Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day five

Three, two, one, PIZZA CAT!!!

It's all downhill from here!  Actually, there's some gradual climbs and it's mostly flat, but it feels downhill after yesterday.  We met our friends again at their church and they fed us more fantastic food.  What a way to start the final day!  I don't know how everyone else felt, but I was giddy and other than a very tender undercarriage I felt like I could ride all day...which was good because we never could peg what kind of mileage we had left for the day.  We made a stop at a bible college at a beautiful town whose name I can't remember.

The pic just can't do the view justice.

We put in some more miles and I saw a sign with a name I did know: Chiang Rai!!  As I was stopping to take a photo of the sign a van full of Americans rolled up.  It was our pastors and missionaries.  It was fun seeing them...heck, everything was fun!  After some more miles, we got into the vans and visited a village way back in the hills.  Once again I was taken aback at the hospitality and generosity offered to us.  I really felt out of place; I'm just a hick kid from Mississippi that some sweet and generous people saw fit to send on a mission trip (something I just couldn't wrap my mind around, but more on that later).

This spread was so cool and delicious.

After our visit to the village, we were on our final leg to the home.  We were all feeling spunky and giddy.  Legs were sore, heinies were reeeeally sore, but nobody cared at this point...I think.  We rolled through the gate to cheers and applause.  Done.  Little kids were everywhere just smiling and giving us the "thumbs up".  One little girl put a very fragrant flower necklace around my neck.  That was probably necessary to mask my stench of riding all day; when you drink one-and-a-half to two 24 ounce bottles an hour and only go to the bathroom once or twice a day, you know you've been sweating.  My goodness, I would take every single one of those young 'uns home if I could!!

My flower girl.

I offered my flower girl and her friends to sit on my bike, but they declined.  I guess the seat being as high as their heads may have been a little intimidating.  It was a hoot watching them giggle and shake their heads "no", though.  I bent down to put on shoes or something and suddenly there was a little guy on my back.  I stood up and started walking up the driveway yelling that I was taking this one home.  He just squealed and did I.  Another great day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day four

Mountain day.  Slept on another very firm mattress that I really do like (not everyone's with me on that).  Woke up at three though.  A local rooster was up too.  Now that I'm kind of getting used to the scenery and settled in, I'm not as distracted and I'm missing my family.  Wish I could bring them here.  Mandi would enjoy most of the food.  She's gonna learn to cook Thai food and it's going to be fantastic.
Woke up feeling my legs a bit and thinking about the mountain.  By the time the sun came up, it was raining.  I wasn't looking forward to riding in the rain, but I'm riding no matter what.  Got my rain gear out of the bag only to discover that I left my shoes on the bench in the truck and they were already soaked in rain water.  Oh well, gotta ride.

What a view to start a day with.

Couldn't decide if I had enough steam to hammer the mountain like the two youngest guys, but I figure that we all have been riding the same ride.  But, I figured that I wouldn't want to slog that mountain alone so I decided to be supportive to whomever was in the back.  I usually have just enough fuel in the tank to help someone out when they're having a slow day.  There were a few gradual climbs getting to the mountain with a lot of false flats and downhills.  One looked so deceptively like a downhill that I checked for a flat tire and actually got off the bike to make sure my brakes weren't dragging.  I then looked at my bike computer and it showed that the downhill was actually a one percent uphill grade.
Seventy miles in, the mountain was about to begin.  One last rest stop and then we begin the climb.  No one was able to tell me what kind of grades we'd be climbing and I certainly never got a clear answer on how long it was.  It's hard to tell what kind of effort to put out in order to make sure you have enough energy for the remaining miles if you don't know what to expect and the talk was that it was grueling.  I asked who'd be with whom and I heard it was every man for himself.  Alrighty then.  Here we go.  We took off and Bobby had a flat probably two miles in.  I bet we spent ten minutes changing that stinking tube; it was unusually stubborn.  Got it changed and within minutes I hear his tire hissing again.  Bobby told me to go on ahead.  I replied that I didn't mind waiting, but he said he had no more tubes and that he couldn't ride any more anyway.  Game on.  It's all me and I'm free to ride my pace.  It's one of the few times in my life that I was happy to be in the super skinny state I'm in right now...I've always been skinny, but not quite as much as now.  I had my heart rate monitor on and decided to ride in my green zone, only spend short times in the yellow, and never in the red.  I was surprised at how mild my HR was while climbing.  There were a few times it was kind of tough (mainly the 7-8% grades).  My back was getting a little stiff, but legs and lungs were good and I saw this rainbow which was a nice mid climb encourager.

