November 19, 2017 – Northern Thailand Cycling Tour – Summit Day!

Graph shows distance versus elevation. Ugh!

Wow, that was a lot harder than I thought! My plan for the day called for a ride of just 68 km, by far my shortest ride of the entire tour. What I did not realize at the planning stage, was that this route climbed over two mountain ridges and numerous other smaller ups and downs, resulting in a total of 998 vertical meters – doubling the climb of my next hardest day.  The result is that today actually felt like my toughest day, rather than what I though would be my easiest day.  Even though I got an early start of 7:45, I still arrived in late afternoon.  But I made it!  By reaching Nan, I have reached the ultimate goal of this tour.  For me, Nan has always had the aura of an isolated and remote province.  I initially though I would drive here.  But when knee surgery last year forced my to quit running, I bought a bike, started cycling around Chiang Mai, then decided to cycle to Nan.  My plans became increasing ambitious, resulting in this tour.  I feel like the mountaineer who has reached a long sought summit: bone-tired, a little let down, and apprehensive about the decent – in my case the ride from here back to Chiang Mai.  More on that below.

The ride out of the very quiet Chiang Muan valley began almost immediately, climbing to the first ridge in just over 12 kilometers. Just after reaching the crest of the ridge the road plummeted down to the The Baan Luang Valley.  There I paused for a late morning cup of coffee, and stocked up on my water supply.

Then up I went again, this time very steeply, over a ridge covered in lush jungle.  When I finally reached the ridge crest, it was mid-afternoon already, and quite hot.  The way down to Nan from there was a series of roller-coaster hills where You go up 10 meters for every 15 You lose.  To make matters a little more interesting, one of the steepest downhill sections was being reconstructed and I had to inch down through the mud made by a dust mitigating water truck.  The mud caked between my tires and fenders bringing my rear wheel to a wheezing stop.  Another 30 minutes was spend scrapping out the gooey mud so that my tire would spin again.

I finally arrived in Nan about 3:30 pm, some 3 hours later than expected.  After checking in to the Baan Nan Hotel, I brought my bike to the Nan Cycling shop, and left it for them to clean up, and adjust the gears.  They did a great job for only 250 baht.

I don’t have much to say about Nan.  The idea of the place far surpassed the reality.  Nui, the proprietor of Nan Cycling, was hard pressed to think of anything to see in Nan besides one museum and some temples.  Perhaps interesting sites lie outside of  town, but those will have to wait until I come back in a car.

Every mountaineer, when he or she reaches the summit of a remote, difficult and/or strenuous peak, knows well that the descent will be even more strenuous and difficult than the ascent, and potentially more hazardous.  I am apprehensive about the final 3-day ride back home, my “descent”.  Each day of the three is over 100 km in length and involves crossing at least one mountain range.  I will spend tomorrow – well actually today as I write this – eating, getting laundry done, resting, eating and hydrating.  Hopefully, I will be able to escape my “summit” very early Tuesday morning, bound for Phrae.