What another fantastic day! All told, in 7 days we have ridden 299.0 miles (55 of which was today)! And, even better, we felt awesome for (almost) the whole day! And we got to see the sun like 3 times (It's be cloudy)!
Rough Starts/We love rolling hills (mostly)
I left out our first major bike repair issue yesterday - yesterday, after unintentional biking over a big pothole at speed, one of my pannier rack supports gave way and snapped off.
Luckily, I had read about this happening to many people, and went to a car/salvage shop across from our guesthouse first thing in the morning. After watching them try something I knew wouldn't work (just beading solder all over the broken joint), the found a plug that fit the ID of the tube and pegged the two ends together - I'll find a welder elsewhere to more fully secure the fix, but this is great for now.
Even with the repair and two awesome breakfast Bahn Mi's, we were on the road by 9am. After about 10 more flat miles, we made it to the Ho Chi Minh Highway (HCMH)! A group of 30 ish school kids congregated to look at the spectacle of two pale Americans, and Claire took the opportunity to put on an impromptu magic show.
Then started the rolling hills, and we loved it. Both of us are feeling way more energetic uphill, and the frequent downhills gave us lots of opportunity for speed, wind in our faces, and a chance to stand up and rest our seriously sore asses. I think we both agreed that we preferred todays long ride with 3800 ft uphill (and about the same downhill) to yesterdays all flat 100km extravaganza. The Claire who five short days ago wanted to kill me when we even saw a hill was frequently finding a wind and passing me on many uphills!
The magic faded after the first 30 miles, and we really started to feel it(though strava claims we didn't slow down much). We knew the end of the day had a long tall 10% grade climb, and were dreading it. Right at the very end, 52 miles in, we hit it, and both thought we would perish - but we both made it up without stopping and had a pretty loud celebration at the top.
Of course, this is also when I discovered my rear tire was leaking rapidly, so the earned descent was somewhat marred. We limped the last 2 miles into town, found a great resthouse, and I went and got my tube replaced at one of the local bikeshops. This is where I discovered the tubes I bought in hanoi have presta valves, and all of Vietnam is setup for only shrader valves - so from now on my bike tire is only getting pumped by our tiny emergency hand pumps - I'll build lots of strength.
Yet again, not to sound repetitive, the local vietnamese made us feel like heroes for the entire ride. Countless invitations into homes and businesses for tea, lots of confused conversations with no shared language, and smiles everywhere. We couldn't be happier that we are on bicycles and moving at this pace. We ran into the first non Vietnamese people we have seen since we left Hanoi today - they had quickly passed us on their scooter earlier in the day. We got the distinct impression from them that they were not having the same interactions.
Some highlights -
At an early bathroom stop, we were swarmed by the family that owned the store we stopped at, and ended up having a 10 minute photoshoot with them and their neighbors. As usual, the paleness of our skin was a very hot topic.
At the HCMH intersection Claire got to put on an impromptu magic show. What started as 5 kids heading to school and yelling hello at us over and over turned into a swarm of 30 kids and random adults, all very impressed. As a bonus, some local guys paid for our coffee before we could as thanks!
Late in the day, energy flagging, the was a LONG gradual series of uphills over maybe 5 km that might have killed us. However, early into the ascent two young girls on an electric scooter whirred up and struck up a conversation. They wanted to know everything they could - often asking a simple question, getting to giggly to hear the answer, speeding up beyond us, then eventually letting us catch up and answer. I must admit I didn't love when, near the top of one of the awful climbs, they kept asking me if I was tired over and over, but for the most part they provided a great friendly distraction on a hard push. After riding alongside for maybe 10km total they pulled onto a dirt road to go to their home (they were neighbors and best friends), so we said our goodbyes.
At dinner, a haggard looking Claire and I fell into a local Pho place for the usual. A couple that was already there struck up a conversation (mostly hand gestures), and eventually seemed to ask if we wanted a drink. The man came back from his scooter with a suspiciously black looking liquid in a plastic bottle that was supposed to hold a branded herbal tea. He quickly showed me pictures on his phone showing what the special ingredient was...deer antler.
Just tasted like vodka to me...
Here it is, with 3800 damn feet.