Sweat, the Supermoon, and Me - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

November 14, 2016

Sweat, the Supermoon, and Me

Lam Son to Cong Lien

Dear little friends,

It’s gonna happen sometimes. You have a shitty day at the office.

We had gone up and down a fair amount of slow-rolling hills the day before and I thought to myself that we must be getting in better condition because while I don’t like them I wasn’t dying or anything. The heat and humidity were pretty bad though and we had definitely been ready to knock off early.

We woke up in our nha nghi and nobody had entered the room and set Bruce’s Rube Goldberg anti-theft device off so we got ready to go. We really wanted to get going earlier than the day before to beat the heat so we swiftly went through our paces. Because bottled water is quite a bit more expensive (and sometimes rare) in Vietnam than in neighboring countries we were filling our bottles with tap water and then sterilizing it with a Steripen. The hot water heaters here heat tap water to nearly boiling so I have been able to scald our water bottles fairly clean, too.

We heated up water for instant coffee and ate some muesli with milk and had an orange or two. Then it was time to pack up and leave. As soon as I went outside I was sweating profusely even though it wasn’t super hot at all. Just dripping. Within the first couple of miles we were climbing slowly but surely and I was drinking and drinking my banked water.

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On the map we had looked at a couple of roads that turned off eastward from the Ho Chi MInh highway but first it looked like there was one more beautiful karst area to go through so on and up we climbed. But the scenery was kind of dull and it didn’t look like it was going to improve so after 17 miles we turned east onto a much smaller road, more our speed. I had rejected it on the map the night before because “it starts out a little climb-y” and I was right, it was not a little climb-y, it was a LOT climb-y.

The view from the top of our climb.
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Heading down in the direction of the ocean.
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At this point I knew I was not right. I was drenched with sweat, and passing motorcyclists were looking at me with open concern because they thought I was crying, the sweat rolling down my face and splattering on my thighs. I could not keep my sunscreen on and that is not something I take lightly. Once we topped the big hill it was downhill all the way to the coast, which we probably could have reached except I was feeling so terrible.

Bruce was taking care of me, he let me stop and eat when I said I NEED TO EAT, even though we basically stopped in a ditch to eat our banh mis, and he made sure I got ice cream at the next little town. We were cruising along with the usual 150 hellos per mile but I was having a tough time being a good smiler and greeter, and that made me feel even worse.

A classic banh mi stand.
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In the early afternoon we were on the plain nearing the ocean, still rolling slightly downhill thank god, when we came to what I can only call a siesta zone, with small tables and hammocks under shade and nice ladies making coconut drinks, “nguoc dua”. Our lady was the nicest. She hacked open two coconuts, poured the water in a plastic pitcher, scraped out the innards, added ice, and nodded toward the hammocks. I was pretty sure if I entered a hammock that would be the end of me for the day so we just relaxed at our little plastic table on our little plastic stools and drank up the best coconut drink ever. Other folks arrived by motorbike and swung in their hammocks and checked their phones or smoked from large wooden water pipes.

Rejuvenating coconut juice, coconut shavings and ice in a pitcher.
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Waiting for the rejuvenating properties of the coconut juice to kick in.
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Ron SuchanekCoconut juice is a good idea. I can honestly say that Jen and I felt a similar pain last summer.
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1 year ago
Andrea BrownTo Ron SuchanekI know you did, and understood completely!
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1 year ago
A flashing LED sign advertising that the cafe also has complimentary tobacco for smoking in their water pipes.
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One of those water pipes and the complimentary tobacco.
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We had not seen another guest house since we had left ours that morning. This was very much village/working class Vietnam, no food on offer except for the morning pho places that were all closed up by afternoon. That’s the trade-off in taking the little road. You get a very authentic, local experience, which is fantastic and we love it. But you can get an uneasy feeling about how things are going to turn out when evening comes and at the rate of my decline I was not going to last until evening anyway.

So it was with great relief when we spotted a chartreuse nha nghi plopped in the middle of rice fields. It was so new that when we checked our map locations it was still showing up on Google maps AS a rice field. But it had air conditioning, a great shower, and I felt saved by the bell. I plopped on the bed, leaning on the wall it was jammed up to, and felt the oven-like residual heat of it. So it wasn’t just me. It had been a really hot day.

Pulling into the only Nha Nghi for miles.
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The view out the back window of our guest house room.
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Among the comforts of this room we shall not include the size of the towels.
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In 2007 Bruce got heat exhaustion in Laos and it was really terrible trying to keep him going, he stopped sweating and it was a very serious situation. That was the last thing I wanted to have happen to me but I felt I might be coming sort of close to that. We ate salty peanuts and bananas to restore my electrolytes, and the coconut water had helped a lot too. It wasn’t until the next day that I remembered that we do carry electrolyte packets for just this sort of situation, for pete’s sake.

After I had lowered my core temperature somewhat we ventured out to find some food. We rode for about two miles through tiny villages where people were burning trash out in front of their houses and kids played marbles and hollered out to us. Our luck had run out- there simply were no places to eat. At a tiny bodega we found some dusty boxes of strawberry yogurt drink and so it was back to our chartreuse box for a breakfast-for-dinner of muesli again.

We're assuming these bags are full of rice since rice harvest has just been completed.
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But just as we got back, we paused to take photos of the clouds that radiated an apricot pattern in the sky that mimicked the rows of cut rice stems below. As we did, several teenagers on motorcycles stopped too and watched us quizzically with much giggling and commentary. I looked at our sunset-glow guest house where a trash fire blazed smokily in the ditch next to some ducks, and wondered which way was east, wasn’t it supposed to be the night of the super moon?

Our Nha Nghi for the night of the Super Moon.
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And there it was, just peeking over the hill at us. Its reflection twinkled in the waterlogged rice stalks, seeming more real and bright than the moon itself. The moon is so big to our eyeballs and brain, and so puny in the images captured by the modest zoom capabilities of our devices. We must have something in our heads like a hawk’s vision that magnifies it because it is so meaningful. The teenagers stopped their chatter and whipped out their phones and joined in as we all tried our hardest to click it in closer, bigger, warmer, than it really is meant to be.

Super Moon arising
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Today's ride: 38 miles (61 km)
Total: 379 miles (610 km)

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Jen GrumbySo glad that chartreuse nha nghi was there for you when you needed to stop!

And how great to have a Super Moon at the end of a tough day.

I know this trip was a couple years ago, but the quality of yall's writing makes me feel like it's happening right now. I wanted to go and offer you a 2nd coconut juice.
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1 year ago