If I hadn't mentioned, I was thankful for the rain and clouds while climbing.  There's nothing like high effort and low airflow when you have a searing hot sun cooking you on top of that.  I caught Joel and shortly after Bobby rejoined us.  Joel said he'd need a break soon, but wanted to go a little further.  It wasn't long after that I noticed the road change as Taylor had described it at the top of the mountain.  I was afraid to say anything about it for fear of being wrong, but then I saw the support team in their yellow shirts.  Surely we aren't already done.  The team saw us and started cheering.  The hard part was done and it wasn't as hard as I expected.  I'm thinking there's probably a life lesson in there somewhere: being prepared, not giving up, getting through it better than expected...I dunno, maybe just me.  Anyway, to me it represented the end of the hardest part of what I expected of the ride; the one part where I wasn't sure how I'd perform.  The training was harder than the actual mountain!  We celebrated at the top and got polka dot jerseys (they represent the best climber in bicycle racing)  Then we spend the rest of the day descending the mountain.  Riding 40-45 mph with minimal effort is a sweet reward after climbing.  We wrapped up the day with one hundred miles on the clock.  We dropped our stuff at the Somporn resort and headed off to dinner.  We met at a small church that had prepared a feast for us.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The food was fantastic and they made sure that we didn't go without.  They kept bringing more and more and more.  It was delicious, so we kept on eating and eating.  I was so honored and touched that this small church would bring forth their very best for us....with such abundance too!

Yep, this is how we all felt after dessert.

The water heater in our room wasn't working, so we took some "refreshing" showers.  Off to bed, very satisfied.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day three

Delayed post due to sketchy wifi and lack of sit-down time
A lot of rolling hills.  Had fabulous lunch for 17 people for about $17 at an open air restaurant.  Joel got tired and hammered out a long twenty miles only to find out that we had nine left. He was not happy.  I wasn't exactly excited about the news myself.  But, that big rascal got on that bike and hit the gas.  He told me to keep him posted on mileage and I had to push just to catch him and tell him the mileage.  I heard he was determined and does not quit.  I know now.  Tomorrow is mountain day...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day two

Everyone was pretty strong.  Finished a little tired and tender, but that's expected.  As Mike and I discussed, even if the legs are strong, after ninety miles you are a little sore in all the points bearing your weight.  But, we all finished together with smiles on our faces.  There was one point today where I was a bit concerned, I wasn't feeling 100% after lunch and too much water.  I was riding along and started feeling like I was having vertigo or something.  It took me a second to realize that my tire was going flat.  The team was right on point.  It was like a professional bike race.  I raised my hand and they were swarming on me before my bike or the truck was completely stopped.  It went so smoothly that I was kinda tickled and actually enjoyed having a flat tire.
The scenery is changing too.  Amidst the ultra flat land and rice paddies, there are these rock formations that rise steeply several hundred feet.  The roadside vendors are looking a little different and there have been some interesting vehicles along SuperHighway 1.  The median and roadside are naturally beautiful.  I'm not sure if they were planted that way, but if we were in the US, you'd go out of your way for this 'scenic route'  I think the Thai drivers are so much more attentive to what's going on.  There's scooters, cars, tractor-like vehicles, tandem tractor trailers, and other vehicles all travelling the same roads, but somehow flowing seemlessly in a way that you just won't see stateside.  Maybe it's the lack of electronic distractions or I'd say it's more likely that they're just more polite and less self-serving in their driving.
It was another good day with divine appointments.  We stand out in our blue and yellow bike shorts and we've had requests for photos and Suphot doesn't let an opportunity pass, so we've made some connections...and that's part of the mission: to leave footprints for Him wherever we go.

