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.