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The Last Ride

by Tara

We leave our bungalow this morning, at peace with the fact that we're embarking on the last real riding day of this adventure. Though I've already learned my lesson, I still find myself thinking that today should be special somehow, infused with some unique meaning. But instead, as we cycle to Savannakhet, it's just another day on the road.

Tara Riding

The scenery is much the same as usual, parched and hot, scrubby and flat and wide, strewn with wats and villages and sturdy little homes. Staying out of the blistering heat, most everyone we pass is hiding in the shade, lounging on wooden day-beds or in hammocks. Mothers rock their babies vigorously in kid-sized slings, or sometimes in woven basket cradles that hang suspended at chest-hight from trees.

Lao Wat Lao Laundry

As the kilometers tick by, Tyler calls out the distances, saying "these are the last forty kilometers of our trip!" and then a bit later, "these are the last thirty kilometers of our trip!" But no matter how close we get to our destination, "the end" just doesn't feel real. Instead, today is just regular and pleasant, and a bit of a relief. Perhaps the enormity of it all will sink in once we get to Bangkok.

With twelve kilometers to go, we're lucky to spot a store with a highly coveted (by us) appliance: a freezer. Stopping for our "last rest and snack of this adventure!", we eagerly crack open the icy chest, feeling the heavenly rush of cold air in our faces. We grab some frozen juice drinks and chocolate cookies, along with a pair of slushy Sprites and some chips. Then, we sit right down on the relatively cool shady concrete floor and have a picnic.

By the time we're finished with our mid-day snack, the springtime Lao sun is out in full force. We're not too bothered by it though, for we're almost done with our day's ride. Arriving in Savannakhet, we're hoping for a beautiful hotel and a town with a wide variety of foods to choose from. Even though this is the second largest city in Laos, we quickly realize these hopes will be left un-met.

The city, like all other Lao cities, has a sleepy vibe. Actually, this one isn't so much sleepy as dead. Our final overheated-hotel-search begins and ends with relative ease, but we're surprised by how few places there are to choose from. We decide not to stay in this little gem of a guest-house, where, thank heavens, "visitors will not be laundered" or "cooked in the room":

Lao Guesthouse Rules

…and settle on a reasonably nice place on the outskirts of town. Our bikes are dealt with for the last time, our panniers are dealt with for the last time, and cold showers are taken. And then, Ta-DA!, we're done. That was it, I tell myself, that was the last riding day of our trip! But I'm still not able to muster much emotion about it, except maybe a vague sense of relief. And that's alright. It was a good day.

Set for yourself any goal you want. Most of the pleasure will be had along the way, with every step that takes you closer. The final moment of success is often no more thrilling than the relief of taking off a heavy backpack at the end of a long hike.

Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis
In Years Past and Future
2010 - Buskers of Athens: Part #2


Kudos, guys!! I'm sure I'm not the only one who is enormously proud of what you've accomplished and full of admiration. How cool to finish your journal on the day you leave for home! Your family must be bursting with excitement.

Godspeed back to the States and see you soon!!
Posted by Mary on May 3rd, 2011 at 11:31 AM
FAMILIES, I meant to say!
Posted by Mary on May 3rd, 2011 at 11:32 AM
I felt a little sad as I was reading this. The last 40 kilometres? The last 30? Really? ... but I guess I was looking for some grand hoopla as well, when in fact you are right... just taking off that heavy backpack is feeling enough. And you both have so much to be proud of, and so many memories to enjoy.

