Insightful thoughts to forget later - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

January 7, 2024

Insightful thoughts to forget later

Non Din Daeng to Ta Phraya

Dear little friends,

You know, when you spend 3 or 4 hours a day riding along on the shoulder of an asphalt highway, staying alert for potholes, cow poop, clay chunks, wood chips, sugar cane pieces, tapioca stem pieces, branches, sleeping dogs, children’s sandals, litter, who might be coming up behind you, who might be coming up in front of you, who might be parked in that shoulder for no good reason, who is waving at you from the field/house/restaurant/bicycle/motorcycle, well, there often isn’t a lot of time for introspective thoughts. But there is a little bit of time for them, or for funny things you notice, or deep and wonderful insights that need to be shared with the world. Oh, I forgot, money, sometimes you find money by the road. I have found two baht coins, a 20 baht bill, and a marble so far, but that’s because Bruce has stopped to photograph something and I have time to look around.

Suh-corrrrre!!!! (worth about 75 cents)
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The problem is, by the time I’m sitting down with my ipad keyboard balanced on a pillow on my lap, hours or days later, well, all that humor and wisdom or tomfoolery is, whoosh! Gone with the wind through my helmet. Maybe some of you have this problem too. Sorry I can’t share all that priceless brilliance with you. This is what you get instead.

This morning we rode up from our little cabin bungalow, past the exquisite coffee shop garden that wasn’t open yet, and on to the highway. We’ve been riding through flatness for nearly two months, and this little piece of Thailand had a chunk of mountainsides and wild forest sailing through the flat rice fields. This would ordinarily be exciting! There were signs that said “Elephant Crossing”! And we think a monkey ran across the roof of our bungalow last night, that or the ghost of Pee-Wee Herman. 

But all night long we had heard the low gears of large trucks whining to the top of the mountain pass where our guesthouse was, and even on Sunday morning they were still present and grinding by. Bruce had looked at today’s ride and saw something that he lost sleep over, knowing how much I hate climbing. On steep Thai roads. With no shoulders, which is what Street View was showing. Miles of hills. A bad, bad section of highway 368.

We tooled along, things were not going badly, but every time we stopped he would look at the map and say, “It’s about five miles to the bad part.” (Three miles, one mile, you get the countdown.) “We want to get a move on before traffic really picks up.”

Eventually we got to where the bad part was going to start even though we didn’t want to be there yet. There were dozens of huge trucks sitting around with their engine hoods open, never a good sign. There were several people standing by the road selling those little marigold loop arrangements that folks hang on their rear-view mirrors to ensure safety. Yeah, that wasn’t ominous at all. Several enormous trucks carrying giant windmill parts were cooling their heels there too. I can’t believe Bruce didn’t stop and photograph those, that’s an indication of his anxiety, things must be really bad at the bad part.

Last stop roadside chid before the bad part.
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We both sighed and got ready for miles of misery and danger.

Okay, now this is the weird part. Because we don’t use GPS computers with altitude prediction and because Google Street View isn’t very helpful with directions, east, west, whatever, when you’re using it on a phone, Bruce had gotten one very important factor completely wrong.

The bad part? The bad part was downhill. You start down a hill and you think, “fiddlesticks, now I’ll have to climb up this bit too.” Then you just keep going down. And down. And down. Oh man this is steep. There’s a miniscule shoulder but it’s littered with these stupid raised reflector things that could bounce a bicycle right off the edge or under the wheels of a car/truck. So don’t ride there. 

There was a slick asphalt finish to the road surface. In order to help vehicles curb their speed the road builders had raked the asphalt in wavy combed patterns, also something that could fling us around to places we didn’t want to be. Oh, it’s getting to be an 8 or 9% grade and I’m steering with grim concentration, pumping my brakes to keep my speed below sonic boom level, and hoping there were no large trucks coming up behind me.

Bruce was far ahead. There was virtually no place for him to stop beside the road to check on me. He did anyway because this was no place to be looking at our mirrors, that would be the kiss of death. He saw me come around a curve and got going again. Down we plunged on this maw of a road. Trust me, kids, I wasn’t thinking any deep insightful thoughts to forget later. An impatient pickup truck coming uphill passed a train of vehicles and I had to go into the shoulder. But I was right back off of it immediately.

This went on for two miles or so, then suddenly we were down at the bottom, with a level road, a wide shoulder, and Bruce waiting for me with wide open eyes. We were all in one piece, or, I guess, two pieces, our bodies and our minds still a bit separated in shock. We had been incredibly lucky that none of the huge vehicles we’d seen at the top had been on our tails, we were only passed by two or three pickups/sedans in that two miles. Instead of pushing our loaded bikes up two miles of 8% grade with no shoulder and ridiculous traffic, we were down at the bottom grinning like fools. It was bad, I’m not gonna lie, but it could have been so very much worse.

Soon, we were able to leave that highway and ride a quiet road toward the Cambodian border, with silence, cows, grasses waving, egrets, the whole Isaan experience. We’ll zag back tomorrow toward Aranyaprathet and that will be the last day of our NE Thailand explorations. There’s a papaya for breakfast, my clothes are drying in a hot wind, my hands are not shaking, or my knees either, which is weird because after that downhill they probably should be. I guess I forgot that too.

Since we don't have any photos of the bad part you're going to have to look at photos of the good, quiet, safe part instead.
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Sometimes the white line is the smoothest part of the road to ride on, and sometimes not.
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Mark LellmanHope this isn't your home for the night.
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1 month ago
Heart 4 Comment 0
All of the dark green is tapioca. It's pretty much all the grow in these parts. That and sugar cane.
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We had gone about 24 miles on empty in an empty part of Thailand, but this lady made us some soup.
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A festive traffic circle in Ta Phraya.
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Ta Phraya is a happenin' little town, they were having a Sunday market/walking street. We opted for khao man gai, chicken and rice.
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John SolemYou look so happy!
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1 month ago
Bo LeeYay, you made it!!
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1 month ago
Our little green guest house in Ta Phraya.
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Jen RahnA helmet-matching guest house!! 🐸
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1 month ago
Heart 2 Comment 0
I'll bet she hasn't forgotten what she wanted to tell you.
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Today's ride: 28 miles (45 km)
Total: 807 miles (1,299 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 14
Comment on this entry Comment 4
Jen RahnWhat a wonderful surprise to find yourselves going down instead of up!

Especially after the hours of anticipating such a very different experience.

Elation?
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1 month ago
Andrea BrownTo Jen RahnIt was a really potent mix of elation and terror. It was really a dangerous road, but we were certainly grateful that it was downhill.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Jen RahnI want the sleep back that I lost worrying about it.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekFiddlesticks, eh? I'll have to remember that one. It might be nicer than the F word that often spews from my mouth on tough sections of road.
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1 month ago