Monday, February 13, 2012

Riding to Sukhothai

The next day's riding goal was the city of Sukhothai. It's almost 300 miles from Kanchanaburi, so we needed to get back into serious riding mode after a month of taking it easy. It sounds like a long way, but in the States and even in Namibia, we covered between 350 and 370 miles in a day, so if the roads were good, we could make it, no problem. We were on the road by 8:00 am, retracing our tracks from Bangkok for the first part of the ride. The morning was cool but very humid to begin with, but as the sun rose higher, so did the heat. The highways were very smooth, without elevation changes or many curves, making for some very easy riding for a change. For some reason, and I don't know if it was too many carbohydrates for breakfast (cereal and yogurt again), or the steady hum of the bike on the calm roads, or the fact that, for the first time in a very long time, we didn't have to be quite so “on guard” every second, but we both felt really sleepy while riding. Typically, we don't stop for breaks unless we are refueling, but we actually stopped twice to get off, stretch, and have a drink. We also don't stop for lunch, especially if it's a hot day, but we did this as well. Unfortunately, lunch was a couple of weird, pork-filled steamed buns and a club soda from “Cafe 7Eleven.” You know that particular feeling of Wonder Bread stuck on the backside of your front teeth? Multiply it by seven and add some five spice powder to it, then you'll have an idea of the flavor and texture of the steamed buns. Yucky though they were, they did provide the jolt we needed to keep going.

The scenery along the ride was pretty. We followed the Chao Praya for a while after we turned north, then rode past sugarcane fields and rice paddies, oddly jutting, craggy mountains that rose from the middle of distant fields, and vendors selling piles of fresh guavas from roadside stands. The drivers were polite (we weren't forced off the road even once!), and we made pretty good time. As we neared Sukhothai later in the afternoon, the sky got darker and darker. We saw bolts of lightning cracking in the distance, and the wind started whipping the trees and tall grasses along the road. It blew hard enough to actually pick up and tumble a lizard of about 12” that was running across the road! And then, the first raindrops plopped on our visors. Colin pulled off the road and I followed him, and we zipped our jacket vents, hiked up our riding pants, and put our daypacks in our custom Hefty brand pack covers, just in time for the sky to open. It rained hard. I could feel the drops pelting my arms through my jacket and filling up my left boot. In my haste to cover my daypack and zip up, I neglected to ensure that my pantlegs covered the top of my boots. Thankfully, the rain lightened and then stopped as we entered Sukhothai, and we found our way to the street with cheap guesthouses to look for accommodation for the night. When I stepped off the bike, my left foot sloshed and sucked in the puddle in my boot. The right one was simply wet. We found a nice room (splurging for A/C to make sure our gear dried) and got out of our wet gear. FYI- bedposts are a great place to put gloves to dry. Once we'd unloaded the bikes and hung things to dry, we headed out to find the night market for some dinner. After looking at all the stands, we settled on one, sat down, and ordered chicken with basil and chili, chicken fried with red curry, rice, and pineapple fruit shakes. It was all extremely good, fresh, and cheap. On the way back to the room, we stopped and bought a small watermelon for dessert.

Even though we were sleepy while riding, had a not so good lunch, and got rather wet, it was a good day. Riding is so much more enjoyable when the drivers drive predictably and obey the traffic laws.

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