Rollercoaster Brain Rattled - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 20, 2023

Rollercoaster Brain Rattled

Some crossroads to Champasak

Even the part that looks smooth wasn't all that smooth.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesThat was our road today also. But, warm, Mexico, jungle, birds,....not so awful really.
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1 month ago

Rollercoaster Brain Rattling

Sometimes there are days that never seem to end or, more aptly said, there are days when one is not sure he or she will make it to the end.  I'm not saying this was one of those days.......

Okay, I am saying it was. 

We left our guesthouse in the dark at 5:45AM because we knew the day had the potential to be hard.  The first few miles were on a fairly wide clay road that had just recently been graded and rolled smooth with one of those big rolling/smoothing road-making things.  Hard-packed clay is pretty nice to ride on.  When that luxury ended the clay continued but with enormous, dry, hard, potholes that swallowed our bikes in a series of rollercoasters.   That part was fun for an instant or two but never lasted. Mostly the surface was made up of marks, gouges and tire grooves in the hard clay that shook us so violently that I thought my teeth were going to loosen, not to mention our poor bikes.   Heavy tractors or some other sorts of farm machinery had made the marks in the wet clay during the rainy season and when those marks dried they were permanent, rough and hard as cement.  Our bikes rattled across the many grooves and sharp little holes to make the going slow and frankly, not very pleasurable.  

This is about the only photo that might show how bumpy the road was.
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Scott AndersonI’m going to quit complaining bout the rough pavement on our street here.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekThat's a rough looking road, but the framing and composition is great. Very photosynthetic.
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1 month ago
Photos don't really show why it was so slow going.
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The first of many bridges today.
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I looked at this huge tree and thought it might someday take out the bridge. I hope not but...
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We knew ahead of time that we might be in for dirt roads most of the forty-some miles but we remembered from having done the same route nine years ago, that it wouldn't be terrible.  We found out pretty quickly that the road had deteriorated considerably and was in fact worse than terrible.

It might be human nature to think that it will all end around the next bend and somehow get smooth as a little cement Thai road but human nature is maybe too optimistic at times.   Or, at least I am.  But on this day even I was having trouble remaining optimistic.  It was hard to be optimistic with a bike that screeched so loudly that birds were scared off and frogs quit croaking when I passed.  Dogs ran away too!  Then, added to that misery my crank started skipping.  It skipped for half the day!  I was alternating between wishing I was riding my old Bike Friday, with its derailleur a quarter inch from my tire rendering my top three gears useless, to throwing my new Bike Friday in the Mekong River.  It was obviously going to be a long day.

Heart 9 Comment 3
John SolemBut December 20 is one of the shortest days 👍🏻
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo John SolemGood point. But you know what? The days over here all seem to be about the same length any time of year. The sun goes down very early, like 6PM everyday I've ever been over here which means we are close enough to the equator that days and nights are about the same length year round.
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1 month ago
John SolemThank you for the Gentle Geography lesson! Clearly I need to venture off my latitude a little more.
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1 month ago

The road never improved, hour after hour.  Andrea was wondering if we were going to make it to Champasak before dark.   I was not concerned because I had calculated that if we only did four miles per hour we'd still get there well before sunset.  At times we were able to do five or even seven miles per hour!  

We did have moments of nice smooth dirt.  I remember a couple of them!   What kept our spirits up were all the people smiling and greeting us with sabaidees.  And we did stumble upon a woman with a coffee stand overlooking the river.  She made us great iced Lao coffee.  That helped.  When we stopped there I realized I had lost a bungee cord.  Andrea always rides behind me and I am still wondering why she never saw my RED bungee.  However, we had to watch exactly where our wheels were going all the time which made catching people's eyes hard when they greeted us and I suppose hard to see a BRIGHT RED BUNGEE. 

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These sorts of shrines are actually places where people's ashes are kept. It seems mostly monks and the wealthy get to have these made for their ashes. They show up in odd places but mostly they line the property line of temples.
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The bridges were cute but so were the temples.
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This bridge was actually sturdy because it was all metal.
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She's still smiling!
Heart 8 Comment 2
Ron SuchanekShe's probably laughing because she is secretly hiding your BRIGHT RED BUNGEE.
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1 month ago
Andrea BrownTo Ron SuchanekUh-oh, game over!
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1 month ago

At one point an old woman in a little shack near the road said, "No." to us.  She pointed down the road and said, "No."  Well, that's confusing since she couldn't explain what we had to do instead of going in the direction of "No."  Fortunately her daughter or neighbor came out and pointed in the direction we had come and said, "Yes."  That was just as confusing though.  Then she pointed down the road and to the left towards the river.  She made a gesture of showing us where we needed to turn, which was very kind of her, but we rode on ahead of her and found the obvious path leading off to the left.   We took it and soon realized what was going on.  The bridge was out and we had to take a little ferry across a small stream.  It was nice of the two women to tell us, "No."  When we were crossing on the ferry we realized that very near to that spot we had taken a ferry nine years ago with two old crones pulling us across the river with ropes.  If you don't mind, you should reread it here:

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A one ferry day.
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This was incredibly steep and deep at times. We found it nearly impossible to push our loaded bikes up. Again, photos don't show steepness very well.
Heart 7 Comment 1
Ron SuchanekWhen you gotta push, you gotta push. I got over my "I'm not going to rush my bike" delusions in about 15 minutes this summer.
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1 month ago
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Ron SuchanekWow. That bridge is very photosynthetic!
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1 month ago
Heart 9 Comment 1
Ron SuchanekSo are the boats!
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1 month ago

Eventually there was a trail several meters higher than the Mekong along its banks.  We were essentially riding through people's front yards although it was a publicly recognized trail everyone used.  (I saw on a map on a wall later that it is actually called the Tiny Mekong Bamboo Trail.)  Being a trail meant we were bouncing over tree roots, ducking under branches and getting faces full of cobwebs.  Sometimes the trail was inches from a considerable drop-off down to the Mekong.  It was adventure travel and way more interesting than the road parallel and just a bit inland.   

