Unfortunately this all served to lull us into a sense of complacency before Day 24, which proved to be one of the top 3 (bottom 3?) difficult days of the whole ride. It was about 114km with five - count em, five - rated climbs. The day started off with a number 3 climb, which isn't much compared to the 1s and 2s of the mountainous days, of what seemed like forever ago. Personally I was feeling it, as it had been at least 3 days since we'd had any kind of real physical and mental challenge (kickball, BBQ and karaoke notwithstanding). Anyway there were two 5s in the day somewhere, but to be honest I have no idea where they are. A 3 is nothing to scoff at, to be sure, but I think most of us don't really rate a 5 as difficult anymore.
At about 52km, the first of the climbs rated at 2 began, but this was deceiving. This climb was supposed to be about 18km, but the first half was a very slow incline and the only true climbing was the latter half of it. Most of us stopped for lunch about halfway through this climb, and then pedaled our little hearts out for the second half, which was a steep 8km ascent without respite. Luckily I was behind the versatile Ms. Kim, who has a much different climbing style than I do. I do a kilometre or two and then I stop and stretch. When she's tired, she just gets off the bike and "walks it off". I think I'm glad I did it her way, mine would have taken too long (or as Kim would put it, "quit faffin' about!")
The next climb was much more scenic, and we ran into a lot of the rest of the team, whom we had only caught up to thanks to Ms. Kim's rigorous climbing technique. I think I may have been slowing her up a little on the second climb, but we powered through.
At the top of the climb I noticed that the right brakepad on my front set of brakes was flush with the right side of my wheel. Ten minutes + a phone call in Vietnamese between Kim and Chuong + Zak and Carolyn showing up + Zak using my multi-tool from my saddlebag = problem solved, and just in the nick of time; the downhill was one of the longer ones we've had so far, and it was almost the entire way into Lam Ha. Actually there was a small town on the downhill, which was pretty neat to look at.
In Lam Ha we ventured out for food and Munich style beers, at a local watering hole wherein the beers may or may not (let's be honest: not) have been endorsed by no less than craft beer aficionado - and oh yeah, President of the United States of America - Mr. Barack Obama. Obama or No-bama, the beer was good and a welcome change from the various Hudas and 333s that we've been used to over the past few weeks. Oh yeah, the food was pretty good too.
|Houses on the water, photos taken from a bridge overhead|
|More beautiful scenery|
|The girls aren't the only ones who can take sexy pictures!|
|"My name is Barack Obama, and I approve of this beer."|
Pictures by Michael Tatarski and Isaac Luchini