I have now been back home 5 days already, and it seems like forever. It seems like I never left. While I was on the ride, it seemed like the never-ending-tour. It seemed like I had been riding my whole life, and still had a long way to go. While on the tour, life became very simple. Eat, ride, eat, drink, check-in hotel, write, eat, ride, etc. etc. I had no appointments to keep, no problems to solve, no one to worry about but myself, and no deadlines other than the setting sun. On my return, I awoke to dead batteries in my car and iPhone, and spent the day replacing both. I now have appointments to keep, golf tee times to wake up for (I know, I have a tough life), and the everyday nuisances of normal life. A part of me misses the simplicity of the road (but not the sweat).
Would I do this trip again. The short answer is no, but I would do a trip similar to this in a new place. Would I recommend this trip to others. Yes, if they were prepared to cycle in the relative heat, adapt to the culture of the Thai roads, and wanted a prolonged experience of Thai culture. Here are some final thoughts that I hope will be of use to anyone considering a trip like this one:
- I chose the perfect time of year to go. November is relatively cool (nothing over 90 F), with relatively low humidity. I had one 60 minute rainstorm, the rest of the trip was dry with mostly sunny skies. Winds are light enough to me a non-issue. Hotels were empty as were many of the roads. Any other time of year would have meant dealing with higher or lower temperatures, abundant rain, and/or intense heat. The forests were still green from the rain season, and it was harvest time for the rice, but they had not yet started to burn the fields (which will turn the air foul by February or March). This tour is certainly doable any time of year November is nearly ideal.
- I had the perfect bike for this ride. The Marin Gestalt 2 is moderately priced, relatively rugged (without being heavy), and easy to fix and maintain. I am sure better bikes are out there, but probably not for the price. I added a rack, kick-stand (an absolute necessity!), and fenders which helped keep me and the bike clean. I do admit though, that an even lower “grandpa gear” would have been nice.
- I travelled light. No rain gear – I figured I would be wet from sweat anyway, and in November, if it is cold, it will usually be sunny. I carried only a couple of changes of clothing, and was able to do laundry along the way (although this will usually mean a rest day because clothes must be line-dried). I carried only a small cache of emergency snacks – food was easy to find almost everywhere. I stayed in hotels, so no camping gear was needed. Bottled water is everywhere and cheap.
- If I could re-plan this trip, I would avoid the heavily travelled road between Lampang and Chiang Mai, and perhaps take a quieter route from Phrae to Lampang, or skipped that area altogether. The rest of the route was on lovely quiet roads with only short sections (near towns) of heavy traffic. I would have like more time spent cycling along the Mekong – this was the most memorable part of the trip.
- I had a Cat’s Eye wireless odometer that I can only give a mixed review. It on occasion just quit working – most likely because the sensor – pick-up gap was too large. Unfortunately the design of the Gestalt’s front forks made adjusting this gap difficult to impossible. The real winner was the iPhone mount teamed with the Cyclometer Elite app for OSX. It gave me all the stats I needed with a very easily read display. The only downside was the large battery drain on my iPhone, but the back-up battery in my iPhone case more than compensated.
This and my soon-to-come “by the numbers” post will be my last post specifically about this tour. If anyone is thinking about a ride like this, I am happy to answer your questions. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do not no where this Blog will go from here. I am sure I will find something to say. Stay tuned!