Finding the Groove
Fantastic but hard day on the bikes, such a change from yesterday. Rode 60km further down 1, a lot of which was markedly nicer than yesterday, as you can see below, and then another 30 km inland towards the Ho Chi Minh Highway! With a 10km detour for lunch (see further below), we rode a grand total of 100.2 km today!!! Claire found her stride in a huge way today. I had been gently hinting for a while that, when on flats, it was possible to slowly make your way into your highest gear and put in just a tiny bit more effort than you do for a much lower gear, for much greater speed. This suggestion, for the first few days of Claire's adjustment to bicycling, was not believed and not appreciated ("how could you possibly be asking me to bike faster right now!!?"). Today, totally surprising me, on a long gradual uphill Claire just took off, and stayed at full speed for miles. All day this repeated, and I'm super proud of her for digging deep and moving fast.
After a nice early start (on the road around 830am), we pushed through a good 30km by noon. A man who spoke english started riding his scooter alongside, and after a nice conversation we ended up being invited back to his house for lunch to meet his family, parents and brother. Super amazing experience. The Vietnamese we have met everywhere have been among the most open and friendly humans I have ever encountered, language barrier or no. Loi stuffed us full of chicken, beef stomach and sardines, and I will admit that we also sampled a more than necessary amount of their strong homemade rice wine.
After that great break, we hit the road again for a long haul. Our butts hurt, our legs ached, and the rice wine slowed - but the road was flat, and the people were inspiringly friendly. Seriously, biking down the road in Vietnam is like being in some road race - everyone smiles, yells a greeting, or just literally cheers. So many times the last few days I've started to get mentally tired and been picked right up by a group of school kids on bikes racing to ride up, say hello, and join along for a few km.
A few KM after lunch we felt the strong need for coffee, and pulled into one of the numerous Karaoke/Cafe establishments that seem to exist everywhere two roads meet. There was a large crowd of men and woman our age there, and they were stoked at our arrival. This kicked off a 15 minute photoshoot, and lots of fun communication through Thanhtuan (Hi Thanhtuan) between everyone.
We got to the turn off HW1 after riding 70km from the start of the day, already at the longest we had biked so far this trip. We talked about it, took a deep breath, and dove in for the last hard 30km. Most of it was a slight uphill, followed by a little hill 10km before the end. We pushed through with lots of little stretching breaks, enjoyed the sights, and rolled into Do Luong around 5pm, where we are sitting happy in a nice little guest house after a Pho dinner.
Tomorrow is likely another long ~80km day on the Ho Chi Minh highway(!), with rolling hills all day - but we are feeling positive, if sore, that we have it in us.
After that two "short" 50km days of similar on the HCMH, and then a 90km day to the beach, where I think we will take a nice rest day. And 2-3 days after that, we will be in Hoi An, where we will meet up with the Timmins!!!
Conor nailed it except I also got pet a puppy finally today during a pee break. It did try to hump me at one point but thats okay.
Check it out.