Everyone has certain milestone dates that they keep in their head at all times – like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Well, I have a new milestone date: December 21, 2013. No, it’s not because of the winter solstice. And not because some stranger, intent on giving me early-onset diabetes, left candy in my shoes. In my memory, December 21, 2013 will forever be known as Biking in Vietnam Day.
So why is BV Day being marked on every one of my calendars for the next few decades? Because right now I can’t remember too much of my life that didn’t involve this torturous machine:
You see, before BV Day, it had been nearly two blissful years since I had been atop a bicycle. When I did bike, it was normally a nice, flat 2-mile ride to and from work. If the temperature wasn’t above 70 degrees (a regularity in Portland), I wouldn’t even break a sweat. Ahh, those were the days.
After BV Day? Let’s just say that my relationship with bicycling could use a good dose of couples therapy. Since BV Day, I have had days of biking 22, 56, 12, 40, 32, 20 and 50 miles. Oh, and those 50+ mile days? Those had 3 and 6 mile hills (respectively), each at a 10% grade, in the middle of them.
My days have a familiar and exhausting pattern to them: wake, eat, bike, eat, bike some more, shower, eat, sleep. Repeat.
Don’t get me wrong, I love stuffing my face full of whatever combination of noodles, rice, fresh fish, pork, and chili peppers happen to arrive at the table during my feeding times. And burning off those calories 20 minutes after consuming them feels great too (ok,maybe 60% of those calories, because I like to eat lots of food), but this biking thing just might kill me.
Biking for the past week has shown my body many new aches and pains. I never really knew what “saddle sore” was until I had been on a bike for over 6 hours in one day – I now pity and respect cowboys a whole lot more. I have found that my skinny legs actually have muscles – muscles that are now perpetually tired. And my, umm, fun parts have spent far too much time being numb.
But aches and pains (and whininess) aside, touring a Vietnam by bike has been a fantastic experience. Like hiking the Annapurna Circuit, the days have a beautiful simplicity to them. The only thing I have to do each day is bike to my destination, everything else happens when it happens.
Every day for the past week I have gone to bed being thoroughly content and happy. Part of this is because of the exhaustion from my body adjusting to biking. But more than the physical exhaustion, each day I lay down and recount the day biking through tiny villages, waving at kids as they run to the street to say “helloooooo,”and riding through impossibly green rice paddies. These are the experiences and memories that I immediately know will be with me for the rest of my life.
So yes, Vietnam has put the biggest pain in my butt that I have ever had (even if it is self-inflicted). But like they say, no pain no gain, right?