No signal, the map goes blank - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 19, 2023

No signal, the map goes blank

Don Khong to Mounlapamok

Dear little friends,

Loading up in the sunrise in front of our guesthouse, we looked across the street at the restaurant. Deadsville. We had eaten muesli sans papaya in our room so off we went. Oh man, that little road was rough, our heart sank. Oh, but wait! There was a new parallel road of nice concrete, whoop! Was this because of the new bridge across the Mekong to Don Khong? One can only speculate. 

View from our room at Pon's Riverside Guest House.
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Scott AndersonHow fitting - a papaya sky.
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2 months ago
Jen RahnTo Scott AndersonPapaya sky!!

You and the descriptors, Scott!

I'm going to try to remember this one.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen RahnI’m sure this would never have occurred to me without seeing photos of split papayas for the last two weeks.
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonOK, I'm not going back to count how many times I've posted a photo of a cut open papaya (I think just once!) but I'm now committed to taking a photo of every papaya I cut open for the rest of the trip. It will be a photo gallery first at the end of our trip.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanMy apologies. You’re right. There are only two so far, and one was peeled not split. I ‘m not sure where I got that impression.

Say, why don’t you bring one home at the end of the trip, and let it shrivel? It would go great with that cantaloupe.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonOne of those is a mango which you have now insulted by calling it a papaya. I'd pack mangoes and papayas all around our bicycles if there weren't fruit sniffing dogs at the airport in the U.S. One time a little dog sniffed out a banana I forgot I had in my daypack. Glad he found it actually.
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1 month ago
Upstairs sitting area at Pon's Riverside Guest House.
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Pon's Riverside Guest House on Don Khong.
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Pon's Riverside Guest House restaurant.
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Look at that nice road, baby!
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Jen RahnThat house matches your helmet and solar sleeves!
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Jen RahnI think this paint color is called, 'Helmet'.
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2 months ago
Aw, crap.
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Bruce LellmanShe's most certainly referring to the road.
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1 month ago

We were aiming for a car ferry up at the north end of the island, but when we turned toward that the road turned to crap, vast potholes, rocks, the usual. After skimming up most of the island we were now limping to the west hoping there still WAS a ferry. Finally we reached the ferry landing, which was big and imposing and looking like maybe all was good. But the car ferry? Well, I wouldn’t put my car on that ferry, and there was nobody manning it either. Fortunately for us there was a small ferry with a guy smoking in it, he called to somebody, who called to somebody and a teenaged boy came down and took us across the river. 

Nope, not gonna put my car on that.
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Mind you, the Mekong is pretty wide here even though we weren’t even crossing the entire river. The boat was small, the boy was young, and halfway across he lowered the throttle on the engine so it was going pretty slowly. A little nerve-wracking, but eventually we were beach landing on a pile of sand and the guys helped us push our bikes up the slope. Whew, back on the mainland.

So we got a beach landing even though there is a paved ferry landing that is apparently only for the car ferry.
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Steeling myself to storm the beach.
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There is a road of sorts and we tooled down it. Some places were really rough, some were okay, there were clattery bridges and people calling out from under their houses as we went by. 

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Tributary stream to the Mekong in the dry season.
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Temple rest stop, where Bruce discovered several wooden Buddhas, a rarity these days.
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This we learned: green onions love being grown in pots/coconut shells, bomb shell fragments, anything other than in the ground.
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A typical gate to a temple.
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At 21 miles we came to a crossroads of sorts, with a large ferry that had cars and trucks coming off of it. We stopped for an iced coffee and contemplated the scene. The last time we came here nine years ago there had been a similar crossroads/ferry kind of funky town with a very busy market. This wasn’t it, there was no market, just an open space with a sad tree and a lot of plastic trash.

The other car ferry, this one looks like a maybe.
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Our coffee lady. Like a lot of folks in these parts she was a bit gruff at first but ended up smiling when we complimented her coffee.
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Jen RahnThis scene makes my morning.

