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.
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.
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":
…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