Thank you so much for filling my life with your stories these last two years!
Posted by astrid on May 3rd, 2011 at 12:37 PM
Dear Tara and Tyler,
Just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed following along in your travels. I always felt a pang of guilt for not commenting before, but I imagine there are many like me, we are a sort of benign internet stalker, I guess. A daily reading from your blog served as a much appreciated escape from the confines of my office life. You have written beautifully about your experiences (good & bad) with honesty and sincerity. And your photos are amazing! I am a bit sad to see your adventure here come to a close, but I’m sure this isn’t the end. I’ve seen someone else write this but I too have to admit that when I type “go” into my search engine, beats out I wish you both the best in your adventures ahead and if you’re ever in the Houston area we’d love to meet you; although we won’t be here for long as we’re planning an adventure of our own :)
The road goes on forever,
*I'm Scott Z’s other half, who emailed info re: Mongolia travel many moons ago.
Posted by Sarah Z on May 3rd, 2011 at 1:57 PM
Congrats guys on an amazing accomplishment. Cant wait to have you guys back in the States!
Posted by Natasha on May 3rd, 2011 at 2:44 PM
Congrats, guys!

Good luck with the flight, thanks for a book recommendation, and, and, and, FINALLY there's a spelling mistake! :)

Posted by Gene on May 3rd, 2011 at 4:23 PM
Many thanks, Tara and Tyler, for sharing your adventure with us. I'm sure I speak for many who have been following you for over two years now, enjoying your writing and your beautiful photographs -- you've enriched our lives and opened so many heretofore unknown parts of the world to us. Bon voyage, and good luck on your next adventure back home in the US.
Posted by Karen MacQueen on May 3rd, 2011 at 4:24 PM
Congrats! And I love that quote.
Posted by Sarah & Jamie on May 3rd, 2011 at 6:43 PM
Love the Haight quote! We can all relate to it in this trip called "life". So looking forward to hugging you two in June. Much love!
Posted by Karina on May 3rd, 2011 at 9:33 PM
Hi T&T
Its been such a pleasure to follow your journey. You have given so much to the reader and I'm most thankful. The tenacity to blog so splendidly each day has just been incredible and all the while being so engaging and humble. I have recently enjoyed the pieces about motorbiking in Laos and also reading through as you tried to explain some of the travel fatigue that you appear to be coming up against. Well done. Have a terrific homecoming. Best wishes and I toast your achievements, cheers. Neal
Posted by Neal on May 3rd, 2011 at 9:40 PM
Wow! I've been following you for over a year and a half and all the places you've been to and all the people you've met along the way amaze me. I hope to take (another) long trip in the near future and because of your blog, I'm seriously considering a bike trip!
Posted by Kelly on May 4th, 2011 at 2:21 AM
Welcome back! Hope you had a safe journey home. I can't wait to read the final journal entries from your trip. You guys have definitely been an inspiration to us and you have much to be proud of :) Congratulations!
Posted by Liz on May 5th, 2011 at 2:33 AM
Congratulations, you guys! Молоцы! Hope you keep blogging, though - I've loved reading along!
Posted by Elizabeth on May 5th, 2011 at 6:28 PM
Congratulations for enjoying this wonderful adventure and for sharing it with the world through exquisite photos and stories. Enjoy some relax time in SF, but don't forget to share your next plans with us :)
Posted by Harry & Ivana on May 6th, 2011 at 12:06 AM
I, too, felt sort of sad and nostalgic reading about your last day on the road. But at least I didn't follow you from the start, so now I can comfort myself by going back to Scotland and catching up on the first part of your journey! ;) Like so many others have said - thank you for sharing your adventure! You guys are very inspiring. :)
Posted by Mia on May 12th, 2011 at 4:00 PM
Congratulations on surviving and achieving this wonderful trip, and thanks again for taking us all with you! There were many days when Going Slowly was the first thing I looked at when I turned on my computer. Best of luck with your new endeavors.

Posted by Jean on May 12th, 2011 at 8:53 PM
What?! That's it!? Lucky for me I started reading somewhere in the middle, when you began your Tunisian adventures, so i get to go back and read about the beginning :)

Thank you so much for sharing your incredible stories, photos and sounds. You guys are such an inspiration.
Posted by Jennifer on October 17th, 2011 at 6:52 PM