How Quickly Something can go Wrong - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

December 4, 2016

How Quickly Something can go Wrong

Tam Quan Bac to Chanh Thien 35 miles

How Quickly Something can go Wrong

We didn’t really want to leave our nice hotel room to ride bikes in possibly more rain. The sunrise was beautiful however with some blue up there. The clouds were mixed and changing quickly. The weather could be a mixed bag for the day and was worth a gamble. As much as we wanted to stay another day and night we had a little bit of a sour taste about the ‘incident’ with the cook and the waiter the night before. We didn’t know where else to eat dinner which meant that there would be another encounter. What would they do to us for not going along with their little get rich scheme, spike our squid?! That was more of a gamble than with the weather. We decided to leave but not before skipping across to the hotel’s coffee shop. This hotel had it all.

We couldn’t get over the fact that we were the only people staying at the big, sort of fancy, hotel on a weekend. There were many employees doing little work however we could see from our balcony the waiter and the cook sweeping the floor of the vast dining area. Every time we went down the stairs to walk through the lobby the woman asleep behind the front desk would jump up and be groggily attentive momentarily and as we exited would slowly slip back out of sight.

Of course we were the only people at the open air coffee shop which meant that one of us had to enter the kitchen in order to take the girls’ attention away from their phones. They were rough, ignorant girls with no social skills, unusual since we had mostly dealt with the opposite everywhere in Vietnam. The owners of this hotel were obviously cutting corners wherever they could and employee wages were most likely rock bottom. But the girls made good coffee and they never tried to “adjust” our bill.

The coffee house connected with our "luxury" hotel on the beach.
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It’s just so interesting to be the only ones staying at such a large complex. It was our chance to feel important and rich in the lap of luxury with all these employees to serve us but instead I felt uneasy, sad about inequality, sad that some people do not get more education, sad about poverty and poverty of spirit. I guess it was time we got back on the road.

Along much of the coast of Vietnam there is a peninsula along the coast separated from the main land by a waterway akin to Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway. This makes me feel somewhat at home since I spent my high school years living on the peninsula in Ormond Beach, Florida. We have to carefully look at the maps to see if there are bridges over the inlets - the places where the waterways go out to sea. Often they do not and then we have to take roads inland to get around the obstructions. This time we saw that we could follow the coast south on what looked like a small road, but a numbered road (DT639). It had bridges and dodged promontories jutting out into the sea although there was a section with hills.

Within a couple of blocks from the hotel after we left we bought a couple of banh mi sandwiches for later. Two more blocks and we had to take cover and get all of our rain gear out. It didn’t last long and soon we were roasting and had to stop to take it all off. The road was in poor condition at first but we loved how quiet it was and that it was only one lane. Again, everyone was astonished, in a very happy way, to see us.

After we crossed a big bridge and a very full river there was a flat rice growing area. Then we entered a steamy jungle. I mean steamy with humidity hovering around 100%. Because of all the saturation of everything we were smelling dozens of different rotting odors as we rode. Most were pretty bad smelling. It was as if everything was decomposing at a quick rate. The planted trees were probably growing happily with all the moisture. We see a certain kind of tree planted a lot. They are not left to get very large when they are all cut down. Either they are for pulp or for making laminate furniture. Way up on the hillside men with chainsaws were taking out a section of the planted trees. We squinted up to realize they were waving at us!

Long bridge and full river.
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Then the road went straight up for about 500 feet. It was so steep it was hard to even push our bikes. The road engineers had made some attempt to minimize the grade by blasting out a lot of rock (A LOT of ROCK) but the road was still straight up. At least it had stopped raining.

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Coming down a steep grade is no fun either even if it is dry because within seconds we would be going too fast for the unpredictable road surface or sharp curves hiding drivers possibly in the wrong lane. Fortunately we were mostly alone on the road. We therefore were squeezing our brakes rather tightly which meant we had to stop to let our rims cool off.

