I had trouble falling asleep last night. I must have lain in bed for three hours staring at the ceiling, thinking about riding motorcycles, feeling for all the world like a kid on Christmas Eve. I don't remember when I finally drifted off, but it was sometime in the wee hours of dawn. If my body was tired from the lack of sleep this morning, I was too wired with excitement to notice!
Today is the second time on this two-year adventure when we've embarked on an unexpected week of motorcycle riding. The last go around, we were in Tunisia, buying a scooter to putter our way through the countryside while we waited for Tara's replacement rear wheel to arrive.
As we get ready to depart, cramming the last of our things into waterproof rack packs, scouring the room for the third and fourth times to be sure we haven't forgotten anything, and checking to see that our bikes are safely stowed, there is a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. According to our contact Jim, from Remote Asia, our motorcycles are set to be delivered at 9 AM, give or take some "Lao time."
Happily, whoever ferried them up from Vientiane wasn't too busy taking beer breaks to get them here right on schedule. As we exchange our passports for keys and helmets at the pickup point, the person working the desk tells me they switched my motorcycle at the last second. Instead of a lowered Kawasaki Sherpa, they've sent a towering Honda SL230. I can juuust touch the ground with my sandaled tip-toes.
Between the last-minute bike switch, and the nearly tread-less rear tire on Pete's Honda FTR, I'm not particularly pleased or impressed with Remote Asia. As well, I'm a little worried about our friends' safety, especially given that Pete has no off-road riding experience. When I point out the sorry state of their tire with our contact at the travel agency, he is unhelpful and dismissive. It doesn't seem that there is much we can do about the situation, and Pete isn't concerned, so we'll just roll with it!
For the next hour, Pete and I go through no less than ten permutations of bungee strapping arrangements, trying to figure out the best way to affix our gear to the racks on the back of the bikes. Meanwhile, Tara and Natasha run errands in town, getting some last minute supplies and cash from the ATM.
With Tara on the bike behind me, arms wrapped around my waist, and Pete and Natasha by our side, we fire up the bikes and hit the road. Riding a motorcycle always feels like coming home; I love this! It doesn't take long for us to escape the tiny city of Luang Prabang. Soon, we're off the highway and into the countryside, heading down a dirt road that carves through rural Laos.
It feels so good to travel up and over hills without having to pedal! I used to take motorized transport for granted, but this trip has taught me to be acutely aware of every subtle change in the grade of the road, and to be thankful when I'm in (or on) a machine that can carry me over them.
Even though we're able to go quickly, we're making terrible time. No matter what the method of transport, if we're in control of it, we never get anywhere quickly. We stop often for photos, soaking in as much of our surroundings as we can. Adding to our intentional slowness is the unintentional need to stop every five minutes to have another go at strapping our gear down effectively. Each time Pete and I think we have it, everything goes lopsided after the first bump!
Eventually we get our belongings are battened down—at last, we can give one hundred percent of our attention to the scenery around us. I feel so fortunate to be here! As our trip comes to end, some regular concerns are creeping back into our lives. There is no way we would've taken this steep, undulating, out-of-the-way dirt path on our bicycles. Where earlier we could afford to take a winding route, our time is now short—just getting here would've taken two days.
At this moment there is no place on Earth I would rather be than right here, riding alongside our friends.