"Dear Little Friends," is how we always begin - Both Sides of Paradise - CycleBlaze

"Dear Little Friends," is how we always begin

The air is cooler when you're moving

Dear little friends,

To our old friends who have followed our meanderings in past email newsletters, welcome back to the usual nonsensical and occasionally insightful deathless prose employed to bring you along with us, absent the firsthand jet lag, motion sickness, food poisoning, leech bites and heat stroke.

Not only are we changing our communication format we are also changing our transport to that of the two-wheeled variety, so you can see that the website "CrazyGuyonaBike" (edit: this journal was originally published on CGOAB) is very aptly named, although most bloggers here are athletic, fearless, prepared individuals who have invaded a dizzying map of exotic locations. Perhaps for us it could more accurately be called "HarmlessPeopleonSmallBikes" but whatever. We're in it to win it.

To our new friends following us for the first time, be warned that winning it for us means having a lovely time despite the discomforts listed above, and taking a relaxed, leisurely pace. We will be spending far more days "resting" than actually moving, and despite this site mainly being about bike touring, we will happily stow our bikeybikes on any truck, boat, tuk-tuk, or tuologgi that will agree to take us aboard should the need arise.

We may live in Portland but we are not cyclists, we are people who get around on bikes, so there will be no breathtaking feats of endurance or century days, no, no, no. We have health issues that slow us down, we have art issues that deem we stop and photograph or film or write or talk with people instead of hit the road at zero dark-thirty hours to climb every mountain. We chose to ride folding bikes on the theory that we may be more likely to be invited to pop them onto a truck with 10 people, 4 babies, a basket of chickens and a styrofoam cooler of delectable farm-fresh grubs when the sun be setting and the next town is 20 miles off. We admit it: we want the best of both worlds, the camaraderie of public transportation, and the freedom off the bus to stop and go when and where we want.

Waiting for a bus once again.
Perhaps a suitcase full of books isn't the thing to bring on a bike.
Laos Immigration near Vientiane, Laos, June 2007
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We'll be traveling to some areas that not a lot of Westerners go to and we won't always get to decide how or if we can get there in the manner of our choice. So we will take the tack that has always worked well for us in SE Asia, be flexible, be patient, smile a lot, and don't be afraid. Things always work out, even when they don't look so great at the time.

We are Andrea and Bruce of Portland, Oregon, USA. Bruce has been traveling regularly in Asia since 1974, and in 2002 he let me, Andrea, tag along and he may secretly regret the rabid traveler's itch awoken in me. Since then we've taken 3 trips to Myanmar and 0 trips to the Pacific Coast an hour away so one can see where the priorities lie.

I kid you not, this is one of my favorite restaurants in Bangkok, and if it were on my soi I would eat here every day.
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The first time we were introduced to bike touring was in 2005 when we met Willie Weir and Kat Marriner on a bus in Thailand after they had made a visa extension run to the Burmese border. They regaled us with their world-by-bike travel stories and distracted us from the bus driver's M-150 energy drink-fueled hurtle through the mountains of northern Thailand, mainly on the two wheels nearest the outside curve. We entertained the idea of bike travel for maybe 20 seconds and thought, "Nah." It did not sound very fun to us at all, frankly. Wasn't life in Thailand sweaty enough already?

Other people seem to be happy on their bikes, why not us?
Xayaburi, Laos, November 2008
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As you can see, there can also be danger in traveling by foot.
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This was not an isolated incident.
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In 2008 we found ourselves riding Flying Pigeon rental bikes in Nyaungshwe, Myanmar and thought, "Nope, not very fun." Maybe it was the flat tire, the pedal that fell off, the sticky one-speed or the owie broken-springed saddle, it's hard to say. A month later we scored some fairly decent rental bikes in Siem Reap, Cambodia, zipping around from Angkor Wat to Bantey Srei to Bar Street and it suddenly hit us, hey man, this WAS fun! We could go where we wanted WHEN we wanted! People could see you as you moved by, you were down on their level and available for greetings and banter and offerings of water or bananas. The air is cooler when you're moving!

It's pretty hard to live in Portland and not notice the shoals of bikes zipping past the door every day and so I started commuting to work pretty seriously last year and clocked in 1400 miles by the last day of school. You would never know it to look at me, of course, since apparently after age 50 the calories expended/burned formula works as well as my older brother's eight-track tape deck.

Six years since our last trip: six years of me working away to retirement, Bruce taking care of his elderly father, and now both our dads have passed away and I turned my little library over to new and very capable hands. We have slowly amassed gear, one paycheck at a time. There is a lot of trepidation about our capacity to ride bikes through these hot, chaotic, and not-so-politically-correct countries. But these are places we already know that we love, we have friends to see again there, new areas to explore. We have always dreamed of following the Mekong downstream. There are new areas open to tourism in Myanmar, and land border crossings that were still closed to tourists less than a year ago.

Yep, we're getting on, not in great shape, inexpert bicyclists. It does feel crazy. There are so many things to consider just trying to get ourselves and two goofy little bikes onto a plane, I get tired just thinking about it. Time for a rest day.

We'll jump on any conveyance that will take us.
Pakse, Laos, February 2009
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Ron Grumby"We are not cyclists, we are people who get around on bikes..."
Nicely stated. I might use that to help some of my family and friends understand what we are setting out to do. We look forward to meeting you later this month!
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1 year ago
Andrea Brown"Just taking a little bike ride."

Next day: "Just taking a little bike ride."

Next day: "Just taking a little bike ride."

String enough of those days together and suddenly you've gotten somewhere. (credit to Chris White for articulating this so well)
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1 year ago