The team has much to say about these past days. I'm sure the drama has been posted about the many obstacles that came our way. It seemed like all of Vietnam was trying to stop us from doing this ride. Though are spirits may have been down trodden, our game faces never faltered. We had to face some hard decisions and skip some riding. We're brave, but we're not stupid. Safety comes first, and windy pot-holed mountainous roads in the rain was just not a good idea. So let me tell all of you interested family members and friends about one hell of a day. I'm going back to November 15. Sorry to all you readers about the non-linear order to the blog. My burst of creativity only came to me days after the real event. So open those eyes wide, and digest this interesting and informative anecdote.
After we were escorted to the town of A Luoi from Hue, we held a town hall meeting considering our next move. After hours of deliberation, the tribe had spoken - we were to wait, and let destiny decide our fate. If the rain is light, then we ride. If not, then we find another vehicle to be our chauffeurs.
We went to bed that night not knowing what the morning would bring. I awoke at 5 am to the sounds of a mighty wind, and heavy rain. I got a little friendlier with my pillow thinking there was no chance the team was going to ride. The crew met at an astonishingly early time of 6:30 to make the final decision. We were facing the longest ride yet, with mountains, kilometers, and rain between us and the next town. By the time the riders gathered, the rain had slowed to a heavy pour. We decided that those who wanted to ride could, and those whole felt uncomfortable or unsafe, could take the van. Anxious faces looked at one another, and a vote was taken. For reasons that are beyond explanation other than sheer stupidity, I opted to weather the weather and go for it. The final count was 10 would ride, and 10 would not.
After minutes of nervous anticipation, we adorned our ponchos and raincoats and set off into the wet beyond. We were without our ipods and cameras, knowing our battery operated accessories couldn't handle the rain, but still unsure if we could. Yet instead of facing the road with fear and trepidation, we were excited. On top of doing this crazy ride, it seemed almost destiny to encounter this torrential storm along the way. The country was testing us by throwing every obstacle imaginable in our path. And we stood firm upon our bike seats and kept on riding. Along the first 20 kilometers, it felt somewhat satisfying to know that nobody in their right minds would be riding in this weather. This collective insanity kept me going. I no longer felt the pain in my muscles - I was intoxicated with excitement and pride. We may not hit every kilometer we set out to do, but we were giving it our best. It felt good. And most importantly, we looked good doing it.
Then, we hit a roadblock. After descending a slippery slope, we encountered a truck driver who pointed in the direction we were headed, and said no. Due to our equal lack of comprehension in each others' languages, I didn't quite get the gist of his frantic gestures. After riders who can say more that puppy in Vietnamese did some investigating, we were informed that land slides had blocked the highway ahead, and would not be cleared for 2 days. Our trek stopped here. Even if we were stupid enough to continue forward, we would then strand the riders and vans who stayed behind, and we would be left with only our wet clothes and dirty bikes.. We did not want to break up the H2H fellowship, so we turned our bikes around and headed back the way we came.
Other than a wrong turn or two, this had been the first time the team had to make a u-turn. And it wasn't just a hop and a skip. It was 35 k of hilly road. And if you haven't been paying attention to my riveting story, remember that the rain is hitting hard without any signs of letting up.
I would assume a normal person would face this dilemma with anger and frustration. Although I was disappointed to not make it to our planned destination, I approached the issue with a level of calm acceptance. Unless I was Captain Planet, there was nothing we could do. We had to change our original plans. H2H is like a chameleon -we can adapt to any situation. So I pumped my music louder - I was listening to Fannypack, and if you don't know it, but it now - and made my way back. I came to the sudden realization why the way out was fun and exhilarating: it was mostly downhill. That meant the return trip would be, for lack of a better word, shitty. That last descent we road through now became a terrible ascent, and there was literally nowhere to turn. So we took a deep breath - some even screamed, and others swore - and we started to climb. Even with the hills and rain, the trip was still miraculously enjoyable. The 10 that made it formed a new solidarity by simply surviving the ordeal, and renamed our contingent to H2oH.
After 4 hours in the rain and 70 kilometers that led us back to where we started, spirits were still high. The shower and hot food waiting for us might have helped a bit too. We returned with a newly devised plan to go back to Hue for the night and change the route to avoid more rain and landslides. The team felt guilty about getting more time on the van and less time on the bike, but I think we were all pretty happy to spend another night in a town that served pizza and snickers. I myself had two dinners. It was amazing. The rain made the cheese taste even better.