Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Last Tour Part 2: the end of the tour

Yesterday, Erin and I rode 190 kilometres.

Note that I didn't say we rode our bikes 190 km; we only did about 130 km on the bikes. We did the other 60 or so in the back of a truck. It can actually be quite convenient to ride a bike in a country that uses trucks for public transportation.

We left Chaing Rai shortly after sunrise with the vague idea that we might just try to ride the whole 190 km back to Chiang Mai. Erin's ankle was a little sore, though, and grey clouds on the horizon hinted that they might not let us finish the ride, but we started off with optimism in our hearts.

We had an excellent start to the day. We'd ridden 90 km by noon, which was when the misting drizzle we'd been riding in for the last couple of hours turned into bonafide rain. I don't want you to think we're sissies; we're not made of sugar and we wouldn't melt in the rain. I've ridden in downpours before that would make you shit your pants and run for cover. The rain was being complicated by two things, however.

First, we didn't have the proper gear with us. We didn't bring fenders on our ride, which is something we've regretted on more than one occasion. Without fenders, your own tires shower you with muck from below while the sky showers you from above, and if you're riding behind someone without fenders, you get completely blinded by muck from their back tire, so you can't even consider riding in a paceline.

For you non-cyclists, a paceline is when cyclists draft off of one another by following closely behind. A paceline can save you about 20% of the effort that it takes to pedal, and when you're thinking about riding 190 km, that's a big deal.

The other piece of gear we were lacking was raincoats. We have good raincoats with us in Thailand, but we didn't bring them on this most recent tour because we've got a very limited amount of luggage space, in keeping with the moronic fast-and-light touring concept I came up with. Listen: fast-and-light is great if you're going for a weekend credit card tour. Fast-and-light is retarded when you're going for a whole week because you spend half your time either doing laundry in the sink, or worrying about how your freshly laundered clothes will have time to dry before you need them.

Raincoats, I argued, would be unnecessary, because when it rains on you in hot weather, you just take it like a man and get wet, because you'd get even wetter with sweat if you wore a raincoat. Here's the catch, which is also my second complicating factor: it was cold. I'm serious, it was cold in Thailand. I've never seen it get that cold in Thailand. It was well below 20 degrees, which might not sound so cold to you jerks shivering away in the Canadian winter, but when you're barely wearing any clothes, you're soaking wet and you're out in the wind on a bike, it's cold enough.

So we decided we were through with cycling for the day. Our options were to get a hotel room in the little flyspeck of a town we were in and try to kill all of the hours between noon and 7 the next morning without going insane, or we could try to catch a ride back to Chiang Mai, where we had clean clothes and a nice hotel room already paid for.

So we caught a ride and a short way into the ride home, it stopped raining. Naturally. It took some time to convince ourselves that the rain had really stopped, but after 60 km the road wasn't even remotely wet anymore, so we got out of the truck and got back on the bikes.

The rain was ambushing us, though. The rain was waiting about 10 km down the road, like a mugger in an alley, and when we got to it, it clubbed us over the head and soaked us thoroughly. Then it abruptly stopped. It didn't actually feel like raining; it just wanted us to know that we couldn't pull one over on it with our little getting-a-ride trick.

And now we're back and we're enjoying Chiang Mai for a last couple of days before coming home. It'd be a lot harder to leave here for the rain of Vancouver if the weather here wasn't so lousy. It's cool enough that I actually wore a jacket out tonight, and we haven't seen the sun in two days. This time of year is supposed to be cloudless and rainless, incidentally. We never should have been rained on in the first place. Stupid global weirdness.

How was the rest of our tour, besides that last day of cycling and my ruminations about speaking Thai while standing at a urinal?

How kind of you to ask. Quite nice, thank you. I might write another post about it later on.

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