Day One

Day one of riding, the big prize!  We loaded up the truck and rode to a tire shop away from the center of Bangkok, partly to start out away from heavy traffic and partly because it was clearly where God wanted us to be.  Back a few years ago when planning out this ride pastor Suphot rode the whole route in his car looking for places to stay, plotting mileage, etc.  He said that while he was driving the Holy Spirit told him to turn into this tire store.  While there, he noticed a framed picture of The Last Supper and asked, "Is this a Christian shop?"  The owner answered that it was.  That may not seem that spectacular of an occurence in the US, but given that less than one percent of Thais are Christian, it was clear confirmation of the Holy Spirit's prompting.  The owner was very enthusiastic about what they were doing and insisted that they start here.  I'm not sure how they were the prior two years, but they were so sweet and gracious to us.  Once again, we were served various exotic (to me anyway) fruits and such that were fantastic.  They brought out their folding Brompton bicycles and rode around the shop waiting area.  We sang a little and then prayed over the sweet couple.  They were such sweet folks that I think we could've stayed there all day, but there was work to do.

It was a good day.  We maintained a good pace with a quick chain issue being our only mechanical and a little dehydration being the only physical.  Had another fantastic lunch and then we went to a children’s home nearby.  Bunch of little kids just having a good time ogling the pale force (pale by Thai standards anyway).  I think we all would have taken every single one of them back with us if it had been an option. It’s a great motivator to see all of those little faces and recall that those are the ones we ride for; we want to see hope in them.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Breakfast, boiling table tops, bad translations, and we begin!

First full day in Thailand was pretty fun.  Had a fantastic breakfast of pad thai, various fruits, yogurt, oat, eggs, bacon, and some excellent coffee.  Nathan took Bobby up on his challenge of eating durian.  I've heard it described as smelling like rotten feet, week old garbage, etc.  Personally I thought it smelled like an area that a cat had repeatedly marked.  Upon trying it, he liked it...a lot. I think he finished the bowl.  He did say later that the burps were pretty unappealing.  For dinner Bobby, Taylor, and I went to the Hot Pot Buffet where you select various soup ingredients and put them in a pot that's built into the table and boil them into a soup.  We are not soup pros, at least not with unfamiliar Thai ingredients.  Once it started boiling, it began growing.

After dinner we walked down the street a little ways and looked at the street market where one could purchase anything from squid, to Hello Kitty socks, to pad locks, and various shirts with messages apparently lost in translation.
For Thankful
Haha!  That's just what I was thinking!

Well, tomorrow the work begins.  We assembled the bikes and it appears they all made it over the ocean in perfect condition.  Very thankful for that.  I'm not sure how many miles we have to do, but I don't suppose it matters; we're all going to pedal until they tell us we're done or we just can't go any longer.  I'm sure the other riders have been asked the same question, but the most common question when I've told folks what we're doing is, "Are you nervous about riding that far?"  The answer is that I'm not.  This is the one aspect that I know how to prepare and train for.  The only thing I know about anything else on the itinerary is what I've been told from others.  (They have been 100% accurate thus far, by the way!)  But, I've been pretty skinny most of my life and I've always loved riding bikes, so I can finally put that to use, and tomorrow we ride for Him.
This post was written the prior evening, but sketchy wifi didn't allow for its upload.
Long, long day.  I don't sleep well on planes and we spent about 24 of the last 28 hours in the air.  Some of the team apparently do not suffer the same affliction.  I'm prone to motion sickness and still feel like I'm swaying while typing this and my head hurts.  But, we're on the ground and I'm looking forward to being still and horizontal for a while.  It's 3:00am here and I think I'm going to leave it at this for now.