Thank you!
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2 months ago
Nails in the sun! No idea why.
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Ron SuchanekIf I remember my 7th grade science correctly, and I don't, absorption of sunlight is one of the key steps in photosynthesis.
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1 month ago
John SolemBruce you didn’t leave a note suggesting they dry their nails elsewhere and, oh, have a nice day?
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1 month ago

Both of us double checked our Google maps. Remember, we were flying blind, no Lao SIM card because everybody in the country was registering their phones for who knows what reason. This coffee place was very funky, not your cute Vietnam or Thailand WiFi coffee place. I may or may not have gotten a mouse turd in my ice, I’m trying not to think about that. Anyway, no signal, my map had gone blank, Bruce’s had gone blank, the guesthouse I had marked wasn’t showing up. So we threw the coffee ice into our water bottles and kept going.

It wasn’t until about 4 miles later when Bruce stopped to photograph something that I glanced at my phone again, and… yes, that had been the intersection we were supposed to turn at to get to the guesthouse I had marked. “Fiddlesticks!” I said, but it came out some other word, can’t remember what.

Now, there are dreamy parts of Laos and non-dreamy parts of Laos and we already knew this was the latter. This crossroads was dusty and poor and that it had a guesthouse at all was remarkable. There wouldn’t be another one until Champasak, 45 miles further.

The other option was to find the temple we stayed at last time, where the elder monk spoke English and put us in a little guesthouse, pure luck. Even stranger, Chris Pountney had stayed there the night before us! But we didn’t really know where that temple was, how much further, would that monk still let us stay there? Was he still alive?

We were already tired from some really rough riding, so we decided to turn around. Oh man do I hate turning around. Who doesn’t hate backtracking? The Lao folks saw us go by again, which was cause for remark although there’s a lot to be said for not understanding what people are saying about you. We got back to the crossroads, turned west, and a mile later wheeled into a nice-ish looking guesthouse with no English on their sign. There were some funky things about this place but it’s Laos, we don’t have high expectations ever. The hot water heater was hooked up to power but not to water, fortunately we were hot and the warmish solar-heated water was fine. They had pretty good soap for once.

Vansana House
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Our humble room at Vansana House.
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Vansana House restaurant
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Vansana House restaurant menu.
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Scott AndersonThe fish poop’s a real bargain! You could order seconds and still come out ahead.
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonBut does a person ever really come out ahead ordering fish poop @ $1.75 a crack?
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2 months ago
Gregory GarceauI should have known Scott would beat me to a fish poop comment.
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2 months ago
Jen RahnTo Gregory GarceauAnd I should have known that both Scott and Greg would beat me to it.

Fiddlesticks!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen RahnYou have to get up early if you want to scoop the poop!
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2 months ago
Gregory GarceauTo Jen RahnI must say, I'm a little surprised Mr. Jonas Grumby didn't beat us all to the punch. After all, he's the guy who crossed the U.S/Canada border and noticed the "Doodie-Free shop."
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Gregory GarceauWhen it comes to fish poop you just know Scott will be on it first.
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2 months ago
Ron SuchanekTo Gregory GarceauI can always be counted in to raise the level of the discussion.
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1 month ago
Mark LellmanI thought it was rather expensive for fish poop, but then, I don't know Lao fish poop well. Maybe it is a form of lab.
I imagine you ordered fish.
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo Mark LellmanI thought it was expensive too. Maybe they got the price mixed up with the Jaju Pa Dak which was less than a dollar.
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1 month ago

Air conditioning, a locking door, a restaurant where they made us some good fried rice, it was kind of an “any port in a storm” situation that could have been a lot worse.  But we had put 8 extra miles on an already tough day and the next day was going to be much farther. We lay down on our sort of comfortable twin beds and set the alarm for 5 am. 

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Today's ride: 31 miles (50 km)
Total: 412 miles (663 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 13
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David MathersSorry to hear about your screechy belt. The silicone spray might be hard to find but you could try rubbing candle wax on the belt to reduce the sound. Good luck! 🤞
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo David MathersThank you for this suggestion, David. There are candles everywhere over here and some are tiny. I could rub the candle in all the grooves of the belt. I think it might work especially if the wax is a hard wax.
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2 months ago