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I stopped first and Andrea came up behind me. There was an intermittent high stone curb that I put my foot down on to balance as I came to a stop. Andrea came up behind and did the same thing except due to the steepness of the road she didn’t stop where she intended and her foot slipped off the stone curb to the part where there was a gap. She started falling over towards a deep stone ditch - not something anyone would want to fall into.

Fortunately she caught herself with one hand on the opposite side of the ditch. (How she was able to do this still perplexes me.) Her legs were still on the bike, trapped by the weight of the panniers. When I turned around I saw this scary and unbelievably precarious sight of Andrea bridging the stone ditch with one arm and her bike and panniers pressing her down! She was completely helpless.

I quickly realized the only thing I could do to help was to jump down in the ditch and push her and the bike upright. The ditch was deep, probably five feet, and for me to get down into it as quickly as possible without injuring myself was actually a bit of a concern as well. Fortunately between my pushing, and her one-arming-it, she got upright, disaster averted.

Much can happen in an instant. We both sat down on the curb breathless and thought about how awful it would have been if she had fallen head first into a stone ditch. She could have broken her neck or shoulder or anything and to try to get help in a place like that would have taken a long time. We could have never foreseen such an odd accident. They come out of the blue and in an instant lives can be changed forever. This time we were lucky.

Andrea thinking about what might have happened. The drainage ditch is deeper than it looks.
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As we rode carefully down further we had a nice view of the small isolated beach we would be riding next to in minutes. There were a few houses - people scraping out a living from the sea. The two-mile-long beach felt undiscovered by the outside world and I thought it was nice that some beaches get to be simply part of other people’s lives and however they view or use them.

Small beach seeming like it was cut off from the rest of the world.
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Coracle and grave.
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It was my favorite stretch of beach in Vietnam so far because it felt so natural. It had to be savored quickly however because the road then went straight up again but only about 250 feet of gain. Coming down the other side was even more treacherous because then we knew how treacherous treacherous actually is. I think it was steeper coming down than the last one as well and we really gave the brakes a workout. We were cursing the road builders.

At the bottom were paddies with new rice coming up which is the first we have seen. It kind of represents some sort of shift to a more southern climate where more crops can maybe be grown in a year.

New crop of rice coming up.
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Then the road paralleled the beach about five hundred feet away. Between the road and the beach were fish farms, one after another. I don’t know what they grow in the big man-made ponds, possibly tiny shrimp or tiny fish. Aeration devices spun on top of the water. The land was all sand and extremely dry. The area was kind of depressing it was so poor. Trash was strewn everywhere and more fish operations had gone bust than were operating. Skeletons of buildings were everywhere, deserted shacks, large pond holes dug but never lined with black plastic, walls crumbling, bricks strewn, and a fishy stench blew across the road along with little pieces of styrofoam; two things I didn’t want to smell or see.

Lots of abandoned buildings on this stretch of beach.
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And it was hot, beastly hot. It was so hot that when we did come to a crossroads of sorts and saw a place that sold coffee we turned in without hesitation. We needed some iced something or other. I needed to oil my chain too because it was as dry and screechy as the sandy wasteland. I had a very “out there” feeling about the place - a wild west feeling - a Last Picture Show feeling with the saloon doors banging in the dusty gusts of wind. I love those kinds of places. If the feeling of a place takes over like that that means it has character and character is what I guess I am always looking for.

I'm sure this engine works fine.
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It was at that crossroads where we turned inland just a mile to DT632. That was a great road through a much more populated and prosperous area. It was getting late in the day and people were on the road waving and shouting hello again. School kids were riding home and everyone seemed in a good mood. We zipped along with the wind and kept watching a big black cloud to the east. At the intersection of DT640 was the little town of Chanh Thien where Andrea said there was a Nha Nghi. We found it just as it started to rain - a wonderful day nearly without rain and again so very interesting. I love Vietnam.

lovebruce

Today's ride: 35 miles (56 km)
Total: 731 miles (1,176 km)

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