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I enjoyed riding this section.
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At first these cows were not going to let us pass. We had to figure out the password but we hit it first try with 'Fish Poop'. The cows immediately moved for us.
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Scott AndersonGood to know! And easier to remember than Open, Sesame.
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1 month ago
Jen RahnTo Scott AndersonDang it!

Scott got to the Fish Poop first, again!

I'm noticing, however, that I'm here before Greg, though.

A cow 'fraid of fish poop
Is smart!
She knows if she eats it
She'll fart!
Then her cow friends will giggle
While their curly tails wiggle
She says "No!"
and runs with her cart.
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1 month ago
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This may look scary but bamboo slats are very strong.
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A charcoal making setup. Logs are stacked inside and lit on fire. Then the opening is mudded over and the fire gets little air and smolders. Very little smoke escapes from these igloos. When everything has burned that's going to burn the mud door is dug out again.
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Beautiful gardens just being planted.
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This part was my favorite part of the day.
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Riding through front yards. No one minded.
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At one point we came to a pick-up truck blocking the trail and all I could see beyond was bamboo.   I assumed the trail ran out there, which it did at times.  But there was no parallel road inland, which there always was, only a dirt road leading inland away from the river.  We should have known better than to take that.  We should have turned around and gone back to that pick-up, gone around it and found that the trail continued.  Maybe our brains had been rattled so much that we were making rash decisions.  

We spent a lot of time inland riding some of the most desolate country roads ever.  All we did was ride a big inland rectangle but it was on straight shadeless roads that looked as though they went on forever.  Knowing you have made a big mistake is one thing.  The intense sun beating down relentlessly constantly confirmed our big mistake.  The sight of nothing but a poor condition road leading off into the distance was depressing because we knew we had to ride it in order to correct our big mistake.  There were miles of confirmation of what a fool I had been!   It was costly in time and energy and my bike was screeching loudly the entire time; my crank skipping.  

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It was bad enough to ride this stuff when it is bone dry but it would be ten times more awful in the rainy season.
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We love Champasak but by the time we hit pavement marking its outskirts, I was done.  Andrea was done too.  But we still had three or four more miles.  Andrea saw some fruit in a roadside store.  She yelled and I swung around and we looked at the fruit from our bikes for ten seconds.  I didn't have the energy to say anything.  The fruit looked terrible, kind of matching my mood, and I swung back on the road just hoping I had enough energy to make it to a guest house.   

The Champasak area.
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We landed in the best guest house we could have in Champasak.  A French man had bought the run-down guest house, Souchitra, in February and had already done some nice improvements including making beautiful bathrooms and offering all the free drinking water we wanted. The room has a back door which opens onto a patio overlooking the Mekong.  Perfect.  We threw our tired bodies on the bed and easily could have gone to sleep in minutes but we thought we should go find some dinner first.  There hadn't been any restaurants all day and we hadn't eaten anything except a Cliff Bar each.  We found a nearby restaurant overhanging the Mekong and celebrated first by sharing a large Beer Lao with ice cubes (the Asian way).  Celebrating not only making it through the day but celebrating the fact that the hard part of our trip is now behind us.  The food was excellent at the restaurant, the view of the Mekong again amazing.  We made it 46 miles on the longest worst road ever for us.  We will rest here in Champasak.

lovebruce

Andrea recalling the day. She said at times she just wanted to cry. I said at times I just wanted to quit. But it's surprising the magical powers of Beer Lao wipes all of that away.
Heart 9 Comment 7
Scott AndersonBeer Lao: it’s better than Fish Poop!
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1 month ago
Jen RahnTo Scott AndersonI think you just won the Beer Lao jingle contest!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen Rahnmy appetite’s whetted, waiting to find what my prize will be.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonI wonder if Krud have been as effective as Beer Lao.
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1 month ago
John SolemI can see that in Andreas eyes. Thank you for posting such amazing honest and beautiful observations — both of you.
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1 month ago
John SolemI love the trust and honesty here — in this picture. I can’t stop thinking about it. This journal has been such a revelation and joy to follow. Thank you!
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1 month ago
Bruce LellmanTo John SolemThank you, John.
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1 month ago
Souchitra Riverside Guest House, Champasak, Lao
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Our patio at Souchitra Riverside Guest House.
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Looking east, sunset over the Mekong from our guest house room.
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Today's ride: 46 miles (74 km)
Total: 458 miles (737 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 17
Comment on this entry Comment 4
Scott AndersonHorrible. So sorry. Courage!
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1 month ago
Jen RahnWhew! That was a brutal day.

And you made it!

Hope you get all the rest you need before you're back on the road. Sounds like you're in a good place and I'm guessing you have a sink and maybe even a new little soap?
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekWhat a shit day. As Batman said in the stellar 1966 movie starring Adam West, some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb.
https://youtu.be/IIPZROBiNik?si=IRQ9Xt18LiWbyCgi
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonYou two are amazing! What an awful day.
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1 month ago