chunk is approaching an end. My charge to myself is to be excited by the destination, that is only appropriate, but to continue to be even more captivated by every second I get to spend on the Vietnamese tarmac.
The early morning wake up saw the first of the day’s excited energy. I felt really good coming off of a decent night’s rest and the relaxed day before, but now it was back in the saddle, and today would be a big one.
On all of my cycling trips nowadays I like to have one hundred mile day. If you’ll allow me to wax poetic for a moment, I find it is most often the mind that gives up first. My legs are stronger than I know, and on long days like this they do not fail. These long days are exercise for the mind just as much as they are for the body.
I had the first thirty-odd miles dispatched by 8:00, stopping for a quick cup in a decently sized lakeside city. The ride profile for today was ambitious - 112 miles with a 1,400 foot climb about 70 miles in. Good fun. I felt really strong through the afternoon, even with the heat and the sun. Textbook Vietnam beauty the whole time. The flat rice fields are unbelievably green - that is not an effect of the camera. I was even unfazed when the road turned to potholed dirt and gravel. Slowing down and paying more attention seemed to do the trick. The smooth pavement returned for the first of the two big climbs. I had been saving a playlist from a particular teacher for this moment, and great music seemed to keep my legs spinning well, even as the gradients approached ten to thirteen percent.
The second climb was tricky, not so much because of the steepness, but I felt like my brain would be shook loose by the poor road quality. It was truly indescribable. My low profile, slick road tires roll quickly and quietly when the pavement is smooth, but when it’s like this, forget it. The top of the climb seemed to approach as quickly as the base, and I found myself devouring a steamed bun and iced coffee in a roadside hammock. Many of the cafes here have hammocks set up for the customers. On the other side of some foliage, my prize revealed itself: a gorgeous view of the whole valley, tinged with a hazy pink sun-setting sky. But I could not linger, with about twenty miles to a crappy hotel, and thirty miles to a nice hotel, I had to figure out my game plan on the bike. I enjoyed a nice descent cutting right through the fading pink.
As darkness fell I pedaled on, the road transitioning back to dirt was quite the annoyance at this point. See, this is where the mental game starts to become a reality. The last miles were ponderous on the sub-par road conditions, but I pushed on all the way to a nice town about 40kms west of Dalat. As I was riding I realized the metric conversion for 112 miles is just about 180kms. My 18th birthday is in just a couple of days, so I think it only appropriate to chalk this up to a 180 for 18 early birthday celebration. I can’t think of a better way to spend it. A really awesome bowl of duck pho was my reward for a job I considered well done.